With Universal creating their monster universe, remaking their wonderful old chestnuts in what they have called Dark Universe, we should look back at where it all started and why it ended. The idea of merging the monsters into one film is not a new one, not even an original one because Universal did this very thing in the forties. After the continued success, both at the box office and critically, though the Academy gave the genre no respect, the head honchos at Universal anxious to keep the money train going began to bring their monsters together in Frankenstein meets the Wolfman (1943), House of Dracula (1944) and House of Frankenstein (1944). Little regard was given to timelines, or logic, with creative ways to bring the monsters back from the dead, and of course new ways to destroy them. The production values dropped, as these films became B movies for the studio, dropping a notch or three from their top tier status.
Eventually, running out of ideas they began partnering their monsters with the comedy team of Bud Abbott and Lou Costello in a series of films beginning the surprisingly good Abbott and Costello meet Frankenstein (1948) which also included Dracula and The Wolf Man, and in a brief cameo by the Invisible Man, who got his own stand alone film with the comics, as did The Mummy. It was clear in the early fifties the monsters had had their day, and were retired. Hammer Films in England began remaking the films in Color and with new titles but eventually fell victim to the barrage of sequels to follow.
This new Dark Universe has major challenges ahead of it. Think about it, in the thirties audience had never before seen anything like these films and were understandably terrified. But today’s audience know the greatest monster on this planet is man, so the films are going to have to be very good to overcome audiences de-sensitized to horror, monsters and mayhem on the screen. Watching these old films brought back many good memories, and were a reminder that horror can be art, and sells, if done even halfway right, always sells. The sad part of that equation is the number of really bad horror films that get made, often by first time directors.
The following ten gave birth to the genre, and remain much loved, however dated works that gave us Chaney, Karloff, Lugosi, and Chaney Jr., names synonymous with the early horror genre. Incidentally, just one of them portrayed the Frankenstein monster, Dracula, the Mummy and The Wolf Man through the course of their career. Lon Chaney Jr. a fine character who broke through with a brilliant performance as dim witted powerhouse Lenny in Of Mice and Men (1939), would at various times portray the four major creatures of the sound era. It was an exceptional time, a time of gods and monsters. With that said, here’s the list of top classic horror films. You can watch some of these best cult classic horror movies on Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime. The list includes 60s, 70s and 80s classic horror movies.
1. The Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
The sequel to the landmark first film was like The Godfather Part II (1974) a superior film on every level. Karloff was again superb as the monster, rising from the mill, escaping into the woods where he learns to speak, befriends an old man, and is reminded constantly that he is a monster. He goads his maker into making him a mate, and with the he help of a strange older doctor they do just that, the results not what anyone had hoped. Beautifully directed by James Whale, the film is enriched by the brilliant work of Karloff and Elsa Lancaster as a young Mary Shelly and the hissing bride. Outstanding in every way.