This Summer, we went to California for vacation, and I took my son to Universal Studios. While touring the studio, he had a lot of questions about the movies made there, especially the classic monster movies they made from the Thirties to the Fifties.
As everyone knows, from 1931 through around 1955 Universal Studios released some of the most influential horror movies, defining the way we saw such creatures as Frankenstein’s Monster and Dracula. They cast a long shadow over our culture, and even now, my son recognizes these figures without ever having actually seen them, unless you count episodes of Scooby-Doo.
For some time now, he’s been more and more interested in scary things. Between going with my wife and I, and his aunt, he’s seen Paranorman three times. And whenever we go to our local comic book store, he always has questions about the monster paraphernalia on display, or the Walking Dead posters. I’ve gotten pretty good at dodging the more gruesome subjects, but I have a soft spot for the classics, and so we’ve talked more about them, and what I liked about them growing up.
I remember watching many of these on Saturdays, after the morning cartoons ended. Of course most of the movies shown then were Godzilla movies, or Vincent Price films (those were my hands down favorites), but on occasion they’d show one of these classic films. I was always drawn into the deliberate pacing, the way they were built more around what might happen than what did. To this day I prefer that sense of impending danger to full on gore.
So beginning this weekend, and continuing until Halloween, we’re going to work our way through the canon of Universal Monsters. We’re starting with The Mummy (the one he’s most interested in seeing, as he’s also obsessed with ancient Egypt), then we’re jumping around to The Creature from the Black Lagoon, The Invisible Man, The Wolf Man, Dracula, and The Phantom of the Opera. We’re probably going to hold off on Frankenstein for now, he thinks it’s too creepy, and I’m sure it’s too sad for him.
What will be interesting is seeing how that pacing plays to a kid raised in a time of faster gratification. While my son has watched slower paced movies before, and enjoyed them, these are another animal altogether. I’m curious to see what they’ll mean to him, if they’ll make an impression or not.
Some of these I’ve watched again as an adult (Frankenstein especially, and the Bride of Frankenstein). Others, like the Wolf Man, I haven’t seen since I was about my son’s age. I’m interested to see them again myself, to see if they hold up as well as I remember. I’ll post our review after each one we watch.