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7 Classic Monster Movies of the 1930s
Old horror films are ideal for Halloween or any time of the year. Here are seven classic monster movies of the 1930s that are sure to please any fan.
Flick or Treat
Halloween is generally a bad night at the box office. Costume parties and trick-or-treat jaunts keep children away from movie theaters. Fall carnivals and harvest festivals are also popular events.
Some theaters feature scary movies on Halloween, but they often target teenagers and young adults. Classic movies are a good option for people outside these age groups, or those turned off by modern slasher films.
This hub highlights seven classic monster movies of the 1930s. Universal Pictures pioneered the genre, and all but two are Universal films. Their vampires, werewolves, mummies, and other creatures paved the way for modern scary movies.
In Dracula, the undead Count Dracula of Transylvania goes to London to lease Carfax Abbey. There, he preys on the virtuous Mina Seward, whose father oversees an insane asylum near Dracula's home.
Directed by Tod Browning, this 1931 film stars Bela Legosi in the title role. Helen Chandler and David Manners also star in the film. Dracula was the first legitimate film version of Bram Stoker's novel, and it set the tone for future vampire films.
The United States Library of Congress added Dracula to the National Film Registry in 2000. It based the decision on the movie's significance to American history and culture.
Frankenstein, another 1931 film, is the ultimate monster movie. It is loosely based on the Frankenstein novel by Mary Shelley. The timeless tragedy centers on a mad scientist named Henry Frankenstein (Victor in the book) who creates a human body from secret parts.
The movie has a long censorship history: a monster torment scene, a close-up of an injection needle, a controversial child drowning, and the line, "Now I know what it feels like to be God!" Later film versions restored these scenes.
Directed by James Whale, Frankenstein features Colin Clive as Frankenstein and Boris Karloff as the Monster. Mae Clark, John Boles, Edward Van Sloan, Frederick Kerr, Dwight Frye, Lionel Belmore and Marilyn Harris also star in the film.
Frankenstein was inducted into the National Film Registry in 1991 for its contributions to American film heritage.
3. White Zombie
White Zombie is considered the first feature length zombie movie ever made. The 1932 film tells of a Haitian witch doctor who helps a young man lure the woman he loves from her fiancé, by turning her into a mindless zombie.
Directed by Victor Halperin, White Zombie stars Bela Lugosi as the evil voodoo master. Madge Bellamy has the title role and John Harron plays her fiancé, Neil Parker. Joseph Cawthorn plays the missionary who attempts to save the woman.
Many White Zombie actors found their fame in silent films: Robert Frazer, Brandon Hurst, George Burr Macannan, Frederick Peters, Annette Stone, Joe Printz, Dan Crimmins, Claude Morgan, John Fergusson and Velma Gressham.
4. The Mummy
The Mummy is a 1932 monster movie. It was inspired by the 1922 discovery of the Tomb of Tutankhamun and the "curse of the pharaohs."
The story centers on a dead Egyptian priest who is resurrected during an archaeological dig. Disguised as a modern Egyptian, the mummy tries to reunite with his lost love, an ancient princess who is reincarnated as a beautiful young woman.
Karl Freund directed The Mummy. Boris Karloff stars as Imhotep, the resurrected priest, and Zita Johann plays his love interest. David Manners, Arthur Byron, Edward Van Sloan, Bramwell Fletcher, Noble Johnson, Kathyrn Byron, Leonard Mudie, James Crane and Henry Victor also appear in the film.
5. King Kong
King Kong is a 1933 masterpiece. The legendary monster movie centers on a beautiful young woman and a colossal ape.
When a movie crew visits a tropical island for a film shoot, they discover the creature -- a giant ape-like beast with eyes on the film's leading lady. The woman's new love scours the jungle to rescue her, encountering various creatures along the way.
Notable for stop motion animation and original music, King Kong stars Fay Wray in the leading role. Robert Armstrong, Bruce Cabot, Frank Reicher, Sam Hardy, Noble Johnson, Steve Clemente and James Flavi also appear in the movie.
King Kong was chosen for preservation in the National Film Registry due to its contributions to American film.
6. The Invisible Man
The Invisible Man, a 1933 monster movie, is based on an 1897 novella by H. G. Wells. The short book was originally serialized in a British publication called Pearson's Weekly.
The story tells of a scientist who discovers a way to become invisible. As his scientific formula alters his sanity, he terrorizes the countryside as an invisible killer.
Directed by James Whale, The Invisible Man stars Claude Rains in the title role. Gloria Stuart, William Harrigan, Henry Travers, Una O'Connor, Forrester Harvey, Holmes Herbert, E. E. Clive, Dudley Diggs, Harry Stubbs, Donald Stuart and Merle Tottenham also appear in the film.
7. The Bride of Frankenstein
The Bride of Frankenstein continues the story that Universal Pictures introduced in 1931. In the 1935 sequel, Frankenstein's monster looks for a mate.
When Henry Frankenstein abandons his plans to create life, a mad scientist named Dr. Pretorius goads him into constructing a mate for the Monster.
Boris Karloff and Colin Clive reprised their Frankenstein roles in The Bride of Frankenstein. Valerie Hobson, Ernest Thesiger, Elsa Lanchester, Gavin Gordon, Douglas Walton, Una O'Connor, E. E. Clive, Lucien Prival, O. P. Heggie, Dwight Frye, Reginald Barlowe, Mary Gordon and Anne Darling also appear in the film.
The Library of Congress added The Bride of Frankenstein to the National Film Registry in 1998.
What is your favorite classic monster movie? Leave a comment below and join the conversation. If you enjoyed this article, please share it with your social networks.
- IMDb. (n.d.) Various film titles. The Internet Movie Database. Retrieved October 2, 2011.
- Kern, Matthew. (November 12, 2001) "A History of Horror Classics from Universal Pictures." Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina. Retrieved October 2, 2011.
- TCM. (n.d.) "Classic Horror: Mondays In October." Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved October 2, 2011.
- Wikipedia contributors. (October 2, 2011) "Universal Monsters." Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved October 2, 2011.
© 2012 Annette R. Smith