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Monday, October 6, 2014

Vintage Horror Film Classics: Universal Horror Vs Hammer Horror

I wrote this post last year so I apologize if you read it and are bored by it, I wanted to update it a bit and re-post it for this Halloween. 

For the vintage loving horror fan their are two essential series to know: Universal Horror, also referred to as the Universal Monsters, and Hammer Horror.  Universal monsters gave audiences a chill  from 1923 to 1960 and was the provenance of horror meistros Lon Chaney, Bella Lugosi, Boris Karloff, and Lon Chaney Jr.  The universal horror films began with Lon Chaney Sr.  starring in The Hunchback of Notre Dame and The Phantom of the Opera in the 1920s 

Lon Chaney in the Phanton of The Opera

These were extremely lavish productions for the time with elaborate sets and costumes and audiences flocked to see them again and again.  Thankfully unlike many films from this era both survive to this day.

Universal Horror's hey day  was the early 1930s with the advent of the classic monster films Dracula and Frankenstein.  

image source

Bride of Frankenstein 1935

The iconic performances of Bella Lugosi and Boris Karloff made these films classics, but the gorgeous sets, clever cinematography, and beautiful 1930s costumes certainly didn't hurt.  I don't think there has ever been a more beautiful wedding dress on film then the one in 1931s Frankenstein

Frankenstein 1931

and of course Bride of Frankenstein, 1935 had a minimalist modern look that was decades ahead of its time.

Encouraged by the enormous success of Dracula and Frankenstein during the heart of the depression Universal began making scores of monster movies.
Films like The Mummy 1932, The Invisible Man 1933, and The Wolf Man 1941 remain eternal classics.

The Mummy 1932

The Invisible Man 1933

The Wolf Man 1941

  By the 1940s Universal may have been running out of horror film ideas, or at least monsters, and began churning out monster meetup films.


These films, charming though they may be, were clearly the swan song of the Studio, the reign of the Universal Monsters was over .  Thankfully Hammer Horror was there to pick up the monster film torch.

While Universal Horror films are  black and white with a Gothic sensibility and a certain restrained subtlety, Hammer Horror  films luxuriate in techni-color.  Innocent as they are as compared to todays scary movies, they are a blood bath.  Specifically a blood bath of brightest red blood you have ever seen. 

image source

From late 1950s through the 70s the studio churned out blood drenched period horror films.  An interesting mix of restrained British class and B movie shocks.
Dracula 1958

The Curse of Frankenstein 1957
Dracula Has Risen From The Grave 1968

Severak of the films, such as Horror of Dracula,  starred Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing.   They make excellent screen partners and elevated the somewhat low brow fare.

Hound of The Baskervilles 1959

Most Hammer films are costume dramas set in the Victorian era or earlier, but you can see a definitely early 60s vibe in the clothing, and the flesh, on display.


Brides of Dracula, 1960

Hound of the Baskervilles. 1959
Curse of the Werewolf, 1961
Frankenstein Created Woman, 1967 

If you are interested in either the Universal or Hammer Films there are box set collections available from Amazon.  The Universal Classic Monsters Blu Ray set and the Hammer Horror Series 8 Film Collection, both make excellent October viewing.  


  1. Those were such classics fulms. Nothing compares today
    Lily & Edward

  2. Love the images from these classic films. The wedding dress is really beautiful!

  3. SHE's a wimp and doesn't watch scary flms....bwahaahaa! Love those old b & w films though.

  4. LOL those were a blast from the past and we so remember the Hammer ones. They were so corny they were actually cool. Have a terrific Tuesday.
    Best wishes Molly

  5. I remember being scared out of my wits by The Invisible Man when I was a kid!

  6. Nothing of today can come close to these classics!

  7. Nothing of today can come close to these classics!

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