The Universal classic monsters are generally known as being respectively based on classic literature and in most cases that is true. But there are also characters that get lost in the public mindset, characters that most people just assumed had always been a part of the lore. Some of these monsters and monstrous beings, dating back to the 1950’s, never had anything to do with literary source material. Some came along later into a series and changed the way a certain property was viewed. Others launched their own franchises and fit in nicely beside the main monsters. Even still, there were also many creatures that did not get the luxury of being overly remembered at all. Here are five Universal Monsters that were created strictly for a film.
The Creature from the Black Lagoon
Also known as the Gill Man, the creature is purely an invention of the film world. This monster marks the turning point for not only the company but the genre as a whole. The age of gothic horror was over and audiences were becoming more interested in science fiction. While the Gill Man is not totally a product of science, it is a creature that turns out to be a leftover prehistoric relic that survived into the modern era. It’s one of the first, most famous creature features in a decade that would become known for them. And even though the beast is of a less gothic nature, there are many similarities to the Frankenstein Monster, the Wolf Man and the like. It still lurks in the shadows and is drawn to one particular female character, who it then takes back to its lair. It’s an early science fiction movie that is well aware of its horror roots, which is part of the reason it became such a widely known classic.The Metaluna Mutant
The Metaluna Mutant goes even further in the science fiction direction than the Gill Man, but is not nearly as well-remembered. Still, the mutant from This Island Earth is sometimes lumped in with the classic monsters of the Universal heyday. In some ways that makes sense. It was from around the same time period as Creature from the Black Lagoon and has a very visually striking design. It’s no stretch to say that many more people remember the monster than the movie itself, which is why it earns a place on the list. This Island Earth is not as widely known as really any of the other Universal horror films of the era, but its monster has gone on to develop a cult following of its own. There are action figures, dolls, statues and too many other products to name all based on the titular mutant.
They were separate characters but they occupy the same cultural space. They serve the purpose of being the hunchbacked manservant to Victor—or in the case of the Universal films, Henry—Frankenstein. But Dr. Frankenstein had no assistant in the original novel. His work was very private and he accomplished as much as he could on his own, which is much more in tune with his overall character. The hunchback was named Fritz in the original Universal Frankenstein but the name Igor, which was introduced as Ygor in Son of Frankenstein was ultimately what stuck in the public consciousness. While Bela Lugosi bore the name, what people most identify with is the manic, somewhat pathetic performance of Dwight Frye in the original.
This one is close, I’ll admit. While the Bride is a plot point of the original novel, she was never actually made and brought to life in the source material. This movie is something of an adaptation of the last act of the book, only the film actually brings the bride to life. The results are astonishing. Elsa Lanchester’s iconic performance in The Bride of Frankenstein is all her own. She’s only on screen for about four minutes, but in those four minutes gives one of the most mesmerizing performances of all time. Even if she was only created for the films, she deservedly became one of the first and most prominent female horror icons of all time.
While there were obviously werewolf stories dating back centuries before Universal’s The Wolf Man, there was no Larry Talbot. And the two are really indistinguishable. Wolf Man is inherently a very similar story to Doctor Jekyll and Mister Hyde, in that the monster is a reflection of the man and creates a duality and a struggle to overcome his animal nature. Lon Chaney Jr. brought the character to life brilliantly, reprising the role no less than four times. Chaney brings a sincerity to Larry Talbot. The sadness of his character is clear and only develops as the films go on. Even in lesser quality movies he never stops being interesting in the role. Talbot is a man with a clear curse. He wants to bring an end to his suffering, but as the series goes on we discover that not only does he have to transform into a werewolf once a month, but he cannot die. It’s an iconic, empathetic performance that feels right at home with the high drama of Frankenstein, Dracula, and The Phantom of the Opera.