Discovering good movies, one bad movie at a time

I don’t know if I’m confident that The Mummy would be a good film if it lacked any and all references to the “Dark Universe” that Universal badly wants to kick-start, in which all of the studio’s classic monsters (Dracula, the Frankenstein creations, the wolf man, the creature from the Black Lagoon, and yes, the […]

Every week this summer, we’ll be taking an historical tour of the Hollywood blockbuster by examining an older film that is in some way a spiritual precursor to one of the weekend’s wide releases. This week: The Mummy is Universal’s third film of that title, each one of them a surprisingly different affair. The first […]

Like many another film lucky enough to share a series with a real piece of crap, the 1956 sci-fi/horror film The Creature Walks Among Us had a nice, easy, eminently surmountable bar to clear. That being, in this case, to be better than 1955’s Revenge of the Creature, an endlessly tedious film about which I […]

Sequels are always an artistically dubious risk, horror sequels not least of all. It’s still hard to process just how much worse 1955’s Revenge of the Creature is than its remarkable predecessor. Creature from the Black Lagoon is, if nothing else, one of the truly great B-horror pictures of the 1950s, and with both producer […]

The iconic, literally genre-defining run of horror films produced by Universal Pictures in the almost 15 years between 1931’s Dracula and 1945’s House of Dracula was largely founded on five pillars: the vampire Count Dracula, the hideous animated corpse created by the mad Dr. Frankenstein, a self-loathing Welsh werewolf, the ancient Egyptian mummies Imhotep and […]

In 1948, Bud Abbott and Lou Costello met Frankenstein (as well as the wolf man and Dracula, and point in fact, they don’t meet Frankenstein, just his monster), and two flagging brands were revived. One of those was Universal horror, which had completely flatlined after 1945, as part of a more general fading of big […]

The Universal horror movie is at heart a pre-WWII phenomenon; after The Wolf Man, released less than a week after the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941, the studio’s genre films would never rise above “decent enough”, and usually didn’t even hit that threshold, until they finally gave up making them in the middle of […]

There is a place that Universal could have sent its library of iconic monsters to in the 1940s that’s so unbelievably obvious and offers so many opportunities for wonderful weirdness that, in retrospect, it’s astonishing that it only happened once: the European theater of World War II. Imagine a 20th Century wolf man retaining just […]

The notional context for this review of The Invisible Woman, Universal Pictures’ release for Christmas week in 1940, is “let’s look at all the far reaches of Universal horror!”, and yet there’s no movie that ever felt like it might be part of a horror franchise that so obviously isn’t. The Invisible Woman is so […]

1940’s The Invisible Man Returns is just about the last of Universal Pictures’ classic horror movies that can unequivocally be called an A-picture. The studio’s other genre films from the same calendar year, Black Friday and The Mummy’s Hand, were made for a fraction of its budget and with nowhere near the same care and […]

It cannot be pointed out too many times that many of the things we think of as the peculiar sins of contemporary cinema are in some ways as old as the medium itself. This is never clearer – and never more important to reiterate, since this is perhaps the most peculiar sin of them all […]

Every week this summer, we’ll be taking an historical tour of the Hollywood blockbuster by examining an older film that is in some way a spiritual precursor to one of the weekend’s wide releases. This week: Marvel’s Ant-Man shows us the fun side of being so small that you have to look up to an […]