by Larry Ham
For as long as Hollywood has been making movies, monster, horror and science fiction have been an important part of the industry’s success. And if you are a monster movie fan like I am, then you will thoroughly enjoy Universal Studios Monsters by Michael Mallory.
This 250 page book offers a chronological history of Universal Studios, and virtually all of their monster movies from 1915 through the fifties. It also offers a superb collection of movie poster reproductions, and still frames and publicity shots that will give even a non-fan a wonderful trip through a truly golden age of movie making.
One of the things I enjoyed most about this coffee table style book were the biographies of some of the important actors and directors responsible for these memorable movies. From Boris Karloff to Lon Chaney Senior and Junior, the biographies offer insights on the personal lives of the subjects, and some great photos as well. I particularly enjoyed the sensitive way Mallory took us through the tortured life of Bela Lugosi, who went from a prominent star to a drug addicted bit player in the Z grade movies of Ed Wood.
The last section of the book also delves into the era of Universal’s foray into giant radiation-zapped insects, including two of my favorites, Tarantula, starring John Agar and Mara Corday, and The Deadly Mantis, starring Craig Stevens. They were among the dozens of similar movies made during the a-bomb testing era, but they were made with much bigger budgets than the likes of American International Pictures and the like could muster. Thus, the Universal movies stand the test of time pretty well, and this book treats them with the respect and dignity they deserve. You will also enjoy the extended look at the last big monster “star” for Universal, The unforgettable Creature From The Black Lagoon.
This is an outstanding book for the monster movie fan, or any fan of film history. The photography is superb, the posters are wonderful, and the memories it evoked for this monster movie fan were priceless.