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Universal Horror (1998)

A documentary examining the early days of horror films, particularly those crafted at Universal Studios during the 1930s.


Kevin Brownlow
1 win & 1 nomination. See more awards »




Cast overview, first billed only:
Kenneth Branagh ... Narrator (voice)
Christopher Adamson Christopher Adamson ... The Manic Editor
John Augur John Augur ... The Assistant
Ray Bradbury ... Self / Interview
Nina Foch ... Self / interview
James Karen ... Self / interview
Carla Laemmle ... Self / interviw
Sara Karloff Sara Karloff ... Self / interview
David J. Skal ... Self
Forrest J. Ackerman ... Self / interview (as Forrest Ackerman)
Gloria Stuart ... Self - Interviewee
Fay Wray ... Self / interview
Anne Carré Anne Carré ... Self / interview
Gavin Lambert ... Self / interview
Nicholas Webster Nicholas Webster ... Self / interview


A documentary examining the early days of horror films, particularly those crafted at Universal Studios during the 1930s.

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Did You Know?


Included on the 2014 Universal DVD of Drácula (1931) See more »


Features The Cat and the Canary (1927) See more »

User Reviews

Good Overview of the Golden Age of Horror Cinema
21 August 2018 | by CineanalystSee all my reviews

"Universal Horror" is a bit of a misnomer, as this documentary also covers horror films, especially of the early 1930s, from other studios, including "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" (1920 and 1931/32, Paramount), "Island of Lost Souls" (1932, Paramount), "King Kong" (1933, RKO) and "Mystery of the Wax Museum" (1933, Warner Bros.), as well as a host of silent films from Weimar Germany and elsewhere--dating as far back as "The Red Spectre" (1907, Pathé), which is compared to a scene in "Bride of Frankenstein" (1935) and concluding with Abel Gance's 1937/38 remake "J'Accuse!" Attention, of course, is also given to some of the Dracula, Frankenstein, Mummy and Wolf Man films of Universal, as well as other studio entries, such as "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" (1923), "The Phantom of the Opera" (1925), "The Cat and the Canary" (1927), "The Old Dark House" (1932), "The Invisible Man" (1933), "The Black Cat" (1934), "The Raven" (1935) and others.

Examining so many films doesn't allow time for too much in-depth analysis, but as the relatively lackluster and derivative video documentaries devoted to single films also available on Universal home video collections, e.g. "The Frankenstein Files" (2002) and "Monster by Moonlight" (1999), demonstrate, more time doesn't equal better insight. Having already read David Skal's book "Hollywood Gothic," for instance, I don't care for more than his brief statement in this documentary for his rather spurious argument that the Spanish-language "Dracula" is technically superior to its English-language counterpart, both having been produced by Universal in 1931.

Kevin Brownlow is the best in the business of making documentaries on classic cinema, and I especially enjoy when he's provided more length than here, as in the mini-series format for his programs on silent cinema in the U.S. ("Hollywood" (1980)) and Europe ("Cinema Europe: The Other Hollywood" (1995)), or when he narrows his focus and examines fresh material, as in the use of discarded footage in "Unknown Chaplin" (1983). Regardless, "Universal Horror" moves briskly from film to film, providing a few interesting comparisons and background tidbits for each along the way. For example, clips of "The Golem" (1920) and "The Magician" (1926) are shown to demonstrate the influence on "Frankenstein" (1931), "The Mummy" (1932) is referred to as essentially a remake of "Dracula" (1931) and examples of Bauhaus architecture are compared to the style's adoption in "The Black Cat." The performances of Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff and the makeup work by the likes of Jack Pierce are praised, too, and the special effects behind "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde," "The Invisible Man" and "King Kong" are explained. "Universal Horror" is surely worth a look, especially if one only wants a feature-length introduction to the golden age of horror cinema.

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Release Date:

8 October 1998 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Horror ohne Ende See more »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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