Oct 24, 2007

Universal Monsters Part 4

By the end of the 1940's Universal had defanged and declawed it's monster mill. Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, and Lon Chaney Jr. played in an infinite combination of horror films with rambling names like the Ghostly Son of Frankenstein in the Mummy's Castle Risen From the Grave. And when Universal had plucked every feather and squeezed every egg from their ghastly golden goose, they chopped it up and served it as comic pate in Abbott & Costello Films.

Movie monsters from the 1950's took on a new look. Mother Nature took her revenge on those who nuked her and unleashed giant ants, spiders and Gila monsters hell bent on eating isolated desert communities. UFOs also patrolled the skies.

The new movie monsters were bigger and meaner than they had ever been before. Monsters didn't come into your room like a mist and drain the life of one person at a time, these guys stomped on your house or unleashed a death ray on the whole neighborhood. This isn't your fathers Frankenstein baby, these are nuclear giants and alien thugs, sent here to eat you or beat you.

And teenagers loved it.

Kids with cars became it's own kind of hungry social monster and businesses scrambled to feed the beast. Two of the big winners were drive in restaurants and drive in movies. It seemed if kids weren't at one, they were at the other. Both were inexpensive and kept you out of the house for hours. To keep costs down, drive-in restaurants went to simple menus with cheap food and Drive-in theaters did the same. First run movies were expensive so outdoor theaters ran two cheap flicks for the price of one.

This market for cheap film also gave young wannabee producers and directors a new market with a new formula. Make a film in under 30 days. Add a menacing monster, give it a cool name and a cooler poster and cash in. The formula worked surprisingly well and insect wranglers and monster makers found steady work in Hollywood.

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