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Gods and Monsters (Mostly Monsters) at the Academy’s ‘Universal’s Legacy of Horror’ Film Series

Gods and Monsters (Mostly Monsters) at the Academy’s 'Universal's Legacy of Horror' Film Series

Stuck in their coffins for more than 12 hours a day, Vampires had a lot less fun in 1931 than they do in 2012.  “I am…Count…Dracula,” murmurs Bela Lugosi, who has to hypnotize attractive virgins before he can lean across them to bestow his metaphor for hot sex, a bite on the neck. Robert Pattinson’s Edward Cullen has only to look moody and incredibly handsome as he struggles with his impossible love for the human Bella Swan. And the sex is no metaphor. By the end of the “Twilight” series, he has married Bella and fathered a half-human, half-vampire daughter.

Good horror films have always been about more than surfeiting movie audiences with chills and thrills, as 100 years of Universal movies dramatically demonstrate.  The Academy’s “Legacy of Horror” film series, which screens during October to celebrate Universal’s centennial is a warning to those who dare to create life (“The Bride of Frankenstein,” 1935) or extend it beyond death (“Dracula,” 1931) or to push science to extremes that should be unattainable, as Claude Rains discovers in “The Invisible Man” (1933).

Some horror movies have Freudian interpretations.  Hitchcock’s “The Birds” (1963) is more about female sexuality than it is about paranoid seagulls.  Lon Chaney in the 1925 “The Phantom of the Opera” is a hideously deformed man who, like Frankenstein’s monster, yearns for love.  And some horror movies are simply standard bottom-of-the-double-bill B movies, including “Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein” (1948) and “The Ghost and Mr. Chicken” (1966.) 

If Universal is 100 years old now, one person in the audience for the opening night of the October series predates the founding of the studio by Carl Laemmle.  Carla Laemmle, 103 years old and the founder’s niece, watched herself deliver the opening line in “Dracula.”  Other actresses will also be “special guests:” Julie Adams from “Creature from the Black Lagoon” (1954); Tippi Hedren and Veronica Cartwright, two of the four needy birds in “The Birds.”  When “An American Werewolf in London” (1981) screens on October 9, the director John Landis and makeup artist Rick Baker will be the special guests.

Claude Rains’ daughter, Jessica Rains, will not be at the screening of “The Invisible Man” October 16, but she has an indelible memory of the movie.  “My father never went to see his movies.  When I went to summer camp and they asked me what my father did, I said, ‘He’s a farmer.’  I was raised on a farm in Pennsylvania where we grew wheat, oats, rye, and raised pigs and cattle.  I had never seen any of his movies. But, in 1948, when I was 10, one day he said, ‘Get dressed.  Put your coat on.’  He got all bundled up and put a scarf around his face so he wouldn’t be recognized, and we drove to this little funky theatre in this little town.  And he began in a very loud voice to explain to me how they did the special effects.  You couldn’t miss that voice, so everybody in the theatre turned around to look at him.

 “He never took me to another of his movies.”

See the full ‘Legacy of Horror’ schedule below:


The Academy is hosting an October-long celebration of classic horror films in honor of “Universal’s Legacy of Horror”- part of the studio’s year-long 100th anniversary celebration.

“The Man Who Laughs” (1928)
Monday, October 8, at 7:30 p.m.
Samuel Goldwyn Theater
8949 Wilshire Boulevard, Beverly Hills

Special guests scheduled include writer/director Chris and Paul Weitz, grandsons of producer, Paul Kohner.  This rarely screened silent horror feature stars Conrad Veidt and Mary Philbin.

“The Wolf Man” (1941) and “An American Werewolf in London” (1981)
Tuesday, October 9, at 7:30 p.m.
Samuel Goldwyn Theater
8949 Wilshire Boulevard, Beverly Hills

Special guests scheduled include director John Landis, Oscar-winning makeup artist Rick Baker, producer George Folsey, Jr. and actor David Naughton from “An American Werewolf in London.”

“Creature from the Black Lagoon” (1954, in 3D) and “The Invisible Man” (1933)
Tuesday, October 16, at 7:30 p.m.
Samuel Goldwyn Theater
8949 Wilshire Boulevard, Beverly Hills

Special guests scheduled include actress Julie Adams, who played Kay Lawrence in “Creature from the Black Lagoon.”

“The Birds” (1963)
Tuesday, October 23, at 7:30 p.m.
Samuel Goldwyn Theater
8949 Wilshire Boulevard, Beverly Hills

Special guests scheduled include actresses Tippi Hedren, who played Melanie Daniels, and Veronica Cartwright, who played Cathy Brenner, in the film.

“The Phantom of the Opera” (1925)
Tuesday, October 30, at 7:30 p.m.
Samuel Goldwyn Theater
8949 Wilshire Boulevard, Beverly Hills

Special guests scheduled include film historian and preservationist Kevin Brownlow, and 103 year-old Carla Laemmle, a dancer in the film and niece of Universal Studios founder Carl Laemmle.

SATURDAY DOUBLE-DOUBLE FEATURE*
“Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein” (1948) and “The Ghost and Mr. Chicken” (1966)
Saturday, October 27, at 2 p.m.
Linwood Dunn Theater
1313 Vine Street, Hollywood

Special guests scheduled include actress Joan Staley, who played Alma Parker in “The Ghost and Mr. Chicken.”

“The Incredible Shrinking Man” (1957) and “Tarantula” (1955)
Saturday, October 27, at 7:30 p.m.
Oscars Outdoors

1341e Street, Hollywood

*Series passes are not good for the Double-Double Feature.  Individual tickets are on sale now for each double feature.

In conjunction with the screening series, the Academy will present “Universal’s Legacy of Horror: A Centennial Exhibition,” which includes rare posters, stills and other artifacts celebrating Universal’s distinctive contributions to the classic horror genre and the studio’s founding 100 years ago.  The exhibition will run in the Academy Grand Lobby throughout October.  Admission is free.

Series passes for “Universal’s Legacy of Horror” (excluding the Saturday double features) are $20 for the general public and $15 for Academy members and students with valid ID.  Tickets for individual screenings are $5 for the general public and $3 for Academy members and students with a valid ID, and may be purchased online at www.oscars.org, in person at the Academy box office, or by mail.  Ticketed seating is unreserved.  For more information call (310) 247-3600 or visit

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Comments

Brian

Lupita Tovar, who co-starred in the Spanish-language version of DRACULA (1931), is the widow of Paul Kohner and the grandmother of Paul and Chris Weitz and she's still alive–at 102! How great would it be if SHE showed up with the Weitz brothers? Her daughter–their mother–is Susan Kohner, who co-starred in another Universal classic, IMITATION OF LIFE (1959).

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