First, we have Nick Fury, one-time director of the government agency known as S.H.I.E.L.D. And we have Samuel (get those m***** f****** snakes off my m***** f***** plane) L. Jackson as he was seen as Fury in Captain America: Winter Soldier.
On the right, we have Russell Crowe as Doctor Henry Jekyll, the head of a secret agency known as the Prodigium, as will be seen in the upcoming The Mummy. Jekyll has to deal with a psychopathic mummy bent on destruction. (And you thought Loki or Thanos was bad).
What do Fury and Jekyll have in common?
Well, I know Fury is a kick-ass, no-nonsense director known to keep secrets (such as the notorious TAHITI project of which Director Phil Coulson could tell you a great deal). Occasionally, Fury has to knock heads – even those of The Avengers – to get the job done. After all, he’s dealing with a demi-god, an American super-soldier, an armored billionaire, a Russian hitwoman, an assassin archer, and the Big Green Guy. Not sure if Doctor Jekyll will have to deal with heroes like complex, but he may have to negotiate with some monstrous bad guys bent on conquering the world. Sounds like a job for The Avengers or the Guardians of the Galaxy. Or not.
So, as someone suggested in a current article, is Universal mimicking Marvel Studios and their successful series of movies and crossover characters who form a single universe? A universe in which Iron Man helps out Peter Parker’s Spider-Man, Ant-Man allies with Captain America, and the coming Infinity Wars will see the uniting of The Avengers, the Guardians and quite possibly Spidey and Doctor Strange too? Hard to say. The old saying is that ‘imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” If The Mummy proves successful, there have already been hints of seeing a revival of all the Golden Age Universal monsters in one universe. (I’ve seen the planning boards).
I suppose if Jekyll survives The Mummy, will we later see him continuing his role as director of the Prodigium? And what might the Prodigium face in the future? Are we talking about a cinematic universe with several monsters allying and running amok?
Well, the idea of uniting many of their monsters isn’t foreign to Universal. And this gives me the excuse I needed!
In 1943 we had Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman, which concluded with the titular battle between Frankenstein’s Monster (played by Bela Lugosi) and Lawrence Talbot, better known as the Wolf Man and played by Lon Chaney, Jr. (Chaney had originated the role in 1941). The Frankenstein in this one is the daughter of the infamous doctor, concerned her father’s diabolical experiment could be re-released upon the world! And there’s poor Larry Talbot, hoping that somewhere in Frankenstein’s papers he might find a way to be saved from his own curse. What is funny is that Lugosi was offered the role of the Frankenstein Monster when Universal was making the ‘original’, but he refused. “...in the book the Monster has long soliloquies, but the stage show had reduced him to a grunting beast. ‘I was a star in my country,’ he said. ‘I won’t be a scarecrow in this one!‘” Oh well. Anyway, here’s Lugosi in the role Karloff made famous.
In 1944, Universal did a sequel to a sequel to a sequel to a sequel to a sequel and gave us House of Frankenstein with a hodgepodge cast including Boris Karloff as Doctor Gustav Niemann (nope, not as the Frankenstein Monster), Lon Chaney, Jr. (again) as Lawrence Talbot aka The Wolf Man, John Carradine as Count Dracula (nope, not Lugosi), Glenn Strange as The Frankenstein Monster (uh-uh-uh…not Karloff this time), and J. Carrol Naish as a hunchback who wasn’t from Notre Dame! Strange would later become “Sam the Bartender” on Gunsmoke.
In 1945, along came the sequel to a sequel to a sequel to a sequel to a sequel to a sequel called House of Dracula. After all, they’d already used House of Frankenstein so they had to come up with something a tad different. John Carradine was back as Count Dracula (although he ‘died’ in the previous movie); Lon Chaney Jr. was back as The Wolf Man (although he died in the previous movie), and Glenn Strange returned as The Frankenstein Monster (although he was destroyed at the end of the previous movie).
The hunchback reference to the poor girl in the movie is rather unfair – she is quite sympathetic and is not a monster. And the ‘mad doctor’ was actually a good man until he got infected thanks to Dracula. Oh well – it’s a Universal monster movie. Shit happens, especially in a combined universe running out of ideas.
Yep, I’ll even include 1948’s Abbott and Costello Meets Frankenstein because many movie historians do as well. This one not only starred the famous comedy team of Bud Abbott and Lou Costello, but Bela Lugosi as Dracula, Lon Chaney, Jr. as the Wolf Man, Glenn Strange as the Frankenstein Monster, and Vincent Price in a cameo appearance as the Invisible Man! (You only recognize Price by his voice).
So I guess we’ll see if this pans out in the end. Universal is already planning to redo other classics in their repertoire, including The Creature From the Black Lagoon and the Bride of Frankenstein. Your Keeper will withhold judgment for now. Until then, find some of these Golden Age classics and check them out.
We’ll also get more into the gods and monsters of which Doctor Jekyll intoned in the latest Mummy trailer at a later time.