Tag Archives: Universal Monsters

FRANKENSTEIN! The Imperial Legacy of Mary Shelley’s Immortal Monster

“I have love in me the likes of which you can scarcely imagine and rage the likes of which you would not believe. If I cannot satisfy the one, I will indulge the other.” – Frankenstein, Mary Shelley

The limping Phantasm of a new horror bristled across the dreamscape of a young woman’s darkest imagination. The misshapen Thing beckoned to her, demanding concession for its own hideous sentience; demanding to be recognized, the Creature rapped its corded fist of scars and confused tissues against the smoky glass that separates our waking world from the shadow realm of sleep, shattering the delicate veil, and roaring to be brought through to us. From nightmares, the Thing of death called out to to be brought to life and she granted it entrance. 

image via TriStar, ‘Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein’

Much like her obsessed titular character, Mary Shelley was on her own quest to bring life to things wrought from fretful dreams. She admits to having seen a terrible shadow pass along her room one night, a thing shown but only briefly by a searing flash of blistering light. Her Monster, her own very personal demon, was brought to life before her eyes by the lightning. 

That nightmare left an imprint on her soul.

A fitting origin to what would become her horrific masterpiece! 

Bernie Wrightson, ‘Frankenstein’

How I, then a young girl, came to think of, and to dilate upon, so very hideous an idea? – Mary Shelley

A marvelous question, but asked by a writer of titanic skill. Be warned, dear reader, when a writer has a marvelous question many dark little horrors can be given shape from it. 

Example: a young father had moved his small family to a new home, a home just a little too (precariously) close to a busy road. This father just barely caught hold of his young boy who, as little boys do, run very quickly and take little heed to the dangerous world around them. The toddler’s quest to cross the road was stopped and the father held the lad to his chest as a truck, all eighteen wheels roaring, flashed down the road before his eyes. A truck that surely would have made quick and gruesome work of a tiny boy such as his son. 

The father thought, “What would have happened if I hadn’t been quick enough?” Oh, did I mention there was a pet cemetery out in the woods behind their house? 

You see, those are the questions that keep us writers up at night. The only way to expel them is to share them, and I believe that’s exactly why gods and devils disturb our thoughts and rest. We are unwilling ambassadors of the dark world. What scares us shall surely frighten you too. 

It takes a marvelous question and then, with time, a whole lot of obsession. 

The Art of Obsession 

Perhaps it’s the curse of our times but few truly understand the need for wild obsessions. I mean the pang of desperation. I want writers to have a deep-rooted passion for their craft, not to make money (though who can bitch about monetary gain?) but to release demons, horrors beyond time and space, and to break taboos without ever feeling the need to apologize for the black miracles they’ve unleashed upon the world. 

image via dmdave

That’s the kind of obsessions I mean. The kind we’d all be locked up for if we should ever dare explore them in real life, but, vicariously lived through the monsters and madmen we unlock while writing. 

“I saw the pale student of unhallowed arts kneeling beside the thing he had put together. I saw the hideous phantasm of a man stretched out, and then, on the working of some powerful engine, show signs of life, and stir with an uneasy, half vital motion. Frightful must it be; for supremely frightful would be the effect of any human endeavour to mock the stupendous mechanism of the Creator of the world.” Frankenstein, Mary Shelley 

image via frankensteiniablogspot

Each word is poetry begotten of the macabre, stitched together in such eloquence that we cannot turn our eyes away. Imagine not knowing the story! Imagine the sickening thrill of the slightest twitch of the creation’s finger. Readers howled and screamed upon first reading Shelley’s gothic horror masterpiece. 

A masterpiece about death but brimming with, although nefarious as it may be, life! It’s been told and retold across the generations as new horror fans come to know the name of Frankenstein, a man who dared to play as God. 

Inspirational Evil

Mary Shelley was not ignorant of the questionable practices, or shall we say, abominations committed all in the name of science of her day. It was a well-known secret that educated men blatantly combined alchemy with the practice of medicine, and, most importantly, the Occult was often employed to further their maddening pursuits. Doctors were driven by the devil himself to unravel the mysteries of life by invading the taboo of death. 

Graves were robbed. Cadavers were stolen. Experiments to envy the lectures of Hell were practiced. Such things were not unheard of and became haunted gossip among social gatherings. It all boiled down to this: Could a man create after his own image?

art by Bernie Wrightson, ‘Frankenstein’

Reality and fiction are very thinly divided and sometimes the two cross over. 

So what if it could really be accomplished? Among these bodily pieces of dead men’s tissues, organs, limbs, and bones, what if, out of a thousand efforts, one single man proved more driven than his peers? What if one manic student reached into the shadow of death and pulled something out? 

“If I cannot inspire love, I will cause fear!” Frankenstein, Marry Shelley

Shelley dared explore this phantasmal taboo and wisely included her own personal trauma to weave together an immortal tale that will outlive us all.

There’s a reason the story stands the test of time.

Shelley’s Grim Philosophy

Another inspiration for Frankenstein came from one of Mary Shelley’s favorite tales, John Milton’s Paradise Lost, an epic depiction of the Genesis account and Fall of Lucifer. Hints to the poem’s immediate influence over her thoughts can be spotted across her own epic tale.

art by Gustove Dore, John Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost’

God made Man in His image and that image turned to Sin, brother murdered brother, and, in time, wars left corpses outside the guarded gates of Paradise. 

That was the result of a created being made after the image of God. So, what tremendous malevolence can be expected from a thing made after the image of (fallen) Man? 

“I ought to be thy Adam, but I am rather the fallen angel…”
― Mary Shelley, Frankenstein

art by Bernie Wrightson, ‘Frankenstein

Victor Frankenstein stood to lose everything for the sake of his creation. The story is a tragic narrative of a weary man whose wick has not long for this sad world. His youth was eaten up by the sorrow gleaned by his own hands. He dared to play God and so finds himself utterly God-forsaken and damned at the story’s end. He is pursued by his Creation to the very end of the world where nothing but ice and barren landscapes are found. 

Frankenstein’s story is a brutal cautionary tale for the ages. Grave robber, thief of death, madman, scientist, and creator of monsters. But who is the true monster in the story? The Creation did not beg to be a new Lazarus. The Creation was given life unwillingly and then abandoned by his own father. 

gettys images, ‘Frankenstein’ by Universal

True, it was the Monster’s hands that ripped, tore, strangled, and left a trail of carnage and tears. But it’s to be argued that such an abomination would never had the chance to lay a single finger against anyone had Frankenstein not created him. 

“It is true, we shall be monsters, cut off from all the world; but on that account we shall be more attached to one another.”
― Mary Shelley, Frankenstein

The Creation does go on a glorious rampage to punish Victor Frankenstein for the unwanted curse of life. The Monster, as we call it, kills everyone Victor loves until only the graying husk of a man is left of the bright student from Geneva. 

image via McFarlane Toys, ‘Frankenstein’

So it is a story of Ouroboros, the snake ever eating its own tail. And in like manner, Frankenstein is an eternal story that will outlive us all. Even as the worms devour this flesh the Creation of the madman will continue to haunt the world. 

Creating Monsters!

Dear reader, let’s talk about now. If Shelley teaches us anything from her personal life it is to never ignore the germ of an idea. Oh but especially a hideous idea; a creeping, howling, malignant idea birthed out of nightmares! 

How many horror stories are being ignored right now? How many good scares are we being robbed of just because you haven’t written it? Mary Shelley didn’t set out to make a world-wide phenomenon. She just wanted to scare her friends. So that’s a really good starting place. Scare the people closest to you. And never, ever give up.

image via Universal, ‘Frankenstein’

Your idea could happen while you’re on a walk. It could make itself known while you look out the window, or pick up a coffee. You might have to put aside the internet a little bit because writing demands time and attention just like Frankenstein’s Creation. 

Hunchbacks in bell towers, Ghosts haunting Opera Houses, Vampires in Transylvania, men who go invisible, a masked horror that rises from Crystal Lake, a dream demon who haunts nightmares, a puzzle box that opens Hell, a psychopath who invents torture traps and leaves his victims to make the ultimate choice to live or die. 

Monsters are out there, and there are so many of them, but guess what? There’s even more not yet discovered. Are you willing to be possessed by a need to tell a story? I for one would love to read it.

What are your fears and nightmares? What monstrosity might you end up stitching together? Piece by piece, stitch by stitch, nightmares tied to social anxieties, and powered by the engine of your own dark influences what great terror might we expect from you?

Dracula! Bela Lugosi’s Dark Spell

In honor of Bela Lugosi’s birthday (A day late I’m afraid, but better late than never), I’ve sat down to treat myself once more to the fantastical whimsy of the horror film that really started it all, Dracula. No denying the German expressionism films were the pioneers of horror cinema, but Dracula was the very first ‘talky’ horror film. 

The fog crowded scenes and hypnotic visuals of the Count’s foreboding and far-away realm could now be heard as well as seen, and they used sound to their advantage for this eerie new project. Rattling carriages drawn by horses, creaking doors, and hissing bats. Audiences sat dumbfounded by all they heard. It brought the night-shaded horror of Transylvania straight to them. And there was no escape. Horror had entered a brave new era.

There was no going back. Dracula opened a secret door and a monsoon rush of sensational horror films has flooded through ever since. 

From the cracking whine of a camera in Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the tolling of the bell in Hellraiser, a sing-song lullaby in Nightmare on Elm Street, and, last but certainly not least, the iconic sound Jason makes all stand out in our blood-splattered minds. These sounds immediately take us back to the chills and thrills of the films and are as iconic as the monsters we love.

Dracula began it all.

It’s so easy to get wrapped up in each little minute detail of the film, but I’m no expert on the matter, just an avid fan. Somehow rewatching it this time around reminds me of the first time I ever sat my butt down to experience this macabre treasure. 

image courtesy of Universal, Bela Lugosi ‘Dracula’

Any of you remember those drop-dead sexy VHS covers Universal released a few decades back for each of their Classic Monsters library?

image via Amazon

One Halloween my mom got me both Dracula and Frankenstein, both of which I’m still proud to say I still own 

I was in 1st Grade and Castlevania had just released earlier that year and was my favorite game. Mom thought it was high time her little Manic watched the very original Dracula movie. I’d seen so many different movies with Dracula in them but never the initial film. That Halloween all that changed. 

I don’t think I moved or fidgeted once. I may have not even blinked! I was transfixed to the glowing screen, it being the only light allowed to remain on, as the living shadows of this gothic epic played out spectrally before my eyes. Sure I was a young kid but the film’s unique majesty and gripping narrative weren’t lost on me. 

To The Prince of Darkness

Now at the end of Bela Lugosi’s birthday, I lift a glass to his eternal legacy. A cheer of thanks and of memories to him.

Against the odds of English not being his native tongue Lugosi pain-stakingly pronounced each word spoken with adjective deliberate concentration. It gave the Count his often mimicked manner of speech and deepened his mesmerizing effect over horror history .

So the imitated accent of Dracula was in fact Lugosi’s Hungarian one. It served the part well.

image via belalugosi.com

Lugosi was not the first choice for Dracula, nor was he even the second. A fact that pained the actor considering how he’d played the part on stage and mastered the role to damn near perfection. So when the time came for him to don the vampire’s cape Lugosi fought and earned his right to bring Bram Stoker’s legendary nosferatu to cinematic life.

As grand and wondrous as he is in Dracula that’s not, in fact, my favorite of his various roles. That honor goes to his hideously fun part in Son of Frankenstein where Lugosi ditches the cloak for a huched back. Playing the nefarious Igor, Bela Lugosi shines and steals the show!

image courtesy of Universal, Bela Lugosi ‘Son of Frankenstein’

I feel that Igor allowed the man to show his more playful side. Even though his face is hidden beneath a ratty beard and layered of makeup the man can’t help but bristle with fun and life. He never loses that sinister sparkle in his beady, little eyes nor that vicious smile.

You know what? Stop right here. If you’ve not seen Son of Frankenstein then I insist you go do yourself a favor and correct that right away, my Nasties. Go watch Uncle Lugosi have the time of his life!

Bela Lugosi had both magnetism and charisma. Not unlike the genius of Lon Chaney before him, Lugosi could captivate people on a whim.

image courtesy of Universal, Bela Lugosi ‘Dracula’

Those who knew Lugosi said he carried an unearthly mystique about him. He would enter a room and every eye would gravitationally be drawn to him.

He was indeed Dracula, so much so that he was even buried in a cape echoing back to his most treasured role. 

Hope you’re enjoying this witching season, my Nasties. And I hope that in your Halloween movie watching you have a chance to pay respect to Lugosi’s devilish spell over horror history.

Castlevania! A Halloween Tra(con)dition

Once upon a cold autumn season a game was released that allowed horror fans to travel back into a time of macabre legends, of monsters and madmen. Ingrained in our minds were images of Dracula’s dark castle where the Lord of the Night and his beastly servants dwelt.

Hammer Horror gave us insight into the wonderful abyss of dark intentions, of gothic landscapes, broken vestiges of a land long-held in the iron grip of incarnate Evil, but, most of all, of unlikely heroes armed with stakes and a crucifix and dedicated to hunting the horrors of the Night.

gif via halloweenshindig

Vividly can we recall watching the brave Van Helsing (played by the one and only Peter Cushing) cornered by Count Dracula (brought to life by the extraordinary Christopher Lee) in a legendary fight to the death.

This was epic. It took the Universal era of horrors and increased the intensity and left us spell-bound. In the final battle, and trust me it was a battle, Van Helsing knows he can’t meet the Vampire Lord by strength alone.

Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, ‘The Horror of Dracula’

So the man rushes down a long table and throws himself at some closed curtains, opening them, and allowing the day’s light to blast itself against Dracula, burning him, leaving ash wherever it touches his body.

I was probably a weird kid but fuck all if I didn’t want to fight Dracula too! I wanted to explore the Vampire’s evil castle and go back to times when monsters walked the land. Being part of such gothic adventures enthralled my juvenile imaginations.

Then late September back in 1986 a phenomena hit the land and monster-lovers from all over were given the chance to do just that.

Castlevania Hit The World

Armed with a whip graced with the power to slay Vampires you step into the role of Simon Belmont, the last Vampire Killer, and face the rusty gates of Castlevania

This lone barbarian warrior stands between the awakened horrors of the Night and the fate of humanity. Destiny is coiled within the whip and should you fail in your task of guiding Simon through Dracula’s haunted castle the human race is lost.  

This is Castlevania! A daring action-adventure game made as a tribute to horror films of the past that immediately upon release both enchanted and inspired a generation of blossoming monster fans.

Gamers, young and old, flocked to this nightmarish realm trapped in the shadow of Dracula’s demonic fortress to match whit and strength against the terrors the game had in store for us. 

Inspired by the exhaustive lore of both Universal Studios and Hammer Horror films, the game became the definitive monster game and immediately appealed to parents who grew up with those movies and found a new audience of kids who would grow up loving monsters from yesteryear. 

image via Hammer Horror, Christopher Lee ‘Dracula Has Risen From the Grave’

All the greatest names of gothic terror are included herein. The Mummy, Frankenstein’s tortured monster, the deep ones and gillmen of the watery murk, werewolves (in later titles), and the Lord of Death himself, Count Dracula!

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, art by Ayami Kojima, ‘Dracula’

Medusa is even included here and you will face off against the Queen of Serpents.

Castlevania: Lament of Innocence, art by Ayami Kojima, ‘Medusa’

Ghosts, vampire bats, haunted suits of armor, and skeleton soldiers! Of course, this game became an instant classic upon its release and the definitive Halloween game to play again, and again.

image via Konami, ‘Castlevania’

Upon playing the game countless times images of Frankenstein’s monster, Mummies, and Dracula could not be erased from my head. For the first time the extensive library of monsters given to me via Universal and Hammer came to life in a whole new way. I was now finally able to explore a world filled with them!

image via Universal Monsters

I remember getting in trouble in school for drawing a Castlevania pic with Dracula and the Grim Reaper floating over a bloody skeleton. 

The teacher had to call in my parents over a ridiculous concern that maybe I was under Satanic influence. Yup, it was mid-eighties and the stupid fucking Satanic Panic was in full swing which made it tough to be a horror fan in school. At least in Minford, Ohio.

Why couldn’t we draw graveyards and zombies under a gibbous moon frosted with Death’s shroud? 

Well, that shit was straight up frowned on, kiddies! 

Luckily, I had/have cool parents and my mamma raised Manic on classic horror movies and we made a big deal about Halloween. So we agreed the teacher was a dumbass then went home to play Simon’s Quest.

My Introduction to Castlevania

“Hey! Have you heard of Castlevania?” my best friend asked me over recess one day. The name alone captivated my attention. The title was alive with full-moon images of gothic horrors. I just knew it had to have something to do with Dracula. 

“It’s game about monsters and has Medusa in it,” he went on to tell me, barely able to contain his own excitement. “And the final boss is Dracula!” This was a big deal to old school gamers. I mean come on! King Koopa was the final boss in SMB which made him Mario’s arch-enemy. Same with Ganon and Link in Legend of Zelda. The final boss was Shredder in TMNT. So the role of Final Boss was designated to the biggest and baddest villain around, the arch-enemy! 

So Dracula meant business, and his business was death and terror. And business was good, which wasn’t good at all for humanity. 

“You even have to fight the Grim Reaper!” Honestly, I didn’t need to hear anymore because I was sold! I HAD to play Castlevania. It sounded like a horror freak’s dream come true. 

image via Konami, ‘Castlevania’

The rest of that day draaaaggggggeed on and all I could focus on was getting home so I could tell mom about this amazing game we just had to play. 

When the time came I leaped out of the bus and ran my little butt up the hill as if the Devil himself was driving me. I had to get home and tell mom! I had hopes that maybe (just maybe) I could convince her to go out and rent it. 

I slammed through the door, yelled out for mom, rushed down the hall, and as I got closer to the back of the house I heard beautiful 8-bit music I didn’t recognize but instantly fell in love with. So I knew she was playing Nintendo. But oh my God what she was playing! She had already gone out and rented Castlevania and was playing it! Playing it and waiting for me to show me this fucking cool game! 

image via Konami, ‘Castlevania’

Was I hooked? I don’t know. It was more like being drawn to it like a bee is drawn to pollen. Or an ant to a picnic. It was natural gravitation. It felt like a game tailor-made for people like me. For the first time gamers were permitted the opportunity to tread beyond the dilapidated threshold of Dracula’s castle and discover the many dark miracles hidden within. 

Castlevania was a game shared by me and mom and became our daily thing to do. It wasn’t until Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest was released that mom and I really got into strategizing together. I’d come home from school and she’d pass the controller off to me to advance the progress. “I got us the chain whip,” I remember her saying one day, and that was huge news for us! 

Castlevania Cannot Die!

image via Netflix, ‘Castlevania’

Crossing generations and gaining new legions of fans the beloved franchise has enjoyed resurgences, and is a celebrated anime now on Netflix. Using the enriched-lore of Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse as its source of inspiration (a stroke of genius!) the show takes place a generation before Simon and tells the story of his father, Trevor Belmont’s, war against the Undead.

Once again I was spellbound by Castlevania. The show may not be perfect but it is a beautiful new way to explore the haunted world I grew up playing in.  The show also has given people a desire to play the games once again and for that I applaud it.

Might as well throw this in here too. Just in case you can’t display your love for game franchise enough and need more to add to your life there are some beautiful Castlevania figures. A few years back Neca released their own line and their prices are quite hefty. But a new line of figures are being leased now by Diamond Select and are based off the anime.

Castlevania Anniversary Collection 

In case you never had the chance to play the original games or if you’re dying to jump back in but don’t have an NES lying around you’re still in luck. The Castlevania Anniversary Collection is available on PS4, Xbox One, Steam, and the Switch. 

image via Konami, ‘Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse’

Not only does the CAC come with the three original NES Castlevania trilogy, but it also includes the two Gameboy Castlevania games, Castlevania Adventure, Castlevania: Belmont’s Revenge.

You also get Super Castlevania IV, and the Sega Genesis Castlevania: Bloodlines. 

image via Konami, ‘Super Castlevania IV’

And just for the Hell of it they’ve thrown in Kid Dracula

This collection also includes the original Japanese versions for some of these titles giving Western players the chance to check out their favorite vampire-hunting games in their original format.

We are not sponsored by Konami at all so this is just Manic loving the hell out of a game series he grew up with. Every Halloween I return back to Castlevania to ring in the witching season. So grab your whips and crucifix and let’s celebrate the terrors of the Night.

I know you need some more Halloween fixes from us over here at Nightmare Nostalgia. So be sure not to miss why Michael Myers had blonde hair in Halloween 4 by clicking right here. Yeah, ain’t that the weirdest shit? Our beautiful mind behind our madness here at NN answers all the obvious questions of why, how, and huh so don’t miss it.

And we love all you guys and wouldn’t be what we are today without our faithful readers, our nasties, and our legions. We were honored to be part of Feedspot’s Top 100 Horror Blogs and Websites For Horror Fans ! That’s a huge deal to us. We promise to bring you only the absolute best in horror and retro fun.

So Happy Halloween season, my Nasties!