I enjoy educating others about film history and the early years of cinema.
1. Arsène Lupin contra Sherlock Holmes (1910)
Danish filmmaker Viggo Larsen directed a set of German-language film serials collectively titled Arsène Lupin contra Sherlock Holmes (1910). There’s believed to have been five episodes, all released from August 1910 to March 1911.
Fictional detective Sherlock Holmes was created by British author Arthur Conan Doyle in 1887, while fictional thief Arsène Lupin was created by French writer Maurice Leblanc in 1905. Both characters first appeared in novels and short fiction, which were later adapted to film, TV, theatre, and comic books.
Interestingly, Leblanc was the first to introduce Lupin to Sherlock Holmes, in two crossover stories published in November 1906. Doyle objected to Leblanc using his character, prompting Leblanc to change the name to Herlock Sholmes to avoid legal repercussions. When these stories were adapted to film, German copyright laws allowed the original name to be used.
Larsen himself played Holmes, while actor Paul Otto played Lupin. Based on what few records remain, the serials were entitled The Old Secretary, The Blue Diamond, The Fake Rembrandts, The Escape, and The End of Arsene Lupin.
2. Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943)
Though the first movie crossover was released in 1910, the genre didn’t catch on until the 1940s, when ensemble monster movies became a trend.
Following the success of Frankenstein (1931), its sequels, and The Wolf Man (1941), Universal Studios released a film that combined the characters’ stories. The film begins with a team of gravediggers reviving the Wolf Man, Larry Talbot, who transforms under the full moon and attacks them. Not wanting to be a werewolf, Talbot seeks out the legendary Dr. Frankenstein for treatment, and comes across Frankenstein’s Monster trapped in ice.
Frankenstein and its sequels were adapted from a science-fiction novel of the same name, written in 1818 by Mary Shelley. The Wolf Man was an original Hollywood creation written by Curt Siodmak and directed by George Waggner. Though it wasn’t Universal Studios’ first attempt at a werewolf film—the first being Werewolf of London (1935)—it became the most commercially successful and influential portrayal of the mythical creature.
Both the Wolf Man and Frankenstein’s Monster were played by Lon Chaney Jr. in the original films. Chaney reprised his role as the Wolf Man in Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943), while Bela Lugosi was cast as the Monster. Lugosi had already made a name for himself playing the title role in Dracula (1931), a role he first played on the Broadway stage in 1927.
3. The House of Frankenstein (1944)
After his career-making performance as Frankenstein's Monster in Universal Studios's Frankenstein (1931), Boris Karloff took on the role of Dr. Niemann, a mad scientist and prison escapee, in House of Frankenstein (1944). With the help of his hunchbacked assistant, Dr. Niemann recruits three movie monsters—the Wolf Man, Dracula, and Frankenstein's Monster—for his crusade of revenge against those who have wronged him.
Lon Chaney Jr., star of The Wolf Man (1941), was able to reprise his role. Bela Lugosi from Dracula (1931) was unavailable, so John Carradine was cast instead. Frankenstein's Monster was played by Glenn Strange, who was best known for appearing in low-budget Western films at the time. As portraying a movie monster was new to him, Karloff coached Strange on how to play the role.
Universal Studios also wanted to include the Mummy from The Mummy (1932), the Invisible Man from The Invisible Man (1933), the Ape Woman from Captive Wild Woman (1943), and the Mad Ghoul from The Mad Ghoul (1943), but left them out due to budget concerns.
This film was written by Curt Siodmak, who also wrote The Wolf Man, and directed by Erle C. Kenton, who directed The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942). Working titles for this film were Chamber of Horrors and The Devil's Brood.
4. House of Dracula (1945)
Although Dracula and the Wolf Man both die at the end of House of Frankenstein (1944), they are resurrected with no explanation for its sequel, House of Dracula (1945), with John Carradine and Lon Chaney Jr. both reprising their respective roles.
The original script was entitled The Wolf Man vs. Dracula, and involved a climactic battle where the Wolf Man kills several villagers. The script was rejected for being too violent, so the plot was altered. Rather than being pitted against each other, both monsters seek out a mad scientist, Dr. Franz Edelmann, in the hopes that he can cure their supernatural afflictions. Dr. Edelmann agrees but is transformed into a vampire when an experimental treatment goes awry.
Although Glenn Strange also reprises his role as Frankenstein's Monster, the character mostly appears in recycled footage from The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942) and Bride of Frankenstein (1935), in which he was played by Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff, respectively.
This film marked the end of Chaney Jr.'s work with Universal. Carradine went on to play Dracula in two more movies: Billy the Kid Versus Dracula (1966) and Nocturna (1979). He also played the character on stage and in an episode of the anthology TV show Matinee Theatre (1955-1958).
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5. Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)
The title Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948) is misleading: not only do they meet Frankenstein's Monster, but Dracula and the Wolf Man as well. This film is considered the swan song of the "Big Three" Universal movie monsters, as it was the last time these three characters would appear together.
Bud Abbott and Lou Costello were the most popular comedy duo of the 1940s and the early 1950s. In this horror-comedy, the pair play clumsy railway baggage clerks in Florida who mishandle two crates en route to a museum. The crates open, and Dracula and Frankenstein's Monster emerge. The clerks are approached by Larry Talbot, the Wolf Man, who sets out to help them stop the other monsters from wreaking havoc.
This film does not follow the continuity of House of Frankenstein (1944) and House of Dracula (1945) and is thus not considered part of the series canon. Frankenstein's Monster could not speak in the previous films, and the Wolf Man was cured of his lycanthropy in the latter film; yet in this one, the Monster can speak and the Wolf Man remains a werewolf.
Actors Glenn Strange and Lon Chaney Jr. reprised their roles as Frankenstein's Monster and the Wolf Man, while Bela Lugosi, who originally starred in Dracula (1931), returned to play the character for the second and final time. This was Lugosi's last involvement in a film for a major studio.
6. Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man (1951)
The Invisible Man (1933) is a horror film based on a science-fiction novel by H.G. Wells. A scientist named Dr. Griffin, played by Claude Rains, creates a dangerous serum that turns him invisible. Unfortunately, he's unable to reverse the procedure, and the chemicals in the serum drive him insane to the point of mass murder. Two fellow scientists have to team up with the police to stop Griffin's rampage.
This film was followed up with The Invisible Man Returns (1940), which starred different actors and focused on different characters. The protagonist is Dr. Griffin's brother, also a scientist, who helps a man who's been wrongly convicted of murder. He injects the man with invisibility serum so he can escape prison, solve the crime, and clear his name.
Next came The Invisible Woman (1940), Invisible Agent (1942), and The Invisible Man's Revenge (1944). Another sequel was in the works, but after the success of Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948), the script was rewritten into another horror-comedy crossover.
In Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man (1951), the titular duo plays bumbling private detectives investigating the murder of a boxing manager. A boxer named Tommy, who has been accused of the crime, asks for their help in proving his innocence. He also asks a scientist, Dr. Gray, to inject him with an invisibility serum so he can evade the police. Dr. Gray refuses, arguing that Dr. Griffin, who discovered the serum, was driven insane by it. Tommy steals the serum and injects himself, and helps Abbott and Costello solve the case.
7. Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1953)
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is a Gothic novella written by Robert Louis Stevenson, released in 1885. It focused on a respected scientist, Dr. Jekyll, who invents a serum that transforms him into the murderous Mr. Hyde. Horrified at Mr. Hyde’s actions, Dr. Jekyll resolves to abstain from the serum, but struggles with temptation.
Film adaptations of the novella were released in 1908, 1912, 1913, 1920, 1931, and 1941—none of which were made or distributed by Universal Pictures, the company behind Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1953). This was the first time Universal did a crossover involving a film they had no part in making.
In this film, the comedic duo play Slim and Tubby, American cops who travel to London to study police tactics. They meet the friendly scientist Dr. Jekyll, unaware that his alter-ego, Mr. Hyde, is responsible for a recent city-wide murder spree. Unlike in the original novella, this version of Dr. Jekyll turns into Mr. Hyde on purpose to murder fellow scientists who scoff at his experiments.
Boris Karloff—known for playing Frankenstein’s Monster in Frankenstein (1931) and the Mummy in The Mummy (1932)—played Dr. Jekyll in the film, while Mr. Hyde was played by stuntman Eddie Parker, who went uncredited.
8. Abbott and Costello Meet the Keystone Kops (1955)
From 1912 to 1917, Keystone Film Company produced a series of silent slapstick comedies involving a group of bumbling policemen dubbed the Keystone Kops. They starred in twelve films alongside famed comedians such as Mabel Normand, Roscoe Arbuckle, and Charlie Chaplain. Most of these films have been lost.
Though the popularity of the Keystone Kops waned in the 1920s, Universal somehow still decided on making Abbott and Costello Meet the Keystone Kops (1955) decades later. After filming was completed, the producers considered retitling it Abbott and Costello in the Stunt Men, since the Keystone Kops weren’t relevant anymore.
The film, which takes place in 1912, begins with Abbott and Costello’s characters being conned into buying a worthless deed to a motion pictures studio. The con man heads to Hollywood, where he poses as a famous European director. Abbott and Costello track him down in the hopes of getting their money back and end up landing jobs as Hollywood stuntmen. They later realize the director they’re working for is the man who conned them, so they ask the Keystone Kops for help in apprehending him.
Three of the original Keystone Kops—Hank Mann, Heinie Conklin, and Herold Goodwin—appeared in this film, along with Mack Sennett, the director of the original films.
9. Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy (1955)
The Mummy (1932) originally starred Boris Karloff as the titular monster, an ancient Egyptian priest named Imhotep who is resurrected by a cursed scroll. This film was loosely remade as The Mummy’s Hand (1940), in which Tom Tyler played the Mummy, now named Kharis. All three of that film’s sequels—The Mummy’s Tomb (1942), The Mummy’s Ghost (1944), and The Mummy’s Curse (1944)—starred Lon Chaney Jr. as the Mummy.
Chaney Jr.’s stunt double, Eddie Parker, ended up being cast as the Mummy in Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy (1955). In this version, the Mummy is named Klaris, and he only has eight minutes of screen time in the third act of the film. The plot focuses more on Abbott and Costello’s characters as they become stranded in Egypt and come to possess a cursed medallion. They’re pursued by the leader of a cult that plans to resurrect Klaris, as well as a businesswoman seeking an ancient Egyptian treasure.
This would end up being Abbott and Costello’s last Universal Pictures film. Universal would later release a compilation film, The World of Abbott and Costello (1965), which contained clips from eighteen films they made from 1941 to 1955, along with narration from comedian Jack E. Leonard.
The comedic duo starred in their last film, Dance With Me, Henry (1956), the following year. They later voiced cartoon versions of their comedy personas for a short-lived animated series in 1967.
10. King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962)
King Kong (1933) is a classic monster movie about a giant gorilla from an uncharted territory called Skull Island. A film crew finds King Kong while scouting for exotic shooting locations, and they capture him and take him to New York City. The gorilla soon breaks out of his chains and wreaks havoc on the city.
This film was a box-office success and became renowned for its groundbreaking special effects. It may have even paved the way for monster movies like Godzilla (1954), which spawned the longest-running film franchise in history. Godzilla is a dinosaur-like sea creature that emerges from the Pacific Ocean and goes on a destructive rampage through Japan.
King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962) is a Japanese comedy film that satirizes the ratings-obsessed media. The story begins with the CEO of a pharmaceutical company that sponsors television shows. Seeking a way to boost business, the CEO sends employees to capture King Kong in the hopes of filming him for publicity and profit. But while Kong is being transported, Godzilla emerges and begins terrorizing Japan. Kong breaks free from captivity, and the two begin attacking each other.
Godzilla has since been the subject of several more crossovers, including Mothra vs. Godzilla (1964), Godzilla vs. Monster Zero (1965), Godzilla vs. Hedorah (1971), Godzilla vs. Gigan (1972), Godzilla vs. Megalon (1973), and Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (1974).
femi from Nigeria on January 23, 2020:
Nice research l have watched many of the films especially the horror ones. I am a real film freak even considered becoming a film director, l like abbot and Costello. Your writing style is unique and a breadth of fresh Air just love it!