Engineernerd’s Top 5 Universal Monsters

October 31, 2017 | By More

So my friend I See Robots (ISR) put out a recent episode of the Toys R Us Report Podcast with his Top 5 Universal Monsters. Now, by now, ISR realizes I will always have a different opinion of his top five lists. Maybe it’s Midwest vs West Coast. I think we know we are going to agree to disagree on his lists. (Cheese Pizza? Really? j/k)

Anyway, his list was a bit different than how I would rank the Universal Monsters. (I’m not going to tell you his, you will have to go listen.) We all have our favorites I suppose. These are the monsters that most of us grew up. Most of them are recognizable the world over even by folks that don’t consider themselves horror or monster movie fans. Ironically, reboots of these creepy crawlers doesn’t set off the ire of geekdom. It seems our want to see more of them, overrides our collective hate of reboots. 

Now there are some of the Universal properties that you don’t see much call for rebooting. Leach Woman, anyone? There’s also some background folks that probably deserve more credit. Igor for example has become synonymous with evil lab assistants and riffed on in a number of different properties. 

Well, we should probably get on with my list. 

5. The Wolfman  From True Blood to “The Werewolves of London” the wolfman and his kin have wedged themselves into public consciousness.  Like most of the monsters, he’s always a somewhat tragic figure gaining his lycanthropy from ether a bite, scratch or heredity. Modern stories have played up that aspect frequently with characters looking for a cure for their condition rather than a hero figure hunting them down. 

I’m not sure if it was some of the old films that turned werewolves and vampires into enemies of one another, but it is a theme we see repeated in modern pop culture. It also seems everybody has a side in that battle. 

My favorite take on werewolves is the early seasons of Being Human on BBC. The locking himself away and preparation for a full moon were a big part of how George evolved as a character on the show. 

4. Phantom of the Opera The Phantom saw an obvious resurgence after Andrew Lloyd Weber turned him into a household name of musical theater. But look deeper at the Phantom and you see something that plays on everybody. The need to belong. Disfigured/crippled as a child, he grows up to seek revenge against the society that shunned him. All he really wants is to be accepted. 

My reason for including him is his tragic nature. It echoes through time, and this story has been told in a number of different ways from cartoons to the weird movie with Kiss.

The second reason for including him is the iconic nature of original Lon Chaney 1925 version. While folks may not know the whole story, there’s a large percentage of the population that would recognize that disfigured face. Considering it’s from a silent film, that is a pretty big impact. 

3. Frankenstein’s Monster Again another tragic figure that just wants to fit in. He didn’t ask to be reanimated. If you are touched by the flower scene with the little girl, you may need more love in your life. Essentially, hunted down like a monster the public never comes to understand the miracle of what he is. 

His inclusion and rank are commiserate with his place in pop culture. You won’t find a Halloween decoration section without some version of the big green fella. From cute to serious, there is a version of Frankie out there for everybody. If anything, more than everyone else on this list, Frankenstien’s Monster is probably the mascot for Halloween. 

My favorite recent version is the more aware creation on Penny Dreadful. If you are a Universal Monster fan, you probably  owe it to yourself to check that series out. 

2. The Mummy I’ll admit it. The Mummy is my favorite of all the classic monsters out there. That said, there is a sadness to his tail that draws you in. While he normally wreaks havoc to humans in his way, it’s not really his fault. Most of the time, some silly archaeologist has woke him up. All he wants in life are two thins. One, to go back to bed. Two, the love of his life. Most of the Mummy films involve him tracking down the spitting image of his ancient girlfriend. Honestly ladies, wouldn’t you want your man to love you so much even death wouldn’t stop him from getting to you?

Again, there are numerous incarnations of the Mummy out there. I think his staying power is in his reality, though. Yes, I can go to the Paris Opera House. But, I won’t see Erik sawing down a chandelier. I can go to a museum and see an actual mummy. And I think that is why he stays with us. The line with reality is blurred compared to the other monsters here.

I recently watched the Hammer films production with Christoper Lee as the Mummy and Peter Cushing as the hero. I have to say I’ve probably seen it before, but this viewing made me think this film was better than I thought.  

And number one is…

Dracula Dracula earns the top spot on this list because he is the “monster” that transcends pop culture, no matter who you are, what genre of TV, books, or films you like, Dracula has probably touched some media you have consumed. Lugosi’s portrayal ignited the romantic notion of vampires. Honestly, if his Dracula had been as monstrous as the Phantom do you think we would still recognize his version as the iconic thing it is? Probably not. 

No matter where you turn, if you ask people what kind of monster they would be if they had to turn into one, they will say vampire. Again, there is a romantic notion to love after death. I think the tag line of the 1992 Dracula says it best, “Love Never Dies.” 


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