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Dracula, Frankenstein, and the Wolfman Assembled to Fight Crime in the ’70s


Dracula, Frankenstein, and the Wolfman Assembled to Fight Crime in the '70s


Summary

  • Horror characters team up for epic crossovers, from Freddy vs. Jason to a potential Poohniverse with Winnie The Pooh and other classics.
  • 1940s Universal Monsters led the way in crossovers, with Dracula, Frankenstein, and Wolfman uniting in iconic films for audiences to enjoy.
  • Monster Squad transformed classic horror villains into superheroes for a younger audience, delivering fun costume designs and elaborate stage sets.



Bringing horror characters together for a frenzy-filled crossover has always been a time-honored staple of Hollywood productions. Just look at 2003’s Freddy vs Jason, which saw the Springwood slasher go up against the massive, hockey mask-wearing, machete-wielding maniac. Then there was the planned Dark Universe by Universal Pictures that, unfortunately, never saw past 2017’s The Mummy. Whether it was due to the fact that Tom Cruise’s involvement was wasted or because the action itself took precedence over the story, any future world-building turned into meaningless cameos and teases.


Fortunately, that 100-million-dollar mistake fell by the wayside when British filmmaker Rhys Frake-Waterfield envisioned a horror take on the classic childhood character Winnie The Pooh. Released in 2023, Blood and Honey was so much of a success that not only was a sequel planned, but a future Poohniverse is in the works as well, which would combine the aforementioned name with others like Bambi, Peter Pan, and Pinocchio.

While all of that surely sounds like a wonderful time, the very first rendition of a horror-based cinematic universe was found with the Universal Monsters once more, but all the way back in the 1940s. Once they starred in their solo movies and made a name for themselves, Dracula, Frankenstein, and the Wolfman came together in three crossover movies that have resonated well enough with audiences over time (this is much more than could be said for the 2017 attempt): Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man, House of Frankenstein and House of Dracula.


These iconic deviants of the big screen came to be notoriously known for their larger-than-life prowess and terrifying personas. Never once did any audience member believe that these hulking monsters would suddenly regret their former lives and turn into fighters of good and just — but for one whole year it happened every Saturday morning on NBC!


What Was The Monster Squad About?

Grant, The Wolfman, Dracula and Frankenstein in The Monster Squad
NBC

Starring Love Boat actor Fred Grandy as Walt, 1976’s Monster Squad saw this criminology student build a super-sophisticated computer while working as a security guard at a wax museum. Walt’s computer was apparently so powerful that once powered on, its reverberations brought some of the surrounding statues to life — those being Dracula, Frankenstein, and the Wolfman (here named Bruce W. Wolf).


Played by Henry Polic II, Buck Kartalian, and Mike Lane respectively, all three fantastical horror icons no longer wanted to terrorize the world but instead protect it from even greater evils by driving around in a vehicle deemed “The Monster Van” and equipping themselves with communicator devices. With powers like superhuman strength, an extreme sense of smell, and some ferocious fangs, they would stop nefarious names like The Ringmaster — an oddly shaped man who holds children hostage — and the Skull, who wants to create an army of the living dead to take over the world.

As you can tell by now, all thirteen episodes of Monster Squad were made for a younger audience. But don’t let that statement deter you from taking a look at this small but underrated show. Sure, these classic monsters suddenly having a change of heart and trying to right all of their wrongs by becoming a spectacular superhero is bizarre in hindsight. Making this perplexing saga into live-action is another baffling choice.


But there is something positive to say when it comes to the costume design as well as the overall enthusiasm for the show. Even with a limited budget that could only take them so far – Dracula, Frankenstein, and The Wolfman all have their signature colors and the actors playing these liberated monsters have fun with the roles. Stage designs are elaborate, often complimenting the theme of the antagonist’s motif. Finally, Monster Squad had a surprise in its writing team that showed it was always intended to be more than just a shrugged-off idea.

Related

Best Universal Classic Monsters, Ranked

Universal Studios made a name for itself in the 1930s to 1950s with its franchise of classic monster movies. Here are all the classic creeps, ranked.

The Monster Squad Was Inspired by Another Superhero Show


Just watching a single episode of The Monster Squad gives off a vibe reminiscent of another superhero program of that time. That’s because the creator, Stanley Ralph Ross, was also one of the main writers behind the 1960s Batman television series starring Adam West (that’s where all the campiness comes from!). As mentioned before, this almost comedic horror monster crossover always held a certain colorful audacity and over-the-top aesthetic.

Related

How to Watch the Universal Classic Monster Movies in Order

Here’s how and where to watch every installment in Universal’s Classic Monster Movie Collection.

The Monster Squad benefitted from this style given by the show’s equally wild and wacky premise. In every thirty-minute episode, the characters, motivations, and rules created within were exaggerated from start to finish. For crying out loud, there was no logical reasoning behind how The Wolfman could climb up the side of buildings like Spider-Man!


The Series Didn’t Last Long

Walt and The Monster Squad trapped
NBC

Even though it was canceled early on, this Saturday morning show did have enough exposure to inspire the Hanna Barbera animation studio to create a similar cartoon called The Drak Pack as well as creating the pathway for DC’s Creature Commandos. As audiences are leaning towards fantastical stories that take more of a grittier approach these days, The Monster Squad will probably never see the light these days but remain in the past as a symbolic reminder of what was once the epitome of the live-action genre for children. Stream on Tubi.


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