Photo courtesy of Bob Burns.
This Friday Universal tries to wash the taste of Van Helsing out of our mouths and begin the revival of their classic monsters with The Wolfman, based on the 1941 classic. However The Wolfman does at the box office the film, a throwback to the story of the original with a heaping helping of the Gothic atmosphere of Hammer movies like Curse of the Werewolf, shows that Universal is taking these characters seriously for the first time in years. What else is waiting in the pipeline?
Frankenstein. The good news is that Guillermo del Toro is attached to do Frankenstein. The bad news is that he’s got so many other projects that it’s hard to figure out when he could go. With The Hobbit looming it could be four years before GdT even sits down to really work on this film. But I hope Universal waits – no one loves this character like del Toro does. An avid collector of Frankenstein-related memorabilia, including tons of original artwork from Bernie Wrightson’s classic adaptation of the novel (side note: I’ve seen these pages first hand and what’s most amazing about them is that Wrightson uses no White Out and there appear to be no eraser marks on them, despite Wrightson’s incredibly intricate style).
Rick Baker told me this weekend that Frankenstein’s Monster is the dream character for him, and he’s not talking about a reimagining – he wants to do a modern take on the famous Jack Pierce make-up that originated with Boris Karloff in 1931. There are many who think this design, which has been co-opted by cereal and comedy, can no longer scare, but Baker insisted to me that with just some minor tweaks Pierce’s vision could be as horrifying today as it was in the 30s.
Bride of Frankenstein. For my money The Bride of Frankenstein, the first sequel to Frankenstein, is the best of all the Universal Monster movies. James Whale approached the film from a campier direction, but the humor mixed with a serious dose of weirdness and a heaping helping of beautiful character work elevates the film in ways I don’t think anyone at the time could have seen coming.
There’s been a remake before – The Bride, starring Sting and Jennifer Beals – but the less said about that, the better. Universal has been batting around a remake for a couple of years, with the latest version being set in the modern day New York, with a script by Sheri Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini, although that was scrapped. The project has now moved on to Neil Burger, writer and director of The Illusionist, who is working on the script with partner Dirk Wittenborn. I don’t know what Burger’s take on the material is, but I imagine that his version will bring in the Bride before the last scenes, unlike the original Whale version.
Creature From the Black Lagoon. Possibly the final great Universal Monster, the Gillman has been poised for a comeback for years. The project has been stopped and started many times over the previous decades, and it has just recently undergone another change of leadership; Breck Eisner (questionably talented son of Michael) dropped off the project and has been replaced by Carl Rinsch, a commercials director who had been in line to direct the Alien prequel for daddy-in-law Ridley Scott (nepotism runs strong in the Black Lagoon). What Rinsch’s take might be is a mystery, but don’t be surprised that it’s in 3D, just like the original film.
The best case scenario is that we dodged a bullet with Eisner leaving. Monster maven Rick Baker has been involved in myriad Creature designs over the years, and the latest one he was pitched was one he opted not to do: Universal wanted to turn the Creature into some kind of amalgamation of various undersea life, including throwing tentacles on there. It sounds like this could have been from Eisner’s version. Hopefully Rinsch understands the beautiful simplicity of the classic Gillman design and sticks with something approximating it.
The Invisible Man. David Goyer has been working on a new version of The Invisible Man, but he’s the only one of these reboots that isn’t a remake – his version is actually a sequel to the original. In Goyer’s film the nephew of the original Invisible Man discovers the invisibility formula and perfects it. He’s captured by Scotland Yard and is forced into spying for Britain as part of the brand new MI6. Goyer is looking to bring a steampunk sensibility to the film, and it sounds like his take on the Invisible Man will be more of an action-adventure movie than a horror film, drawing on Goyer’s long experience with superhero comics and movies.
Dracula. You’d think that a Dracula reboot would be simple in this modern Twilight age, but Universal is doing something much stranger with the character: they’re making Dracula Year Zero, a movie about the historical Vlad Tepes Dracula, who inspired Bram Stoker’s immortal vampire. But the film, to be directed by Alex Proyas, also weaves in elements of the vampire mythos. The most recent rumors have omnipresent actor Sam Worthington toplining.
But it’s unclear if this film will be going forward; if it does it has serious competition from another Vlad movie called Vlad the Impaler, and that one is a more straight-ahead story, free of vampire associations. Vampire mania or no, it seems like there’s probably only room in the marketplace for one movie about a Romanian genocidal lunatic, so it’s quite possible that Universal blinks. I actually would rather they did blink and tried to find something more traditional for Drac.
Am I missing any films in development? Is any of my info out of date? Can you spill more beans about these movies and what’s happening with them? Drop me a line at devin at chud.com and keep me in the loop.
The Wolfman II. Yup. The new The Wolfman leaves open the ending for a possible sequel. I won’t spoil what that ending is, but the potential story implications are really intriguing and thematically fascinating. And that’s just a sequel to this film; when I talked to producer Scott Stuber, who did The Wolfman and is on Frankenstein, he talked about how much he loved the shared universe nature of the original Universal Monsters. With The Wolfman being set in Victorian times and with Guillermo del Toro all but assured to want to set his version in that same timeframe, how far off are we from a remake of Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man becoming a reality?