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How The Wolf Man Created The First Cinematic Universe

The superheroes of Marvel Comics live in a variety of movies in which they all exist, whether they appear in a particular movie or not. The same goes for DC superheroes. But these are fictional universes, and not the one we live in. The same thing occurs in Star Wars, which is set in a galaxy far, far away, shared by movie characters who never meet each other. These are cinematic universes. But long before these movie franchises took over the silver screen, there was the shared universe of the Universal monster movies.

Over 80 years since it began, the Universal Monster legacy continues to stretch into a new century, spreading its celluloid immortality like a juicy Transylvanian kiss. The Universal Monsters did it first, and in many ways, their blunt directness has a special charm that is sorely lacking in the self-seriousness currently masquerading in their bloodless, caped descendents. And it really all goes back to one monster in particular: Lon Chaney Jr.’s eternally unblessed Wolf Man.

Chaney’s unforgettable plea for audience mercy and understanding in 1941’s The Wolf Man, as well as make-up artist Jack Pierce’s notoriety for the best use of Yak fur in movie history, is generally considered the marker for Universal's final “A-list” monster picture. But it also signified a change of thinking at the studio, inadvertently inviting a literary concept as abstract as "universe-building" in through the backlot's sidedoor. And with those eventual follow-up sequels, there came a new type of monster movie.

Read about how Universal tied its monsters together and created the first cinematic universe at Den of Geek.


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“Even a man who is pure in heart and says his prayers by night may become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms, and the moon is full and bright.”

The first movie line I memorized. Did you know it was changed from the original?

Out of all the horror films of my youth, it was years before I could watch the scene where Lon Chaney stands next to a tree and transforms into the Wolf Man. Scared the absolute bejeezus out of me.

Great article.
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