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Monsters: A Celebration of the Classics from Universal Studios    edited by Jennifer Osborne order for
by Jennifer Osborne
Order:  USA  Can
Del Rey, 2006 (2006)
* *   Reviewed by Tim Davis

'Wild, weird, and wonderful!' In 1925, that was how Universal Studios advertised its exciting new film starring Lon Chaney, The Phantom of the Opera. Well, take that alliterative promotional blurb and add a few more hyperbolic modifiers: bold, beautiful, and breathtaking. Now you have a fairly good description of this impressive new book, Monsters: A Celebration of the Classics from Universal Studios.

Beginning with The Phantom of the Opera, the book traces Universal Studios' trademark contributions to the horror film business. Also featured in this must-own book are Dracula (1931), 'the strangest love story of all' featuring Hungarian actor Bela Lugosi; Frankenstein (1931), in which British actor Boris Karloff was transformed by brilliant make-up artist Jack Pierce, the man with 'a special talent for turning men into freaks'; The Mummy (1932), the story of 'death and eternal punishment' in which Pierce again transformed Karloff into one of film history's most memorable creatures; The Invisible Man (1933), the strange film in which movie star Claude Rains took a backseat to 'cutting edge effects, horror, and black comedy'; The Bride of Frankenstein (1935), a deliciously camp movie featuring the hideously beautiful Elsa Lanchester; The Wolf Man (1941), in which Lon Chaney, Jr., made film history in the 'legend of the damned'; and the last of Universal's great monster movies, Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954), the bizarre tale in which the 'clawing monster from a lost age strikes from the Amazon's forbidden depths.' Near the end, the book also features - as a tantalizing bonus - a brief cameo appearance from Abbott and Costello - my personal favorites of the era - the over-the-top comedy pair whose monster comedies reenergized movie houses in the 40s and 50s.

This book, however, is much more than a fascinating chronological record of horror movies from Universal Studios. Yes, the book has an informative text by Roy Milano - a movie trivia expert and film historian - and there are wonderful anecdotal essays from Lon Chaney's great grandson, Bela Lugosi's son, Boris Karloff's daughter, and half a dozen film directors and actors. The bottom-line strength of this 166-page book, though, can be found in the more than 120 sumptuous illustrations; so, even if you don't read a single word of this book, you'll have the time of your life just browsing through the black-and-white movie-stills, the full color movie posters, and the behind-the-scenes looks at movie makeup transformations.

Trust me. If you enjoyed those old movies half as much as I did (and still do), then you'll love this book!

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