7 Classic Monster Movies of the 1930s

Old horror films are ideal for Halloween or any time of the year. Here are seven classic monster movies of the 1930s that are sure to please any fan.

A movie poster for "White Zombie."
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A movie poster for "White Zombie."
Source: Wikimedia Commons | Public Domain

Flick or Treat

Halloween is generally a bad night at the box office. Costume parties and trick-or-treat jaunts keep children away from movie theaters. Fall carnivals and harvest festivals are also popular events.

Some theaters feature scary movies on Halloween, but they often target teenagers and young adults. Classic movies are a good option for people outside these age groups, or those turned off by modern slasher films.

This hub highlights seven classic monster movies of the 1930s. Universal Pictures pioneered the genre, and all but two are Universal films. Their vampires, werewolves, mummies, and other creatures paved the way for modern scary movies.


1. Dracula

In Dracula, the undead Count Dracula of Transylvania goes to London to lease Carfax Abbey. There, he preys on the virtuous Mina Seward, whose father oversees an insane asylum near Dracula's home.

Directed by Tod Browning, this 1931 film stars Bela Legosi in the title role. Helen Chandler and David Manners also star in the film. Dracula was the first legitimate film version of Bram Stoker's novel, and it set the tone for future vampire films.

The United States Library of Congress added Dracula to the National Film Registry in 2000. It based the decision on the movie's significance to American history and culture.

Helen Chandler and Bela Legosi in "Dracula."
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Helen Chandler and Bela Legosi in "Dracula."
Source: Wikimedia Commons | Public Domain

2. Frankenstein

Frankenstein, another 1931 film, is the ultimate monster movie. It is loosely based on the Frankenstein novel by Mary Shelley. The timeless tragedy centers on a mad scientist named Henry Frankenstein (Victor in the book) who creates a human body from secret parts.

The movie has a long censorship history: a monster torment scene, a close-up of an injection needle, a controversial child drowning, and the line, "Now I know what it feels like to be God!" Later film versions restored these scenes.

Directed by James Whale, Frankenstein features Colin Clive as Frankenstein and Boris Karloff as the Monster. Mae Clark, John Boles, Edward Van Sloan, Frederick Kerr, Dwight Frye, Lionel Belmore and Marilyn Harris also star in the film.

Frankenstein was inducted into the National Film Registry in 1991 for its contributions to American film heritage.

A movie poster for the classic 1931 monster movie "Frankenstein."
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A movie poster for the classic 1931 monster movie "Frankenstein."
Source: Wikimedia Commons | Public Domain

3. White Zombie

White Zombie is considered the first feature length zombie movie ever made. The 1932 film tells of a Haitian witch doctor who helps a young man lure the woman he loves from her fiance, by turning her into a mindless zombie.

Directed by Victor Halperin, White Zombie stars Bela Lugosi as the evil voodoo master. Madge Bellamy has the title role and John Harron plays her fiance, Neil Parker. Joseph Cawthorn plays the missionary who attempts to save the woman.

Many White Zombie actors found their fame in silent films: Robert Frazer, Brandon Hurst, George Burr Macannan, Frederick Peters, Annette Stone, Joe Printz, Dan Crimmins, Claude Morgan, John Fergusson and Velma Gressham.

Legosi and Madge Bellamy in "White Zombie."
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Legosi and Madge Bellamy in "White Zombie."
Source: Wikimedia Commons | Public Domain

4. The Mummy

The Mummy is a 1932 monster movie. It was inspired by the 1922 discovery of the Tomb of Tutankhamun and the "curse of the pharaohs."

The story centers on a dead Egyptian priest who is resurrected during an archaeological dig. Disguised as a modern Egyptian, the mummy tries to reunite with his lost love, an ancient princess who is reincarnated as a beautiful young woman.

Karl Freund directed The Mummy. Boris Karloff stars as Imhotep, the resurrected priest, and Zita Johann plays his love interest. David Manners, Arthur Byron, Edward Van Sloan, Bramwell Fletcher, Noble Johnson, Kathyrn Byron, Leonard Mudie, James Crane and Henry Victor also appear in the film.

A movie poster for the classic 1932 monster movie "The Mummy."
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A movie poster for the classic 1932 monster movie "The Mummy."
Source: Wikimedia Commons | Public Domain

5. King Kong

King Kong is a 1933 masterpiece. The legendary monster movie centers on a beautiful young woman and a colossal ape.

When a movie crew visits a tropical island for a film shoot, they discover the creature -- a giant ape-like beast with eyes on the film's leading lady. The woman's new love scours the jungle to rescue her, encountering various creatures along the way.

Notable for stop motion animation and original music, King Kong stars Fay Wray in the leading role. Robert Armstrong, Bruce Cabot, Frank Reicher, Sam Hardy, Noble Johnson, Steve Clemente and James Flavi also appear in the movie.

King Kong was chosen for preservation in the National Film Registry due to its contributions to American film.

Fay Wray in "King Kong."
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Fay Wray in "King Kong."
Source: Wikimedia Commons | Public Domain

6. The Invisible Man

The Invisible Man, a 1933 monster movie, is based on an 1897 novella by H. G. Wells. The short book was originally serialized in a British publication called Pearson's Weekly.

The story tells of a scientist who discovers a way to become invisible. As his scientific formula alters his sanity, he terrorizes the countryside as an invisible killer.

Directed by James Whale, The Invisible Man stars Claude Rains in the title role. Gloria Stuart, William Harrigan, Henry Travers, Una O'Connor, Forrester Harvey, Holmes Herbert, E. E. Clive, Dudley Diggs, Harry Stubbs, Donald Stuart and Merle Tottenham also appear in the film.

A movie poster for the classic 1933 monster movie "The Invisible Man."
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A movie poster for the classic 1933 monster movie "The Invisible Man."
Source: Wikimedia Commons | Public Domain

7. The Bride of Frankenstein

The Bride of Frankenstein continues the story that Universal Pictures introduced in 1931. In the 1935 sequel, Frankenstein's monster looks for a mate.

When Henry Frankenstein abandons his plans to create life, a mad scientist named Dr. Pretorius goads him into constructing a mate for the Monster.

Boris Karloff and Colin Clive reprised their Frankenstein roles in The Bride of Frankenstein. Valerie Hobson, Ernest Thesiger, Elsa Lanchester, Gavin Gordon, Douglas Walton, Una O'Connor, E. E. Clive, Lucien Prival, O. P. Heggie, Dwight Frye, Reginald Barlowe, Mary Gordon and Anne Darling also appear in the film.

The Library of Congress added The Bride of Frankenstein to the National Film Registry in 1998.

Boris Karloff in "The Bride of Frankenstein."
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Boris Karloff in "The Bride of Frankenstein."
Source: Wikimedia Commons | Public Domain

Your Turn

What is your favorite classic monster movie? Leave a comment below and join the conversation. If you enjoyed this article, please share it with your social networks.

Reference Sources

Bela Legosi in the classic 1931 monster movie "Dracula."
See all 9 photos
Bela Legosi in the classic 1931 monster movie "Dracula."
Source: Wikimedia Commons | Public Domain

© 2012 Annette R. Smith Last updated on October 12, 2014

Useful {3}Funny Awesome {2}Beautiful {1}Interesting {7}

Comments 24 comments

Drunken gator profile image

Drunken gator 2 years ago

Great Hub. These are all classics I try an watch them atleast once a year.


OldWitchcraft profile image

OldWitchcraft 2 years ago from The Atmosphere

Great list!

My personal favorite is "White Zombie." It is supposed to be the first movie ever to portray Voodoo - inaccurately, of course - but, all the same, it's very interesting because it seems to be the seed of so many popular misconceptions about the subject.

I may have to re-visit the Invisible Man... it's been a while.

Thanks!


Annette R. Smith profile image

Annette R. Smith 2 years ago from Orlando, Florida Hub Author

Thank you, Drunken gator. I appreciate the thumbs up! I love old movies from every genre; like you, I try to watch my classics at least once a year.


Annette R. Smith profile image

Annette R. Smith 2 years ago from Orlando, Florida Hub Author

Hello, OldWitchcraft. Thanks for taking a moment to read my list and leave a comment. I'm glad you enjoyed the hub. By the way, "White Zombie" is available for free viewing on the Internet Archive website.


OldWitchcraft profile image

OldWitchcraft 2 years ago from The Atmosphere

Annette,

Fortunately, I have White Zombie in my personal horror DVD collection, but I'll check out the Internet Archive - it sounds like fun. Thanks for the info.


Annette R. Smith profile image

Annette R. Smith 2 years ago from Orlando, Florida Hub Author

You're welcome. The Internet Archive IS fun, and I'm happy to pass along the information.


 
tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 2 years ago from New York Level 7 Commenter

You've showcased some of my favorite movies and favorite movie monsters! I wrote a hub "Hollywood Monsters I Know and Love Including Frankenstein" so you know I'm telling the truth ;)

Halloween is a great time for these movies as you've said.

Voted this up, useful and interesting.


Annette R. Smith profile image

Annette R. Smith 2 years ago from Orlando, Florida Hub Author

Hello, tillsontitan. Thank you for stopping by! Your "Hollywood Monsters I Know and Love ..." hub is a fun read. I'm glad you enjoyed reading my hub, too. These horror films of yesteryear and their lovable monsters are true classics. I appreciate your comments, votes and encouragement!


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 2 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

Ooooh! What a fun Hub. I remember many of these great movies. Thank you for sparking a childhood tradition of being scared, in a good way of course.


Annette R. Smith profile image

Annette R. Smith 2 years ago from Orlando, Florida Hub Author

Thank you, Hyphenbird. This was such a fun hub to create, and the research brought back a lot of good memories for me, too.


Cogerson profile image

Cogerson 2 years ago from Virginia

An excellent collection of 1930s monster movies. I have seen 6 of the 7 movies you write about and I love all of them. The one that I am missing is White Zombie....which has now made my movies to watch list. Looking at your hub somehow took me back to my days of watching these movies on tv and collection monster trading cards...I would save up enough money and run down to my local store and buy a pack of monster cards....which were stills from many of the movies in your hub....I wonder where I put those cards? Voted up and awesome and sharing the link with the biggest King Kong fan I know....Steve Lensman.


Annette R. Smith profile image

Annette R. Smith 2 years ago from Orlando, Florida Hub Author

Hello, Bruce. I remember those monster bubblegum cards! I had not thought about them, though, until you mentioned them in your comment. What a nice childhood memory! Thank you for stopping by, and for the votes and shares.


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 2 years ago from London, England

Thanks for bringing this hub to my attention Count Cogerson. A great selection of classic horrors. King Kong is probably still my favourite monster movie. Bride of Frankenstein is my no.1 from the classic Universal horror series. I would add The Black Cat and the 1932 Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde to the list.

Voted Up and Interesting.


Annette R. Smith profile image

Annette R. Smith 2 years ago from Orlando, Florida Hub Author

Hello, Steve. I appreciate your visit and comments. Cogerson mentioned that "King Kong" is your favorite of the bunch. I must head over to that movie hub! Thank you for reminding us about "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" and "The Black Cat."


ChristyWrites profile image

ChristyWrites 2 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Level 1 Commenter

Wow it almost Halloween already?! I freely admit that I huddle under a blanket so that if I get scared while I watch the movie I can pull the covers over my eyes! Sharing this one


kittythedreamer profile image

kittythedreamer 2 years ago from Arcturus Level 2 Commenter

Love all of these classic horror films...it doesn't get any better than dracula or the mummy!


Annette R. Smith profile image

Annette R. Smith 2 years ago from Orlando, Florida Hub Author

Hi, Christy! I cover my eyes with my hands during the scary parts ... and peek through the cracks between my fingers, if I dare! Thank you for sharing this one.


Annette R. Smith profile image

Annette R. Smith 2 years ago from Orlando, Florida Hub Author

It's great to meet you, Kittythedreamer. Thanks for stopping by!


femmeflashpoint 2 years ago

Annette,

Enjoyed this, and awesome job on putting the collection together! My personal opinion is that a spooky classic can make for some great fun any time of the year!

femme


Annette R. Smith profile image

Annette R. Smith 2 years ago from Orlando, Florida Hub Author

Thank you, Angelia! I had a lot of fun with this one. Like you, I think the old classics make for year-round fun. I can't get enough of them!


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