Flickchart Comment #23: The Monster Squad (1987) vs. The Mummy (1959)

Passing a film legacy on to the next generation is a seemingly important thing. (Let's say for the sake of this piece that it is...) In these two cases, whether intentional or not, it is the legacy of the Universal monster franchises of the '30s and '40s being passed to two entirely different generations.

With their film versions of Dracula and Frankenstein already great successes (following an agreement with Universal to use their iconic horror characters), Hammer next made The Mummy (1959), more of a continuation of their Kharis series in the '40s and with little connection to the original film with Karloff in 1932. It's actually one of my favorite Hammer films, with excellent production values and the usual solid performances by Lee and Cushing. It also has character support by Raymond Huntley, who played Dracula onstage before Bela Lugosi. I especially like watching it back to back with Hammer's version of The Hound of the Baskervilles (same year, same director, same stars). Does it carry on the tradition of the earlier films. I doubt anyone really cared at the time. The trend for horror was cycling anew, and it was all about money. The world was being rattled by Shock Theatre at that moment on television, so it was certainly the right time to begin making films about these characters. That Hammer did a fairly grand job of it in their early horror years was really beside the point.

Fanboys are a different breed, however, and when The Monster Squad came out in 1987, it could have been a woeful story. Sure, you can have an obsession with something, and often the results onscreen do not translate to an audience. Not to fear with The Monster Squad. My friends and I ate it up when it came out (I went to it several times), and the chief reason is that director/co-writer Fred Dekker showed so much obvious affection and careful attention to these characters, you could feel the film's pulse thrumming lovingly in every single frame. Sure, the '80s kid acting is soundly atrocious, but we all ate up The Goonies around the same time as well, and looking back, the acting in that (especially by the adults) is even worse.

What was remarkable about Squad was Tom Noonan as the Monster (probably the best undead friend you could ever have); the underrated but superb makeup effects for the Wolfman; a endlessly clever script by Dekker and Shane Black; there is a teacher with a cat-like head; and the way it played at being a simple kid's movie but then shocked you all the more by turning rougher just went it needed to do it. The biggest thrill for me was the use of The Creature, whom I had never had opportunity to see on a big screen before (I have since seen the original film in such a way).

Love the Hammer version of The Mummy, but in nearly every way, I have to go with The Monster Squad. "Creature stole my Twinkie!"


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