Since Rob Zombies Munsters film is set to release on Netflix in September of 2022, many fans of 1313 Mockingbird Lane’s freaky family might want to revisit many of their old episodes and the movies that inspired the series as well. Rob Zombie hasn’t made his love for either the Munsters or classic horror cinema a secret, and there are several movies that the original series and its 2022 adaptation owe their existence to.
From the tried and true classics of the Universal Monsters franchise to some lesser-known horror comedies of the ’60s and ’70s, fans of The Munsters wouldn’t be wrong for rewatching a few creepy classics before settling in for the upcoming adaptation.
When it comes to classic horror movies, a great place to start is the Universal Monsters series. Given the fact that it’s what many fans think of when they hear the term, it’s practically an ideal introduction to the realms of gods and monsters. Especially if the viewer begins with a trip to Transylvania.
The original Dracula had essentially everything a good Gothic horror movie could ever want. With its tall imposing castles, seductive vampire brides, and an over-the-top performance by Bela Lugosi that lives on even today, it’s one of the most effective springboards for diving headfirst into the horror genre.
The other obvious choice would have to be the original Frankenstein. Universal’s original adaptation of Mary Shelley’s novel is what set the bar for all monster movies that followed. The image of the monster on the operating table rising from the dead while his creator screams “It’s alive! It’s alive!” is one image that will live forever in horror movie history.
Given the fact that Herman Munster is so blatantly pulled from Boris Karloff’s appearance as the monster, it should come as no surprise that this Universal classic should also be a considerable starting point. Although not as verbose or gentle as his sitcom counterpart, the original is the cornerstone on which the monster genre is built.
Bride Of Frankenstein (1935)
There are few sequels out there that can honestly say they rival the original, but Bride of Frankenstein is one of them. Picking up shortly after the events of the original film, this classic Universal Monsters sequel not only reanimates the classic Karloff creature, but brings to life a sinister, shrieking bride to the silver screen as well.
Essentially upping the ante of the original, Bride of Frankenstein brings more classic horror imagery as well as elements from Mary Shelley’s book not seen in the first film. In the end, the final result is that of a heartbreaking story of a monster and his mate. “We belong dead” is still one of the most chilling quotes from a classic horror feature.
Abbot And Costello Meet Frankenstien (1948)
Like the upcoming Munsters movie, it’s always an event whenever monsters mix and mingle with one another. Although it wasn’t the only case of Universal’s cast of creepy creatures crossing over, Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein was one of their first straight-up horror comedies. Since Rob Zombie’s version and the original series both blend horror and screwball comedy, the similarities are definitely noticeable with this production.
Abbot and Costello were the kings of comedy during the ’40s, and mixing them with a cast of familiar faces from horror cinema opened the door to a boatload of comedic possibilities. Not only that, but it featured horror icons Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney Jr., and Vincent Price reprising their roles of Dracula, The Wolf Man, and The Invisible Man, respectively.
White Zombie (1932)
If there’s one horror movie that has earned the favor of Rob Zombie, it’s White Zombie. Not only did the Bela Lugosi horror movie inspire both Zombie’s stage name and the name of his band, but it could practically be considered a factor in the rock star’s entire aesthetic as well.
Although he’s blatantly into guts, gore, and all things gruesome in his movies and rock shows, Zombie is a very theatrical performer, and that passion is clearly shared with Bela Lugosi in this role of Murder Legendre, a voodoo-wielding sorcerer with a legion or undead at his disposal. The character of Madeline certainly has some “Living Dead Girl” vibes in her performance too.
The Black Cat (1934)
In the age before the introduction of the Hays Code, horror movies could get away with murder, no pun intended. Very loosely based on the short story by Edgar Allan Poe, The Black Cat features Bela Lugosi fighting off a Satanic Boris Karloff while trying to save a pair of honeymooners before he can use them in his murderous blood rituals.
The unhinged descriptor of the film’s plot is the exact type of horror spectacle Zombie would use in one of his stage shows or movies, albeit much heavier on the gore. There’s no denying that a character like Otis from House of 1000 Corpses would absolutely commit to that sort of extreme.
Tales Of Terror (1962)
Tales of Terror is one of those horror movies that became darkly comedic due to the passage of time, but that’s to be expected with phenomenally over-the-top performances from actors like Vincent Price and Peter Lorre. Based on three tales from Edgar Allan Poe, the horror anthology is delightfully pulpy and cheesy in a Tales From The Crypt sort of way.
The hybrid adaptation of The Black Cat and Cask of Amontillado is as creepy as it is cornball, especially the scene of Vincent Price and Joyce Jameson playing catch with Peter Lorre’s severed head. It’s a great companion for those looking for a comedy with a darker edge.
The Comedy Of Terrors (1963)
On the other hand, if viewers want the humor of something like The Munsters with horror Rob Zombie could appreciate, The Comedy of Terrors is sure to satisfy parties in both camps. As with the previous film, Vincent Price teams up with other horror mainstays such as Peter Lorre, Boris Karloff, and even Basil Rathbone in this tale of madcap antics and malicious murder.
Featuring many of the cast of the previous film, it’s a brilliant black comedy that brings together some of horror’s most talented actors and casts them in a more humorous light.
The Ghost And Mr. Chicken (1966)
Movie buffs might recognize the exterior of the Simmons Mansion in this Don Knotts classic. According to Classic Movie Hub, it’s the same house used as the exterior of the Munster’s Manor on Mockingbird Lane in the opening of the TV series. In this campy haunted house flick, Knotts plays a jumpy news reporter who spends the night in a town’s infamous murder house.
The backstory for the mansion is undoubtedly unsettling for something starring the famous comedian, but the quotes, jokes, and physical gags are like something out of a cartoon. Truly one of Knotts’ best, it’s a horror comedy that shouldn’t be missed.
Young Frankenstein (1974)
Of all the horror comedies that were influenced by The Munsters and will undoubtedly be referenced in the upcoming film, Young Frankenstein has to be the top. This comedy by the legendary Mel Brooks both lampoons and homages everything fans love about classic monster movies and every beloved trope and cliche that comes with them.
As the descendent of Victor Frankenstein recreates his grandfather’s famous experiments, comedy gold is unleashed as a hilarious retelling of the man-makes-monster story arc is given a ludicrous coat of paint that only Mel Brooks could supply. From the performances to the classic comedic timing, it’s a monstrously great influence.
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