In previous editions of character showdown, we’ve run polls to determine who your favorite Universal Monster was. (The Wolf Man was the front runner with the Creature From The Black Lagoon at a close second!) We’ve asked you to tell us which member of THE MONSTER SQUAD was your pick for best. We even gave all our #RESPECT to your top choice of the bunch, monster slayer Rudy. Now we thought we’d shine the spotlight on the monsters of THE MONSTER SQUAD to figure out which one rocked and shocked your socks off the most!
When Stan Winston and company were brought on to do the designs of the classic monsters for Fred Dekker’s 1987 cult flick, it was every FX artist’s dream come true! After years and years of working on countless horror films, now came the time to finally tackle the most famous of the bunch. Only… this was not a Universal Studios picture and Universal would not grant permission for THE MONSTER SQUAD to use the original designs of their infamous monsters. And so Winston and company had to come up with their own takes. In retrospect, I think this ended up being a huge benefit for the movie, as the new, unique looks of the monsters turned out to be one of the reasons genre fans have responded so strongly to the movie over the years.
Let’s start with the Wolf Man because everybody loves the Wolf Man! Nards or not! (And we know, he’s definitely got ’em.) When in human form, he was played by Jon Gries, genre vet from such films as TERROR VISION, FRIGHT NIGHT PART 2 and, of course, his turn as Uncle Rico in NAPOLEON DYNAMITE. When in full Wolf mode, he’s portrayed by Carl Thibault, an award winning filmmaker in his own right. The design of The Wolf Man combines various versions, but is most reminiscent of Oliver Reed’s version in Hammer’s CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF. I had read much later on that before Carl took the role, Stan had fashioned the Wolf Man make-up to his own facial features, so now the next time you watch the movie, you can tell The Wolf Man kind of looks like Stan Winston!
I’d say the other most radical change has to be for the Creature Of The Black Lagoon – or the Gill Man as he’s referred to in some parts. Here he’s played by famed stuntman and FX maestro Tom Woodruff Jr., who was also in the suit for PUMPKINHEAD and Alien in ALIEN 3 and all its subsequent sequels. The differences are mostly in the face, but it still looks and feels like the classic Creature!
Duncan Regher’s Count Dracula is very traditional. While I can of course see influences of Frank Langella’s version, as well as the great Christopher Lee, his suit also evokes the casual elegance and charm of Bela Lugosi’s original portrayal. He made a fine monster leader and an even finer Dracula.
The Mummy is always curious for me as what we’ve come to associate with the Mummy is really how he appeared in the Universal sequels as opposed to the original 1932 Boris Karloff version. Here, he’s gaunt and more skeletal than anything, but equally dreadful and terrifying, especially to a kid!
Last but not least of course is Frankenstein’s Monster. In order to differentiate him from his Universal counter part, the FX team moved the position of his lightning bolt rods to his neck instead of his temples and kept the top of his head round-ish as opposed to fully flat. The real power of this interpretation of Frankenstein can be attributed to Tom Noonan’s amazing performance. What he brought to the monster was a sympathetic, sweet touch that was only hinted at during the original film’s brief scene at the lake with the little girl. Part of what makes THE MONSTER SQUAD as great as it is is the Monster’s relationship with the kids.
Hell, even Arnold Schwarzenegger was a fan of these monsters!