Thursday, October 15, 2015

Universal Monsters Survival Kit

I recently became aware of a company called ManCrates that designs and ships gift boxes for guys... but not just any old gift boxes.  Whether they're made for a pipe smoker or retro gamer, to name just two examples, the personalized collections are packed in a wooden crate and arrive with a laser-etched crowbar for opening it.  These are only the manliest of presents: "no ribbons, fluff, or wrapping paper."

With Halloween upon us and my countdown of Universal Monsters at the halfway point, I decided to think outside the box (pun intended) to create my own Man Crate full of objects used to combat classic creatures from the 1930s and 1940s.  Some objects are literal and some are figurative; however, with this crate you could survive an attack by anyone or anything Hollywood used to threaten us.

The first item is the crate itself.  You probably thought I would say a wooden stake to kill Dracula, but in the 1931 movie, Professor Van Helsing (Edward Van Sloan) doesn't actually carry one in his bag of tricks.  He tears apart the lid of a coffin and drives a piece of wood into the sleeping vampire's heart.  So I'd use the crowbar that's included to open the crate and break off a plank from the lid.

The next item is a torch.  As early as 1925, mobs were getting angry and chasing their monsters both above and below ground.  They drove The Phantom of the Opera out of his lair, Frankenstein's Monster into a burning windmill and, on several occasions, The Mummy to a fiery death.  Sometimes, as in 1942's The Mummy's Tomb, it took only the threat of a monster for a crazy man to shout, "Get your torches!"

The next item is a statue of Isis.  Before The Mummy crossed the ocean as a bandage-wrapped creature of the undead, he was a resurrected Egyptian priest named Imhotep.  Trapped in his tomb, Helen Grosvenor, the reincarnation of Imhotep's dead Princess Ankh-es-en-amon, prays to Isis and a statue of the goddess raises its arms to emit a beam of light that destroys the Scroll of Thoth and Imhotep.

The next item is a plain old gun.  Sometimes that's all it takes to get rid of the more human monsters.  You'd have to be a pretty good shot to hit The Invisible Man, but a chief detective does it in 1933.  That's also what gets The Werewolf of London in 1935.  If you're lucky, your monster-turned-victim will actually thank you, just as Wilfred Glendon did.

The next item is a lever.  Any old laboratory lever will do, although the bigger, the better.  You want to be able to blow your adversary to atoms.  When warned against pulling it in The Bride of Frankenstein in 1935, the Monster did it, anyway, and blew the top off the place.  He and his bride were buried in rubble, so be alert of your surroundings when pulling your lever.

The next item is a bow and arrow.  It's old school, but is good for hitting the offspring of a monster from a distance.  In 1936, Sandor, the trusted blood slave of Dracula's Daughter, betrayed her and shot her through the heart.  He was pissed off because she broke her promise to make him immortal.  Still keep your gun handy, though, in case a lackey like Sandor turns on you.

The next item is a vat of bubbling sulfur.  You'll have to lure a creature like Frankenstein's monster into it, but the hot liquid will consume it, then harden into an encasement.  As in Son of Frankenstein in 1939, it's a solid way to imprison The Monster… that is until an angry mob gets impatient and blows something up that will inadvertently release it.

The next item is a silver cane.  Well, not an entirely silver cane, just the head will do.  It's especially ironic if it's a wolf's head cane you use to beat the Wolf Man into submission, as his father did in 1941.  If you have a hard time locating one, you might hop over to Collinsport, Maine, and ask if you can borrow one from Barnabas Collins.  That is, if Quentin's not in town.

The next item is a map.  You need to know the geography of your location so you can initiate a watery death for some creatures.  In 1925, an angry mob threw The Phantom of the Opera into a river to drown.  In 1943, a lone villager blew up a dam that flooded the castle where Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man.  Note: landmarks sometimes relocate inexplicably based on the needs of the story.

The last item would be daylight.  Although it was used to kill the Count in the Spanish version of Dracula in 1931, it wasn't a means of destruction for other vampires until Son of Dracula in 1943.  Used in conjunction with your map, you can lead the bloodsucker to a swamp in the Deep South so that when he expires, his skeleton hand can protrude from the water.  Awesome picture!

There you have it, a survival kit, if you will, for protecting yourself from an army of Universal Monsters.  With it you can destroy phantoms, vampires, manmade monsters, mummies, invisible men and werewolves.  One thing that doesn't come in a crate is your imagination, and that's what turns these often cuddly creatures into threats in the first place.

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