Universal Studios is one of the six major movie studios. It was founded by Carl Laemmle in 1912 and remains one of the oldest movie studios in Hollywood. Several films by the studio were featured during MST3K's run, many of them in Season 8 and from when they were known as Universal International. Universal had the most films shown on MST3K for a major studio.
"Universal Studios" may also refer to the theme parks that the studio operates, which feature rides and attractions based on the studio's popular properties such as Jaws, Psycho, Fast and the Furious, and Transformers.
In the 1930s and 40s, Universal Pictures produced a series of highly-popular monster movies. Some of the monsters were based on classic literature (Dracula, Frankenstein's Monster), while others were inspired by legends (the Wolf Man, the Mummy).
Known as the "Universal Monsters", these characters cross-pollinated into films that featured several at once. In the late 40s, the classic monsters were revived in a series of self-parodying comedies with Abbot & Costello beginning with 1948's Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. The last creature to be added to the Universal Monsters pantheon is the original creation the Creature from the Black Lagoon (a.k.a. the Gill Man). He is the only Universal Monster to be featured in a Mystery Science Theater 3000 production (Experiment #801 Revenge of the Creature).
Universal first revived their classic creations in a distribution deal with Hammer Films, allowing them to utilize and reference Universals back library. These films are generally seen as examples of the "Hammer Horror" line, with the Universal connection often downplayed or ignored.
The studio's next attempt came with 1979's Dracula starring Frank Langella. But they would start up again in earnest in 1999 with a new version of The Mummy starring Brendan Fraser, which spawned two sequels and a spin-off series starting with The Scorpion King in 2002. Other films of the time include Van Helsing (2004) and The Wolfman (2010).
More recently, inspired by the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Universal attempted to revive the Universal Monsters in a multi-picture franchise. Their first intended film in what they dubbed "The Dark Universe" was 2014's Dracula Untold, but its critical and commercial failure saw it ignored in the official start of the project, 2017's The Mummy starring Tom Cruise. This film was also a disappointment and the entire enterprise was stalled. The most recent Universal film to tie in to the classic Universal Monsters is the 2020 re-imagined The Invisible Man produced in association with Blumhouse Productions.
Several of the actors who appeared in these movies played multiple characters across the many projects in which they were involved and many appeared in films riffed on MST3K or in related projects. As of February 2019, however, one of the most iconic of the Universal Monsters actors, Boris Karloff, has not appeared in any film used by Mystery Science Theater 3000 or any corollary production.
List of Universal movies shown on MST3K
- Agent for H.A.R.M.
- The Brute Man *
- The Deadly Mantis
- Kitten with a Whip
- The Leech Woman
- The Mole People
- The Projected Man
- Revenge of the Creature
- Riding with Death
- San Francisco International
- The Thing That Couldn't Die
- This Island Earth
* Film at Universal, but sold to PRC