Sense of Wonder: Counting Horror, Fantasy & Sci-Fi Franchises on One Hand?

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In this post about SAW 3-D, being touted as the finale installment in the Jigsaw saga, Lionsgate president Jason Constantine makes the following statement about the longevity of the SAW franchise:

“You can count on one hand the franchises that lasted seven years — and every year, no less,” says Jason Constantine, Lionsgate’s president of acquisitions and co-productions. “It became part of pop-culture discourse.”

This strikes my as slightly myopic in terms of the history of horror, fantasy and science fiction film franchise. Off the top of my head, here are several more than you can count on one hand – unless you are a polydactyl alien from a galaxy far, far away:

  • The Universal Pictures Frankenstein series began in 1931 with FRANKENSTEIN and continued through 1948 with ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN, totaling eight films.
  • Toho Studio’s original Godzilla franchise began in 1954 with GODZILLA (a.k.a. GOJIRA) and took a breather after TERROR OF MECHA-GODZILLA in 1974. The franchise revived in 1985 and lasted until GODZILLA VS. DESTROYER in 1996, then resumed again in 1999, wrapping up with GODZILLA: FINAL WARS in 2004, with 26 films on its resume.
  • The Hammer Films Frankenstein series began in 1957 with CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN and ended in 1974 with FRANKENSTEIN AND THE MONSTER FROM HELL, totalling six films (not counting the aberration known as HORROR OF FRANKENSTEIN)
  • Hammer’s Dracula series began in 1958 with HORROR OF DRACULA and ended in 1974 with LEGEND OF THE SEVEN GOLDEN VAMPIRES (a.k.a. THE SEVEN BROTHERS MEET DRACULA), totaling eight films (nine if you count BRIDES OF DRACULA, in which the Count does not appear).
  • The James Bond franchise launched in 1962 with DR. NO and continued until QUANTUM OF SOLACE in 2008, totaling over 20 films. (There was a haitus in the 1990s, but still this is a long-lived franchise).
  • HALLOWEEN started its reign of terror in 1978, which lasted through HALLOWEEN: RESURRECTION in 2002. The franchise started up again in 2008 with a remake.
  • FRIDAY THE 13TH began in 1980 and lasted through 2003’s FREDDY VS. JASON, before launching a remake last year.
  • A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET arrived in 1984 and officially ended with FREDDY’S DEAD: THE FINAL NIGHTMARE in 1991 – barely six years. But then the franchise started up again in 1996 with WES CRAVEN’S NEW NIGHTMARE, followed by FREDDY VS. JASON in 2003, and then a remake this year.

Well, that makes eight. I guess we’re not supposed to count the ALIEN franchise and George A. Romero’s sequels to NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968), because the films were spaced out at long intervals: the ALIEN films extend from 1979 through ALIENS VS. PREDATOR in 2007; Romero’s latest, SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD, arrived earlier this year.
If we include non-sequel franchise, we get the Vincent Price Poe movies from HOUSE OF USHER in 1960 through THE OBLONG BOX in 1969. Extending past the real of cinefantastique, we get lengthy franchises devoted to Sherlock Holmes and other screen detectives, not to mention such low-brow fare as Ma and Pa Kettle and Francis the Talking Mule.
Let me know if there are any I missed.

6 Replies to “Sense of Wonder: Counting Horror, Fantasy & Sci-Fi Franchises on One Hand?”

  1. Actually, depending on how many films make-up a series, you have left out several.
    For example, the Universal Mummy series.
    The Hammer Mummy series.
    The Universal Invisible Man series.
    THe Creature From the Black Lagood trilogy.
    The Christopher Lee Fu Manchu series.
    The Howling series (over 6 films and counting)
    The Killer Tomatoes series (4 films thus far)
    The Toxic Avenger series.
    The Predator series (just had a new one out)

  2. Then there’s the Paul Naschy El Hombre Lobo series.
    The popular Harry Potter series
    The Chinese Ghost Story series
    The new Universal/Brendan Fraser Mummy trilogy
    The Jesus Franco Dr. Orloff series
    The Erotic Ghost Story series
    The Mr. Vampire series
    The Spy Kids trilogy
    The Spiderman trilogy
    The Scooby Doo series for made-for-video movies
    The Re-Animator series

  3. The Exorcist series
    The Hannibal Lector series (5 films and counting)
    THe Ringu series
    The Omen trilogy
    The Lost Boys series
    The Texas Chain Saw Massacre series
    The Jaws series
    The Poltergeist trilogy
    The Candyman series
    The Return of the Living Dead series
    The Three Mothers series
    The Amityville Horror series
    The Evil Dead trilogy
    The Scream trilogy
    The Scary Movie series
    The Ghoulies series

  4. Thhere is the prolific Santo series (with several monster entries)
    There are the numerous Charles Band series including the
    Puppet Master series
    The Trancers series
    There is the Silent Night, Deadly Night series
    The Witchboard series
    The Witchcraft series
    The Columbia/Karloff Mad Doctor series
    The Hemisphere Blood series
    The Hammer Karnstein series
    The Gamera series (both old and new incarnations)
    The Pumpkinhead series

  5. Thanks for your diligence, Dennis.
    I deliberately left out entries that did not last seven years – the time mentioned by Lionsgate’s Jason Constantine. For instance, the Universal Mummy series ran only a few years on the 1940s (not counting the 1932 film THE MUMMY, which is really unrelated). Fu Manchu, Spider-Man, The Omen, Scream, Scary Movie, and the Hammer Karnsteins – all fall a bit shy of the seven-year mark.
    After that we start getting into a debate about what constitutes a series. Do we count THE EXORCIST and Argento’s Three Mothers, which consist of a handful of films spaced out years apart? And what about series that are pretty much unrelated except in title, like Universal’s Invisible Man films and Hammer’s Mummy movies?
    My goal was to find apples-to-apples comparisons to other franchises that had turned out movies on a regular basis for over seven years. Several of the ones you mention do indeed meet those criteria – further proof that the SAW franchise is hardly unique in its longevity

  6. I did see a promotional claim that the SAW series made more money than any other horror series, which given today’s inflated ticket prices may possibly be true, but of course financial remuneration is not the same as quality, influence, popularity or any of several other yardsticks which people measure films by.
    And for what it’s worth, I would could the EXORCIST films as a series even if they do not all share characters, though certainly there were far more imitations and spin-offs than actual series films.

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