The original and most enduring image of Dracula as portrayed by Bela Lugosi. It set a standard which oddly still holds up.
In 1979, the image was tweaked but mostly adhered to the original design. Actually, if you look closely, it is almost the exact same costume that Lugosi wore in Mark of the Vampire for Columbia Pictures. He wasn't even playing Dracula in that film.
When Universal returned to remake the film yet again, they opted for a period proper piece that featured every costume change imaginable except for the tux.
Drawing on 1992's theme, our current Dracula wears red and black battle armor once he accepts his destiny. It will be interesting to see if this is the vampire's final look when in battle. My feeling is that they will opt for the addition of a cape.
Universal struck pay dirt with their design for the Frankenstein Monster. This image is forever recognized as the look of the creature.
The look was tweaked in Son of Frankenstein and has been used, mostly in printed works, as a popular look for the creature.
When Universal took on Frankenstein as their follow up to Bram Stoker's Dracula, they went back to the drawing board and created a creature that was interesting and dynamic. The problem was that he didn't resonate with audiences. They wanted the monster they know and love.
2004's Van Helsing was imagined as a monster rally like no other. Seeking to relaunch their library in grand fashion, they returned to the original design but missed the mark. If they could just modernize the original Karloff make-up, they could hit a home run. That is what people want to see.
For The Mummy, we got Karloff in bandages for about 5 seconds but spent the majority of the film with a revitalized corpse. The 5 seconds of bandages proved to be the showstopper so it was incorporated in later films.
Beginning in 1940 with The Mummy's Hand. A solid enough return for the character that introduced audiences to the bandaged mummy as a villain.
For the sequels featuring Lon Chaney Jr., the mummy was given the use of only one arm. This hurt his ability to scare audiences.
Finally in 1999, Universal brought the mummy back in a big budget spectacle that had more in common with Indiana Jones than the early films. It worked for the most part but falters in its key character. You never believe that the mummy is in the room with them due to the bad CGI. Audiences were able to dismiss it and enjoy the film, making The Mummy a monster to be reckoned with.
When The Wolf Man came out in 1941, his look was revolutionary, even though he really just looks like a pissed off Chinchilla.
Universal trade a different approach with their wolf man characters in Van Helsing. I may have liked the design, but it was hard to tell since it was presented in horrible CGI.
The Wolfman 2010 is actually the closest Universal has come to recreating the classic Universal Monsters look. If they can do that with this new reboot series then they may have lightening in a bottle, no matter the quality of the films themselves. The classic looks are recognized by people of any age and at the end of the day, it's all we really want.