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Universal Classic Monsters: Complete 30-Film Collection Blu-ray Review

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The Universal Classic Monsters: Complete 30-Film Collection Blu-ray set is essential.

In all of cinematic horror history, there are few characters that have stood the test of time like the Universal Monsters. They are the definition of classic movie monsters and many of the film are downright great films. In fact, the Blu-ray release of the “Universal Classic Monsters: Complete 30-Film Collection” is essentially a treasure trove for film buffs (note: there are several films that appear on multiple sets due to the crossovers). So, what all is on this set, you ask? Read on to find out!

“Phantom of the Opera” (1943) isn’t as acclaimed or as well known as the 1925 silent film version or Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical but it’s still a solid adaption of the classic novel nonetheless. The lush Technicolor presentation, Claude Rains as the Phantom, and the lavish sets really stand-out in this particular production.

1954’s “Creature From The Black Lagoon” is an iconic and frequently underrated monster movie. It’s the quintessential drive-in monster movie and I love everything about it. The underwater sequences, the Amazon setting, the beautiful B&W cinematography, the memorable score, and the iconic suit and design of the creature are forever burned into my brain. The sequels “Revenge of the Creature” and “The Creature Walks Among Us,” while perfectly watchable in their own right, don’t capture the magic of the first. I am quite fond of the sort of Sea World esque setting in ‘Revenge’ though.

1932’s “The Mummy” is and probably always will be the best take on the character. The eerie and creepy design of the Mummy mixed with Boris Karloff’s performance just elevate this one above the rest. The sequels “The Mummy’s Hand,” “The Mummy’s Tomb,” “The Mummy’s Ghost,” and “The Mummy’s Curse,” on the other hand, are a bit rough to get through. Despite the short running times, they can be stiff slogs to wade through. While flawed to be sure, 1999’s “The Mummy” was a much more involving and fun follow-up to the 1932 original than the sequels sure were. However, that is not on this set.

The original “The Invisible Man” is a classic story of a Doctor who invents a serum that turns him invisible…and mad. The film is notable for its groundbreaking and ahead of their time FX, but it’s made even better by what is arguably Claude Rains best performance and role. “The Invisible Man Returns” with Vincent Price is a worthy follow-up, but after that, it’s diminishing returns with “The Invisible Woman,” “Invisible Agent” and “The Invisible Man’s Revenge.” Sure, each have segments that work well, but these films never utilize the concepts to their full advantage.

Before the MCU cornered the market on a cinematic universe, Universal pioneered it with the Universal Monsters. Not only did the monsters co-star in films together, but the legendary comedy team Abbott and Costello starred in comedies featuring the monsters themselves! These films include “Abbott And Costello Meet The Mummy,” “Abbott And Costello Meet The Invisible Man,” and “Abbott And Costello Meet Frankenstein.” While the comedy team of Abbott and Costello never reached the heights of a Laurel and Hardy or the Marx Brothers for me personally, it is still fun to see them interact with the Monsters in comedic adventures. It’s a gimmick that had to have been a blast to see at the time of release.

Of all of the Universal Monster movies, “The Wolf Man” just might be my favorite. Granted, “Frankenstein” is arguably the best and most significant of the Universal monster films, but “The Wolf Man” has everything I look for in a horror movie. There’s atmosphere, there’s a tragic and haunting story of a cursed man, there’s an incredibly moving performance by Lon Chaney Jr., there’s action and suspense, there’s great filmmaking, the list goes on. On top of that, it’s still THE best werewolf film to date. I don’t think anything else has come remotely close. As for the sequels “Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man,” Werewolf Of London” and “She-Wolf Of London,” it’s a bit of a mixed bag. The latter two didn’t really grab me, but “Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man” is an entertaining Vs. movie if you will. Although the two don’t share the screen all that much, there’s something thrilling about seeing the two monsters on screen together. Again, Universal was doing crossover event movies before it became the thing to do!

Of all of the Dracula films that exist (and there are many of them), none have lived up to the original 1931 “Dracula.” Not only is it just a great horror movie overall, but it’s Bela Lugosi’s performance as the titular character that makes it such an enduring classic. The actor became synonymous with the role because he was that good! Note: Of course, there are a bevy of sequels including “Dracula’s Daughter,” “Son Of Dracula,” and “House of Dracula.” Again, none of these ever live up to the original but “Son of Dracula” is a notable entry and one of the better sequels in this 30 film set. Note: While barely ever mentioned, the 1931 Spanish “Dracula” is also included on this set.

Last, but certainly not least, is the “Frankenstein” set. This is far and away the best of the sets. “Frankenstein” is a timeless movie that, again, has never been improved upon. “The Bride of Frankenstein” is the rare sequel that has become as iconic as the original. “Son of Frankenstein” is a deeply underrated “sins of the father” type sequel (although you can’t not think of “Young Frankenstein” while watching it). “The Ghost of Frankenstein” rehashes elements from previous films, but is a solid continuation that does interesting things with the character of Ygor. Finally, there’s “House of Frankenstein” which delivers plenty of monster crossover fun.

Video/Audio:

Presentation: All 3 “Creature From The Black Lagoon” films and “Abbott and Costello Meet The Mummy” are presented in 1.85:1 1080p while the remaining 26 films are presented in 1.33:1 1080p. How do they look? Across the board, these films have been given stunning hi-def transfers with “Phantom of the Opera,” “The Wolf Man,” “Frankenstein,” “Dracula,” “The Ghost of Frankenstein,” “The Mummy,” and “Creature From The Black Lagoon” perhaps looking the most pristine. In fact, all of the films are significant upgrades from past releases. I have to say it is particularly nice to see all of the ‘Creature’ films in the proper aspect ratios too.

Audio Track: Everything is presented in 2.0 DTS-HD MA. How do they sound? Since these are all Mono tracks, they all have a bit of a muted, low sound to them. However, they are definitely the best audio tracks I have heard for the films to be sure.

Extras:

A thick booklet titled “The Original House of Horror: Universal and a Monster Legacy which contains photos, an essay about Universal Monsters by Tom Weaver, movie trivia, actor/director spotlights, and a written piece on the 8 key films.

Phantom of the Opera: * Trailer * Production photos * A scripted commentary by Scott MacQueen * “The Opera Ghost: A Phantom Unmasked”- A fantastic deep dive 51 minute featurette about this version as well as other versions of “Phantom of the Opera.” * “100 Years Of Universal: The Lot”

Creature From The Black Lagoon Series: * Production photos * The ability to play “Creature From The Black Lagoon” and “Revenge of the Creature” in 3D * Trailers for all 3 Creature films * “100 Years Of Universal: The Lot”- A 9 ½ minute featurette on Universal Studios. * An informative and enthusiastic commentary on ‘Creature’ by Tom Weaver * “Back To The Black Lagoon”- A 39 minute archival featurette that examines the legacy of the ‘Creature.’ Interviews, film clips, and discussions about the creature and film are included. * A commentary on ‘Revenge’ by Lori Nelson, Tom Weaver and Bob Burns. It’s nice to hear from someone who worked on the film. * Another quality commentary on “The Creature Walks Among Us” by Tom Weaver and Bob Burns.

The Mummy- * Trailers for all 6 films on this set * “He Who Made Monsters: The Life And Art Of Jack Pierce”- A featurette on the make-up master * “100 Years Of Universal: The Carl Laemmle Era”- Title says it all * One commentary on ‘The Mummy” by film historian Paul M. Jensen and the other by Rick Baker, Steve Haberman, Scott Essman, Bob Burns and Brent Armstrong. The passionate second track is the one to go with * “The Mummy Archives”- A 10 minute slide show of stills, lobby cards, and more. * “Unraveling The Legacy Of The Mummy”- A featurette on Universal Horror with a focus on “The Mummy” * “Mummy Dearest: A Horror Tradition Unearthed”- A half-hour special on “The Mummy.”

The Invisible Man- * Another “100 Years Of Universal” extra. This one focuses on unforgettable characters * Trailers for “The Invisible Man Returns,” “Invisible Agent” and “Abbott And Costello Meet The Invisible Man” * Production photos * A well researched commentary by Rudy Behlmer * “Now You See Him: The Invisible Man Revealed”- A 35 minute archival retrospective extra.

The Wolf Man- * Trailers for all titles on this set * “100 Years Of Universal: The Lot and Unforgettable Characters” (again) * Commentary on “Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein” by Gregory W. Mank * A 33 minute extra titled “Abbott and Costello Meet The Monsters” * Commentary on “The Wolf Man” by Tom Weaver * The half-hour featurette on the character titled “Monster By Moonlight” * “He Who Made Monsters: The Life And Art Of Jack Pierce” (again) * “The Wolf Man Archives”- Promo material for the film * “Pure In Heart: The Legacy Of Lon Chaney, Jr.”- A spotlight on the underrated actor * “The Wolf Man: From Ancient Curse To Modern Myth”

Dracula- * Trailers for all the Dracula films * All of the extras carried over from “Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein” * A Monster Tracks trivia track * An alternate score by Philip Glass * 2 commentaries on “Dracula” (one by David J. Skal and the other by Steve Haberman) * “Dracula Archive”- More promo material showcased * “Dracula: The Restoration”- Self-explanatory * “Lugosi: The Dark Prince”- A Bela Lugosi featurette * “The Road To Dracula”- An archival extra centering around, you guessed it, Dracula! * An intro to the Spanish “Dracula” by Lupita Tovar Kohner

Frankenstein- * All the extras carried over from “Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein” * Trailers for all titles aside from “Son of Frankenstein” * Monster Tracks trivia track * “Frankenstein” and “The Bride of Frankenstein” archive extras * “100 Years Of Universal: Restoring The Classics” * 2 commentaries on “Frankenstein” (one by Rudy Behlmer and the other by Sir Christopher Frayling) * Commentary on “The Bride of Frankenstein” by Scott MacQueen * A short film titled “Boo!” * “Karloff: The Gentle Monster”- Boris Karloff centric featurette * “Universal Horror”- A 95 minute documentary * “The Frankenstein Files: How Hollywood Made A Monster”- Another featurette

Overall Thoughts: All I need to say is buy this set now.

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October 4, 2018 - Posted by | Blu-Ray review | , , , , , , , , , , ,

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