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Universal Classic Monsters: Icons Of Horror Collection 4K UHD Review

It doesn’t get much better than the “Universal Classic Monsters: Icons Of Horror Collection.”

With Halloween around the corner, Universal is getting into the spirit by releasing a new Universal Monsters set titled “Universal Classic Monsters: Icons Of Horror Collection.” The set contains 4 movies- “Dracula,” “Frankenstein,” “The Invisible Man,” and “The Wolf Man.” It’s a little strange that “The Mummy,” “Creature From The Black Lagoon,” and “Bride Of Frankenstein” aren’t included as those characters are most certainly iconic too, but maybe those will be in a future set? Whatever the case may be, you’re still getting 4 of the best horror films ever made now in 4K.

Of all the vampire movies that exist (and there’s a lot of them), 1931’s “Dracula” is still arguably the best. You know all the main characters here- Renfield, Count Dracula, Mina and Van Helsing. They are such a major part of the pop culture lexicon and this movie is a big reason for that. Yes, there have been countless Dracua movies since, but none have come close to this adaptation. Not only is this movie so atmospheric, but Bela Lugosi is positively captivating as Count Dracula. He makes the chilling characters his own and just owns the screen every time he’s on it. It’s one of those unforgettable performances that come along every now and then.

Director James Whales’ “Frankenstein” just might be the best Universal Monster movie and that’s saying a lot. The 1931 adaptation of Mary Shelley’s classic novel about a scientist (Dr. Frankenstein0 using parts of corpses to create a new person remains a potent sci-fi/horror story about humanity and playing God. Plus, it has Boris Karloff who was never better than he was as Frankenstein’s Monster who isn’t really a monster.

1933’s “The Invisible Man” is the quintessential mad scientist story about a Doctor (Jack Griffin) who comes up with a concoction to make himself invisible. Alas, his miraculous discovery causes him to lose his mind. Between the ahead of its time special effects and Claude Rains’ perfect performance as Jack Griffin, “The Invisible Man” is still a blast to watch. Let’s be real, James Whales was the master of making Universal Monster movies. 

For whatever reason, Hollywood has struggled to create legitimately good werewolf movies. In my humble opinion, the gold standard is still 1941’s atmospheric “The Wolf Man.” Instead of just focusing on the scares or the werewolf action, the George Waggner directed film wisely focuses on the tragic aspect of the story. Larry Talbot is a cursed man who turns into a werewolf. He’s not a monster and he can’t control his transformation. There’s humility to this tale which is what is lacking in many werewolf stories. Sure, the movie has some pacing issues and some questionable character actions that propel the story forward, but it still holds up tremendously well to this day.

Video/Audio:

Presentation: 1.33:1 2160p for all 4 films. How do they look? I’ve seen some rough prints of “Dracula” in the past and I was blown away by the print here. The movie has been cleaned up so much it’s astonishing. Same goes with “The Wolf Man,” “Frankenstein,” and “The Invisible Man.” There’s a clarity to the B&W prints that was sorely missing from past home video releases. These are even sharper than the already impressive Blu-ray releases.

Audio Track: 2.0 DTS-HD MA for all. How do they sound? These audio tracks are the same as the Blu-ray releases. While that might be a bit of a bummer, they all sound sharp regardless. They are a bit snowy in parts, but they’re likely as good as it’s going to get from an audio perspective. 

Extras:
* Digital copies for the 4 films
* The 1931 Spanish version of “Dracula” (on the “Dracula” discs). An intro by Lupita Tovar Kohner is also included.
* Trailers from all the individual monster collection films.
* “The Wolf Man” Extras- Commentary by film historian Tom Weaver, “Monster By Moonlight” featurette on The Wolf Man and another featurette titled “The Wolf Man: From Ancient Curse To Modern Myth,” “Pure In Heart: The Life And Legacy Of Lon Chaney Jr.” actor featurette, “He Who Made Monsters: The Life And Art Of Jack Pierce” about the make-up artist legend, the “Wolf Man Archives” which is a collection of promo material, and a featurette on Universal Studios titled “100 Years Of Universal: The Lot.”
* “The Invisible Man” Extras- Production photographs, an archival retrospective titled “Now You See Him: The Invisible Man Revealed!,” commentary by film historian Rudy Behlmer and “100 Years Of Universal: Unforgettable Characters”
* “Frankenstein” Extras- “100 Years of Universal: Restoring The Classics,” a “Universal Horror” 95 minute documentary film, a short film called “Boo!,” a Boris Karloff centric bonus feature titled “Karloff: The Gentle Monster,” “The Frankenstein Files: How Hollywood Made A Monster” featurette, “Frankenstein Archives” promotional material, Monster Tracks trivia track, 2 commentaries- one by film historian Rudy Behlmer and one by historian Sir Christopher Frayling.
* “Dracula” Extras- Monster Tracks trivia track, a featurette on the restoration titled “Dracula: The Restoration,” a Bela Lugosi centric bonus feature titled “Lugosi: The Dark Prince,” “The Road To Dracula” archival extra, “Dracula Archives” promotional material, alternate score by Philip Glass and 2 commentaries- one by film historian David J. Skal and one by screenwriter Steve Haberman.

October 10, 2021 - Posted by | 4K UHD Review | , , , , , , , , ,

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