Blu-ray Review: Gorgeous Transfers, Hours of Bonus Material For ‘Universal Classic Monsters’

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CHICAGO – It’s incredible to think about the influence of the wave of Universal monsters movies released by the studio in the ’30s and ’40s and recently collected in a gorgeous box set titled “Universal Classic Monsters: The Essential Collection.” Sure, several of the iconic characters like Dracula, Frankenstein, and The Mummy had source material to draw from but it really is the way that the Universal films, their directors, and the actors cast in them brought them to life that really defined them. Are films like “Hotel Transylvania” working off Bram Stoker and Mary Shelley or Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff? However you answer that question, these are films that still resonate eighty years after their release and they’ve never been given a perfect collection like this one. Blu-ray rating: 5.0/5.0
Rating: 5.0/5.0

Every one of the eight films — 1931’s “Dracula,” 1931’s “Frankenstein,” 1932’s “The Mummy,” 1933’s “The Invisible Man,” 1935’s “The Bride of Frankenstein,” 1941’s “The Wolf Man,” 1943’s “Phantom of the Opera,” and 1954’s “Creature of the Black Lagoon” — has been beautifully restored in HD and included on its own disc with film-specific special features and several that encompass the entirety of the Universal monster wave. There’s a reason that they call this the “Essential Collection” as the eight films feature eight different iconic characters and they don’t dig too deep into the catalog for films like “Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man” and “The Invisble Man’s Revenge” (although that would rule someday — “The Unessential Collection,” if you will).

The gem of the set is the first film, “Dracula,” not only because of how strikingly well the film has held up but because it features the best HD restoration and most interesting special features. Included on the “Dracula” disc is the Spanish-language remake of the film, shot and released at the same time (and tonally different in fascinating ways), along with great commentaries. “Dracula” really changed film history forever just by ushering in the wave of monster flicks and really changing the fate of Universal as a studio.

Every one of the films includes at least one commentary track and they all include featurettes and galleries of trailers and other art related to their film. Here’s how blunt I can be in my praise — any single one of the eight films in here would be highly recommended. Collect them all in one box, include a great booklet and gorgeous packaging, and you have one of the best Blu-ray releases of the year.

Universal Classic Monsters: The Essential Collection was released on Blu-ray on October 2, 2012
Universal Classic Monsters: The Essential Collection was released on Blu-ray on October 2, 2012
Photo credit: Universal

From the era of silent movies through present day, Universal Pictures has been regarded as the home of the monsters. Universal Classic Monsters: The Essential Collection showcases 8 of the most iconic monsters in motion picture history including Dracula, Frankenstein, The Mummy, The Invisible Man, The Bride of Frankenstein, The Wolf Man, Phantom of the Opera and Creature From the Black Lagoon. Starring Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff, Lon Chaney, Jr., Claude Rains and Elsa Lanchester in the roles that they made famous, these original films set the standard for a new horror genre with revolutionary makeup, mood-altering cinematography and groundbreaking special effects. Featuring over 12 hours of revealing bonus features plus an exclusive collectible book, each film has been digitally restored from high resolution film elements for the ultimate classic monster experience.

StarClick here to buy “Universal Classic Monsters: The Essential Collection”

Special Features:
o Creature From The Black Lagoon 3D
o The 1931 Spanish Version Of Dracula
o Documentaries
o Expert Commentaries
o Interviews
o Production Photographs
o Archive Materials

“Universal Classic Monsters: The Essential Collection” was released on Blu-ray on October 2, 2012. content director Brian Tallerico

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