Blu-ray Review: Universal Classic Monsters: The Essential Collection

Wow! Universal Studios Home Entertainment is celebrating its 100 anniversary and to celebrate it has gone all out with the release of Universal Classic Monsters: The Essential Collection, an 8-disc box set featuring classic movies Dracula, Frankenstein, The Mummy, The Invisible Man, The Bride of Frankenstein, The Wolf Man, The Phantom of  the Opera and The Creature from the Black Lagoon, digitally restored for the first time ever plus we even get the 3D version of The Creature from the Black Lagoon with this release! These are the movies that starred the original horror icons Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff, Lon Chaney Jr., Claude Rains and Elsa Lanchester.

The box itself is a piece of art. It is made of nice thick glossy cardboard that comes with a slip cover to match, both featuring the title and all eight classic monsters. When you open up the box, it contains individual pages for each movie. Each page includes mini posters of the movies and also a short synopsis and bonus features that are included with each disc. Also included inside the box is a nice and detailed booklet entitled “The Original House of Horror” showcasing each monster and the great people who brought them to the silver screen.

We all know and love these classic monster movies but the standouts on this release are the extraordinary special features, I’m talking over 12-hours worth! I mean each disc has hours of great extras, from the restoration processes to commentary and even trailers and even special short films. You can see the detail of each disc and its extras below.

Synopses and Bonus Features:

Dracula (1931)

The original 1931 movie version of Bram Stoker’s classic tale has for generations defined the iconic look and terrifying persona of the famed vampire. Dracula owes its continued appeal in large part due to Bela Lugosi’s indelible portrayal of the immortal Count Dracula and the flawless direction of horror auteur Tod Browning. The Universal Classic Monsters: The Essential Collection includes the original version of this chilling and evocative tale, as well as the rarely seen Spanish version of Dracula.  Filmed simultaneously with the English language version, the Spanish version of Dracula is an equally ominous vision of the horror classic shot with the same sets and script. Cinematographer George Robinson and a vibrant cast including Carlos Villarias and Lupita Tovar deliver a chilling and evocative tale filled with the same terror, mystery, and intrigue.

Bonus Features:

  • Dracula, the 1931 Spanish version, with Introduction by Lupita Tovar Kohner
  • The Road to Dracula
  • Lugosi: The Dark Prince
  • Dracula: The Restoration – New Featurette Available for The First Time!
  • Monster Tracks: Interactive Pop-Up Facts About the Making of Dracula
  • Dracula Archives
  • Score by Philip Glass performed by the Kronos Quartet
  • Feature Commentary by Film Historian David J. Skal
  • Feature Commentary by Steve Haberman, Screenwriter of Dracula: Dead and Loving It  
  • Trailer Gallery

 

Frankenstein (1931)

Boris Karloff stars as the screen’s most tragic and iconic monster in what many consider to be the greatest horror film ever made. Dr. Henry Frankenstein (Colin Clive) dares to tamper with the essential nature of life and death by creating a monster (Karloff) out of lifeless human body parts. Director James Whale’s adaptation of the Mary Shelley novel and Karloff’s compassionate portrayal of a creature groping for identity make Frankenstein a timeless masterpiece.

      Bonus Features:

  • The Frankenstein Files:  How Hollywood Made a Monster
  • Karloff: The Gentle Monster
  • Monster Tracks: Interactive Pop-Up Facts About The Making of Frankenstein
  • Universal Horror
  • Frankenstein Archives
  • Boo!: A Short Film
  • Feature Commentary with Film Historian Rudy Behlmer
  • Feature Commentary with Historian Sir Christopher Frayling
  • 100 Years Of Universal: Restoring the Classics
  • Trailer Gallery

 

The Mummy (1932)

Horror icon Boris Karloff stars in the original 1932 version of The Mummy in which a team of British archaeologists accidentally revives a mummified high priest after 3,700 years. Alive again, he sets out on an obsessive—and deadly—quest to find his lost love. Over 50 years after its first release, this brooding dream-like horror classic remains a cinematic masterpiece.

      Bonus Features:

  • Mummy Dearest:  A Horror Tradition Unearthed
  • He Who Made Monsters:  The Life and Art Of Jack Pierce
  • Unraveling the Legacy of The Mummy
  • The Mummy Archives
  • Feature Commentary by Rick Baker, Scott Essman, Steve Haberman, Bob Burns and Brent Armstrong
  • Feature Commentary by Film Historian Paul M. Jensen
  • 100 Years Of Universal: The Carl Laemmle Era
  • Trailer Gallery

 

The Invisible Man (1933)

Claude Rains delivers an unforgettable performance in his screen debut as a mysterious doctor who discovers a serum that makes him invisible. Covered by bandages and dark glasses, Rains arrives in a small English village and attempts to hide his amazing discovery, but the drug’s side effects slowly drive him to commit acts of unspeakable terror. Based on H.G. Welles’ classic novel and directed by the master of macabre, James Whale, The Invisible Man fueled a host of sequels and features revolutionary special effects that are still imitated today.

      Bonus Features:

  • Now You See Him: The Invisible Man Revealed
  • Production Photographs
  • Feature Commentary with Film Historian Rudy Behlmer
  • 100 Years of Universal: Unforgettable Characters

 

Bride of Frankenstein (1935)

The acclaimed sequel to the original Frankenstein has become one of the most popular horror classics in film history. The legendary Boris Karloff reprises his role as the screen’s most misunderstood monster, now longing for a mate of his own. Colin Clive is back as the proud and overly ambitious Dr. Frankenstein, who creates the ill-fated bride (Elsa Lanchester). The last horror film directed by James Whale features a haunting musical score that helps make The Bride of Frankenstein one of the finest and most touching thrillers of its era.

      Bonus Features:

  • She’s Alive! Creating The Bride Of Frankenstein
  • The Bride Of Frankenstein Archive
  • Feature Commentary with Scott MacQueen
  • 100 Years of Universal: Restoring the Classics
  • Trailer Gallery

 

The Wolf Man (1941)

Originally released in 1941, The Wolf Man introduced the world to a new Universal movie monster and redefined the mythology of the werewolf forever. Featuring a heartbreaking performance by Lon Chaney Jr. and groundbreaking make-up by Jack Pierce, The Wolf Man is the saga of Larry Talbot, a cursed man who transforms into a deadly werewolf when the moon is full. The dreamlike atmospheres, elaborate settings and chilling musical score combine to make The Wolf Man a masterpiece of the genre.

      Bonus Features:

  • Monster by Moonlight
  • The Wolf Man: From Ancient Curse to Modern Myth
  • Pure in Heart: The Life and Legacy of Lon Chaney, Jr.
  • He Who Made Monsters: The Life and Art of Jack Pierce
  • The Wolf Man Archives
  • Feature Commentary with Film Historian Tom Weaver
  • 100 Years of Universal: The Lot
  • Trailer Gallery

 

Phantom of the Opera (1943)

This lavish retelling of Gaston Leroux’s immortal horror tale stars Claude Rains as the masked phantom who haunts the Paris Opera House. A crazed composer who schemes to make beautiful young soprano Christine DuBois (Susanna Foster) the star of the opera company, the Phantom also wreaks revenge on those he believes stole his music. Nelson Eddy, as the heroic baritone, tries to win the affections of Christine as he tracks down the murderous, horribly disfigured Phantom.

Bonus Features:

  • The Opera Ghost: A Phantom Unmasked
  • Production Photographs
  • Feature Commentary with Film Historian Scott MacQueen
  • 100 Years of Universal: The Lot
  • Theatrical Trailer

 

Creature from the Black Lagoon  (1954)

Captured and imprisoned for scientific study, a living “amphibious missing link” becomes enamored with the head researcher’s female assistant (Julie Adams). When the hideous creature escapes and kidnaps the object of his affection, a crusade is launched to rescue the helpless woman and cast the terrifying creature back to the depths from which he came. Featuring legendary makeup artist Bud Westmore’s brilliantly designed monster, Creature from the Black Lagoon is an enduring tribute to the imaginative genius of its Hollywood creators.

Bonus Features:

  • The Creature From The Black Lagoon in 3D
  • Back to The Black Lagoon
  • Production Photographs
  • Feature Commentary with Film Historian Tom Weaver
  • 100 Years of Universal: The Lot
  • Trailer Gallery

Bottom line is, this Universal Classic Monsters: The Essential Collection [Blu-ray] is a must have! I think every horror fan out there will appreciate this special release for years to come!

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