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VINE VOICEon March 22, 2012
IMPORTANT NOTE, ADDED JUNE 22, 2012: This review was originally posted to the Universal 100th Anniversary Classic Monsters DVD 4-pack that includes Dracula, Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein and Creature from the Black Lagoon. However, Amazon has seen fit (as they so often do) to ALSO post the reviews for this product on the listing for the SECOND Universal Monsters 4-pack, which comes out in the fall of 2012, and which does NOT contain these films, but four other classic monster films: WOLF MAN, INVISIBLE MAN, PHANTOM OF THE OPERA and THE MUMMY. Please don't think that I placed it there myself, if that's where you happen to be reading it. Thanks.

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ANOTHER IMPORTANT NOTE, ADDED DEC. 31, 2012: Due to Amazon's inexplicable policy of porting reviews from one product listing to other listings (regardless of whether the products are the same!), I'm unable to properly review the SECOND "Classic Monsters" 4 disc collection under it's own listing as my review of the FIRST set already appears there, and Amazon does not allow "multiple" reviews on what it perceives to be the same product. As such, both the first AND second Classic Monsters collections have the same 38 reviews (as I write this), nearly all of which should ONLY be attached to the product listing for the first set. Thus I've no choice but to pad this review out a bit further to encompass BOTH sets, I've opted to include details about the bonus features for each of the four discs in the second set (THE MUMMY, THE WOLF MAN, THE INVISIBLE MAN and THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA) underneath the product details for the four discs in the first set, as outlined further down this review. Suffice it to say that the for those who've not seen these films (and let's face it, potential new fans are being born every day!) and those weary of emptying their wallets for the recently released deluxe Blu-ray Collection, the second DVD set is every bit as worthwhile as the first, and likewise repackages the four 1999 DVD releases, complete with copious special features.

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You'll probably read many reviews slagging this release for simply repackaging the original 1999 DVD releases of these films. That's exactly what they are, so for those of you who already own those excellent releases, or better yet, later upgraded to the more-inclusive "Legacy Collections" (with the originals and their many sequels in slick packaging) or the 75th Anniversary ultra-deluxe Legacy editions of DRACULA and FRANKENSTEIN, you're better off waiting for the Blu-ray editions, which were announced so late in 2011 that only a fool would think that this edition--which blatantly re-uses the sleeve artwork from the 1999 editions on its cover--somehow contained new hi-def remasters (or what have you) this soon after the announcement was made.

Universal's 100th Anniversary line is, in fact, almost entirely made up of repackaged OLD DISCS. Is it some insidious plot to slap movie fans (and especially Universal Monster movie fans) in the face? Of course not. Is it a way for a major media company to re-purpose old stock that was no longer selling? Of course it is, and I say more power to them, especially if it gets these four classic films into the hands of people who've never seen them before at a compelling price point that won't strain one's finances. I always find it puzzling that many supposed hardcore fans of these films, the ones who moan the loudest every time something is re-issued, seem to think that EVERYONE ELSE has seen all the great movies out there just like they have, when nothing could be farther from the truth; new movie buffs are born every day. In fact, a child born in 1999 would be 13 years old right now, the PERFECT AGE to take a crack at these old gems. I'm sure most kids today might scoff at them, but if even a handful come to appreciate them in the context in which they're presented on these special edition discs, and at a bargain price point, then the repackaging of these titles (and another four that are coming in Vol. 2 later in the year) will not have been in vain.

That said, you can safely assume--nay, expect--that this set will drop in price as the year progresses. I wouldn't be surprised at all if it hits the ten dollar mark at some point, perhaps even on Amazon, and that's for four discs that many of us happily shelled out twenty bucks a pop for back in 1999, many with drool pouring from our mouths because we were finally able to see them on such a technologically superior format to our old video tapes and laserdiscs. Well, subsequent, improved DVD editions (of some titles, anyways, but NOT all of them) have apparently spoiled people enough that they'll see fit to piss all over this release and steer everyone away from it. I can only hope if you haven't seen these films before, you'll ignore the unfairly negative reviews (after all , the CONTENT of these discs drew near-unanimous praise back in 1999, some of which still holds up today) and give this set a shot.

As I write this, neither the Amazon listing nor the other reviews gives you any idea of what's actually included in this set. So here's what you get:

DRACULA Bonus Features:
- The Road To Dracula, an original documentary
- Commentary by David J. Skal (which is excellent, by the way, as are all of the others)
- New score by Philip Glass and the Kronos Quartet
- Poster/photo montage
- SPANISH LANGUAGE VERSION OF DRACULA (this effectively makes this a 5-MOVIE set)
Original 1999 release is here (note the overwhelmingly positive reviews):
Dracula (Universal Studios Classic Monster Collection)

FRANKENSTEIN Bonus Features:
- The Frankenstein Files: How Hollywood Made a Monster
- Commentary by Rudy Behlmer
- Frankstein Archives
- Boo! - a short film
- Production Notes
- Cast & Filmmmakers
Original 1999 release is here (again, note the positive reviews):
Frankenstein (Universal Studios Classic Monster Collection)

BRIDE OF FRANKESTEIN Bonus Features:
- She's Alive! Creating the Bride of Frankenstein Documentary
- Commentary by Scott MacQueen
- The Bride of Frankenstein Archives
Original 1999 release is here (once again, note the generally positive OVERALL rating, despite near universal disdain for the transfer on this particular title):
The Bride of Frankenstein (Universal Studios Classic Monster Collection)

CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON Bonus Features:
- Back To The Black Lagoon
- Commentary by Tom Weaver
- Production Photography
Original 1999 release is here (and yet again, note the positive reviews)
Creature From the Black Lagoon (Universal Studios Classic Monster Collection)

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ADDED DEC. 31, 2012: Bonus features for titles in the SECOND Classic Monsters DVD collection:

THE MUMMY Bonus Features:
- Mummy Dearest: A Horror Tradition Unearthed
- Commentary by Film Historian Paul M. Jensen
- The Mummy Archives
- Theatrical Trailers
Original 1999 release is here:
The Mummy (Universal Studios Classic Monster Collection)

THE WOLFMAN Bonus Features:
- Monster By Moonlight documentary
- Feature Commentary with Tom Weaver
- The Wolfman Archives
- Theatrical Trailer
The Wolf Man (Universal Studios Classic Monster Collection)

THE INVISIBLE MAN Bonus Features:
- Now You See Him: The Invisible Man Revealed (documentary)
- Commentary with Film Historian Rudy Behlmer
- Production Photographs
The Invisible Man (Universal Studios Classic Monster Collection)

PHANTOM OF THE OPERA Bonus Featurs:
- The Opera Ghost: A Phantom Unmasked (documentary)
- Feature Commentary with Film Historian Scott MacQueen
- Production Photographs
- Theatrical Trailer
Phantom of the Opera (Universal Studios Classic Monster Collection)
1818 comments116 of 119 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on March 9, 2012
What Amazon doesn't tell you is that the Spanish version is also included in the Dracula DVD. Nice extra. I watched them all, and the quality is good, sound is also very good. Some of the commentary is. I don't remember Tom Weaver commentint of the Creature DVD last time. I love to listen to the commentary. I love the fact that they're on separate disks. I only wish they were on Blu Ray. Should have included Wolfman or Wolfman Meets Frankenstein. For the 100th Anniversary, put out a classic Monster Blu Ray set.
1010 comments33 of 37 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on November 20, 2012
The Universal Classic Monsters: The Essential Collection [Blu-ray] was too expensive, so I bought the DVD set. The product came in the mail today, and it arrived in great condition. It had 4 great movies for a great price. The movies included were, Dracula, Frankenstein, The Bride of Frankenstein, and Creature from the Black Lagoon. These are the 1999 DVD versions of the films, but the quality was pretty good for these older movies. I just watched Frankenstein on my Play Station 3, and it looked great. I know the picture is not as good as the Blu-ray set, but it still looked very impressive. I love all of these films, but Frankenstein and The Bride of Frankenstein still remain my favorites(Frankenstein is probably the first horror movie I ever saw).Dracula is another one of my favorites. Bela Lugosi is classic as Dracula. Creature from the Black Lagoon was good, but not great. Over all,the quality is great, and you could watch these over and over again. And what more would you ask than that?
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on December 12, 2012
THIS REVIEW IS FOR "Classic Monsters Spotlight Collection [Dracula, Frankenstein, The Bride of Frankenstein, Creature from Black Lagoon] (Universal's 100th Anniversary)," BUT IT ALSO INCLUDES INFORMATION REGARDING ITS SISTER PURCHASE, Classic Monsters Spotlight Collection (The Mummy (1932) / The Wolf Man / The Invisible Man / Phantom of the Opera (1943))

These 2 DVD's are on sale for $150.00 at TCM, in one box, with the same exact films, but with additional features about the making of the films, interviews, and whatever they could throw in. This is a gift for my Dad, who watches a lot of late night television, so I know that he's either either already seen the additional information about these films, or would Never bother to watch the additional information on the DVD's ("Special Features" is a swear word in our home). Paying @14.99 per DVD ($5 dollars cheaper than these individual DVD's on TCM as well) and saving me $120.00, makes me happy. My Dad gets the best 8 horror flicks of all times, and I get the happiness of giving him a gift I know he will use, in its entirety, not ignored, or tossed aside partially used. This is one of the best win-win presents I've ever given him.

I may have failed to mention that my Dad and I were watching an old movie on Turner Classic Movies and he was saying that it was too bad they never show the black and white Horror Flicks he grew up loving, his particular favorite being Creature from the Black Lagoon, when an ad came on for the $150.00 box set of all 8 of these films. He went on and on for awhile about the ridiculous price, and who needs those Bleeping Spec*$^ Featu$@& anyway. He watches a lot of the Biography Channel, so he pretty much saw all the interviews they'd include. He went on about how they're selling them instead of showing them, and oh, what a waste. I was so pleased to find that not only could I get this very nice gift for him, but I could get it at a much lower price. Which, if I told him about, he'd be very proud of me. As it is, I know there's no chance he'll open the Special Features portion anyway, so it'll be our little secret.
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on October 15, 2014
These four are classics as anyone can guess. Universal always finds the right atmosphere in their classic movies and the black and white adds to the beauty of these classics. There are four DVDs with up to five movies in Dracula, Spanish Dracula, Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein, and Creature from the Black Lagoon.

Dracula is very similar to Nosferatu only with the best Dracula possible in Bela Lugosi. Bela owns this role and really steals the show. There is also a bonus of the Spanish Dracula added onto the Dracula disc. Spanish Dracula is superior to the American version in every way except in who plays Dracula. Carlos isn't quite on Bela's level, but he's not bad. The extra dialogue and better camerawork keep Spanish Dracula as the definite Dracula film(despite the lack of Lugosi). Both are moody films with a dark romantic element to them. Frankenstein has awesome scenery and legendary sets. This story despite its simplicity resonates with anyone. Frankenstein is driven by great character work and like Dracula relatively short. Bride of Frankenstein is superior to the original Frankenstein. I would say it is a little more similar to the book in a way. The inclusion of a possible female Monster makes the film even better with different complexities. It also has a lot of the same scenery. Lastly, we have Creature from the Black Lagoon. This film looks gorgeous and tells the simple story of an unknown species.

All these films are classics that everyone in the family can enjoy. They all have unique sets and a dark atmosphere that is sure to entertain, and for 10-11 dollars you get four of the most classic movies ever.
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on November 7, 2013
I grew up enjoying these old movies. Yes they are dated and the makeup and all the other star wars stuff is not there .But ,they are classic in every sense of the word. And watching them makes me remember the old TV shows in Chicago always on a Friday night when they would play these films over and over.... My Favorite one is Bride of Frankenstien. I reminds me of another movie Gods and Monsters, where the same thing is said in both movies. Anyway if your young enough to remember these movies I give them a big A+ ... How often can you watch 4 movies in little time as 4 and half hours? for the time they where made they are great.....
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on September 30, 2012
THIS IS THE ABSOLUTE ESSENTIAL UNIVERSAL CLASSIC SET! LUGOSI'S DRACULA IS STILL IN THE TOP 3 CREEPIEST DRACULA'S EVER, KARLOFF'S FRANKENSTEIN FEATURES ARE BY FAR THE BEST OF THE MONSTER/MAD DOCTOR FILMS OF ALL TIME,AND THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON WAS SO WELL MADE, IT SPAWNED IMITATORS TO THIS DAY. IT IS THE PERFECT MONSTERVISION MARATHON!
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on September 9, 2012
Growing up, I LOVED these old "horror movies". Like the format of "multi-movies" on the same DVD. VERY PLEASED with this product. Fast shipping, too, made this transaction VERY POSITIVE!!! THANKS!!!
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon April 29, 2013
These are 4 great Universal films nicely packaged who may not be ready for Blu ray. Well preserved in one collection. Here are reviews of each film:

DRACULA (5.0 Stars)

The well-known tale stars Bela Lugosi in his most recognizable role. The Hungarian actor also played the character in the stage production from which much is adapted for this early talking picture. Some will snicker at the mannerisms and heightened theatrics more common in the theater. Even as a great admirer of the movie, I chuckle when I see a couple armadillos scurrying across Dracula's Transylvanian castle.

Lugosi, still struggling with English accentuates his dialog not only with an unusual cadence, enunciating each syllable but seemingly each letter. But Bela was a charmer, especially of the ladies which transformed the Count from the Dracula in Bram Stoker's novel and the first production on film, "Nosferatu, a Symphony of Horror" (1922). In F. W. Murnau's film, the Count (Orlok) was ugly, sinister and more in tune with what Stoker had in mind.

One of the things that always bothered me about the film was the lack of a musical score. The story has extended moments of silence, except for noise coming from old tape or DVD transfers. The cleaned up version here, eliminates almost all of the surface noise, and makes the silence even more...well silent. I much prefer the added Philip Glass score performed by The Kronos Quartet. I was fortunate to see Glass perform this live accompanying the film a few years ago in Dallas.

FRANKENSTEIN (4.5 Stars)

The best thing here is Boris Karloff, as Dr. Frankenstein's creation. Watch his near mute (he does grunt and growl) performance. Like many of the silent films a few years earlier, actors have to use their movement, their eyes and facial expression to communicate feelings. And Karloff is masterful in this performance. Can't say enough about him.

Troubled actor Colin Clive is also excellent as Frankenstein. Dwight Frey as Fritz and Edward Van Sloan return after their similar performances in "Dracula." The story of course is based on an early 19th century story by Mary Shelley. All of this wouldn't have happened of course but for some great direction from James Whale and masterful makeup from Jack Pierce. So what's wrong? Quibbles admittedly, but still.

First when the monster is on the loose on day of the doc's wedding to lovely Elizabeth (Mae Clarke), Frankenstein thinks he hears the monster inside the house. He gathers a search party of staffers and locks Elizabeth in her room "to keep her safe." Say what? Of course, the creature enters though an open window. Then there is the issue of the little Maria (Marilyn Harris) who is playfully tossed into the lake by her cottage by the creature. Fortunately this once censured scene was rightfully restored. Her father finds the girl (off camera) and marches into the village carrying her dead body claiming she had been murdered. Huh? Couldn't she just have drowned on her own? And why did he teach her how to swim anyway? Great sets, especially the flowing electricity in the laboratory, excellent acting and a timeless story overcome any shortcomings.

THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (5.0 Stars)

This true sequel to director James Whale's 1931 masterpiece is considered by most critics to be even superior. Certainly from a production standpoint, it is hard to argue against it. This movie actually continues the story originated by Mary Shelley in 1816. In fact, like "Frankenstein," the movie opens with Mary (Elsa Lanchester), Lord Byron (Gavin Gordon) and Percy Shelley (Douglas Walton) once again in flashback, discussing Mary's horror novel during a thunderstorm. This was a scene Whale insisted on recreating.

Back to the present day, the story picks up where "Frankenstein" left off. The monster is trapped inside a burning windmill and Dr. Frankenstein is near death after being thrown off by the monster. He recovers, but is forced to help a strange former teacher, Dr. Pretorius (fey Ernest Thesiger). Pretorius had his own success with creating life. Whale and screenwriter William Hurlbut struggled with censors as the film hints at homosexuality, necrophilia and has numerous religious connotations.

Boris Karloff returns as the monster and once again is terrific, this time more sympathetic in spite of the fact he kills more people than he did in his first outing. Both he and Colin Clive, once again Henry Frankenstein, were injured before and during the movie causing additional complications for Whale. A 17 year old British actress, Valerie Hobson replaces Mae Clarke as Elizabeth, Henry's fiancée. She has a couple meaty scenes and pulls them off nicely.

As a kid I mostly remembered Pretorius's little people which he created and housed in jars. A lightened moment in what was still a frightening film. The best scenes however are given to Lanchester who also portrays the "Bride" complete with herky-jerky head movements and the now iconic lightning bolt hairdo. Pretorius also utters a couple quips that become important to the future. When the lady monster comes alive, he calls her the Bride of Frankenstein not the Bride of the Monster. Is that how the monster became known by many as "Frankenstein?" He also announces the successful reanimation declaring "gods and monsters," the name of a 1998 biopic about James Whale.

The movie is enhanced by some excellent photography (Stephen M. Katz), makeup (Jack Pierce returning), special effects (John P. Fulton) and an amazing musical score by Franz Waxman. Note how each main character has his/her own musical announcement. This is one of the great horror movies. Make that one of the great movies of all time.

CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON (4.5 Stars)

I remember my mother gathering my 2 brothers and me, decked in our PJs, into the family Plymouth and heading to the drive-in movie theater. I was a kid. It was a big deal. It was 3-D! Among others on the bill, was the "Creature From The Black Lagoon." The 3-D gimmick has come and gone a few times since then and appeared to have made a real comeback recently. Yet, checking out the Sunday ads in the paper (Best Buy, Fry's, Target, Tiger Direct), there was not one featuring a 3-D TV for sale. In any case, I watched this Blu ray disc in good old fashion 2-D and it looks better than ever.

The story centers on a group of scientists who find a large webbed hand and part of an arm in the Brazilian Amazon. Believed to be a water creature, scientists who are also scuba divers are recruited. Among them are David (Richard Carlson) and Mark, his boss (Richard Denning) both playing for the affections of statuesque Kay (Julie Adams). While the story is pretty much a straight forward beauty and the beast, director Jack Arnold and his team create an above average "horror" film.

The movie was essentially shot in two locations. One was the Universal Studios lot and some of the shots are well done, but others are limited to the technical capabilities of the time. All of the underwater filming was done in a Florida grotto and they are remarkably well done, especially when you remember that the film was shot in 3-D using the big and cumbersome cameras of the era. The creature, even with a rubber suit is plenty creepy given its human characteristics.

The most memorable scene (and yes, one I remember as a kid) is when Kay decides to go swimming in the lagoon in her white, and brief for the day, one piece suit. With the camera in the water shooting upward to the surface we see the shadowed silhouette of Kay gracefully swimming across the surface. Yeah, that got my attention, then and now...and more importantly, that of the creature. Director Steven Spielberg must have remembered that scene too (see "Jaws"). This goes on for a while and the creature joins in, swimming upside down below Eve. Great swimming by Ricou Browning who played the creature in the underwater scenes.

While the creature manages to kill a few crew members, it was he who was attacked first and he doesn't seem to have menace in mind when it comes to Eve. Mostly we are sympathetic to his plight. He's lonely. He wants a friend. My only complaint with the film is that each time the creature is featured, we get a menacing, shrill brass section musical blast. It's very annoying and unnecessary given the otherwise excellent score.
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Like a lot of people, I grew up seeing black and white horror movies. At that time you could see two movies plus several cartoon features for about 25 cents. This fantastic collection has four classic movies and at a bargain price. They include: Dracula, one of the first ones ever produced. Frankenstein, which is the first original one made, as well as the classic The Bride of Frankenstein. The last movie in this collection I recall seeing the first time in an old movie theater, which is The Creature from the Black Lagoon.

I enjoyed viewing these movies again in this DVD. Yes, it is true that these old films are sometimes a little unclear but that does not take away from the enjoyment of seeing these classic old movies in the DVD format.

In conclusion, if you are a horror movie buff, and enjoy seeing the early black and white versions of these old classics, you may want to check out this DVD collection.

Rating: 5 Stars. Joseph J. Truncale (Author: Predator Hunter: A warrior's memoir)
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