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Universal Classic Monsters: The Essential Collection [Blu-ray]
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Universal has put considerable effort into restoring and revitalizing each film, and while there's room to nitpick, it's hard to focus on little flaws when the whole of the package is so good. If you have any love for Golden Age horror classics, add this one to your cart or wish list post haste.
Universal Classic Monsters: The Essential Collection (1931-1954)
The 8-disc Universal Classic Monsters: Essential Collection box set features all eight films; nine when you include Drácula, a Spanish-language version of Dracula that was shot simultaneously to the Lugosi picture, albeit with an entirely different cast.
The Collection comes packaged in an understated but handsome box set with a sturdy outer sleeve that houses a tome-like DigiPak (with one page devoted to each film) and a copy of 'The Original House of Horror, a 48-page booklet. The discs themselves slide inside of each DigiPak page - something that will be a sticking point for some since you have to grasp the edge of a disc to remove it from its snug hideaway.
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.
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Aside from the UK version lacking a commentary for Dracula, this is just about identical to the US set. The biggest reason to buy the UK set, other than it being FAR cheaper, is the much better packaging. In the US version, the discs slide into tight sleeve pages. They say, oh, you don't have to worry. They're blu-rays. They won't get scratched. Bull. No matter how durable blu-rays are, if you slide them in and out of sleeves enough times, they'll get scratched. The disc in the UK set are in plastic digitrays and don't touch each other or slide in and out of sleeves. I can't believe that the people that put together the US set were so cheap when they were making the sets.....
If you're any kind of classic monsters fan, you need to get this set. There tons of great features like documentaries about the makeup artists, the making of the movies, the history of monster movies and Universal Studios, and at least one, sometimes two, commentaries for each movies.
The only downside to the set, to me at least, is the inclusion of the colour version of Phantom Of The Opera instead of the silent 1925 version. The Lon Chaney version is the one that people want to see again and again.
The 8 Blu-rays in this set actually consist of 9 movies if one considers the Spanish language version of Dracula to be a distinct movie from the Bela Lugosi version...which it actually is. That comes out to less $4 per movie or less than $4.50 per disc. Deals don’t get much better than that.
In addition to this release retaining the same special features (12 hours worth) that were available in the standalone DVDs of the films, the publisher has included the 3D version of “Creature From the Black Lagoon” and a short 2012 documentary, “Dracula: The Restoration”, chronicling the restoration of the film.
Add all of this to attractive packaging, 8 movie poster art cards and a collectible 48 page booklet chronicling the history of Universal’s horror movies from the silent era through the 1950s, and you’ve got a purchase that is absolutely essential for classic horror fans. If you don’t have these movies on Blu-Ray yet, what are you waiting for?
Listed by movie title and year of release.
Frankenstein/Bride of Frankenstein (1931 and 1935)
Dracula/Spanish version of Dracula (1931)
The Mummy (1932)
The Invisible Man (1933)
The Wolf Man (1941
Phantom of the Opera (1943)
Creature From the Black Lagoon in both 3D+2D (1954)
Hope you enjoy this collection as much as I do!
The films include a generous amount of audio tracks in various languages, an amazing number of subtitles in even more languages, and each disc contains bonus features. Although the box says that there are eight original horror classics, there are actually nine, as the Dracula disc includes the Spanish version of that film, made simultaneously with the Lugosi version with a Mexican cast. The Spanish version has become very popular more recently, although it had previously been unseen for over forty years, and was thought lost forever. One reel of the Spanish Dracula was very badly decomposed, and previous DVD releases of this film made that portion of the film almost unwatchable. They have managed to digitally correct much of the problem, but it’s not quite perfect. Kudos to Universal though, for restoring this important film to the extent that they were able.
And, the previously “lost” scene from Frankenstein, where the monster drowns little Maria, was deleted by the censors of the day as far too shocking. Previous DVD issues restored the scene, but it was badly damaged. It has now been digitally restored to the point where, not only is the deterioration unnoticeable, it looks as good as the rest of the film. Quite an achievement.
The only two problems I have had with the set are minor. First, the Blu-ray menus are somewhat cumbersome to navigate. More importantly, when I pause a film for more than a few minutes, the disc reverts to the Universal logo and will not budge. However, considering the overall quality and presentation of these films, these problems are minor. This is a five-star collection if ever there was one, and I highly recommend it.
Top international reviews
the plastic coming off isn't what annoys me, it's the fact i did't get what i paid for!
For the price I bought it, each film worked out at about £2 each.
I have been a horror film fan and this started as a young girl watching the Universal classics and also the Hammer House of horror double bills on BBC2, seeing this boxset was being released I kept my eye on it.
Each film has been remastered onto Blu Ray and these black and white master pieces look beautiful in blu ray.
I have just watched Frankenstein, as well as the film it has over three hours of extras, and they are excellent documentaries about Boris Kardoff, The history of Universal studios and the making of Frankenstein.
I know that each film has very good extras.
It also comes with postcards that are copies of the movie posters, they look very good when framed! and also a booklet with some features on the films and stars.
This is not a lazy package, love and care has been put into the restoration and extras (also included is commentaries by film historians)
If you are a fan of these films, I would recommend buy now!
"Dracula" (1931) starring Bela Lugosi ... the Spanish-language film is included as a bonus.
"Frankenstein" (1931) starring Boris Karloff
"The Mummy" (1932) again starring Karloff
"The Invisible Man" (1933) starring Claude Rains
"The Bride of Frankenstein" (1935) the sequel by director James Whale
"The Wolfman" (1941) starring Lon Chaney Jr.
"The Phantom of the Opera" (1943) with Claude Rains
"The Creature from the Black Lagoon" (1954) in both standard 2D and in fantastic 3D.
In addition, you get a 44-page booklet about the films and 8 exclusive art cards (showing the original theatrical posters).
For fans of Universal, this is a wonderful box set. Each film costs just £1.50 (at the time of reviewing)!
Okay, some of these movies now appear rather dated. But the quality of the story and acting shines through. While several Universal classics - such as "Son of Dracula" and "Frankenstein meets the Wolfman" - are missing, this collection is nonetheless thoroughly recommended.
The films themselves have been expertly remastered. Both sound and visuals are largely stunning, and they're a joy to watch in such quality. The Invisible Man in particular is like watching a modern film designed to imitate a classic, but not quite being able to pull off the 'authentic' grainy appearance. Extremely impressive.
On top of this there are all sorts of extras that are worthy of an evening's entertainment in their own right. I've yet to watch the Spanish version of Dracula, but I expect that to be yet another pleasant surprise to look forward to.
Purchased in October 2019, the box only contains the booklet now, sadly not the Movie Posters previously available with this set. And as others have observed, the large plastic box is thin, something of a challenge to open and make sense of, and, from what I can make out, probably broken. But the first film we played, ‘Frankenstein’, was of very superior quality. For the princely sum of £1.73 per disc, I can live with the poor packaging, though I take the point of others about this. I’d say it was short-sighted of Universal, to sell a super product in a container not fit for purpose.
I don’t propose to review the 8 films ~ that has been done to death. I am simply going to give this particular set 5 Stars, despite the packaging shortcomings, because when all is said and done, the object of the exercise is to watch 8 great classic horror movies in the best possible format. And that is what is provided here.
The discs are packed with extra features, the package has a great booklet on the history of these films AND 8 postcard reproductions of advertisement posters for the movies.
All this for the minimal price of £14.39, that's £1.80 per film! No horror film fan can be without this.
For those looking for any negatives - there are a few white flecks and scratches throughout the films (I thought maybe they would have gone through and taken these out) but I personally don't mind, it keeps the charm of the originals while still looking great!
Overall, I'm very impressed with it and for the price I can't complain at all!
Highlights here include:
Dracula Spanish Version (arguably the better film, but for the lack of Bela Lugosi)
Bride of Frankenstein
The Invisible Man
The Wolf Man
Creature from the Black Lagoon
All excellent films, especially the Frankenstein films and The Invisible Man.
I can’t recommend this set highly enough. It’s the standard for the genre. Essential viewing. The transfers are also gorgeously clear, with great black definition.
as you can see from my pictures the box art is different and there was no prints of the movies included as stated in the description, the actual case was torn too so a really bad experience sadly as I was very excited to get this boxset.
I don't have time or the means to send back either as I'm disabled.
These are genuine classics that set THE standard for the genre. Everyone knows the films so no synopsis' here just an overview of the packaging and transfer quality.
Excellent and excellent in that order. Loads of extras, a set of beautiful post-card size reproductions of original artwork, a fascinating booklet full of fantastic art, trivia facts and info. The 4-way gatefold disc housing is adorned with stunning images which are cleaned -up and digitally re-processed but still true to the original source material, the Invisible Man still is particularly impressive. There really is too much to mention, they really have spent a lot of time and money on presentation.
And then there is the transfer quality. It is flawless. If they had had Hi-Def in the 1930's it would have looked like this.
Sound and picture quality are perfect in fact the whole package is perfect, except for The Bride of Frankenstein. It's a really bad film. The restoration/ transfer is fantastic but nothing can lift this out of the quagmire of painful nonsense.
Apart from that there is no reason not to buy it.
The list of movies speak for themselves, and are beautifully restored both in image quality and audio clarity.
The set includes a booklet giving descriptions of each film, along with images of the theatrical posters as well as a set of print cards that look really nice.
The quality of the outer case isn't that great, so be careful when handling it to make sure it doesn't start peeling.
Lastly, this is a bargain price too, considering how much content you get for your money!
Universal really did create a "Universe" with these films,one that I have loved since childhood.I'm in such awe of the creative forces at work here,to come up with so much from so little,to reinvent the gothic in such a fine way.What an extraordinary bunch of people...and creations!
Personal favorites like the The Wolfman,The Gillman,Frankenstein... have walked with me through life as much as some "real"people.
Like others,I already had these films and most of the follow-ups but the Blue -Ray touch really makes a difference.I agree with other reviewers,it's like seeing them for the first time.And a wonderful experience it is.
The transfers are across the board top notch!
Frankenstein (STILL entertaining)
The Invisible Man (Brilliant film)
Bride of Frankenstein
Creature From the Black Lagoon
The so so:
The Mummy (a little slow)
The Wolf Man (didn’t grab me)
Dracula (sacrilege I know - bored me to death)
Phantom of the Opera (An odd one - dated)
Extras are good, not amazing.
These films are around £10 seperately!