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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Also included in the box set is a nice collectible booklet and eight poster cards (measuring just under 6" x 5").
This product is a UK Import, but the discs are region-free and will function perfectly in US Blu-Ray players.
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.
Every film on this set has been given top notch treatment in regards to their restoration, especially Dracula, which was the film that needed it the most. I was absolutely blown away by its new look and sound. Unfortunately, I cannot comment on the 3D transfer of "Creature from the Black Lagoon," which requires a 3D TV and Blu-ray player. The 2D, however, looks fantastic, and is now finally in its original anamorphic widescreen format.
The bonus features on this set are great, although many of them are repeats from past sets. Nevertheless, some of these are new and worth a look.
The one downside to this set is the inclusion of the 1940s Claude Rains version of "The Phantom of the Opera," which was also included in the Universal Studios Classic Monster Collection from 2000. Can someone tell me why Universal considers this version to be "essential" amongst these others? While the film is good, and Rains' performance is one for the books, the film seems completely out of place with the others on this set, in terms of look and feel. The original silent version of "Phantom," with Lon Chaney would've been a better fit. Or why not include "Son of Frankenstein," completing the Boris Karloff Frankenstein trilogy, instead of just including the first two? It's a lesser film than the first two, but nevertheless very underrated and should've been included here instead of the 40s "Phantom."
In the end, however, this set is still a must own for fans of the classic monsters. Believe me when I say that if you loved these films before, you'll love them even more now! You've never seen them like this before!
Excellent sound and video quality. Includes subtitles, which my autistic son prefers to have on, so I was very pleased. The case is nice, no struggling to remove the discs but they are still nice and secure.
The extras are great! The movie poster postcards are suitable for framing. The enclosed booklet has interesting information about these movies and the history of monster movies.
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