The Wolf Man: Complete Legacy Collection
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The original Wolf Man is one of the silver screen's most unforgettable characters and, along with the other Universal Classic Monsters, defined the Hollywood horror genre. The Wolf Man: Complete Legacy Collection includes all 7 films from the original legacy including the eerie classic starring Lon Chaney Jr. and the timeless films that followed. These landmark motion pictures defined the iconic look of the tragic monster and continue to inspire countless remakes and adaptations that strengthen the legend of the Wolf Man to this day.
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All of the new transfers show more of the frame than the DVDs, with Werewolf of London and Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man picking up the most screen real estate and House of Frankenstein and She-Wolf of London gaining the least, though they all show more of the frame than we’ve ever seen before. Thankfully, the windowboxed credits are gone, although for some unknown reason the opening credits of House of Dracula are cropped more tightly on the Blu-ray than the DVD, but the movie itself reveals more of the frame than the DVD edition.
Black levels have also been significantly corrected, with the DVD transfers exhibiting watery blacks and weak midtones in comparison. The old DVD transfers actually look pretty bad now next to the new Blu-rays—washed out, overly grainy, too tightly cropped, and suffering from quite a bit of speckling and blemishing. The only downside to the corrected black level is the inevitable loss of some shadow detail in the darker scenes, but the interiors and daylight scenes look much more accurate and pleasing than on the old DVDS, with rich grayscale, deep blacks, and brilliant highlights. All the new transfers appear to me to have been treated with the same care and look just as pristine as the nine Classic Monsters Essential Collection Blu-rays.
Someone commented here that Werewolf of London and She-Wolf of London weren’t fully restored; I’m not sure what they mean, as they look every bit as good as the other three new Blu-ray transfers, with the same framing and tonal enhancements and cleanup as the rest. I can’t speak to the 4K remastering issue, but these look fantastic to me, and I’m not really concerned about 4K; from what I’ve read on the subject, the actual perceptual difference between 1080p and 4K is negligible unless you have a monster sized screen or projection system, but I digress. As far as I can see, these are the ultimate editions for the foreseeable future, and I can’t wait to see the Frankenstein, Dracula, Mummy, Creature, and Invisible Man Collections.
UPDATE 10/23/16: Having now watched the “controversial” 1080p transfers of both Werewolf of London and She-Wolf of London in their entirety, I wanted to add some detail to my original review and address some of the comments posted here. I have to concur with Monster Kid that the soundtrack of Werewolf of London does exhibit quite a few crackles and pops (particularly during the first half hour or so, after which it dies down quite a bit), although many of these occur over dialogue and/or music, so may have been difficult or impossible to eliminate. Visually, I would also agree that the transfer overall is not one of the better ones released so far, decidedly softer, darker, and grainier than the Frankenstein, Dracula, and 1932 Mummy Blu-rays, more on the level of the Bride of Frankenstein transfer (the worst of the original nine Universal Classic Monsters Blu-rays, in my opinion). That said, it appears that much of the softness resides in the original elements, as sharpness and detail vary quite a bit from scene to scene and even shot to shot, with many closeups and some medium shots looking impressively crisp and detailed, but others much less so. Werewolf of London has always looked worse than most of the other Universal classics, even on TV and DVD, so it’s possible that high-quality elements simply don’t exist. It has, however, been pretty thoroughly scrubbed of speckling and spotting, with only a very brief patch (maybe 30 seconds) of light vertical lining noticeable.
She-Wolf of London actually looks pretty fabulous to me. It is certainly much sharper and crisper than Werewolf of London, and rivals or betters (in the case of Bride of Frankenstein) the original nine UCM Blu-rays except for the fact that the cleanup was not as thorough, with some very light white speckling visible sporadically throughout. Hair, clothing, wood, foliage, and animal fur are very finely rendered (down to individual hairs and subtle fabric textures), especially in closeups, so I can’t buy the claim that She-Wolf is less sharp and detailed than the majority of the other HD transfers (it’s far superior to Bride in this regard). I also didn’t notice any crackling, clicks, or pops whatsoever during the movie, and I was listening for them, so I have to dismiss that charge as well. I just watched Criterion’s Cat People Blu-ray last week, and She-Wolf looks just as good or even better than that transfer, so I can’t really fault Universal on this one, other than for the minor speckling (which exists on many, many Blu-ray transfers I own from various video companies).
So, bottom line, Werewolf of London is probably never going to look as good as the best of the Universal transfers, even remastered in 4K, and it’s questionable whether all of the audio popping can ever be completely eliminated (though some that occurs during essentially dead air surely could be). Other than the minor speckling, She-Wolf looks and sounds just fine to me, and any increase in sharpness and detail from a 4K transfer would be minimal at best, and barely noticeable, if at all, except perhaps on a super-size projection screen. (Remember that only the master is 4K. Everything gets bumped to 1080p for Blu-ray, so you will never see the full detail of the 4K master on disc unless the movies are eventually released in 4K.) I consider myself a picture quality freak, and I am overall pleased, if not quite thrilled to death, with both of these transfers, a bit less so with Werewolf of London. Would I have preferred full 4K restorations of everything? Of course, but who knows if Universal will ever get around to doing a full 4K remaster and restoration on these two titles. If you’re going to pass on this set over some audio popping and minor speckling, that’s your option, but I strongly suspect that the average viewer will watch these and wonder what all the fuss is about. And no, I don’t work for Universal and am not making excuses for them; I have had plenty of beefs with their mastering, packaging, and marketing strategies over the years, but they seem to be getting their act together, so I have to give credit where it is due.
I recently purchased a Blu-Ray version of Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man from France. Comparing the French Blu-Ray release to this one this release is top notch. The French release had white dots throughout the frames in the beginning and even a splice in the titles. This release is sharp and clear - free of artifacts and changes in lighting.
The worst of this collection - although still fantastic video - is Werewolf of London. Throughout the soundtrack are lots of audio pops, but still, the quality of this print compared to others is high quality.
She-Wolf of London (with June Lockhart of Lassie and Lost in Space) is another masterful release in the best quality possible. Sharp and clean, it's a great addition to the collection, although don't expect the same wolfy face you've come to expect in the other werewolf movies.
This is the ultimate Wolf Man collection. If you have this in DVD, I highly recommend upgrading to this Blu-Ray edition. You will be thrilled with the quality. Even though there aren't any extras on the Son/Ghost or the triple movie disc except for unmastered theatrical trailers, the value of such high-quality films outweighs the lack of extras.
If you're a fan of these classic film, this is a must-buy collection!
Disc 1: "The Wolf Man"
Disc 2 : "Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man", "House Of Frankenstein" & "House Of Dracula"
Disc 3 : "Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein"
Disc 4 : "Werewolf Of London" & "She-Wolf Of London"
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But this is still a nice collection to have especially if you are a...Read more