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.
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.
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)