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News Article

Universal's Classic Monsters Essential Collection - Worth the Price?

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You know that the classic Universal monster movies are some of the most important and influential horror films ever made. But you also are not keen on spending $150+ for the newly released, fully remastered special edition box set. Let’s take a look at the set, the remaster, the bonus features. Then you can make an informed decision.

All of the films come with its own featurettes that discuss the historical and cultural significance of each film. These have clearly been made at least a decade ago (probably for an earlier special edition) but really, how much info can change about films that were made nearly 100 years ago? The films also include plenty of the expected archival goodies: posters, artwork, trailers, and the like. A collectible booklet inside the set includes a little bit of history and background on each film and their stars and directors.

Dracula

Released on Valentine’s Day, 1931, and marketed as a romance, Dracula is unique because while Tod Browning was filming during the day, a Spanish version was being shot at night, on the exact same sets with the exact same marks.. It was completely different crew, different cast, and different director. The results were eerily similar, yet utterly different. The entire, rarely-seen Spanish version of Dracula is included on the disc, restored, with subtitles, and an introduction from star Lupita Tovar Kohner. This is clearly the stand-out extra on Dracula, as is the restoration featurette. Also fun is Monster Tracks, a kind of “pop-up video” with behind-the-scenes tidbits that appear throughout the film.

Other bonus features on Dracula include an alternate score by Philip Glass; and commentary tracks by noted horror historian David J. Skal (seriously, you need to read his horror history, The Monster Show) and Dracula: Dead and Loving It screenwriter Steve Haberman (this one, I don’t get. That’s a tenuous connection at best.)

Frankenstein

The highlight of the Frankenstein set is a short film, “Boo,” that uses stock horror footage (from Nosferatu, Frankenstein, etc) with some new footage and a comical voice over. In addition to the Frankenstein featurette, there is a Boris Karloff featurette; a look at the importance of Universal Horror as a whole; commentaries from film historians Rudy Behlmer and Sir Christopher Frayling; and Monster Tracks.

Creature of the Black Lagoon

Creature features both the original 3D version of the film, and the remastered 2D version most people are familiar with. I do not have a 3D television so I couldn’t check that out. Other than that, it is the basic generic featurettes, archives, and historian commentary (this time from Tom Weaver.)

The Mummy, The Invisible Man, Bride of Frankenstein, The Wolf Man, Phantom of the Opera 

The special features on these discs are all rather limited. Each has archival photos / art / trailers. Each has a commentary from a film historian including Paul M. Jensen, Rudy Behlmer, Scott MacQueen, and Tom Weaver (though The Mummy does include a commentary track from FX master Rick Baker.) The featurettes range between the old featurettes, and generic featurettes on Universal Studios itself. For these discs, the highlights are certainly the remastered features themselves.

So what do you think? Will this set make it onto your Christmas list?

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