UNIVERSAL CLASSIC MONSTERS: ICONS OF HORROR COLLECTION (4K UHD Review)
Review by Josey, the Sudden Cat🙀
Of course, we must all bow to the altar of these guys. Time, countless sequels, imitations, rip-offs, homages, parodies and re-imaginings may have dulled their ability to scare later generations, but horror as we know it today absolutely would not exist without them.
This set is aptly titled...no sequels or spin-offs with other actors stepping into roles made iconic by someone else...just the originals that started it all (and saved a studio): Dracula, Frankenstein, The Invisible Man and The Wolf Man. One would think 1932’s The Mummy would also be included, but never mind. What’s here is truly classic, and now presented in 4K...
...and all four films look marvelous. Sometimes the format doesn’t lend itself too well to older films - especially black & white ones - but here, the depth of some of the imagery is remarkable, especially noticeable in the foreboding landscape imagery present in Dracula and Frankenstein. In fact, those two titles benefit the most from the 4K treatment, though overall video quality of The Invisible Man is the biggest improvement over the previous Blu-ray (which was pretty good to begin with). The audio tracks are decent, as well, but not a discernible improvement over recent Blu-ray releases.
|Only here for the beer.|
Each 4K disc - as well as the accompanying Blu-rays - comes with loads of bonus features (outlined below) about the films and Universal Studios’ history with the horror genre. None of them are new, but all are worth checking out. Ultimately, the main reasons to consider this set are purely aesthetic. All of them look great in 4K and the packaging is cool (though they should have gone with traditional disc trays instead of cardboard sleeves). It goes without saying that all four films belong in any serious horror fan’s collection, and if one hasn’t yet done so, going with this one makes the most sense.
4K, BLU-RAY & DIGITAL COPIES
SPANISH VERSION - Filmed concurrently with the English version.
FEATURETTES - “The Road to Dracula” (a history of the film’s production and influence); “Lugosi: The Dark Prince” (an appreciation of the horror icon); “Dracula: The Restoration”
ALTERNATE SCORE - Composed by Phillip Glass, this is an interesting feature, which provides an effective modern score to a film that was largely bereft of one.
2 AUDIO COMMENTARIES - 1) By historian David J. Saul; 2) By screenwriter Steve Hberman.
DRACULA ARCHIVES - Gallery of promotional artwork & production stills
MONSTER TRACKS - Pop-up trivia feature (I’ve always loved these).
TRAILERS - For Dracula and some of its sequels/spin-offs.
FEATURETTES - “The Frankenstein Files: How Hollywood Made a Monster” (a history of the film’s production and influence); “Karloff: The Gentle Monster” (an appreciation of the horror icon); “100 Years of Universal: Restoring the Classics
UNIVERSAL HORROR - By far, the best of the bonus features, this is a 95 minute feature-length documentary of the studio’s horror history. Hosted by Kenneth Branagh.
2 AUDIO COMMENTARIES - 1) By historian Rudy Behlmer; 2) By historian Sir Christopher Frayling.
“BOO!” - Short comedy film.
FRANKENSTEIN ARCHIVES - Gallery of promotional artwork & production stills
MONSTER TRACKS - Pop-up trivia feature.
TRAILERS - For Frankenstein and some of its sequels/spin-offs.
The Invisible Man
FEATURETTES - “Now You See Him: The Invisible Man Revealed!” (a history of the film’s production); “100 Years of Universal: Unforgettable Characters” (not just horror characters).
AUDIO COMMENTARY - By historian Rudy Behlmer.
TRAILERS - For The Invisible Man and Invisible Agent.
The Wolf Man
FEATURETTES - “Monster by Moonlight” a history of the film and its sequels, hosted by John Landis, who I personally find insufferable); “Pure in Heart: The Life and Legacy of Lon Chaney Jr” (the guy had a wild, tumultuous ride); “The Wolf Man: From Ancient Curse to Modern Myth”; “100 Years of Universal: The Lot”; “He Who Made Monsters: The Life and Art of Jack Pierce” (wonderful doc about the legendary make-up artist).
AUDIO COMMENTARY - By historian Tom Weaver.
THE WOLF MAN ARCHIVES - Gallery of promotional artwork & production stills.TRAILERS - Trailers for various horror films, mostly werewolf related, including The Wolf Man.