Universal Classic Monsters: The Essential CollectionUniversal Classic Monsters: The Essential Collection
Universal Studios

Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi
Review by Brian M. Sammons

Get it.

What, do you need more than that? Really? It’s eight of the classic Universal monster movies on Blu-ray for the first time ever. It’s their greatest hits: Dracula, Frankenstein, The Mummy, The Invisible Man, The Bride of Frankenstein, The Wolfman, Phantom of the Opera, and Creature from the Black Lagoon. It doesn’t get any more classic, or any better, than this, folks. All of these movies are must watches and must haves for any serious horrorhead. And if you’re one of those people who bemoan “oh I don’t like old black and white movies” all I can say to you is grow up and get serious about your horror fandom. This is Horror 101, people. It should be considered mandatory viewing for anyone who ever said “I love horror movies.” Sure, some parts are hokey and seem dated now, but then some of these films are over 80 years old. Name anything that old that doesn’t seem dated today? However, old and dated does not mean that these films are not good. On the contrary, it is a testament to just how great they are that people are still excited about them all these years later. I mean, do you think anyone is going to give a damn about any of the Saw flicks, the Paranormal Activity series, the Hostel films, or any of the hundreds of direct to video zombie movies 80 years from now? Hell no. But even in 2092 I’d bet they’re still going to be watching and enjoying all of these classic monster movies. Because there’s a reason they’re called classics and not just ‘really old.’

Now I’m not going to discuss the plots of these movies in this review because you already should know what they’re all about. They’re classics, remember? Because of that these films have become part of the collective consciousness of pretty much the entire world, that’s how influential they are. If for some odd reason you haven’t seen one of these eight movies and don’t know anything about it, I actually envy you a little. Should you watch it, and you really should, you’re in for a treat.

I will say that these movies have never looked better. Taking black and white movies this old and giving them a HD transfer could not have been easy. In fact, there’s a featurette about the process included in this set among a tone of other extras (see below). But all the hard work paid off big time. The amount of detail that can be seen for the first time is incredible as is just how good it all looks. Yes not every movie is perfectly crystal clear. For example, The Invisible Man, one of my favorites from this impressive list, does have some grain issues that pop up from time to time. But for a film that’s 80 years old, looking as good as it does here is still, in a word, amazing.

Furthermore some kudos must also be given to the people in charge to clearing up the audio on these very old films. In my old DVD copy of Dracula there was a constant hiss on the soundtrack. Now that hiss is mostly gone (there’s only so much they could do with the ancient masters) and where it is still present, it is noticeably lessened. Every word and every note of the wonderful movie soundtrack can be clearly heard for the first time in years. And speaking of the movie music, you know when old timey people say “they don’t make ‘em like that anymore”? Movie scores like the ones we got here are exactly the kind of things they’re talking about.

As for the extras on these discs, well simply put, there’s a ton of them. Actually there are too many to list them all, but man do they impress with both quantity and quality. Each movie comes with an audio commentary track and some films, like The Mummy, come with more than one. Each film has a rather lengthy featurette about the history of the movie and there are also a number of other shorter bits included. Sticking with The Mummy from above, it also has 25 minute doc on makeup artist Jack Pierce, the man responsible for the iconic look of many of Universal’s monsters. There’s another eight minute featurette on The Mummy, just in case the previous 30 minute one missed anything. It also has a still/poster gallery set to the haunting theme from the movie and trailers for not only The Mummy but the four other mummy movies that would follow it. Lastly it has yet another featurette on Universal founder Carl Laemmle. And let’s not forget the aforementioned two audio commentaries. All that is on just one disc and this set has eight discs. So yeah, there’s a whole lot of extra to be had here. Oh and did I forget to mention that this set actually has nine movies in it, not eight? Yep, the entire Spanish version of Dracula can be found in here as well. Combine that bonus film with the amazing restoration job on everything, well over twelve hours of special features, and a 47 page collector’s booklet and you’ve got on hell of a box set any monster maniac would be proud to own.

This new Blu-ray set from Universal is a must have. I can’t sing its praises loud enough or rate it any higher. This is how all box sets should be done and all of these movies have earned the right to be called classic. Every horror fan should have this in their collection. It is, by far, the killer release of this Halloween season. Now stop reading this and go get your copy today.

About Brian M. Sammons

Brian M. Sammons has penned stories that have appeared in the anthologies: Arkham Tales, Horrors Beyond, Monstrous, Dead but Dreaming 2, Horror for the Holidays, Deepest, Darkest Eden and others. He has edited the books; Cthulhu Unbound 3, Undead & Unbound, Eldritch Chrome, Edge of Sundown, Steampunk Cthulhu, Dark Rites of Cthulhu, Atomic Age Cthulhu, World War Cthulhu and Flesh Like Smoke. He is also the managing editor of Dark Regions Press’ Weird Fiction line. For more about this guy that neighbors describe as “such a nice, quiet man” you can check out his infrequently updated webpage here: http://brian_sammons.webs.com/ and follow him on Twitter @BrianMSammons.

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