Blu-ray Review: Universal Classic Monsters: Complete 30-Film Collection (24-Disc Set)

By , Contributor
October is here and with it, the onslaught of Halloween-themed events. And so it is that we welcome the arrival of the entire 30-film run of Universal's Classic Monsters movies in a gigantic, 24-disc Blu-ray collection. The set is simply an essential cinematic history lesson, containing some of (if not the) most iconic horror-themed imagery ever committed to film. And to have them all housed together in one, monster-sized boxed set is sheer heaven for lovers of these atmospheric, classic chillers. The discs are in keepcases, collected not in strict chronological order but rather "themed" by their particular monster.

Universal Monsters Dracula BD.jpgWe're talking Tod Browning's Dracula (1931), featuring one of the most unforgettable performances of all-time: Bela Lugosi as the titular vampire (the Spanish-language sister production is included as well, making this—in fact—a 31-film collection) a fascinating side-by-side study in two directors' very different approaches to the same material). Also from 1931, James Whale's inimitable Frankenstein, with Boris Karloff turning in a lead performance no less memorable than Lugosi's. Whale also helmed the often higher-praised sequel, Bride of Frankenstein (1935), which also saw Karloff's return.

Whale was behind The Invisible Man (1933), with a chilling performance by Claude Rains (and still-clever special effects). Speaking of Karloff, by the way, there's his iconic take as Imhotep in Karl Freund's The Mummy (1932). And this all simply scratching the surface. All these classics' sequels (of admittedly varying quality, but all well worth seeing) are collected here. From 1931 to 1956 (The Creature Walks Among Us), with three comedic detours starring Abbott and Costello for good measure, there are 25 years' worth of horror-movie evolution here.

Universal Monsters Creature BD.jpgImportant note: "Universal Pictures Home Entertainment has identified a manufacturing issue which may affect the presentation of the 3D Blu-ray offering of the film Revenge of the Creature... as part of Universal Classic Monsters: Complete 30-Film Collection and the Creature From the Black Lagoon: Complete Legacy Collection. This issue is isolated to this particular film and does not affect any other discs in the collections."

So the long and the short of it is, if you encounter an issue with this one disc, contact Universal at USHEConsumerRelations@visionmediamgmt.com for information on obtaining a replacement. I've done so and will update the review once the newly-corrected disc has been received. The replacement program should take care of everyone who has a defective disc.

As for the films, these are treasures to be passed on from generation to generation. Yes, some context must be applied because it is impossible to ignore the creakiness that has dated these films. Thankfully a lot of the context comes in the form of the various documentaries and audio commentaries (by film historians, primarily), which have been ported over from earlier Blu-ray and/or DVD editions.

Universal Monsters Frankenstein BD.jpgYounger viewers just discovering these classics should be forgiven for wondering how anyone could've been genuinely scared by these. And it's an unavoidable fact that any of the sequels were programmers—quick-buck cheapies that were not necessarily crafted with the same care as the originals (see the barely-an-hour-long Mummy sequels, for example—though these are still entertaining, especially Tomb, Ghost, and Curse, all starring Lon Chaney Jr.).

By the time the all-star blowouts House of Frankenstein (1944) and House of Dracula (1945) came along, the chills had been mostly replaced with cornball cheesiness. Still, it's a treat to follow the full progress of the Universal series as it unfolded. And buried treasure is still waiting to be uncovered by viewers unfamiliar with the less-famous titles (Boris Karloff is quite effective as Dr. Gustav Niemann in House of Frankenstein, for example). 

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Update to follow once the new replacement disc for Revenge of the Creature is issued. But until then, the full list (these make for great Halloween-time marathons):

Dracula (1931) 
Dracula (Spanish-language version; 1931) 
Frankenstein (1931) 

Universal Monsters Mummy BD.jpg
The Mummy (1932) 
The Invisible Man (1933) 
The Mummy’s Hand (1940)
 
Universal Monsters Wolf Man BD.jpg
The Wolf Man (1941) 
The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942) 
The Mummy’s Ghost (1942) 
The Mummy’s Tomb (1942) 
Invisible Agent (1942) 

Universal Monsters Phantom BD.jpg
The Phantom of the Opera (1943) 
Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943) 
Son of Dracula (1943) 
House of Frankenstein (1944) 
The Mummy’s Curse (1944) 

Universal Monsters Invisible Man BD.jpg
The Invisible Man’s Revenge (1944) 
House of Dracula (1945)
She-Wolf of London (1946) 
Abbott and Costello Meets Frankenstein (1948) 
Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man (1951) 
Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954) 
Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy (1955) 
Revenge of the Creature (1955) 
The Creature Walks Among Us (1956)

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Chaz Lipp is a Las Vegas-based musician and freelance writer. His new jazz album 'Good Merlin' is now available.

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