By Chris Nashawaty
Updated September 28, 2012 at 04:00 AM EDT
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Universal Classic Monsters: The Essential Collection

type
  • Movie

They were the Mount Rushmore of movie monsters: Dracula, Frankenstein’s creature, and the Wolf Man. Now, after years of slumber in their celluloid crypts, they (and others) rise from the dead in the glorious new eight-film Blu-ray set Universal Classic Monsters: The Essential Collection (1931-54, 10 hrs., 4 mins., Not Rated). Universal may be one of the biggest studios today, but in 1931 it was small-time — at least until director Tod Browning put a cape on a Hungarian actor named Bela Lugosi for 1931’s Dracula. With that Transylvanian tale of terror, Universal stumbled onto a formula that it would milk for the next 25 years: Take a mothballed piece of literature, add eye-popping makeup and F/X, and watch the box office simoleons roll in. Witness Dracula‘s follow-up, 1931’s Frankenstein, starring a bolt-necked Boris Karloff. Not only is the James Whale-directed chiller the ultimate mad-scientist movie, it’s also the most tragic creature feature ever made. No wonder the studio went back to Karloff for 1932’s The Mummy and 1935’s The Bride of Frankenstein — one of the all-time great sequels, with Elsa Lanchester as the big guy’s reluctant mate. Universal introduced more ghastly members of its menagerie over the years, with The Invisible Man, Phantom of the Opera, and Creature From the Black Lagoon (all included here). But none work on me as completely as 1941’s The Wolf Man. Lycanthropic leading man Lon Chaney Jr. looks more like a side of roast beef than a movie star, but the moodiness of the moors setting and the film’s groundbreaking full-moon transformation still give me goose bumps every time I watch it. Which, thanks to this box set, will be many, many more times. A

Universal Classic Monsters: The Essential Collection

type
  • Movie
mpaa
  • UNRATED
runtime
  • 604 minutes

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