Wednesday, November 9, 2022



The Mummy (1932)
The Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
Phantom of the Opera (1943)
Creature from the Black Lagoon (1952) 

Label: Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
Region Code: Region-Free
Rating: Unrated
Video: The Mummy / The Bride of Frankenstein / Phantom of the Opera HDR10 2160p UHD Fullscreen (1.33:1) & Creature from the Black Lagoon Widescreen (1.85:1), The Mummy / The Bride of Frankenstein / Phantom of the Opera 1080p HD Fullscreen (1.33:1) & Creature from the Black Lagoon Widescreen (1.85:1)
Audio: English DTS-HD Master 2.0 Mono, French European, German, and Italian DTS-HD MA 2.0 Mono with Optional English SDH, Danish, Finnish, French European, German, Italian, Japanese, Latin American Spanish, Norwegian, Swedish Subtitles 
Directors: Karl Freund, James Whale, Arthur Lubin, Jack Arnold
Cast: Boris Karloff, Colin Clive, Elsa Lanchester, Claude Rains, Edgar Barrier, Leo Carrillo, Jane Farrar, J. Edward Bromberg, Fritz Feld, Frank Puglia, Steven Geray, Richard Carlson, Julie Adams, Richard Denning, Nestor Paiva, Whit Bissell, 

THE MUMMY (1932)
Rating: Unrated 
Duration: 73 Minutes 
Director: Karl Freund
Cast: Boris Karloff, Zita Johann, David Manners, Arthur Byron, Edward Van Sloan, Bramwell Fletcher, Noble Johnson

Karl Freund's The Mummy (1932) starring Boris Karloff (Isle of the Dead) is a film that gets better every time I revisit it, a classic Universal terror set in the 30's where an British archeological expedition lead by Sir Joseph Whemple uncover the tomb of an  Egyptian high priest named Imhotep (Karloff). After unearthing his sarcophagus they examine his mummified corpse, which was not mummified in the traditional way, it seems he was mummified and buried alive. One of the archeologist when alone inside the tomb reads from the life-giving "Scroll of Thoth" and Imhotep co.esto life, shuffling off with the scroll, and leaving the archeologist quite mad from the experience. Ten years later Sir Joseph's son Frank (David Manners, Dracula) returns to Egypt on another expedition which seems to be a bust, but a mysterious Egyptian historian named Ardeth Bey (Karloff, again) emerhes and literally points them in the right direction, and they  unearth the tomb of Princess Ankh-esen-amun. After depositing the relics at the Museum of Cairo they return to England where Frank meets Helen Grosvenor (Zita Johann), a half-Egyptian woman with whom he falls in love. Soon after Ardeth bay arrives in England, and we discover that Ardeth Bay is really the resurrected mummy from the start of the fil., and we learn of who he was in ancient Egypt, and his illicit love for Princess Ankh-esen-amun, and how she died and he attempted to resurrect her, which garnered him the unusual mummification and premature burial. He believes that Helen is the reincarnated spirit of his former forbidden love the Princess, so he sets about trying to reunite with her past self, which unfortunately requires that she be killed, mummified and then resurrected! A gorgeously shot film with atmosphere to spare, with Karloff being a powerful and magnetic presence, so much so that I always forget that the actual mummified Mummy is in quite short supply here, but his deep-stare presence as Ardeth more than makes up for it. The ancient Egyptian cultural and religious aspects of the story look fantastic but are largely made-up and hokey, but the story of reincarnation and timeless love are strong, and it's such a great looking flick. The camerawork is mighty impressive, one of my favorite scenes offers a shot of Helen and Ardeth staring onto a dream-pool with the camera craning over them and dropping down into the mist covered pool which dissolves into a flashback to ancient Egypt, it really stands out for me.  The performance by Karloff is mesmerizing, when he's hypnotizing Helen I was just as entranced as she was , the cool Mummy make-up with the flaky-skin and crumbling bandages is great stuff, and the pruny-skinned make-up of his alter-ego Ardeth Bay is super-creepy as well, enhanced by some great eye-work by Karloff. We also have the pre-code sultriness of Zita Johann who shows a fair amount of bare-shoulders and leg in this one, hubba-hubba.

Special Features: 
- Mummy Dearest: A Horror Tradition Unearthed (30 min) 
- He Who Made Monsters: The Life and Art of Jack Pierce (25 min) 
- Unraveling the Legacy of The Mummy (8 min) 
- The Mummy Archives (10min) 
- 100 Years of Universal: The Carl Laemmle Era (Int’l Version) (9 min) 
- Trailer Gallery: The Mummy (1932) (2 min), The Mummy’s Hand (1940) (2 min), The Mummy’s Tomb (1942) (1min), The Mummy’s Ghost (1944) (1 min), The Mummy’s Curse (1944) (1 min) 
- Audio Commentary with Film Historian Paul M. Jensen
- Audio Commentary with Rick Baker, Scott Essman, Steve Haberman, Bob Burns, and Brent Armstrong

Label: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
Duration: 74 Minutes 
Director: James Whale
Cast: Boris Karloff, Colin Clive, Valerie Hobson, Ernest Thesiger, Elsa Lanchester

James Whales superior sequel The Bride of Frankenstein is one of the best sequels ever made, it's nearly 90 years old it holds up to repeat viewings and always brings a smile to this monster-kids face. Opening with a prolonged set in a castle on a dark and stormy night where Frankenstein author Mary Shelley tells a group of gathered friends of how there's more to the story beyond her book, and then spins the continuing tale as the film begins proper, it's a very meta approach. The sequel begins moments after the conclusion of the first film, a trope used many times over since with, with the monster (Karloff) having survived the fire at the windmill from the first film. This time out Dr. Frankenstein (Colin Clive, Mad Love) teams-up with his even more demented mentor Doctor Praetorius (Ernst Thesiger, The Old Dark House) to create a new monster - this time a woman (Elsa Lanchester, Murder By Death), a proverbial Bride for Frankenstein's monster - even as a kid I thought that Lanchester's Bride creation with her white-streaked shock of hair was kind of cute - is that weird?  Thew only problem is that she is absolutely disgusted by the sight of Frankenstein's monster, shrieking at the top of her patchwork lungs when she sees him for the first time. Not so much a terror classic as it is a prescient and macabre send-up, but also quite a well-made and attractively shot film with Gothic atmosphere to spare, but it's the clever humor that keeps me coming back to this one. 

Special Features: 
- She’s Alive! Creating The Bride of Frankenstein (39 Minutes) 
- The Bride Of Frankenstein Archive (13 min) 
- 100 Years of Universal: Restoring the Classics (International Version) (9 min) 
- Theatrical Trailers: Frankenstein (1931) (2 min), The Bride of Frankenstein (1935) (1 min), The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942) (2 min), House of Frankenstein (1944) (2 min) 
- Audio Commentary with Scott MacQueen

Duration: 73 Minutes 
Director: Arthur Lubin
Cast: Nelson Eddy, Susanna Foster, Claude Rains, Edgar Barrier, Leo Carrillo, Jane Farrar, J. Edward Bromberg, Fritz Feld, Frank Puglia, Steven Geray

Universal's gorgeous Technicolor adaptation of Gaston Leroux's The Phantom of the Opera (1943) stars the fantastic Claude Rains (The Invisible Man) as Enrique Claudin, a violinist at the Paris Opera House, who is obsessed with a young rising-star opera singer Christine DuBois (Susanna Foster, The Climax). Claudin loses his position at the opera house when a emerging disability causes him to lose some function in his fingers, but despite this blow he attempts to pull himself up by his boot straps and sets out to compose a opera, which he pitches to a renown music publisher, who turns around and attempts to steal the music. Claudine confronts the  music-thief and murders him, but is horrifically scarred by the man's lover who throws etching acid into his face during the encounter. On the run and wanted for murder the now demented musician takes up hiding in the sewers below the opera house, donning a mask and cape he sets about eliminating anyone who might hinder Christina's rising star. As gorgeous as it is this is more about opera than it is the phantom, which has always irked me a bit. There are musical and dance numbers galore, all beautifully staged, performed and filmed, and it looks stunning in Technicolor with vibrant hues and luminous colors throughout, but the melodrama always bogs it down for me - though I will say that the performances from Nelson Eddy and Edgar Barrier (Cobra Woman) as Christine's dueling-suitors vying for her attentions, are quite charming. Raines likewise is fantastic and offers a solid turn, but is somewhat underused, though get get some solid action sequences towards the end. He's top-notch both without and behind the mask, but this is my least favorite flick on the set, but even still, the Technicolor presentation in restored 4K is glorious. 
Special Features: 
-  The Opera Ghost: A Phantom Unmasked (51 min) 
-  Production Photographs (6 min) 
- 100 Years of Universal: The Lot (Int’l version) (9 min) 
-  Theatrical Trailer (2 min) 
- Audio Commentary with Film Historian Scott MacQueen

Rating: G
Duration: 79 Minutes 
Director: Jack Arnold
Cast: Richard Carlson, Julie Adams, Richard Denning, Antonio Moreno, Nestor Paiva, Whit Bissell, Bernie Gozier

Special Features: 
- Creature from the Black Lagoon (3D Version) (Blu-ray only)
- Back to the Black Lagoon (40 min) 
- Production Photographs (11 min) 
- 100 Years of Universal: The Lot (9 min( 
- Trailer Gallery:  Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954) (4 min), Revenge of the Creature (1955) (2 min), The Creature Walks Among Us (1956) (1 min)
- Audio Commentary with Film Historian Tom Weaver

When a group of scientists embark on a fossil-hunting expedition deep up-river in the Amazon they find an intriguing petrified clawed- hand buried in the mud of embankment that seems to be some sort evolutionary aborration. As they continue their river expedition they find themselves under siege by the a clawed amphibious humanoid creature, who as it turns out, has quite a fixation on the sole female on the expedition, the attractive Kay Lawrence (Julie Adams, Psychic Killer). In one of the films most iconic scenes of the film Kay is swimming on the surface of the water unaware that the curious creature is mirroring her just below the surface. It's a scene that still gives me goosebumps watching it today. This is one that seemed to air on WPIX in New York quite a bit when I was a kid, and after many viewings of it I can easily say this is one of my favorite Universal flicks. It might not have the Gothic atmosphere of the other films on this four-film set but it has a certain jungle-adventure charm to it and the underwater scenes are well-done. The design of the Gill man suit still holds up even in UHD, it having been designed by Disney animator Milicent Patrick, the bodysuit then created Jack Kevan, and the creature's iconic head was sculpted by Chris Mueller Jr. - it's a friggin' work of art, the amount of detail in the texturing and webbing of the hands, the moving gills, the shading in the paint work... it's just so cool!

Audio/Video: All four of these classic Universal Monster flicks arrive in glorious UHD from Universal in their original aspect ratios in gloriously refined 2160p UHD. The Mummy, The Bride of Frankenstein and Phantom of the Opera in 1.33:1 full frame  aspect ratios, while The Creature from the Black Lagoon has a 1.85:1 widescreen showing. We also get the recycled 1080p HD Blu-rays from the 2012 set. These are quite attractive looking, they seem to use the same 4K scans used for their 2012 Blu-ray releases with some additional clean-up/restoration/restoration having been applied. The 4K resolution resolves grain more naturally, the textures and fine details are more faithfully rendered, the uptick is subtle but appreciable. More than textures, grain and finer points of detail the biggest upgrade, and the most appreciable, is the HDR10 color-grading, which offers deeper black and more nuanced contrast layering for the monochromatic films. For the Technicolor presentation of Phantom of the Opera the HDR10 color-grading is exponentially more impressive, the lush red and sharp gold and yellows really pop, the depth of color throughout seems miraculous considering that we are watching an 80 year-old films, it feels so refreshed but still organic. Audio comes by way of English DTS-HD Master 2.0 Mono, French European, German, and Italian DTS-HD MA 2.0 Mono with Optional English SDH, Danish, Finnish, French European, German, Italian, Japanese, Latin American Spanish, Norwegian, Swedish Subtitles. No Atmos upgrades for any of them but these tracks are solid, some have some age-related hiss present but it's mild at best and never intrusive. 

Universal carry-over all the extras from their previous 2012 Blu-rays on both the 4K UHD discs and the recycled 2022 Blu-ray discs. These offer hours of handsomely produced extras  were great nearly a decade ago and they're still great today with a wealth of commentaries, documentaries and featurettes exploring the monsters and the men who made them. The Creature from the Black Lagoon also features the corrected 3-D version of the film, which is how it was originally shot and presented. 

Like the first set this 8-disc UHD/BD set arrives in a thick cardboard sleeved hardcover digibook with a pretty flimsy slipcover with raised lettering. Again, while I do like the artwork and glossy monochromatic image adorned pages that feature reproductions of the iconic illustrated movie posters I have never been a huge fans of the way that the discs must be pulled and pushed into the sleeves, which requires that you be a bit fingers-on in extracting the discs, which causes fingerprints to get on the business side of disc. At least the digibook is a nice thick cardboard stock, the flimsy slipcover that houses the digibook is cheap by comparison - and these sets deserve rigid slip boxes - I am half tempted to try to source a custom box at some point. Inside you will find redemption codes for the digital UHD versions of all four films. 

The 4-film Universal Classic Monsters: Icons of Horror Collection Vol. 2 is a gorgeous presentation of these vintage nightmare movies; the picture quality left me wanting for naught, ensuring these timeless terrors will survive for future fans of fright to enjoy for decades to come. Here's hoping that we get a third volume in the near future, or better yet, the complete 30-film UHD set!