Under the Radar

Review: 'Universal Classic Monsters' DVD Box Set

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Universal Classic Monsters: Complete 30-Film Collection is a DVD box set that fills in most of the gaps left by the excellent Universal Classic Monsters eight-film Blu-ray collection from 2012. The set covers the golden era of Universal monster movies from 1931-1956 and features separate DVD collections for Dracula, Frankenstein, the Mummy, the Wolf Man, the Invisible Man, the Phantom of the Opera and the Creature from the Black Lagoon.

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Each of the sets can be purchased individually if you don't want to commit to the full $200 retail price of the complete box, but that leads to quite a bit of duplication between individual sets: House of Frankenstein (to cite one example) features the Frankenstein monster, Dracula and the Wolf Man, so that movie repeats in each monster's set.

Horror movies were a huge commercial and cultural force in the 1930s and most of the great pictures from that era are included in the earlier Blu-ray set. As time went on, the movie budgets got smaller and Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff and Lon Chaney Jr. stopped showing up in the casts. By the early '50s, the monsters were used as comic relief in a couple of Abbott & Costello movies that are included in this set.

There was a bit of a commercial comeback in the 1950s with the 3-D horror/sci-fi hybrid Creature from the Black Lagoon movies, but Universal abandoned the characters for almost half a century before slowly beginning to revisit them in the mid-2000s. Universal is now committing to a Marvel Universe-inspired series of films that may or may not be starting with the new Dracula Untold movie.

The one title that sticks out in this collection is The Phantom of the Opera, the 1943 film that's the only color movie in the collection and the only color movie in the previous Blu-ray set. Universal still hasn't restored and released the original 1925 silent film starring the Lon Chaney Sr, the movie that arguably inspired the entire horror movie business at Universal. The color movie isn't bad, it just doesn't feel part of the collection with the rest of these movies.

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Still, a lot of the later movies are just as interesting as their more well-known predecessors, even if they're not as good. Hammer Films revived the horror genre in the '60s and '70s with Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, but these are the movies that directly inspired those films and these are the characters that live on in Halloween costumes all over the world.

Here's the complete list of movies in the collection.

  • Dracula (1931)
  • Frankenstein (1931)
  • The Mummy (1932)
  • The Invisible Man (1933)
  • The Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
  • Werewolf of London (1935)
  • Dracula's Daughter (1936)
  • Son of Frankenstein (1939)
  • The Invisible Man Returns (1940)
  • The Mummy's Hand (1940)
  • The Invisible Woman (1940)
  • The Wolf Man (1941)
  • The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942)
  • Invisible Agent (1942)
  • The Mummy's Tomb (1942)
  • Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943)
  • Phantom of the Opera (1943)
  • Son of Dracula (1943)
  • The Invisible Man's Revenge (1944)
  • The Mummy's Ghost (1944)
  • House of Frankenstein (1944)
  • The Mummy's Curse (1944)
  • House of Dracula (1945)
  • She-Wolf of London (1946)
  • Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)
  • Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man (1951)
  • Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954)
  • Revenge of the Creature (1955)
  • Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy (1955)
  • The Creature Walks Among Us (1956)
BONUS FEATURES:
  • Behind the Scenes Documentaries
  • The 1931 Spanish Version of Dracula
  • Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff, Lon Chaney Jr. and Jack Pierce Featurettes
  • 13 Expert Feature Commentaries
  • Archival Footage
  • Production Photographs
  • Theatrical Trailers
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