The Monsters of Universal Studios during the 1930’s to the 1950’s truly are a legacy. This collection, while including many films already released, is an important set. Bela Lugosi’s Dracula, Boris Karloff’s Frankenstein Monster, and Lon Chaney’s tortured Larry Talbot/The Wolfman have inspired generations of filmmakers, writers, and f/x engineers. The influence on our culture is impossible to deny. When asked about Frankenstein, most of us conjure the classic Karloff image long before we think of Mary Shelley or any …ther incarnation. These images are burned into our collective imaginations. They are signposts of fear that have been passed down from father to son and even mother to daughter. They are in essence our inheritance from an era long gone but somehow never forgotten. It is true that these films are tame by today’s standards. They have long ago lost the ability to terrify. That says more for the sadness of our own age than any blemish to these masterpiece classics. We are a hard people to frighten today, but no one ever did it better than these Universal classics.
The Monster Legacy Collection is made up of three individual monster collections which you can purchase separately…
- Dracula: The Legacy Collection features Dracula, the Spanish version of Dracula, Dracula’s Daughter, Son of Dracula, and House Of Dracula.
- Frankenstein: The Legacy Collection features Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein, Son of Frankenstein, Ghost of Frankenstein, and House of Frankenstein.
- The Wolf Man: The Legacy Collection features The Wolf Man, Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, She Wolf Of London, and Werewolf of London.
Each film is presented in the original mono. The films vary considerably, with Frankenstein one of the best. These are the same versions released as separate films a couple of years ago. Music can often be shrill. There are the occasional pops from print wear. Dialogue is usually clean. When you consider the age of these films I think you will find most of these audio tracks are as good as it gets.
Again these are the same prints previously released on DVD. Most are quite impressive when you think about how old they really are. All are pretty much 1.33:1 Bride of Frankenstein is a bit of a disappointment. The older laser version uses a superior print. Most of the restorations are quite good. I will include my comments from the original Frankenstein DVD as a reference.
The film has been wonderfully restored. Of course there are plenty of print artifacts, but I feel they are minor enough to actually add to the atmosphere of the film. Although black and white, shading is vital in this film and the transfer handles these subtleties admirably. I was particularly pleased with the detail now possible in Karloff’s makeup. Karloff’s facial lines provide a wonderful canvas of shadow and form. You will see it here like never before.
The packaging for this set is impressive. The discs are contained in green marble colored books. Each collection contains a single-sided disc and 1 double-sided disc. The best bonus has to be the busts of the three main monsters sculpted by the wonderful people at Sideshow toys. If you remember the awesome Universal Series Collections you will know what these guys look like. This has got to be the best bonus ever in DVD history.
I do have a complaint about the menus. You can access all titles from each disc only to be told to put in another disc after you click on some. There is a handy guide provided with each book, but the onscreen information can be frustrating. You can’t access special features until you click on a film first. (Any film will give you a features menu).
All of the features from the original DVD’s are once again included. This also covers the audio commentaries.
The only new features are 3 interviews with Stephen Sommers who did the Mummy remakes and now is doing Van Helsing. In each monster set you’ll find a 6 minute feature that shows cuts from Van Helsing and demonstrates how the new film pays homage to the original Universal creature.
You can check out the original release reviews for a description of the other bonus materials…
All other films contain only trailers and/or stills galleries.
I owned most of these films already as I’m sure most Universal Monster fans do. The busts were probably the greatest enticement to buy this collection. It was a wonderful marketing idea. They share a prominent position in my home theatre. This is a fine collection and well worth the price paid. The collection is a limited one, at least with the busts. These things are already showing up on eBay. If you can find one it will be a worthy investment. I’m glad that Universal is finally realizing the potential these franchise films have for them. New versions of Creature from the Black Lagoon and Bride of Frankenstein will soon join a third Mummy film and Van Helsing sequels already in development at Universal. It appears we will have many more chances to hear “The children of the night”.
Special Features List
- Contains all 13 films of the “Legacy Collection” on six discs plus exclusive hand-cast busts from sculptor Mat Falls/Sideshow Collectibles
- 3 interviews with Stephen Sommers
- Orignial documentary on the making of the films
- Additional commentary by film historian Rudy Behlmer
- Orignial documentary “The Frankenstein Files”
- The original documentary The Road to Dracula
- Feature film commentary by film historian David J. Skal
- New Phillip Glass score on Dracula
- Commentary by film historian Tom Weaver
- Documentary on the making of The Wolf Man