Universal Classic Monsters: The Essential Collection
by Phil Boatwright

The Ultimate Box Set with Eight Films Plus Over 12 Hours of Bonus Features Arrives October 2nd, Just in Time for Halloween!

For the first time ever, eight of the most iconic cinematic masterpieces of the horror genre are available together on Blu-rayTM as Universal Classic Monsters: The Essential Collection debuts on October 2, 2012 from Universal Studios Home Entertainment. Digitally restored from high resolution film elements in perfect high-definition picture and perfect high-definition sound for the first time ever, Universal Classic Monsters: The Essential Collection brings together the very best of Universal’s legendary monsters—imaginative and technically groundbreaking tales of terror that launched a uniquely American movie genre. This definitive collection features eight films on Blu-ray, a collectible 48-page book featuring behind-the-scenes photographs, original posters, correspondence and much more. Each iconic film is accompanied by an array of bonus features that tell the fascinating story of its creation and history, including behind-the-scenes documentaries, filmmaker commentaries, interviews, storyboards, photo galleries, and trailers. Especially appealing for fans are a never-before-seen featurette about the restoration of Dracula and the first ever offering of Creature from the Black Lagoon in its restored Blu-ray 3D version.

But, should we watch horror films?

The enduring roller coaster proves that people of all ages like to be scared – so long as there's really nothing to fear. Well, the horror genre has lasted throughout the history of movies, with just that agenda – to scare the Sweet Tarts out of us. The horror film has, however, undergone more transformations than Lady Gaga's wardrobe. In the '30s and '40s, horror films such as Dracula, Frankenstein and Cat People were actually morality plays, where good was triumphant over evil. And because of "restrictive" decency codes, studios mandated that their filmmakers be careful not to offend the church-going public. So, when you view The Bride of Frankenstein or even Dracula, you can detect a morality tale amid the thrills and chills.

What’s this? Phil Boatwright is suggesting we get horror movies!

Use your own discernment, of course, but I feel folks can learn much from the commentary tracks on these and other films. They give insight concerning the social behavior of that era, and reveal how movie-going sensibilities have changed throughout the years.

Many of you have read my appreciative critique of M. Night Shyamalan’s psychological thriller, Signs, about alien beings coming to take over Earth. In it suspenseful Hitchcockian elements serve to unnerve the audience. Added to the unsettling atmosphere, the story’s subtext concerns a man losing then regaining his faith. The film also has an intriguing take concerning coincidence in our daily lives. Do things happen by chance or do they serve to develop our nature? Shyamalan’s film is about finding our way – or finding our way back. I guess you could say it’s a thinking man’s (or woman’s) horror movie.

Thought-provoking horror movies are few and far between. And while the opinions above explain much, I’m not sure any of us realize the true purpose or effect of horror movies on our psyches. We are bombarded by a great deal of media influence, much of which doesn’t feed the soul. Some will defend the escapism value of the horror film, while others steadfastly maintain that it is a genre with a demonic impact. Here’s something we should consider: like all living things, the spirit of man needs to be nourished.

I couldn’t possibly say it any better than the following quote. And it came from a movie. You might keep it in mind when attending any new release. “Your head is like a gas tank. You have to be really careful about what you put in it, because it might just affect the whole system” (I’ve Heard the Mermaids Singing, Miramax Films).

One thing I am sure of, I’d rather people watch this classic fright flicks rather than most coming out of Hollywood today. The classics have more substance and lots less gore.

Below find more info on the released films from Universal.

Synopses and Bonus Features

Dracula (1931). The original 1931 movie version of Bram Stoker’s classic tale has for generations defined the iconic look and terrifying persona of the famed vampire. Dracula owes its continued appeal in large part due to Bela Lugosi’s indelible portrayal of the immortal Count Dracula and the flawless direction of horror auteur Tod Browning. The Universal Classic Monsters: The Essential Collection includes the original version of this chilling and evocative tale, as well as the rarely seen Spanish version of Dracula. Filmed simultaneously with the English language version, the Spanish version of Dracula is an equally ominous vision of the horror classic shot with the same sets and script. Cinematographer George Robinson and a vibrant cast including Carlos Villarias and Lupita Tovar deliver a chilling and evocative tale filled with the same terror, mystery, and intrigue.

Bonus Features:
Dracula, the 1931 Spanish version, with Introduction by Lupita Tovar Kohner
The Road to Dracula
Lugosi: The Dark Prince
Dracula: The Restoration – New Featurette Available for The First Time!
Monster Tracks: Interactive Pop-Up Facts About the Making of Dracula
Dracula Archives
Score by Philip Glass performed by the Kronos Quartet
Feature Commentary by Film Historian David J. Skal
Feature Commentary by Steve Haberman, Screenwriter of Dracula: Dead and Loving It
Trailer Gallery

Frankenstein (1931). Boris Karloff stars as the screen’s most tragic and iconic monster in what many consider to be the greatest horror film ever made. Dr. Henry Frankenstein (Colin Clive) dares to tamper with the essential nature of life and death by creating a monster (Karloff) out of lifeless human body parts. Director James Whale’s adaptation of the Mary Shelley novel and Karloff’s compassionate portrayal of a creature groping for identity make Frankenstein a timeless masterpiece.

Bonus Features:
The Frankenstein Files: How Hollywood Made a Monster
Karloff: The Gentle Monster
Monster Tracks: Interactive Pop-Up Facts About The Making of Frankenstein
Universal Horror
Frankenstein Archives
Boo!: A Short Film
Feature Commentary with Film Historian Rudy Behlmer
Feature Commentary with Historian Sir Christopher Frayling
100 Years Of Universal: Restoring the Classics
Trailer Gallery

The Mummy (1932). Horror icon Boris Karloff stars in the original 1932 version of The Mummy in which a team of British archaeologists accidentally revives a mummified high priest after 3,700 years. Alive again, he sets out on an obsessive—and deadly—quest to find his lost love. Over 50 years after its first release, this brooding dream-like horror classic remains a cinematic masterpiece.

Bonus Features:
Mummy Dearest: A Horror Tradition Unearthed
He Who Made Monsters: The Life and Art Of Jack Pierce
Unraveling the Legacy of The Mummy
The Mummy Archives
Feature Commentary by Rick Baker, Scott Essman, Steve Haberman, Bob Burns and Brent Armstrong
Feature Commentary by Film Historian Paul M. Jensen
100 Years Of Universal: The Carl Laemmle Era
Trailer Gallery

The Invisible Man (1933). Claude Rains delivers an unforgettable performance in his screen debut as a mysterious doctor who discovers a serum that makes him invisible. Covered by bandages and dark glasses, Rains arrives in a small English village and attempts to hide his amazing discovery, but the drug’s side effects slowly drive him to commit acts of unspeakable terror. Based on H.G. Welles’ classic novel and directed by the master of macabre, James Whale, The Invisible Man fueled a host of sequels and features revolutionary special effects that are still imitated today.

Bonus Features:
Now You See Him: The Invisible Man Revealed
Production Photographs
Feature Commentary with Film Historian Rudy Behlmer
100 Years of Universal: Unforgettable Characters

Bride of Frankenstein (1935). The acclaimed sequel to the original Frankenstein has become one of the most popular horror classics in film history. The legendary Boris Karloff reprises his role as the screen’s most misunderstood monster, now longing for a mate of his own. Colin Clive is back as the proud and overly ambitious Dr. Frankenstein, who creates the ill-fated bride (Elsa Lanchester). The last horror film directed by James Whale features a haunting musical score that helps make The Bride of Frankenstein one of the finest and most touching thrillers of its era.

Bonus Features:
She’s Alive! Creating The Bride Of Frankenstein
The Bride Of Frankenstein Archive
Feature Commentary with Scott MacQueen
100 Years of Universal: Restoring the Classics
Trailer Gallery

The Wolf Man (1941). Originally released in 1941, The Wolf Man introduced the world to a new Universal movie monster and redefined the mythology of the werewolf forever. Featuring a heartbreaking performance by Lon Chaney Jr. and groundbreaking make-up by Jack Pierce, The Wolf Man is the saga of Larry Talbot, a cursed man who transforms into a deadly werewolf when the moon is full. The dreamlike atmospheres, elaborate settings and chilling musical score combine to make The Wolf Man a masterpiece of the genre.

Bonus Features:
Monster by Moonlight
The Wolf Man: From Ancient Curse to Modern Myth
Pure in Heart: The Life and Legacy of Lon Chaney, Jr.
He Who Made Monsters: The Life and Art of Jack Pierce
The Wolf Man Archives
Feature Commentary with Film Historian Tom Weaver
100 Years of Universal: The Lot
Trailer Gallery

Phantom of the Opera (1943). This lavish retelling of Gaston Leroux's immortal horror tale stars Claude Rains as the masked phantom who haunts the Paris Opera House. A crazed composer who schemes to make beautiful young soprano Christine DuBois (Susanna Foster) the star of the opera company, the Phantom also wreaks revenge on those he believes stole his music. Nelson Eddy, as the heroic baritone, tries to win the affections of Christine as he tracks down the murderous, horribly disfigured Phantom.

Bonus Features:
The Opera Ghost: A Phantom Unmasked
Production Photographs
Feature Commentary with Film Historian Scott MacQueen
100 Years of Universal: The Lot
Theatrical Trailer

Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954). Captured and imprisoned for scientific study, a living “amphibious missing link” becomes enamored with the head researcher’s female assistant (Julie Adams). When the hideous creature escapes and kidnaps the object of his affection, a crusade is launched to rescue the helpless woman and cast the terrifying creature back to the depths from which he came. Featuring legendary makeup artist Bud Westmore’s brilliantly designed monster, Creature from the Black Lagoon is an enduring tribute to the imaginative genius of its Hollywood creators.

Bonus Features:
The Creature From The Black Lagoon in 3D
Back to The Black Lagoon
Production Photographs
Feature Commentary with Film Historian Tom Weaver
100 Years of Universal: The Lot
Trailer Gallery