TV Party Tonight! #100

TV Party Tonight! #100

Thursday, 14 October 2021

Universal Classic Monsters
Icons of Horror Collection
[4K/Blu-Ray Combo]

Welcome, dear readers, to a very special and very spooky edition of TV Party Tonight! Sometimes, the stars just align into a collective beautiful moment, and this time, it did just that with our special coverage of the Universal Classics Monsters collection 4K box set. I’m not exactly a movie guy, but I’ve been trying to become one. And one way to do that is to indiscriminately watch anything on the Criterion channel. You cover a lot of ground there, but things will still inadvertently slip through the cracks. You can’t be a film buff without knowing the classics. And you can’t know the classics without knowing the Universal monster movies.

It was never the intention for Universal Studios to create a franchise around monster movies, but their take on horror spurned such fandom that they kept at it, producing some of the most memorable characters in all of cinema history. I can only imagine that this collection is the first of many, because it barely scratches the surface of their output. But really, what an itch has been scratched by the movies in this box set. These might not be the most revered of the Universal Monster movies, but they are grade-A heavy hitters: Dracula, Frankenstein, the Invisible Man, and the Wolf Man.

I’m quite embarrassed to say I had never watched these movies until now, and I didn’t think they’d play well. I was sorely mistaken: these movies are still highly entertaining, moving, and quite disturbing at times. Dracula is a pretty faithful telling of the Bram Stoker classic, and you’d be kidding yourself if you think every Dracula ever hasn’t been measured against this one. Bela Lugosi simply owns the character. Same with Frankenstein, which was the most disturbing of the movies here, played with all the heart imaginable by Boris Karloff. The Invisible Man was the story I was most unfamiliar with and I was still completely gripped by the story, in awe of the special effects, and curious where the story was going next. The Wolf Man was the surprising weakest link of the set. Of course, it set another standard in horror cinema, but although there are some great performances in it, Lon Chaney Jr plays the lead too much like a sad sap to make it fun to watch. All the movies have production value that holds up to this day with incredible makeup, and special effects that were decades ahead of their time. It’s truly a testament to these movies how easily one is engrossed in them.

Like I said, I hope this is the first of many collections, especially considering what a great box set this is, full of bonus features. For one thing, you also get the original Spanish version of Dracula, featurettes on all the lead actors and even commentary tracks by the pros. It’s a worthwhile addition to those of us who want to learn more about these movies and this era of Hollywood.

The Universal Classic Monster Icons of Horror Collection is a marvelous collection of essential horror films. The fact that these movies are still gripping and disturbing after all these years is a testament to their quality. No movie collection is complete without them. This is essential cinema.

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