Universal Horror Collection: Vol. 1 (Blu-ray Review)

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Universal Horror Collection: Vol. 1 (Blu-ray Review)
Rated: UR/Region A/Number of Discs 4
Available from Scream Factory

The Black Cat (1934)
Directed By: Edgar G. Ulmer
Starring: Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, David Manners
Rated: UR/Region A/1:33/1080p

Honeymooning in Hungary, Joan and Peter Allison share their train compartment with Dr. Vitus Verdegast, a courtly but tragic man who is returning to the remains of the town he defended before becoming a prisoner of war for fifteen years. When their hotel-bound bus crashes in a mountain storm and Joan is injured, the travellers seek refuge in the home, built fortress-like upon the site of a bloody battlefield, of famed architect Hjalmar Poelzig. There, cat-phobic Verdegast learns his wife’s fate, grieves for his lost daughter, and must play a game of chess for Allison’s life.

Out of all of the movies on this release, this one packs perhaps the eeriest atmosphere and tone over all the rest. I won’t say that it’s the best movie, as I feel some of the pace is a bit too off for its own good, but if you want something that does at least feel spooky, this will be the one for you. It has creepy hotels, a black cat (clearly), and it certainly has Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi. Those two always play well off one another and that is the case here as the movie is at its best when these two are sharing the screen with one another. Some of the rest can be a little stiff at times, but if you bought this just for those two you will at least be happy with that. More of them and less of everything with the mood it gives off would have made it even better than most think it is now. I like the feel but all in all this one just wasn’t my style.

Extras

– NEW Audio Commentary With Author/Film Historian Gregory William Mank
– NEW Audio Commentary With Author/Film Historian Steve Haberman
– NEW Dreams Within A Dream: The Classic Cinema Of Edgar Allan Poe – Narrated By Doug Bradley
– NEW A Good Game: Karloff And Lugosi At Universal Part One: The Black Cat
– Vintage Footage – The Black Cat Contest
– Still Gallery

Quality of Transfer: 88%

The Raven (1935)
Directed By: Lew Landers
Starring: Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Lester Matthews
Rated: UR/Region A/1:33/1080p

A wealthy judge coaxes the brilliant but eccentric neurological surgeon Dr. Vollin (Lugosi), who also has an obsessive penchant for Edgar Allen Poe, out of retirement to save the life of his daughter, a dancer crippled and brain-damaged in an auto wreck. Vollin restores her completely, but also envisions her as his “Lenore,” and cooks up a scheme to kidnap the woman and torture and kill her fiance’ and father in his Poe-inspired dungeon. To do his dirty work, Vollin recruits a wanted criminal (Karloff) and turns him into a hideous monster to guarantee his subservience.

Edgar Allen Poe’s works are used in a great chunk of the plot for The Raven. And yes, the characters here talk about him a lot, but what it really boils down too is Lugosi’s character falls in love and when it looks like it isn’ going to go the way he wants he decides to go crazy. From there among other evil things, he enlists the help of Karloff’s character and offers to use his surgical ways to fix his looks if he does some killing for him. This opens the door for some good ol’ fashion blackmail and other things, all with an Edgar Allen Poe twist on top it. Boris Karloff seems to be going all in with his performance here and I think that is what makes this one what it ends up being. Perhaps it could have used a little more Poe than it does or even used it better, but it’s still a very interesting a gothic influenced movie.

Extras

– NEW 2K Scan Of The Original Film Elements
– NEW Audio Commentary With Author/Film Historian Gary D. Rhodes
– NEW Audio Commentary With Author/Film Historian Steve Haberman
– NEW A Good Game: Karloff And Lugosi At Universal Part Two: The Raven
– Audio Recording: Bela Lugosi Reads “The Tell-Tale Heart”
– Still Gallery

Quality of Transfer: 82%

The Invisible Ray (1936)
Directed By: Lambert Hillyer
Starring: Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Frances Drake
Rated: UR/Region A/1:33/1080p

Visionary scientist Janos Rukh convinces a group of scientists and supporters to mount an expedition to the African continent to locate and study an ancient meteorite of great significance. He exposes himself to the highly toxic radiation of the meteorite, and while an antidote devised by Dr. Benet saves him from death by radiation poisoning, his naked touch causes instant death to others. Back in London, the benefits of the meteorite’s controlled radiation offer Dr. Benet an opportunity to restore eyesight to the blind. The antidote’s toxicity excites Prof. Rukh into paranoid rages as he seeks revenge against the members of his expedition, who he accuses of stealing his discovery for their own glory.

It is all about paranoia here as a great power drives our lead mad and into a rage! It’s a story that we’ve seen before, but it is still effective here and pulled off very well for the time that the movie was made. It does feel like a lot of other movies that deal with plots that are very similar but the story is strong and I don’t think anyone who pops this one into their Blu-ray players will be wanting to take it out until they see how it ends. That always goes a long way with me and that added in with the performances here from the cast ultimately make this one what it is. It’s about a solid as you can get despite never really crossing over into the mind-blowingly good area. Karloff and Lugosi again make this one what it is but that should come as no shocker to anyone who’s watching these movies.

Extras

– NEW 2K Scan Of The Original Film Elements
– NEW Audio Commentary With Authors/Film Historians Tom Weaver And Randall Larson
– NEW A Good Game: Karloff And Lugosi At Universal Part Three: The Invisible Ray
– Re-Release Theatrical Trailer
– Still Gallery

Quality of Transfer: 87%

Black Friday (1940)
Directed By: Arthur Lubin
Starring: Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Stanley Ridges
Rated: UR/Region A/1:33/1080p

When his friend Professor Kingsley is at death’s door, brain surgeon Dr. Sovac saves his life by means of an illegal operation that transplants part of injured gangster Red Cannon’s brain. Unfortunately, the operation has a disastrous Jeckll and Hyde side effect and under certain conditions, the persona of Cannon emerges. Sovac soon learns of the dual personality and of half a million dollars the gangster has hidden away. He attempts to find the money through the manipulation of his friend, an attempt that brings Kingsley closer to madness as he alternates between a meek professor of English and a brutal gangster out for murderous revenge on those who tried to kill him.

The last film in this set might just be the one I found the most interesting overall. Here we have a guy who to save his friend (and in the name of science) uses a brain from another man and inserts it into his friends head. This seems all good until his friend becomes a bit of Jekel and Hyde and starts going back and forth between being his friend he knows and being the gangster who’s brain is now in his head. The gangster takes over and goes on killing sprees for revenge and our doctor basically has to watch while things spin out of control and all of that makes for a very interesting movie at the end of the day. It didn’t always feel like a horror movie but it did have a good plot and as a result, I was interested from start to finish and enjoyed it for what it was. I feel like Lugosi isn’t used enough in this one, but you get to see a different side of Karloff and it works really well.

Extras

– NEW 2K Scan Of The Original Film Elements
– NEW Audio Commentary With Filmmaker/Film Historian Constantine Nasr
– NEW A Good Game: Karloff And Lugosi At Universal Part Four: Black Friday
– Inner Sanctum Mystery Radio Show: “The Tell-Tale Heart” Starring Boris Karloff
– Theatrical Trailer
– Still Gallery

Quality of Transfer: 88%

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