Jul 052019
 

The Universal Horror Collection: Volume 1 set is a great release from Shout Factory includes four Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi starring films, all of varying quality but any fan of either actor or just the era, will find this collection well worth picking up.

 

 

Universal Horror Collection: Volume 1
— The Black Cat/The Raven/The Invisible Ray/Black Friday —
(1935-1940)

Genre(s): Horror
Shout Factory | NR – 276 min. – $69.97 | June 18, 2019

Date Published: 07/05/2019 | Author: The Movieman


MOVIE INFO:
Directed by: Edgar G. Ulmer, Louis Friedlander, Louis Friedlander, Arthur Lubin
Writer(s): Various
Cast: Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Inez Courtner, Frank Lawton, Frances Drake, Walter Kingsford, Lucille Lund, David Manners, Stanley Ridges, Irene Ware, Jacqueline Wells


DISC INFO:
Features: Audio Commentaries, Featurettes, Still Galleries, Trailers
Slip Cover: Yes
Digital Copy: No
Formats Included: Blu-ray
Number of Discs: 4


Audio: English (DTS-HD MA 1.0)
Video: 1080p/Full Frame 1.33
Subtitles: English SDH
Codecs: MPEG-4 AVC
Region(s): A


Shout Factory provided me with a free copy of the Blu-ray I reviewed in this Blog Post.
The opinions I share are my own.

THE MOVIE — 3.25/5


The Black Cat (1934) Stranded Budapest honeymooners Peter and Joan Alison (DAVID MANNERS, JULIE WELLS) follow mad doctor Vitus Werdegast (BELA LUGOSI) to black-lipped architect Hjalmar Poelzig (BORIS KARLOFF) Art Deco manor.

The Raven (1935) — Spurned surgeon Dr. Richard Vollin (BELA LUGOSI) seeks revenge using Edgar Allan Poe’s devices of torture and a hideous man, Edmond Bateman (BORIS KARLOFF).

The Invisible Ray (1936) — Scientist Dr. Felix Benet (BELA LUGASI) seeks an antidote for a radium-poisoned colleague Dr. Janos Rukh (BORIS KARLOFF) with the touch of death.

Black Friday (1940) — Dr. Sovac (BORIS KARLOFF) transplants the brain of a gangster into his professor friend’s body (STANLEY RIDGES) to save his life, but there is a side effect that causes a dangerous split personality.


Quick Hit Review:
One of the benefits of reviewing movies is seeing movies you otherwise might have skipped. Sure, you have your direct-to-video crap that should have remained sitting on a shelf in a dark, dank basement somewhere but on the other hand, you do get to see some old classics. In this case, the Universal Horror Collection released by Shout Factory gives audiences the one-two punch of a couple horror icons in Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi, each one with very different styles of acting but in these four films, in a variety of quality of storytelling but one cannot deny that both give it their all and work so wonderfully off of one another.

The best of the four was The Black Cat, a movie inspired by the work of Edgar Allan Poe and certainly featured a great cat-and-mouse game between Karloff and Lugosi; The Raven was a more direct correlation of sorts with Poe and although it does feature a contrived plot, it was Lugosi’s chance to shine as Karloff was featured in a supporting role, and Lugosi was maniacally fantastic, overcoming any shortcomings with the story; The Invisible Ray takes a sharp turn from horror to more sci-fi like fantasy and while not great, Karloff turned in a solid performance; last Black Friday was easily my least favorite with a poor plot but worse, Karloff and Lugosi, besides playing second and third-tier characters as the movie starred Stanley Ridges, Karloff and Lugosi did not share a single scene, leaving their Universal team-up on a whimper.

 

SPECIAL FEATURES – 4.5/5


This four-disc set comes housed in an HD keep case which side-slides into a matted slip cover. Inside is a 12-page booklet with cast and crew listings for all four films.

DISC ONE – The Black Cat (4.5/5)
Audio Commentaries:

  • Author/Film Historian Gregory William Mank
  • Author/Film Historian Steve Haberman

A Good Game: Karloff and Lugosi at Universal – Part 1: The Black Cat (23:34) – Authors Gary D. Rhodes and Gregory William Mank, experts on Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff respectively, give the history behind the movie and the approach of Lugosi and Karloff in their first on-screen pairing.

Dream Within a Dream: The Classic Cinema of Edgar Allan Poe (56:02) – This new documentary looks at the life and career of the classic writer and his works in cinema.

Vintage Footage: The Black Cat Contest (0:49) – This is some raw footage featuring Karloff and Lugosi as apparently a contest was held to see which black cat would be used in the film.

Still Gallery (8:47)


DISC TWO – The Raven (3.75/5)
Audio Commentaries:

  • Author/Film Historian Gary D. Rhodes
  • Author/Film Historian Steve Haberman

A Good Game: Karloff and Lugosi at Universal – Part 2: The Raven (17:25) continues the discussion of Karloff and Lugosi by Rhodes and Mank, this time focusing on The Raven and the turnabout on Lugosi being in the more dominate role.

Bela Lugosi Reads “The Tell-Tale Heart” (13:22) is an audio recording featuring the legendary actor.

Still Gallery (8:18)


DISC THREE – The Invisible Ray (3.0/5)
Audio Commentary – Authors/Film Historians Tom Weaver and Randall Larson

A Good Game: Karloff and Lugosi at Universal – Part 3: The Invisible Ray (16:36) is further discussion on the careers and rivalries of Karloff and Lugosi and their work on The Invisible Ray.

Re-Release Theatrical Trailer (1:44) and Still Gallery (7:00)


DISC FOUR – Black Friday (3.25/5)

Audio Commentary – Filmmaker/Film Historian Constantine Nasr

A Good Game: Karloff and Lugosi at Universal – Part 4: Black Friday (17:04) – Authors/Film Historians Rhodes and Mank discuss the two legendary actors at this point in their careers, going into 1940.

Inner Sanctum Mystery radio show “The Tell-Tale Heart” (26:45) starring Boris Karloff.

Re-Release Theatrical Trailer (1:55) and Still Gallery (6:37)

 


VIDEO – 4.5/5


All four movies are presented with a 1.33 full frame aspect ratio and 1080p high-definition transfers; all except The Black Cat apparently got restored using a 2K scan of the original film elements. As such, all of them do look quite good, some better than others. Each film does have some film damage issues going on, many I noticed on Black Friday, with specs and scratches but even so, the black and white presentation still shows off sharp and nicely defined detail.

AUDIO – 4.0/5


Each movie comes with a nice DTS-HD Master Audio Mono tracks which does output clear dialogue and while there was some distinct noise going on and some minor hissing, these are still decent sounding lossless tracks for movies going on 75+ years old.

 


OVERALL – 4.0/5


The Universal Horror Collection: Volume 1 set is a great release from Shout Factory includes four Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi starring films, all of varying quality but any fan of either actor or just the era, will find this collection well worth picking up. The release also includes an excellent selection of bonus features and quality video and audio transfers.

 

 

 

 

Check out some more 1080p screen caps by going to page 2. Please note, these do contain spoilers.

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