Tuesday, August 07, 2007

DVDs We Love: Universal Monsters (The Legacy Collection)

Release: 2004

Status: In print

Legacy: One of the benefits of Van Helsing being made was that it spurred Universal to give some royal treatment to some of its most famous properties: those wonderful monsters from the 1930s and 40s. Chronically neglected before, Universal's best-known monsters would receive a generous presentation, and the movies' fans were the hands-down winners. For around $20, you wouldn't just get the flagship movie in a given monster's series, you would get all the movies, plus some top-notch extras and elegant packaging. Applied to Frankenstein, Dracula, Wolfman, The Invisible Man, The Creature and The Mummy, The Legacy Collection gave fans an economical and practical way to explore a series they otherwise may have passed on. The collections were spread across two discs, with each offering an expert commentary, remastered picture and sound, a variety of featurettes and ... a look at the film from Van Helsing director Stephen Sommers. The memorable packaging included the book-like case that is now the trademark of Universal Legacy Series, housed inside a crypt-like slip cover with a decorated "window" that created a sort of 3-d effect. The Universal Monsters Legacy Collection gift set includes the Frankenstein, Dracula and Wolfman collections, along with busts of the three characters, and is still being produced.

Personal: The Frankenstein collection is an absolute slam-dunk. You get two classics in Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein, along with the watchable Son of Frankenstein, scholarly commentaries by Rudy Behlmer and Scott MacQueen, and two excellent documentaries on the films. Sure, the last two sequels are subpar, but for the price you're pretty much getting them for free. The Invisible Man collection is interesting since it's the more obscure of the series, and Claude Reins' performances are always entertaining. The Dracula set is also noteworthy because it contains Phillip Glass' excellent, newly-composed score and also the intriguing Spanish version of the film, which was shot concurrently with the English-language version -- sometimes for the better. I'm glad these are all still in print, as it seemed at the time of their release that it would be a limited edition -- maybe it's a sign that they fared better with audiences than Van Helsing?

Availability: Around $20 almost anywhere.


srh1son said...

I bought all six of these when they came out. But I ended up unloading "Creature...", "Mummy," and "Invisible Man." Really, the set to own is "Frankenstein." I love the "Wolf Man" set because of Lon Cheney and childhood memories of watching the original and "Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman". "Dracula", I could take or leave; it's more for completion's sake. But Bela Lugosi does own the role, I'll give him that.

Chris Stangl said...

Phillip Glass' DRACULA score is ridiculous. It sounds like an ice cream cart strapped to a gyroscope. The whole experiment made me uneasy, and I'm thankful it hasn't caught on.

I appreciate the Legacies overall, but like any classic horror obsessive, owned all the out of print prior releases. The way the Legacy sets were packaged, to get the CREATURE sequels or HOUSE OF DRACULA, or the related INVISIBLE MAN movies... you've bought it again. Are these the oldest movies that can be so reliably double-dipped and reissued every few seasons? Also, don't talk that way about HOUSE OF FRANKENSTEIN! The end.

Adam Ross said...

I'm sad to report Chris that a lot of these movies are being released again by Universal for Halloween this year. I actually own the 75th Anniversary edition of Dracula, which contains the more traditional score in addition to Glass'. I can see how people would object to Glass' work on the score (and re-scoring in general, though it does have some good results -- i.e. "Visions of Light"), I suppose it's a novelty more than anything but it adds an intriguing atmosphere to the film, especially since it has almost no breaks.

Double dipping can be frustrating, but it's hard to argue with the price here, which makes it easier and more attractive for casual horror fans like myself to explore the series.

And in full disclosure ... I actually haven't watched "House of Frankenstein" yet. I wasn't impressed with "Ghost of Frankenstein" so I didn't expect House to be much better. I'll move it up on my list.

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