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Details, Artwork, and a Clip from Universal Classic Monsters: The Essential Collection on Blu-ray

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For the first time ever eight of the most iconic cinematic masterpieces of the horror genre are available together on Blu-ray as Universal Classic Monsters: The Essential Collection debuts on October 2, 2012, from Universal Studios Home Entertainment.

From the Press Release:
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 (see a little of that below) and the first ever offering of Creature from the Black Lagoon in its restored Blu-ray 3D version.

From the era of silent movies through the present day, Universal Pictures has been regarded as the home of the monsters. Universal Classic Monsters: The Essential Collection honors the studio’s accomplishments with the most iconic monsters in motion-picture history, including Dracula, Frankenstein, The Mummy, The Invisible Man, Bride of Frankenstein, The Wolf Man, Phantom of the Opera, and Creature from the Black Lagoon. Featuring performances by legends of the horror genre, including Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff, Lon Chaney, Jr., Claude Rains, and Elsa Lanchester, these eight iconic films also feature groundbreaking special effects and innovative makeup that continue to influence filmmakers into the 21st century. Sure to be a Halloween favorite for years to come, Universal Classic Monsters: The Essential Collection is the ideal gift for film buffs and horror aficionados alike.

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

Details, Artwork, and a Clip from Universal Classic Monsters: The Essential Collection on Blu-ray

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Editorials

Thanksgiving Flesh Feast: A Cannibal Holocaust Retrospective

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“Why ban films? If you don’t want to go watch something, don’t go. Don’t spend your money to watch it. To me it’s against your civil liberties. Censorship is against your human rights. It just takes a critic to exaggerate and say the film is over the top, it’s gruesome and full of terrible violence.” Words from legendary cinematographer Roberto Forges Davanzati on the special edition Blu-Ray of Cannibal Holocaust.

As you celebrate this holiday of stuffing your face full of delicious gooey goodies and cooked meats, let us look back at a feast for the ages that was buried in lawsuits, censorship, exploitation and even jail time for its creator. Cannibal Holocaust, one of the most infamous video nasties of all time, is not only one of the most gruesome and horrifying collection of images put to celluloid but also, in its own way, one of the most beautiful. Often times it’s notoriety as a horrid exploitation film overshadows the artistry that crafted it and the true message behind it.

First off, let’s look at the fact that this is truly the first found footage film. Its narrative is about four young documentarians who set out into the Amazon into an area dubbed “The Green Inferno” to find and document several primitive tribes of cannibals. While this narrative is the backbone of the movie opening up the film, this footage is not shown until the latter half. Professor Harold Munroe is assigned by the television studio that employed the documentarians to go into the Green Inferno himself to see if he can unravel the mystery of the youth’s disappearance or obtain the footage they filmed. Today we have found footage movies left and right but it’s rare we get a movie within a movie in this style.

Davanzati has talked about his different shooting styles for the time on the Blu-Ray for the film. Munroe’s section of the film was shot on 35MM film while the “found footage” shot by the documentarians is shot on 16MM film, giving a much grainier and dirty look to their footage. Not only that, but since the four youths within the film at all times had two 16MM cameras operating, Davanzati would often film the two camera men within the film and then switch around showing the point of view of each camera man within the found footage, which he states helped edit the movie as they shot it. The artistic decision to have two narratives wrap around each other like this are perfect antithesis to each other as Munroe’s footage shows a completely opposite depiction of the cannibals compared to the documentarian’s footage. This style informed a generation and still does, but has never been stylistically approached the same way.

Some may argue that regardless of the artistic vision and groundbreaking filmmaking style of both Davanzati and director Ruggero Deodato that it doesn’t matter, because what good is beautiful footage of despicable trash? How dare they film something so atrocious? Actor Robert Kerman can maybe answer that in a quote from an interview on the Cannibal Holocaust Blu-Ray. “What’s the difference between Cannibal Holocaust and Schindler’s List? Or the first 20 minutes of Saving Private Ryan?” The world is full of horrible atrocious things and sometimes we don’t like to acknowledge them. To simply not acknowledge them would seem an injustice to the victims. In this case, what may offend might be the same reason audiences were offended about the Universal Monsters: the fact that perhaps we are the villains. Perhaps those victimized within Cannibal Holocaust are the titular cannibals.

Deodato opens the film with a reporter speaking about how far the world has come and how advanced we are as a civilization, that it is strange that indigenous tribes still exist in the jungles of the Green Inferno. All the while, during this news report on the savagery of those tribes, Deodato cleverly shows us the jungles of the modern world as the imagery put to this news cast foreshadows the film’s true intentions. It would be easy to assume the “Holocaust” in Cannibal Holocaust refers to the humans devoured by cannibals, when in reality, the holocaust is the devastation inflicted upon the cannibal tribes by the so-called “normal” humans. Deodato cleverly misleads the viewer showing off all-American kids as the documentarians. He quickly follows the opening with a scene of the Yacumo tribe devouring a human body as the Colombian soldiers gun them down and capture one of their tribe. It’s a brutal scene that depicts the Yacumo as monsters.

As Professor Munroe ventures into the Green Inferno with his Yacumo captive and guide, Chaco, it is discovered that the Yacumo tribe itself has had some hardship and pain. They are the more peaceful of the tribes who simply thrive and survive. Their Yacumo captive who was found devouring a human was doing so as part of a ceremonial practice to ward off evil spirits. Befriending the tribe, they venture deeper to find the two warring tribes that scare even the Yacumo: the Yanomamo (Tree People) and the Shamatari (Swamp People). While the Shamatari are depicted throughout as vile and dangerous, the Yamamomo befriend the professor and Chaco due to the pair aiding them against the former tribe.

Munroe and the Yanomamo friendship gives way to a very beautiful scene in the movie. Munroe disrobes himself completely and swims in the river naked with a group of Yanomamo women. There is nothing sexual about the scene, only curiosity and playful ignorant bliss. This sense of peace is elated by the score of Riz Ortolani, which permeates the entire film with melancholy melodies and themes of religious experiences. This scene in particular is boosted amazingly by his score.

Munroe’s journey is the audience’s point of view where we watch in horror and wonder at what these “cannibals” are capable of but, upon venturing further for ourselves with respect towards the tribes, we find perhaps there is more to these people than monstrosities. There are definitely horrible things the Yacumo and the Yamamomo commit, but our eyes are slightly opened as to why.

Enter the found footage aspect of the film, which is the core of Deodato’s message. The young documentarians headed by Alan are the true villains of the piece. While the indigenous peoples within idolize their gods and ways, this crew of documentarians only idolize the gods of entertainment and visceral mind rape. What’s worse is the discovery of the studio behind them condoning their efforts in order to get people to watch. The found footage approach descends into madness as Alan and his crew are responsible for the Yacumo’s problems that Munroe discovered when he arrived. We see them burning down the village and even having sex on the ashes of their homes in a horrifying shot that pans out to show the Yacumo watching in sorrow as they are huddled by the river for warmth. As the television executives watch this footage unfold it is stated, “The more you rape their senses, the happier they are.” It’s disgusting.

The footage goes on and gets progressively worse as Alan and his crew commit horrible acts of rape and violence that parallels the natives actions. But while the natives at least have a misguided sense of purpose, there is none for the documentarians. They set up a girl on a spike after they rape her just to have something visceral to film. “Watch it Alan, I’m shooting.” Alan has a smile on his face from the atrocity he’s committed, their excitement paralleled by Ortolani’s score. This scene plays on the typical thought of things we don’t understand being weird. As the filmmakers have no concept of what makes the Yanomamo tick or of their religious rites, they just create something ghastly. Because their audience will not understand it, they lump it in with their actual spiritual and cultural beliefs, making it all seem bereft of rhyme or reason, confusing audiences just to entertain.

“Keep rolling, we’re gonna get an Oscar for this!” The final act of found footage is more intense and more satisfying than any you can see. As one of the cameramen dies, they keep filming, that prize in their eyes with the camera lens as a separation from what’s before them. Their friend is no longer a person but a spectacle to be shot as he’s torn limb from limb and prepared to be eaten by the cannibals for their transgression. Who is worse, those that created the situation or those simply reacting to it? The Yanomamo stand triumphant over the interloper and, as stated in the beginning of the film, they eat him ceremonially in order to keep out the evil spirits of the white man. Each is taken down and each filmed. Debts paid in blood to the cannibals and
the white man’s gods of entertainment. The found footage has all been viewed as Munroe and the rest of the executives walk off, “I wonder who the real cannibals are?” 

True, there are very vile things depicted in this film. Rape, animal cruelty, extreme violence. It is definitely not for the squeamish. I, myself, cannot stand the animal violence as it shouldn’t be in the film and is lingered on for far too long. However, each scene of extremism beyond those shots serves a purpose in the film, juxtaposing the actions of the protagonists and antagonists, often times blurring the lines of those roles.

Watch this film with an open mind and a filmmaker’s thought process. You’ll see the amazing direction accompanied by brilliant and, at the time, never-before-seen cinematography. The score elevates the film with its beauty against the ugliness of the visuals. While the actions of many of the characters are disgusting, you have to admit the level of excellence each actor gives in their portrayal of these characters, especially the tribes.

We must not forget in these dark times not to judge the cultures of others before we truly understand them as people.

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I Already Have a Dog But Now I Want a Baby Dinosaur

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The first trailer for Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, the sequel to 2015’s Jurassic World, is rumored to be attached to Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Since that film is going to be coming out in less than a month, it’s no surprise that the marketing campaign for the dino-filled trailer is already starting and today it kicks off with a six-second teaser that is as adorable as you can get!

In the teaser, Chris Pratt’s Owen Grady is petting a baby velociraptor, which coos and twitters in the cutest of fashions. Is there anything else going on? Nah. Does something else need to happen? Nope. The movie already has me sold.

Directed by J.A. Bayona (When a Monster Calls), Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom also stars Bryce Dallas Howard, B.D. Wong, and Toby Jones. However, the biggest and most important star of the film will be the return of Jeff Goldblum as Dr. Ian Malcolm, who is, in my humble opinion, the best character in the franchise, besting even the T-rex that seemingly cannot die.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom will evolve into theaters on June 22, 2018.

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John Landis’ Rejected Pitch for American Werewolf 2 Was Brilliant

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If you’re anything like us then you consider writer-director John Landis’ horror-comedy An American Werewolf in London to be one of the best f*cking movies of all-time.

Horror (or comedy), or not.

But did you know that Landis was asked back in 1991 to make a sequel to his original classic? Neither did I. But he was, and his pitch for the sequel was amazing.

“I was asked to do a sequel by PolyGram in 1991,” Landis told Digital Spy. “I entertained the idea for a little bit and then came up with something that I liked and wrote a first draft of the script.

“The movie was about the girl that the boys talk about at the beginning of the movie, Debbie Klein. She gets a job in London as a literary agent and while she’s there, starts privately investigating the circumstances surrounding the deaths of Jack and David.

“The conceit was that during the time in the first film where Jenny goes to work and David is pacing around the apartment, he actually wrote Debbie Klein a letter. It was all to do with this big secret that David had never told Jack that he had a thing with her.

“She tracks down Dr. Hirsch, who tells her that Alex now lives in Paris because she was so traumatized by what happened. She went back to the Slaughtered Lamb and everyone is still there! I think the only changes were a portrait of Charles and Diana where the five-pointed star used to be and darts arcade game instead of a board.

“It’s then when she speaks to Sgt McManus, the cop from the first movie who didn’t die, that she finds out that Jenny is still in London. She calls her and leaves an answer phone message, which we then reveal is being listened to by the skeletal corpses of Jack and David, watching TV in Alex’s apartment!

“The big surprise at the end was that Alex was the werewolf. It was pretty wild. The script had everybody in it from the first movie – including all the dead people!”

But then Landis adds:

“I gave the script to Michael Kuhn and he loathed it! He absolutely hated it and was actually pretty insulting about it. Clearly, he would have hated the script for the first movie because, like that, it was funny and scary – and if anything, a little wackier.”

Is it just me or does this sound like a perfect sequel to An American Werewolf in London? Make sure to hit us up and let us know what you think below!

Synopsis:

David (David Naughton) and Jack (Griffin Dunne), two American college students, are backpacking through Britain when a large wolf attacks them. David survives with a bite, but Jack is brutally killed. As David heals in the hospital, he’s plagued by violent nightmares of his mutilated friend, who warns David that he is becoming a werewolf. When David discovers the horrible truth, he contemplates committing suicide before the next full moon causes him to transform from man to murderous beast.

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