Universal Monsters: welcome to Blu Ray

Just in time for Halloween, Universal Studios has delivered a first-class box set of their classic monster movies, dubbed The Essential Collection.

Dracula – check. Frankenstein – check.

The Invisible Man – my favourite monster movie ever! - check. The Mummy – check.

The Wolf Man – check. The Bride of Frankenstein – check.

The Phantom of the Opera – check. The Creature from the Black Lagoon – check.

I’ve watched almost all of them so far and I guarantee you these films have never looked as good as they do in this edition. Dracula and Frankenstein have received full restorations, but I found the picture quality of The Invisible Man and Creature from the Black Lagoon to be on par. Phantom of the Opera is the only one in colour and it looks glorious.

When you watch the special features and documentaries, which have been incorporated from previous releases, you will see how far the picture quality has come when  you compare the old clipos. Speaking of special features, you won’t see much in the way of new stuff, so that may disappoint some fans.

One of the few bonuses that makes up for the lack of new content is Creature from the Black Lagoon in 3D! Yes, what is old is new again! This was one of the first 3D movies and, although slightly dizzying on Blu Ray, it’s quite a treat to be able to watch it in digital 3D. That’s right, no red and blue glasses required for this. It made me feel like I was watching it back in 1954 - just as the Fonz would have enjoyed it.

The Invisible Man is my all-time favourite monster movie and I have the action figure to prove it.

It would have been nice if Universal included the original 1925 silent version of Phantom. I hadn’t seen it so I made an effort to watch it recently and it is spectacular. It’s much scarier than the version included on this set starring Claude Rains. This would have been a great special feature to include. However, I’m happy that the documentary goes into some depth about this version, as well as all the others.

A tip for North American monster movie fans. This release is priced very high in Canada and the U.S. If I bought it from Amazon.ca, it would have cost me about $150, including taxes. However, I purchased a region free set on sale at Amazon UK. The total, including shipping, came to just over $53 Canadian. That is a heck of a discount! The digiback packaging is slightly different than the book packaging in North America, and you get all the special features except for one audio commentary on Dracula, which I didn’t think was a big loss. So if you want to save, buy this set from the UK. The UK also has a special “coffin” package you can’t get elsewhere. It looks very cool and I would have bought it, but my wife wouldn’t let me.

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