Universal Classic Monsters: The Essential Collection (Universal) presents the long-awaited Blu-ray debuts of the most famous Universal monster movies from the thirties through the fifties: Dracula (1931) with Bela Lugosi, Frankenstein (1931), The Mummy (1932), and The Bride of Frankenstein (1935) with Boris Karloff, The Invisible Man (1933) with Claude Rains, and The Wolf Man (1941) with Lon Chaney Jr., plus the Technicolor Phantom of the Opera (1943) with Claude Rains and Creature From the Black Lagoon (1954) from the fifties era of Universal monster movies, a ninth feature — the 1931 Spanish language Dracula — and the 3D version of Creature (requires a full HD 3D TV, compatible 3D glasses, and a Blu-ray 3D player).
You can argue the definition of “essential” (and clearly the 1943 “Phantom” is an outlier here) and cite more worthy titles missing from the collection (“The Black Cat” is a masterpiece equal to anything in this set, though not actually a monster movie, while “Son of Frankenstein” is a minor piece of filmmaking with major pleasures, including the final appearance of Karloff as The Monster). But it does present magnificent new HD masters of each film, all with a significant leap in detail, sharpness, and contrast from the previous (superb) DVD editions. Universal does this one up right, at least from the handful of film’s I’ve had a chance to watch (or at least sample). The earlier films are the most impressive, given their age and the results on screen. Great care was lavished in the sets, lighting, and make-up of these films and these editions preserve the depth and detail and texture of this era’s studio filmmaking. I love the richness of black and white on a well-mastered Blu-ray and these are superb.