Blu-ray: Universal Classic Monsters: Complete 30-Film Collection

Universal Classic Monsters: Complete 30-Film Collection (Universal, Blu-ray)

Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster, the Wolf Man, and the Mummy have traversed the trail from horror icon to camp figure and back again and sparked the imaginations of readers and moviegoers for decades. Yet call forth the images nestled in the public consciousness and you’ll find that the figures created by Universal Studios, the home of Hollywood nightmares during the great gothic horror cycle of the 1930s and 1940s, have becomes the definitive versions of the great horror movie monsters.

Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Universal has been upgrading and repackaging its library of classic monster movies and the franchises they launched through the 1930s-1950s on disc for almost 20 years. This new collection is the ultimate compilation. Previously released on DVD, it offers 4K restorations of all 30 films for Blu-ray, some for the first time. That means not just the bona fide Gothic horror masterpieces and monster movie landmarks previously on Blu-ray individually or in the “Legacy Collection” sets—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, The Wolf Man (1941) with Lon Chaney Jr., the Technicolor Phantom of the Opera(1943) with Claude Rains, and the post-Gothic, atomic-era Creature From the Black Lagoon (1954) in standard and 3D versions, plus the Spanish language Dracula (1931)—but stand-out sequels such as Dracula’s Daughter (1936) and Son of Frankenstein (1939), the pre-Wolf Man The Werewolf of London(1935), Vincent Price in The Invisible Man Returns (1940), the mad monster parties Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943), House of Frankenstein (1944), and House of Dracula (1945), and the surprisingly creepy horror comedy Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948) among others, with all the commentary tracks, featurettes, and other supplements from earlier DVD and Blu-ray releases.

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DVDs for 10-13-09 – Macaroni Combat, Rollercoaster Horror and Ozsploitation

Look on the back of the case of Eagles Over London (Severin) and you’ll see this Italian World War II action adventure identified as a “Macaroni Combat.” This rather clumsy moniker is a recently coined phrase in the “spaghetti western” vein but hardly expressive of this military caper thriller from Italian genre specialist Enzo Castellari (of the original The Inglorious Bastards fame). The plot is quite clever: a squad of Germans don British uniforms and identities and infiltrate Britain through the chaos of the evacuation of Dunkirk, while a British Lt. (a colorless Frederick Stafford with a thick European accent) stumbles upon the plot and tries to track them through London before they can execute their missions. Castellari is not an elegant director, but then that’s not what makes a World War II adventure like this work. Made in the shadow of The Dirty Dozen and The Battle of Britain, this film straddles both genres, delivering impressive spectacle—from the evacuation of Dunkirk (shot on the coast of Spain) to the air combat of the Battle of Britain (largely shot on soundstage in Rome)—and espionage action. There’s a lot  of dubbing (most of the Italians are replaced on the soundtrack) and a cacophony of unlikely accents (the aforementioned Stafford, whose accent is justified by his Hungarian origins, and Van Johnson as a British Air Marshall right out of middle America), but it’s still quite entertaining, like an energetic B-movie with a lavish budget (you can see the money poured into the Dunkirk scenes, with its epic vistas filled with extras and a strafing run by a German fighter) and energetic direction.

Eagles Over London
The Germans in London in "Eagles Over London"

Originally titled La battaglia d’Inghilterra (“The Battle of Britain”) and also known as Battle Squadron, this film never received an official American release according to Quentin Tarantino (a big fan of the film and of Castellari’s oeuvre). Severin took a cue from QT to give the film its American DVD and Blu-ray debut and they got Tarantino to participate in the extras: a 14-minute interview with director Enzo G. Castellari (the discuss the film and the oddities of the Italian movie industry of the time) and an appearance hosting a rare film screening in L.A. with Castellari, gushing on stage while a woozy handheld video camera records the occasion. Also features a brief deleted scene with the German High Command discussing the invastion (in German with English subtitles).

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