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 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 ManThe 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.
Doctor Who: The Complete Specials (BBC) – There was a noticeable grumble among Doctor Who fans when Christopher Eccleston left the role after a single season and the Doctor was reborn in the fun-loving, hyper-animated persona of David Tennant. There’s no question that Tennant made the part his own in his four years with the character, just as producer Russell T. Davies brought a whole new energy and sensibility to the iconic series with his 21st century reboot. And with both Tennant and Davies leaving the series, they decided to give the fans something very special by way of farewell and followed the fourth season with five hour-long “specials” (well, four actually, but one of them was broken into two separate parts and comes that way on disc). These shows take what was inherent in this incarnation of the Doctor and finally, fatefully transform the last of the Time Lords from happy-go-lucky time- and space-traveler into a tragic hero on a collision course with destiny and a death foretold.
The adventuresome Planet of the Dead (with Michelle Ryan) and the melancholy The Next Doctor (with David Morrissey) have already appeared separately on DVD and Blu-ray. The rest debut this week, separately or in DVD and Blu-ray box sets. The Waters of Mars, starring Lindsay Duncan as the leader of an Earth colony on Mars, is an invasion thriller that puts the Doctor in the heartbreaking position of putting compassion up against the laws of time and space that he considers immutable. Under the spring-loaded energy and snappy repartee that gives The Doctor his goofy amiability and lighthearted lift, Tennant layers in a note of anguish that is fully brought forth in the two-part The End of Time (titles don’t come more epic than that). And they outdo themselves on The End of Time, which delves into the mystery of the Time Lords (check out Timothy Dalton as narrator and rogue Time Lord), spins an apocalyptic showdown like you’ve never seen (John Simm as the Time Master, a madman with seemingly unlimited power to transform himself into… well, something epic) and ends with a touching farewell tour of the lives the Doctor has touched in his current incarnation before his inevitable transformation. It’s a touching and deserved farewell to one of the finest incarnations of The Doctor. Each of the specials runs just under an hour except for The End of Time, Part Two, which runs over to give the Doctor time to say farewell to everyone.