With Halloween just around the corner, movie studios are doing their best to choke you with all things horror in order to cash in on the surge in of interest in the supernatural and macabre that accompanies the arrival of Samhain. However, and let’s all be honest here, most of the film fare that gets regurgitated out during this time of the year is so much flotsam and jetsam. They’ve obviously been cranked out as expeditiously as possible, often with little regard to quality or narrative cohesion. I’m not asking for every horror film to be the Cinema Paradiso or Citizen Kane of the genre, but damn, sometimes the cash-grab pandering is just a bit too obvious to ignore.
That’s why my ghoulish heart sang when I heard that Universal Pictures is releasing the Universal Classic Monsters: Complete 30-Film Collection on DVD to combat the banality of the normal rote Halloween movie offerings. The collection will help ease the pain of yet another Paranormal Activity sequel with such classic films from Universal’s golden age of monster movies, including Dracula (1931), starring Bela Lugosi as the vampire count; Frankenstein (1931), starring Boris Karloff as the misunderstood monster in the modern-day telling of the Prometheus myth; and The Wolf Man (1941), starring Lon Chaney, Jr. as the man afflicted by the curse of lycanthropy.
The DVDs in the Universal Pictures monster movies collection are housed in beautiful, appropriately hued black-and-white featuring such classic monsters and creatures such as the Mummy, Dracula, the Bride of Frankenstein, and the Wolf Man. Each character is divided into its own DVD set, containing: The Phantom of the Opera; The Wolf Man; The Mummy; Frankenstein; Dracula; The Invisible Man; and The Creature from the Black Lagoon. And if 30 films just feels like too light of a set for your monster movie cravings, each character DVD set comes with a mother lode of extras, including behind the scenes documentaries, film commentary, actor profiles, and character retrospectives.
The box set also is accompanied by a booklet, “The Original House of Horror: Universal and a Monster Legacy,” which gives nice trivia behind the making of some of the classic monsters of Universal’s horror heyday, such as a peek into the makeup process to bring the characters to life and pictures of the original film posters for some of the movies. What I always find to be both fascinating and a delight about these older film posters—and it still holds true today—is the amount of detail that was put into the paintings that graced them. With many of the posters, the artists were able to tell a full story to give potential viewers the gist of what they were about to see. I think that’s become less and less the case with film posters as the years have worn on, and so it was a treat to be able to peruse the monster movie art again.
What I find most interesting about the collection, though, is the inclusion of the various films in which comedic actor pair Abbott and Costello meet some of the various monsters featured on the DVDs. When I was younger, I admittedly, would roll my eyes whenever one of the local TV stations promised a monster movie, only to find the duo who, in my mind, were more a hindrance to a good film than anything else. “It’s a monster movie! No time for the funny!” However, as I’ve grown older, I’ve come to appreciate Abbott and Costello for their contributions to the horror movie genre. Without them, we would never have had the mix of comedy and spookiness we see in the older Scooby Doo cartoons. Without them, there would be no Shaun of the Dead or Zombieland. I think it was a smart move on Universal’s part to include the Abbott and Costello films with the rest of the DVD collection, both as a nod to their contributions and as a way to educate a generation who may have not been exposed to their work.
The Universal Classic Monsters: Complete 30-Film Collection is now available on DVD. The titles included in the set are listed below.
The Mummy (1932)
The Invisible Man (1933)
The Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
Werewolf of London (1935)
Dracula’s Daughter (1936)
Son of Frankenstein (1939)
The Invisible Man Returns (1940)
The Mummy’s Hand (1940)
The Invisible Woman (1940)
The Wolf Man (1941)
The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942)
Invisible Agent (1942)
The Mummy’s Tomb (1942)
Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943)
Phantom of the Opera (1943)
Son of Dracula (1943)
The Invisible Man’s Revenge (1944)
The Mummy’s Ghost (1944)
House of Frankenstein (1944)
The Mummy’s Curse (1944)
House of Dracula (1945)
She-Wolf of London (1946)
Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)
Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man (1951)
Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954)
Revenge of the Creature (1955)
Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy (1955)
The Creature Walks Among Us (1956)