Halloween 2012 Movie Special Day 7: (Universal) HD Monsters in a Box

It’s time for wrapping up our Halloween 2012 movie reviews with one very special box, the Universal Monsters Box. 8 movies, 8 so-called classics. But do they still hold up well today, or is it just nostalgia and cineast talk? Find out for yourself…or even better make up your own mind.

There’s quite a lot in this box and for a very special price. I only paid 42 GBP, 6 more than the standard box, to get it in the coffin version (but at the time of writing in the UK and USA Amazon’s versions are already sold out!). It’s nice to look at and it even fits on the shelves as it’s actually the same height than other BDs.

The only downside is that the discs are not in separate cases which makes it a pain to get them out. Fortunately BDs aren’t easy to get scratches on, but still… What’s really cool though besides the great box (which is rather light and not the best material) are all the goodies: a 58-page booklet and memorabilia cards.

Is the limited edition worth the extra price? To be honest, the box is the ONLY difference between the two box sets as the content is the same, even if it looks rather impressive how much can be found in this small coffin. Of course it’s for everyone to decide if they want to buy the discs separately (and get the individual covers), but all in all it’s a real bargain for only paying less than 6 GBP for each movie than around 11 when bought separately.

It’s also worth noting that the discs are not sold separately in Germany on BD (only some on DVD) and that the US-versions (which are IDENTICAL to the European ones) are twice the price with delayed shipping. So go figure which is the best solution to get them…

The BD presentation is very impressive. All movies are restorated and some, like Phantom of the Opera, look as if they were shot only recently. The sound is also quite clear, considering the dated source material.
So this is the best those movies have ever looked… and there’s even a 3D-HDTV version of Creature from the Black Lagoon in there.

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Dracula (1931)
(USA 1931, director: Tod Browning)

Count Dracula is out for blood in London and has to fight for his undead life against Van Helsing. Classic.

It’s funny how the overacting which is more reminiscent of theatre (and still present in today’s German cinema) can make the characters quite ridiculous. What might have been creepy in the beginning of horror cinema doesn’t have a lot of effect today. Maybe because the market has been oversaturated with vampire movies, the only redeeming feature is of course Bela Lugosi. But strangely even his trademark stare gets old very soon.
Atmospheric to a certain degree, a “classic” without a doubt, but it hasn’t aged that well, especially with a rather disappointing ending which is less exciting than what one knows from the book.

Rating: 7/10
imdb

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Frankenstein (1931)
(USA 1931, director: James Whale)

Dr. Frankenstein brings a man back from the dead and creates a monster.

Critics and film aficianados, cineasts and other taking-it-too-serious movie lovers, get your stones ready…but even if the movie has some of the most memorable scenes in the history of cinema with “It’s Alive!” and other scenes, it can’t be overlooked that the acting is quite overdramatic and bad, the main plot (of the book) comes down to a lot of engagement scenes with some pretty bad light-hearted humor and a horrible ending.
Even without taking the original story into account, it has its flaws and is nowhere near a timeless classic as some people make it to be.

Rating: 6/10

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The Mummy
(USA 1932, director: Karl Freund)

During an exhibition in Egypt, a Mummy comes back to life and wants to reunite with his former love which he finds incarnated in the form of a young woman.

It’s certainly an interesting and more enganging story than other monster movies of that time, which is mainly due to the fact that the real mummy isn’t shown that much. It’s more of a mystery story, real horror of course doesn’t work compared to today’s standards. Even if there is a bit more tension and the acting isn’t as bad as in the other movies, it’s sometimes too slow, and Boris Karloff’s stare gets old pretty fast.
It’s funny how so-called classics don’t leave an everlasting impression nowadays. The Mummy is one such case which doesn’t have a lot of memorable scenes.

Rating: 5/10

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The Invisible Man
(USA 1933, director: James Whale)

A scientist finds a method to become insane and wreaks havoc in a small town.

Unlike so many old movies which had state-of-the-art special effects back in the days… and which are not quite laughauble, this one still surprises how well the invisible man is shown…or not.

There’s also quite some nice story progression, even if the sudden outbursts of insanity come across as a bit too exaggerated, but that could be due to the short running time of just over an hour.

Acting becomes better as well compared to the other Universal movies. The only problem the movie has is it’s constant change of serious and comic scenes. Slapstick doesn’t really work and takes some of the experience away.

The other characters aren’t that interesting or believable as well, so the movie more or less succeeds in its special effects and general idea… which is from H.G. Wells’ novel anyway.

Rating: 7/10

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Bride of Frankenstein
(USA 1935, director: James Whale)

Frankenstein’s monster survived and seeks friendship and love.

It’s funny how ratings of old movies are so high, even if what this one is is pure trash for most of its running time. But that’s just how much fun it is. There’s not a lot of downtime, moods change constantly, acting goes from bad to good, and the monster is more human than ever before. Definitely an improvement on the original, even if it’s a mess of a story and Frankenstein himself is as exaggerated and annoying as always, but maybe that’s what mad scientists were like in the good old days.

Rating: 8/10

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The Wolf Man
(USA 1941, director: George Waggner)

A man is attacked by a beast in the woods and slowly transforms into the creature he fears.

Just like The Mummy, this hasn’t aged that well. One might talk about the overall message that there’s a beast in all of us and that during that time it was a scary movie, but what is left is a rather boring over-one-hour chore of a flick in which The Wolfman himself doesn’t appear too often and therefore misses an opportunity to be really that intimidating.
The character interactions are, as is so often the case with the old movies, clichéd and don’t add much to the experience.

It might have scared the living hell out of me when I was young, but now it’s a typical take-a-look-at-the-watch-and-hope-it’s-soon-over movie.

Rating: 5/10

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The Phantom of the Opera (1943)
(USA 1943, director: Arthur Lubin)

A disfigured violin player takes revenge on the opera and the people working there.

Having seen the original opera in Hamburg ages ago and now experiencing the story on celluloid, it becomes quite obvious why this version doesn’t really work. Ironically too many opera sequences with singing are more annoying than creating atmosphere. The characters’ disputes and internal struggles are interesting, the story itself has some value, and the acting isn’t that bad, but after some time those sequences really start to bore. So do the attempt of humour of two men fighting for the heart of a woman.

After a nice start, this version can’t keep up with the suspense and horror of the original story or even the atmosphere in the opera.

Rating: 5/10

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The Creature from the Black Lagoon
(USA 1954, director: Jack Arnold)

A strange creature lurks in the depths of the Amazonian jungle, and a group of scientists wants to find and capture it.

Another creature feature, monster movie which is still quite effective even today. This is mainly due to the costume/swim suit of the creature which is, to a certain extent, more believable than in many other flicks which haven’t aged that well. There’s also this certain kind of fear of having something swim underwater, and the film finds the right balance of showing what is there and what isn’t.

It can be a bit long (even with a runtime of just about an hour; after all it doesn’t really tell much of a story) and the music loses some of its impact after the same orchestral strikes, but in general this is still a “classic” which can entertain and scare a bit.

Rating: 7/10

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About nufafitc

Being an avid gamer, cinemaniac, and bookworm in addition to other things the internet and new media present, I'm also very much into DIY music, rock and pop in particular. Writing short or longer pieces about anything that interests me has always made me happy. As both an editor for German website "Adventure-Treff" and UK website "Future Sack", I like to write reviews and news about recent developments in the movies, games and book industry.
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