Release Date(s)1931-1956 (August 28, 2018)
Studio(s)Universal Pictures (Universal)
- Film/Program Grade: B+
- Video Grade: A-
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: B+
- Overall Grade: B+
[Editor’s Note: The grades listed above are averaged over all of the films in this set. You can find individual film grades in the specific set reviews linked below.]
Back at the Digital Entertainment Group’s Blu-Con industry conference in 2010, I found myself in an interesting conversation with director James Cameron and producer Jon Landau, who were there to hold a panel promoting the forthcoming release of the Avatar: Collector’s Edition. We talked about the Blu-ray format itself, and the Avatar release in particular, and were soon joined by Craig Kornblau, who was then the President of Universal Studios Home Entertainment.
After a short time, the discussion shifted to the Universal Classic Monsters films and I naturally suggested that Universal should consider releasing them on Blu-ray. Craig’s response was roughly: “Fans always say they want those films on disc, but when we released them on DVD, they didn’t sell very well.” So I suggested that Universal should take the key films in the series – Dracula, Frankenstein, The Wolf Man, Creature, etc – and release them in a single box set timed to Halloween. “Trust me, fans won’t be able to resist that.” Craig’s eyes lit up, and he smiled, and said “That’s a good idea. Let me talk to the team.” Two years later, just in time for Halloween 2012, the Universal Classic Monsters: The Essential Collection Blu-ray box set arrived in stores… and sold very well indeed. You can read our own Dr. Adam Jahnke’s fine review of that box here at The Bits.
At the same time, I learned that the two year delay had been deliberate… the studio knew that 2012 was Universal’s 100th anniversary. What better way to celebrate it? So new 4K scans and restorations of those initial Classic Monsters films were completed for the purpose. The success of that first Blu-ray release led to even better news. In 2015, Universal began a process of additional 4K restorations of many of their most beloved studios classics, which included all of the other Universal Classic Monsters films. The first fruits of this project were released on Blu-ray the following year, with HD upgrades of the Frankenstein: Complete Legacy Collection and The Wolf Man: Complete Legacy Collection. It continued in 2017 with Dracula: Complete Legacy Collection and The Mummy: Complete Legacy Collection. And now, at long last, they’ve followed up this year with the final two volumes, including The Invisible Man: Complete Legacy Collection and the Creature from the Black Lagoon: Complete Legacy Collection, as well as the inevitable Universal Classic Monsters: Complete 30-Film Collection… which I’m pleased to review here now.
Given my involvement in that initial conversation that started it all, and of course my love of these films, I feel a certain personal attachment to this release. It’s not perfect, but it’s pretty damn good. These films have (mostly) never looked better. And while there’s some duplication in this box set to be sure, I still think it’s a minor miracle that we have all of these films on Blu-ray at all.
Now, I’ve reviewed all of the individual character sets on Blu-ray here on The Bits as they were released, so rather than rehashing my thoughts on those, let me just link to those reviews for the details:
Each of these sets is included in this box, in their own cases, simply with a larger slipcase for the whole collection. In addition, this 30-Film Collection includes The Phantom of the Opera (1943) on Blu-ray. This is exactly the same disc that was released in the previous Universal Classic Monsters: The Essential Collection BD set in 2012. It’s available here in its own Blu-ray case with artwork that matches the rest of the 30-Film Collection. It’s possible it may be available separately in the future in this packaging, but for now it’s exclusive to these two box sets.
- Feature commentary with film historian Scott MacQueen
- The Opera Ghost: A Phantom Unmasked (SD – 51:19)
- Production Photographs (SD – 5:47)
- Theatrical Trailer (SD – 2:12)
- 100 Years of Universal: The Lot (HD – 9:25)
Audio is available in English and French 2.0 mono DTS-HD Master Audio, with subtitles in English SDH and Spanish.
The package also includes the full-color The Original House of Horror 47-page book, with photographs, poster art, and liner notes. This is essentially a duplicate of the booklet that came with the DVD set, just in a slightly smaller size.
In general, the new 4K scans are tremendous, offering lovely contrast and more detail than ever before. The original mono soundtracks have been restored to the best possible quality and are presented in lossless audio. Better still, all of the fine extras created for the previous DVD releases carry over, including all of the wonderful featurettes and commentaries featuring the likes of Tom Weaver, David J Skal, Bob Burns, Rick Baker, Rudy Behlmer, Scott MacQueen, Sir Christopher Frayling, Gregory Mank, Paul Jensen, and others. And the two Creature films originally released in 3D have been restored in Blu-ray 3D (more on that in a minute).
There is, however, a problem with this new set, which is this: The Creature from the Black Lagoon: Complete Legacy Collection – both in this set and individually – includes two Blu-rays, the original Creature in 2D and 3D on one disc and Revenge of the Creature in 2D and 3D and The Creature Walks Among Us on the other. That second disc is improperly authored so that the 3D version of Revenge doesn’t play properly and the 2D isn’t of good quality. Universal is correcting this disc, and will be sending out replacements in the coming weeks. You will find the instructions on how to obtain a fixed replacement disc below (and the end of this review). Note that you can identify the fixed sets (both the 30-Film Collection and the Creature set) by a new UPC sticker that’s placed over the original UPC on the packaging. The versions available on Amazon and elsewhere going forward to should all be the corrected versions.
This defect, and the fact that there’s a bit of duplication in the set, works against its overall value a bit. Still, if you’re a huge fan of these films, they’ve quite simply never been available in this kind of quality before. And knowing what I do about the inner workings of the industry, I know that we’re very lucky to have them on Blu-ray. So my recommendation is to find a really good sale price and don’t hesitate. The SRP for the set is $144, but Amazon recently sold it for over 50% off and they surely will again. No doubt other retailers will offer it for sale too. At $70 dollars (give or take) for thirty beloved films in this kind of quality… that is a steal. So don’t hesitate.
The Universal Classic Monsters: Complete 30-Film Collection is, with the few qualifications listed above, highly recommended.
- Bill Hunt