BADass SINema Unearthed - Blu-ray Review

Universal Horror Collection, Volume Six: The Black Castle (1952), Cult of the Cobra (1955), The Thing That Couldn’t Die (1958), The Shadow of the Cat (1961)

  • Movie Review

  • Blu-ray Review

  • Art

Universal Horror Collection, Volume Five

AS I have previously stated, Pre-Code Hollywood fascinates me.  There are a lot of grand and wonderful films reflecting the true culture of the time period from 1930 – 1934.  Man, it must have been a wild time. These films, featuring strong sexual innuendos, different races mingling together, strong female characters, lots of skin, malicious murders, and horrors upon horrors of grisly situations still resonate.  

"Ultimately, this set of four classic B-grade terrors makes for a fun weekend of haunts and stomps as Universal - during the 1940s through the 1950s - flex their creative muscles to produce some pretty spot-on, campy, and terror-filed spine-tinglers"


 

But SOMETHING AWESOME happened in the years that followed the Pre-Code era when it came to horror movies and it's about time that we dive in to all those films - which this set does!  Universal Horror in the 1940s and the 1950s had their franchises, of course, but the feeling that these were "classic" films had, for the most part, faded.  The Gothic influences were gone; however, the influence of Val Lewton made pulp horror very, very American and very, very popular and, attracted to the sensationalism of higher body counts and the appeal of putting these demented tales in cities, proved impossible to resist.  

And that is where the Universal Horror Collection, Volume Six: The Black Castle (1952), Cult of the Cobra (1955), The Thing That Couldn’t Die (1958), The Shadow of the Cat (1961) gets its wings.  The title here are extremely creative and, shimmering in B-grade glory, never fail to fit the bill of fun and twisted horror flicks - even if they didn't get all the attention at the time of their release.

Universal Studios continued to experiment with horror themes, film noir elements, and dabbled, as seen in this collection, in some bizarre science fiction elements, seeing just how far the audience would let them go when it comes to breaking laws and bending science fact to bring about some very weird thrillers.  Things get started with talking dead in 1952’s The Black Castle, a film which centers around the evil Count Karl von Bruno (Stephen MaNally) and Sir Ronald Burton (Richard Greene) search for his two missing friends.  

Directed by Nathan Juran (The 7th Voyage of Sinbad) and featuring performances from Boris Karloff as Dr. Meissen, Riat Corday as the count's wife, Countess Elga von Bruno, and Lon Chaney Jr. as Gargon, an abused servant who knows far more than he cares to know about the missing friends that the British nobleman has come looking for AND what goes on in the dungeon. Universal Horror Collection, Volume Five

Atmospheric and full of some great locations, this film is not exactly a horror film, but it definitely has those elements fused into its soul, especially when Meissen is performing his treatments and his patients are screaming.  This one is an exciting introduction into Universal’s wide display of B-grade entertainment.

The second film in the set is 1955’s Cult of the Cobra, a horror film which features quality performances from Faith Domergue, Richard Long, Kathleen Hughes, Marshall Thompson, Jack Kelly, William Reynolds, and David Janssen as they do battle against a snake goddess.

The horror film centers around bloody revenge when a cult of snake worshipers are messed with by six American soldiers..  When the soldiers flee the secret Lamian temple in Asia, they have no idea that the snakes - or should I say Snake-Woman - will follow them to their very end.  This Universal offering might be toying with the themes found in Cat People a bit too much, but the film works to create spellbinding female-formed terror which is best explained on the commentary by Tom Weaver, David Schecter, Steve Kronenberg and Dr. Robert J. Kiss which accompanies the movie.

Up next is William Reynolds, Andra Martin, Jeffrey Stone, and Carolyn Kearney in director Will Cowan’s fan-favorite The Thing That Couldn’t Die.  In it the head of Gideon Drew (Robin Hughes) is discovered in an unearthed chest found on a remote dude ranch.  Drew was executed over 300 years ago for concerns about sorcery.  Once opened, he possesses the handyman on the ranch and begins a murderous crusade to rejoin his head to his body.  

And only a cross can prevent him from the reampage!  As long as Linda (Martin) keeps wearing it, that is.  Whoops!  With a great climax and a solid direction from Cowan, Universal’s horror-filled B-gradec romp begins with witching for water and ends with a doomed reunion of the head and the body.  It’s eerie and fun and full of enough camp to make it worthy of the journey back into the land of crisp black-and-white flicks.Universal Horror Collection, Volume Five

The final horror film in the set is a 1961 film directed by John Gilling (The Gamma People) for Hammer called The Shadow of the Cat and it opens with a wicked murder of a wealthy old woman by her butler (Andrew Crawford).  She’s buried on the estate and it turns out that it’s part of a conspiracy to do her in by her husband and the maid.  With only the cat as a witness, she scampers away and causes all sorts of havoc in the household because she seems to understand that it was a crime that these people - having fixed a will - are trying to get away with.

Soon Inspector Rowles (Alan Wheatley) and reporter Michael Latimer (Conrad Phillips) are brought in to get to the bottom of the betrayal and the murder of Ella Venable (Catherine Lacey) as they work against time to protect Ella's favorite niece (Barbara Shelley) and save the cat from those who are plotting to do it in.  The Shadow of the Cat makes for a fine updating of some of the themes found in the works of Poe.

Ultimately, this set of four classic B-grade terrors makes for a fun weekend of haunts and stomps as Universal - during the 1940s through the 1950s - flex their creative muscles to produce some pretty spot-on, campy, and terror-filed spine-tinglers.  Here’s to Volume 7!

5/5 stars

 

Universal Horror Collection, Volume Five

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

Home Video Distributor: Shout Factory!
Available on Blu-ray
- June 16, 2020
Screen Formats: 1.37:1, 1.35:1
Subtitles
: English SDH
Audio:
English 1.0 DTS-HD MA
Discs: Blu-ray Disc; four-disc set
Region Encoding: Locked to Region A

GET READY FOR MORE THRILLS AND CHILLS!  Volume 6 of the Universal Horror Collection includes four tales of terror from the archives of Universal Pictures, the true home of classic horror. Boris Karloff stars as a doctor who risks his own life to save the captives of a mad count in The Black Castle. Vengeance is sworn against six men who witness a ceremony where beautiful women turn into serpents in Cult Of The Cobra. In The Thing That Couldn't Die, when a young psychic discovers a box that contains the living head of an executed devil worshiper ... heads will roll! A cat witnesses the murder of her owner ... and this cat is hell-bent on revenge in The Shadow Of The Cat.

Video:

With new 2K scans, these films – all in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio - have been preserved as best as possible, considering the fire that wiped out a lot of Universal’s catalog of classics.  The black-and-white photography is ripe with details and depth, highlighting the scope of the productions. There are lots of sumptuous looks at cityscapes, houses, laboratories, and swamps, too.  Interiors are solid, too, with lots of strong details. The cast and their faces are perfectly captured by the black and white photography; lines and imperfections add great character to the individual stories, too.

Audio:

All titles come with strong English 1.0 DTS-HD MA tracks to help create the spooky moods needed for a total enjoyment of these flicks.

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • There are FOUR wonderful commentaries on each of these discs.  Stay tuned for the breakdowns in the special features.

Special Features:

Scream Factory, once again, does hounds of horror a solid with this release.  Watch the movies, but stick around for the VERY informative commentaries!

DISC ONE: THE BLACK CASTLE (1952)

  • NEW 2K Scan From A Fine Grain Film Element
  • NEW Audio Commentary With Author/Film Historian Tom Weaver
  • NEW Universal Horror Strikes Back! – A Look At Universal Horror In The 40s
  • Still Gallery

DISC TWO: CULT OF THE COBRA (1955)

  • NEW 2K Scan From A Fine Grain Film Element
  • NEW Audio Commentary With Film Historians Tom Weaver, Steve Kronenberg, David Schecter, And Robert J. Kiss
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • TV Spots For The Double Feature Of REVENGE OF THE CREATURE/CULT OF THE COBRA
  • Still Gallery

DISC THREE: THE THING THAT COULDN’T DIE (1958)

  • NEW 2K Scan From A Fine Grain Film Element
  • NEW Audio Commentary By Authors/Film historians Tom Weaver And C. Courtney Joyner
  • Theatrical Trailer

DISC FOUR: THE SHADOW OF THE CAT (1961)

  • NEW 2K Scan From A Fine Grain Film Element
  • NEW Audio Commentary By Author/Film Historian Bruce G. Hallenbeck
  • NEW In The Shadow Of Shelley – An Interview With Barbara Shelley
  • TV Spot For The Double Feature Of THE CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF/THE SHADOW OF THE CAT
  • Still Gallery

Blu-ray Rating:

  Movie 5/5 stars
  Video  4/5 stars
  Audio 3/5 stars
  Extras 3/5 stars

Overall Blu-ray Experience

3.5/5 stars

Universal Horror Collection, Volume Five

Joomla SEF URLs by Artio
Follow us on Twitter
Like us on Facebook
Google+
Letterboxd
Find us on Rotten Tomatoes