BADass SINema Unearthed - Blu-ray Review

Universal Horror Collection Volume Two: Murders in the Zoo (1933), The Mad Doctor of Market Street (1942), The Strange Case of Dr. Rx (1942), The Mad Ghoul (1943) - Blu-ray Review

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Murders in the Zoo

The Universal Pictures archives are open again!  And we didn’t have to wait an entire year either.  This time, instead of following the Lugosi and Karloff route, Scream Factory takes us into the territory of mad doctors and murder most foul.  The four tales – Murders in the Zoo, The Mad Doctor of Market Street, The Strange Case of Dr. Rx, and The Mad Ghoul – feature wicked performances from Lionel Atwill, George Zucco, David Bruce and Evelyn Ankers and, as you simply can’t get enough of these long sought after horror titles, are worthy of repeat viewings.

"Moody and full of great moments in horror history, most of these films are classics in their own right and bound together like this, well, they make purchasing it an absolute necessity"


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.  Which is why the second volume of Universal’s Horror Collection is of so much continued interest.

The second volume begins with 1933’s pre-code horror classic, Murders in the Zoo, and – within seconds- has us mesmerized.  Lions! Tigers!  Bears!  It’s opening involves a man getting his mouth stitched shut and, yes, it is as grisly as it sounds.  Chain-smoking, wealthy zoologist Eric Gorman (Lionel Atwill) is a big game hunter.  He is also insanely jealous and his wife, Evelyn (Kathleen Burke), is always getting herself in a big old mess with other men.  The girl can’t help it.  She’s unhappily married.  Gorman is having none of it, though, and sets about fantastically murdering all of his wife’s lovers in bizarre and cruel ways.  Directed by  A. Edward Sutherland, written by Philip Wylie and Seton I. Miller, this film goes dark and it never turns the lights back on, making it must see.

The Mad Doctor of Market Street, from 1942, is next and this film, also starring Lionel Atwill as a the titular mad scientist doing experimental things with the knife, gets its best gas from being a rip off of The Island of Dr. Moreau.  When the doctor leaves San Francisco for a tropical island, he instigates a rule of fear over the natives.  Leave it to a shipwrecked survivor to shake things up, though, and ruin the mad doctor’s plans for dominance.  This is an interesting, but expected film.

Next up is 1942’s The Strange Case of Dr. Rx follows and, as it stars Atwill again, we seem to get the message about this character actor: he’s good and elevates most of the mundane material he is cast in.  Which makes Dr. Rx, as a movie, an interesting albeit flawed murder mystery.  Horror it definitely is not as Atwill takes to the streets murdering bad guys.  Quite dull in places, it is the sheer presence of Atwill that makes this one work.The Strange Case of Dr. Rx

The final film in this set is The Mad Ghoul from 1943.  While it is the only feature on this set NOT to star Atwill, it definitely has a starring part of this set as the film, starring Turhan Bey, Evelyn Ankers, and David Bruce, and featuring George Zucco, Robert Armstrong, and Milburn Stone, takes jealousy to new lows thanks to a nerve gas that render the once happy  Ted Allison (David Bruce), medical student of Dr. Alfred Morris (George Zucco), into a ghoulish state that has him craving fresh hearts instead of his girlfriend Isabel Lewis (Evelyn Ankers), whom Zucco is putting the moves on.  Dark and grim, this film is easily my second favorite “discovery” on this set from Scream Factory.

Moody and full of great moments in horror history, most of these films are classics in their own right and bound together like this, well, they make purchasing it an absolute necessity and the new-found appreciation for them is practically palpable. Now, for Part Three . . .

4/5 beers

The Strange Case of Dr. Rx

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

Home Video Distributor: Shout Factory
Available on Blu-ray
- July 23, 2019
Screen Formats: .37:1, 1.34:1
Subtitles
: English SDH
Audio:
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0
Discs: Blu-ray Disc; four-disc set
Region Encoding: Locked to Region A

With new 2K scans, these films – all in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio with a strong English 1.0 DTS-HD MA tracks.  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 zoos, 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.

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • See Special Features.

Special Features:

Scream Factory, once again, does hounds of horror a solid with this release.

DISC ONE: MURDERS IN THE ZOO

  • NEW Audio Commentary With Author/Film Historian Greg Mank
  • Still Gallery

DISC TWO: MAD DOCTOR OF MARKET STREET

  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Still Gallery

DISC THREE: THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. RX

  • NEW Gloriously Wicked: The Life And Legacy Of Lionel Atwill Featurette
  • Still Gallery

DISC FOUR: THE MAD GHOUL

  • NEW Audio Commentary By Film Historian Thomas Reeder
  • Still Gallery

Blu-ray Rating:

  Movie 4/5 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 2 - blu-ray

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