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Universal Horror Collection Volume Three: Tower of London (1939), Man-Made Monster (1941), The Black Cat (1941), Horror Island (1941) - Blu-ray Review

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Universal Horror Collection Volume 3

More thrills and even more chills!  

Karloff.  Lugosi.  Rathbone. And Vincent Price in his film debut.  What’s not to love about these names or their film legacies?  Absolutely nothing at all and the proof is Scream Factory's new 2K scanned release of the films that make up the Universal Horror Collection Volume Three: Tower of London, Man-Made Monster, The Black Cat, and Horror Island.  That’s right.  In one year, Scream Factory has given fans of these forgotten gems of murder most foul THREE collections to salivate over. 

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


 

And, Boils and Ghouls, a fourth set - featuring Night Key with Karloff, Night Monster with Lugosi and Lionel Atwill, The Climax with Karloff (in Technicolor!!!), and House of Horrors with Rondo Hattan - is set to be released in March of 2020, so the frights and fights are going to keep on coming!

But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves here and focus on what Volume Three has to offer all the ravenous hounds of horror out there.  Because, on this set alone, fans of the genre get 1939’s Tower of London, 1941’s Man-Made Monster, 1941’s horror comedic remake of The Black Cat, and 1941’s Horror Island.

Horror titles in the wake of the pre-Code Hollywood era fascinate me.  There are a lot of grand and wonderful films reflecting the true culture of the time period from 1930 – 1934, but as the studios buckled down some titles - mainly C-grade and so forth - managed to slip through the cracks.  It must have been a frustrating and wild time.  These four films, featuring strong sexual innuendos during the 40s, 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 third volume of Universal Horror Collection is of so much interest. 

Things get started with Tower of London which, as you might know, is not a horror film at all.  Although, with Karloff as Mord, the Royal Executioner, it might as well be.  Man, does he strike a terrifying shadow!  Based on Shakespeare’s play and directed by Rowland V. Lee, this film is the second pairing of Basil Rathbone, cast here as Richard III, and Karloff.  The two were last seen together in Son of Frankenstein, but here they are joined by the screen debut of Vincent Price as the Duke of Clarence.  While not remarkable, the cast alone is worth a ticket punched.

Next up is 1941’s Man-Made Monster with Lon Chaney Jr. in his horror film debut.  Here, alongside Lionel Atwill as a mad scientist, Chaney is turned into yet another electrified monster with more than radiation on his mind.  Produced by Jack Bernhard and directed by George Waggner (The Wolf Man), this B-grade flick takes The Invisible Ray and transforms into the march of electrified zombies as a sideshow freak becomes a killing machine, frying his victims with electricity.

Also released in 1941 is the next film included in the set.  The remake of The Black Cat takes Poe out of the flick and inserts a whole lot of dated comedy as Basil Rathbone, Bela Lugosi, and Alan Ladd find themselves in the middle of murder mystery whodunnit, complete with two antique dealers - Hubert Smith (Broderick Crawford) and Mr. Penny (Hugh Herbert) - are left to solve the crime.  This film, while interesting thanks to its cast, is probably the weakest film in this set.  Universal Horror Collection Volume 3

The final film in the set is Horror Island.  Released in 1941, this C-grade take on island terror features Foy Van Dolsen as The Phantom.  Once again directed by George Waggner for Universal, the film is concerned with the search for a pirate’s hidden treasure as bombs, boats, and stolen treasure maps become plot points off the coast of Florida.  Not remarkable by any stretch of the imagination, Dolsen as The Phantom keeps things interesting as the high seas become full of loud screams.

Moody and full of great moments in horror history, most of these films are cult 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, as best explained by the new commentaries.  

Scream Factory gives fans of the macabre four new HD transfers, with four brand-new commentaries, still galleries, and a 12-page booklet housed in a cardboard slipcase.  The Universal Horror Collection Volume 3 proves that the show must go on!

3/5 stars

Universal Horror Collection Volume 3

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

Home Video Distributor: Universal
Available on Blu-ray
- December 17, 2019
Screen Formats: 1.37:1, 1.36:1, 1.35:1
Subtitles
: English SDH
Audio:
1.0 DTS-HD MA
Discs: Blu-ray Disc; four-disc set
Region Encoding: Locked to Region A

Volume 3 of the Universal Horror Collection includes four tales of terror from the archives of Universal Pictures, the true home of classic horror. This collection includes such horror stars as Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Vincent Price, Lon Chaney Jr. and Basil Rathbone. A ruthless king rises to power with the help of his mad and murderous executioner in Tower Of London. A mad scientist transforms a carnival performer into a murderous monster in Man Made Monster. In The Black Cat, a group of greedy heirs find themselves stuck in a creepy mansion where, one by one, people turn up dead. What started out as a treasure-making scheme ends up deadly for a group of people stuck in a haunted castle with a killer known as "the Phantom" in Horror Island.

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 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.

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:

  • See Special Features.

Special Features:

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

DISC ONE: TOWER OF LONDON (1939)

  • NEW 2K Scan Of A Fine Grain Print
  • NEW Audio Commentary With Author/Film Historian Steve Haberman
  • Still Gallery

DISC TWO: MAN MADE MONSTER (1941)

  • NEW Audio Commentary With Author/Film Historian Tom Weaver And Filmmaker/Film Historian Constantine Nasr
  • Still Gallery

DISC THREE: THE BLACK CAT (1941)

  • NEW Audio Commentary With Author/Film Historian Gary D. Rhodes
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Still Gallery

DISC FOUR: HORROR ISLAND (1941)

  • NEW Audio Commentary By Filmmaker/Film Historian Ted Newsom
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Still Gallery

Blu-ray Rating:

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

Overall Blu-ray Experience

3.5/5 stars

Universal Horror Collection Volume 3

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