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Universal Horror Collection Volume Four: Night Key (1937), Night Monster (1942), The Climax (1944), House of Horrors (1945) - Blu-ray Review

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Universal Horror Collection Volume Four

It doesn’t take Night Key very long to kick into high gear.  Boris Karloff, starring as an inventor of a bank alarm who gets pissed that he’s not getting the money or the credit for his invention, finds himself in over his head with a group of gangsters who want to get rich quick.  With nowhere to turn to, Karloff, whose character is going blind, teams up with a low-rent burglar to try and take it to the man. Unfortunately, his attempt at revenge goes haywire all too soon.

"in the years that followed the Pre-Code era, the studios continued to experiment with horror themes 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"


And that's just the first movie in this collection of Horror flicks.  

Science meets its fiction right off the bat in the fourth in an ongoing series of Universal Horror Collection sets. Karloff.  Lugosi. Atwill. Hatton. What’s not to love about those names? 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 Four.

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 ongoing series called the Universal Horror Collection is of so much interest. 

But, in the years that followed the Pre-Code era, the studios continued to experiment with horror themes 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.

The second film in the collection, Night Monster, sees Bela Lugosi and Lionel Atwill coming to a swamp-based mansion in which a reclusive, but paralyzed man attempts to seek revenge on the doctors who put him in this wheelchair-bound state.  What follows is creepy B-grade material as a series of murders in which there is one suspect, the dangerous Curt Inston (Ralph Morgan). While not a must-see, this cult creeper has its moments.

In The Climax, starring Boris Karloff, a physician at the Vienna Royal Theatre kills his fiancee and then, a decade later, is reminded of her voice in a new beauty and tasks to make her sing for only him.  Operating as a sequel to the remake of The Phantom of the Opera, The Climax is notable for its use of those sets and its Academy Award nomination for Best Art Direction. While Karloff brings a lot to the table, but beyond that, there is little else to the talent involved.  Based on a play by Edward Locke, the film sets its own trajectory and resembles the plot in title alone. For collector’s, having this movie ported over from its original DVD release is great news, but there is a reason why this film failed to resonate with people at the time of its original release.Universal Horror Collection Volume Four

The final film in the collection is House of Horrors, a promising start to a series of movies that continued for one more film.  For my tastes, this one is the strongest in the set.  Starring Rondo Hatton, a cult cinema figure noted for his acromegalic facial features, House of Horrors sees him as The Creeper, a madman who saves a drowning artist and winds up being his best sculpture.  But the critics aren’t wowed by the sculpture and so The Creeper is sent out into the night to kill them. While chilling, this title remains purely in the B-grade popcorn muncher category.

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 Volume Five!

5/5 stars

Universal Horror Collection Volume Four

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

Universal Horror Collection Volume Four: Night Key (1937), Night Monster (1942), The Climax (1944), House of Horrors (1945)

Home Video Distributor: Shout Factory
Available on Blu-ray
- March 17, 2020
Screen Formats: 1.37:1
Subtitles
: English SDH
Audio:
DTS-HD Master Audio Mono
Discs: Blu-ray Disc; four-disc set
Region Encoding: Locked to Region A

Volume 4 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, Lionel Atwill, and Rondo Hatton. Boris Karloff ignites the screen as an inventor who is kidnapped by a gang of burglars and forced to help them commit robberies in Night Key. Bela Lugosi stars in a creepy tale of strange characters, secret passages and a murderer who masters the art of "mind over matter" in Night Monster. In The Climax, Karloff is terrifying as a mad doctor whose insane jealousy over a beautiful opera singer may drive him to murder. A giant of a man is used as an instrument of evil by a mad sculptor in House Of Horrors.

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:

  • See 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: NIGHT KEY (1937)

  • NEW 2K Scan Of A Fine Grain Film Element
  • NEW Audio Commentary With Film Historians Tom Weaver And Dr. Robert J. Kiss
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Production Design Stills/Production Artwork Gallery
  • Still Gallery

DISC TWO: NIGHT MONSTER (1942)

  • NEW 2K Scan Of A Fine Grain Film Element
  • NEW Audio Commentary With Film Historian Gary D. Rhodes
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Still Gallery

DISC THREE: THE CLIMAX (1944)

  • NEW 2K Scan Of The Interpositive
  • NEW Audio Commentary With Film Historians Kim Newman And Stephen Jones
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Still Gallery

DISC FOUR: HOUSE OF HORRORS (1946)

  • NEW Audio Commentary With Film Historian Scott Gallinghouse
  • NEW The Creeper – Rondo Hatton At Universal
  • Still Gallery

Blu-ray Rating:

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

Overall Blu-ray Experience

4.5/5 stars

Universal Horror Collection Volume Four

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