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Score One for the Old Country: The Universal Classic Monsters Blu-ray Debacle

When I reported not so long ago that Universal’s new Classic Monsters Essential Collection Blu-ray was due in October, I was under the impression that Amazon’s pre-order price for the title – $111.99 for the 8-disc set – was perfectly reasonable. That was before news of the UK edition arrived, and I’ve since changed my tune dramatically.

Quoting from Amazon.co.uk, the specs for the release are as follows (region coding is unknown at present):

For the first time ever, eight of the most iconic cinematic masterpieces of the horror genre are available together on Blu-ray as Universal Classic Monsters: The Essential Collection. Digitally restored in perfect high-definition picture and perfect high-definition sound. This essential set includes a never-before-seen featurette about the restoration of Dracula and the first ever offering of Creature from the Black Lagoon in its restored Blu-ray 3D version.

Contain hours of bonus features, a 44 page booklet and 8 exclusive art cards with original theatrical posters.

Dracula (1931):
The original 1931 movie version of Bram Stoker’s classic tale has for generations defined the iconic look and terrifying persona of the famed vampire. Dracula owes its continued appeal in large part due to Bela Lugosi’s indelible portrayal of the immortal Count Dracula and the flawless direction of horror auteur Tod Browning.

Bonus Features: Dracula: The Restoration – New Featurette Available for The First Time!, Monster Tracks: Interactive Pop-Up Facts About the Making of Dracula, Dracula Archives, Score by Philip Glass performed by the Kronos Quartet, Feature Commentary by Film Historian David J. Skal, Feature Commentary by Steve Haberman, Screenwriter of Dracula: Dead and Loving It , Trailer Gallery

Frankenstein (1931):
Boris Karloff stars as the screen’s most tragic and iconic monster in what many consider to be the greatest horror film ever made. Dr. Henry Frankenstein (Colin Clive) dares to tamper with the essential nature of life and death by creating a monster (Karloff) out of lifeless human body parts. Director James Whale’s adaptation of the Mary Shelley novel and Karloff’s compassionate portrayal of a creature groping for identity make Frankenstein a timeless masterpiece.

Bonus Features: The Frankenstein Files: How Hollywood Made a Monster, Karloff: The Gentle Monster, Monster Tracks: Interactive Pop-Up Facts About The Making of Frankenstein, Universal Horror, Frankenstein Archives, Boo!: A Short Film, Feature Commentary with Film Historian Rudy Behlmer, Feature Commentary with Historian Sir Christopher Frayling, 100 Years Of Universal: Restoring the Classics, Trailer Gallery

The Mummy (1932):
Horror icon Boris Karloff stars in the original 1932 version of The Mummy in which a team of British archaeologists accidentally revives a mummified high priest after 3,700 years. Alive again, he sets out on an obsessive-and deadly-quest to find his lost love. Over 50 years after its first release, this brooding dream-like horror classic remains a cinematic masterpiece.

Bonus Features: Mummy Dearest: A Horror Tradition Unearthed, He Who Made Monsters: The Life and Art Of Jack Pierce, Unraveling the Legacy of The Mummy, The Mummy Archives, Feature Commentary by Rick Baker, Scott Essman, Steve Haberman, Bob Burns and Brent Armstrong, Feature Commentary by Film Historian Paul M. Jensen, 100 Years Of Universal: The Carl Laemmle Era

The Invisible Man (1933):
Claude Rains delivers an unforgettable performance in his screen debut as a mysterious doctor who discovers a serum that makes him invisible. Covered by bandages and dark glasses, Rains arrives in a small English village and attempts to hide his amazing discovery, but the drug’s side effects slowly drive him to commit acts of unspeakable terror.

Bonus Features: Now You See Him: The Invisible Man Revealed, Production Photographs, Feature Commentary with Film Historian Rudy Behlmer, 100 Years of Universal: Unforgettable Characters

The Bride of Frankenstein (1935):
The acclaimed sequel to the original Frankenstein has become one of the most popular horror classics in film history. The legendary Boris Karloff reprises his role as the screen’s most misunderstood monster, now longing for a mate of his own. Colin Clive is back as the proud and overly ambitious Dr. Frankenstein, who creates the ill-fated bride (Elsa Lanchester). The last horror film directed by James Whale features a haunting musical score that helps make The Bride of Frankenstein one of the finest and most touching thrillers of its era.

Bonus Features: She’s Alive! Creating The Bride Of Frankenstein, The Bride Of Frankenstein Archive, Feature Commentary with Scott MacQueen

The Wolf Man (1941):
Originally released in 1941, The Wolf Man introduced the world to a new Universal movie monster and redefined the mythology of the werewolf forever. Featuring a heartbreaking performance by Lon Chaney Jr. and groundbreaking make-up by Jack Pierce, The Wolf Man is the saga of Larry Talbot, a cursed man who transforms into a deadly werewolf when the moon is full. The dreamlike atmospheres, elaborate settings and chilling musical score combine to make The Wolf Man a masterpiece of the genre.

Bonus Features: Monster by Moonlight, The Wolf Man: From Ancient Curse to Modern Myth, Pure in Heart: The Life and Legacy of Lon Chaney, Jr., He Who Made Monsters: The Life and Art of Jack Pierce, The Wolf Man Archives, Feature Commentary with Film Historian Tom Weaver

The Phantom of the Opera (1943):
This lavish retelling of Gaston Leroux’s immortal horror tale stars Claude Rains as the masked phantom who haunts the Paris Opera House. A crazed composer who schemes to make beautiful young soprano Christine DuBois (Susanna Foster) the star of the opera company, the Phantom also wreaks revenge on those he believes stole his music. Nelson Eddy, as the heroic baritone, tries to win the affections of Christine as he tracks down the murderous, horribly disfigured Phantom.

Bonus Features: The Opera Ghost: A Phantom Unmasked, Production Photographs, Feature Commentary with Film Historian Scott MacQueen, 100 Years of Universal: The Lot, Theatrical Trailer

The Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954):
Captured and imprisoned for scientific study, a living “amphibious missing link” becomes enamored with the head researcher’s female assistant (Julie Adams). When the hideous creature escapes and kidnaps the object of his affection, a crusade is launched to rescue the helpless woman and cast the terrifying creature back to the depths from which he came. Featuring legendary makeup artist Bud Westmore’s brilliantly designed monster, Creature from the Black Lagoon is an enduring tribute to the imaginative genius of its Hollywood creators.

Bonus Features: The Creature From The Black Lagoon in Blu-ray TM 3D, Back to The Black Lagoon, Production Photographs, Feature Commentary with Film Historian Tom Weaver , 100 Years of Universal: The Lot, Trailer Gallery

The only substantial differences between this list and the specs for the US edition is the exclusion of the Spanish version of Dracula, considered by many to be the superior film, but don’t fret. While I’m unsure of why it is excluded from the spec sheet, Universal Pictures UK have confirmed that it will be included on the release itself, making this set nigh identical to its upcoming US counterpart with the exception of the possible differences in packaging.

Now for the kicker: The UK Universal Classic Monsters Essential Collection Blu-ray, including the same 8 discs of films and supplemental material, is currently available for pre-order at a whopping £37.49 through Amazon.co.uk. At present exchange rates the total comes to just $54.00, shipping included, for orders originating in the United States, or less than half the price of ordering the domestic equivalent!

Needless to say I’ve since cancelled my US pre-order – $55 plus in savings is too much to pass up on. While there is a slim chance that the set will be locked for Region B (the majority of Universal’s UK releases are region free duplicates of versions they’ve made available worldwide), those unencumbered by the troubles of region compatibility are encouraged to go the same route.

The UK Universal Classic Monsters Essential Collection Blu-ray is due for release on October 1, 2012.

3 thoughts on “Score One for the Old Country: The Universal Classic Monsters Blu-ray Debacle

  1. Once again, this explains why region-locking makes no sense when the studio owns and distributes a film in all territories.

    I can understand that the rights situation varies if Warner distributes a work in the USA, Columbia in mainland Europe, and Toho in Japan. Fine, lock it all up. But if the UK-spec package is Region B-only when Universal is behind them all, that’s just plain goofy.

  2. It’s really surprising that the UK set is half the price of the US, despite being pretty much the same – usually it’s us in the UK that get shafted! Does seem a little unfair admittedly, although I’ve noticed Amazon.com tend to be less competitive than the co.uk variety in terms of pricing – Amazon.co.uk prices seem to fluctuate quite a lot and can go remarkably low for some items. Having said that, this particular issue can’t be just down to Amazon because Play.com have the set at a roughly equivalent price of £36 ($56 excluding post to the US, assuming they do that) at the moment. Perhaps Universal are trying to encourage the numbers of what would be a fairly minimal market in the UK?

    Anyway, aside from all that, hopefully sales will be positive enough to prompt Universal to release a sequels edition – stuff like Frankenstein Meets the Werewolf should be on Blu-ray too.

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