These Monsters Have Universal Appeal in More Ways Than One!

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Universal Classic Monsters 4K collection

Halloween is when the monsters all come out. And while recent years have brought us scary slashers like Freddy and Jason, or deceptively cute killer creatures like Gremlins, Critters, or Creepsters, the foundations of fright will always be the Universal Monsters -- those monsters from classic literature brought to life on the silver screen by Universal Pictures.

Now four of these iconic early twentieth century black-and-white horror films have been restored to a 4K Ultra HD presentation: Dracula, Frankenstein, The Invisible Man, and The Wolf Man. And for most movie fans, you may be aware of these films, may have seen them many times, you might be surprised at how long ago it's been since you've sat and watched them. I know for me I hadn't seen them since they were being broadcast on over-the-air television, which would probably be the late 1970s. So sitting down with these was almost like getting to watch Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff, Lon Chaney, and Claude Raines for the first time in a long time. It was also interesting, watching these four films in a marathon, to see the actors pop up in each others movies. The Wolf Man, for instance saw not only Lon Chaney as Larry Talbot in the title role, but also featured Rains as his father, Sir John Talbot, and Bela Lugosi as the gypsy Bela, the first werewolf who bites Larry near the beginning of the film. Classic film lovers will also enjoy seeing Rains do, largely, voice acting, as Jack Griffin, the titular Invisible Man (only the second professional credit of his career) alongside such greats as Titanic's Gloria Stuart as the innkeeper's wife and It's A Wonderful Life's Henry Travers as Griffin's mentor and would-be father-in-law.

One thing that truly stands out among these films is the running time. Each clocks in at just a few minutes over an hour. As such, none of them waste any time but delve right into the action. Dracula opens with Renfield (Dwight Frye) arriving in town to deliver papers to Castle Dracula. Similarly The Wolf Man has Larry Talbot returning to his ancestral home after years abroad and learning about the local legends of werewolves. The Invisible Man is vislble (thanks to bandages) right from the beginning when he trudges through knee-deep snow at night on his way to demand a room at The Lion's Head pub. And Frankenstein jumps right in with a scene of ghoulish grave robbery (once the audience has been properly warned in person about the frightening nature of the movie they are about to see). This is compressed storytelling that grabs the viewer as quickly as possible and continues to keep them on the edge of their seats right to the end. True, the visuals may not be as "in your face" with the blood and gore, but the story keeps you involved -- and that's why, even beyond their production company's namesake -- these monsters are truly "universal."

5.0 / 5.0