The Bela Lugosi Franchise Collection DVD Review
Written by Neon Maniac
DVD released by Universal Pictures
Various writers and directors
2005, Region 1 (NTSC), 337 minutes, Not rated
DVD released on September 6th, 2005
Hot on the heels of their Classic Monsters collections, Universal brings us the Bela Lugosi Franchise Collection. The five films presented here represent some of the best of Lugosi's work for Universal outside of Dracula. The hidden treat here is that while all five films star Lugosi, four of them co-star another Universal legend, Boris Karloff.
The five films come on a single, double sided, dual layered DVD; not unlike the ones in the other Universal collections. While it may seem small, it's really not. Each film clocks in at a hair over 60 minutes, with The Invisible Ray being a comparatively epic 79 minutes. The tight space does not allow for any extra features aside from a few trailers for the films.
Video and Audio:
The audio on these movies has been restored and is now in great condition. All are a 2.0 mono mix, and while there is the occasional pop and hiss, that just adds to the atmosphere of these old movies. Otherwise they sounds fantastic. Dialogue is clear and crisp, and the music is undistorted.
While some of these films have been available on various inexpensive public domain collections, they've never looked better. They've been cleaned up and remastered as well as possible. There are no 'rough edit' abrupt scene changes, and these are definitely not the VHS dubs you've seen in the cheap-o 20 movies for $10 collections. They do show their age, but they are a very healthy 70.
All five films in this collection are worth viewing, but Murders In The Rue Morgue and Black Friday are easily the weakest. Rue Morgue is an entertaining film, with Lugosi at his hammiest best. Besides, it co-stars a gorilla, which in and of itself deems it a classic in my book. Black Friday is equally good, but when it was made Karloff refused to work with Lugosi, so Lugosi's role was changed and the two greats had no scenes together. The other three films in the collection are quite strong and will keep you coming back for more. Lugosi and Karloff are each at their best when facing off against one another; and The Black Cat, The Raven, and The Invisible Ray all showcases the tension between and talent of, the two actors. Always at each other's throats, sometimes Lugosi gains the upperhand, sometimes Karloff does.
Knowing now how the two giants felt about eachother adds a subtle undertone to their scenes, and sometimes the tension is so thick it makes the viewer uncomfortable — in a good way. Karloff is at his gentlemanlike, smoothly-evil best as the Satanist in The Black Cat. It's a subtle, menacing style that he perfected and others have imitated, but never matched. Lugosi's calm, maniacal doctor in The Raven is creepy and malevolent. Both men do an excellent job of portraying a sadistic evil that has rarely been seen since.
Universal Pictures has done an outstanding job with their recent collections, and they've continued bringing the quality when it comes to the Bela Lugosi Collection. All films are must-sees for the fan of classical cinema, and especially so for the fans of classic horror.
(Neon's Movie Lounge contains a Zenith 42" Plasma EDTV, Oppo DV971H DVD player using a DVI connection, JVC 5.1 DD/DTS receiver and JBL Northridge E Series speakers.)
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