A Few Words About A few words about...™ Universal Monsters -- in Blu-ray

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Robert Harris, Oct 6, 2012.

  1. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    Like many of you, I ordered a UniMonsters set from Amazon UK. Great price, great service.

    Here are my thoughts, after sampling the set:

    Dracula -

    An interesting project, as the film was shot FA, meaning image from perf to perf. Much like S35.

    Derived from a nitrate lavender print, which has been under the custody of the Library of Congress -- they're far more involved with older films than one might suspect, and deserve a major share of the glory, when things go right -- and scanned at 6k via wet-gate, with stabilized image, de-flicker, grain management, and dirt and scratch removal.

    The film element was also warped.

    Dracula is basically a restoration horror story, which end happily. A great deal of digital processing went into making this look as superb as it does, with nary a slip-up toward making anything look digital.

    Kudos to Universal and all involved.

    Dracula has gorgeous black levels, shadow detail, and normal looking grain structure.

    Those who don't know the film may find it slow-moving, and overly leisurely paced. I suggest that you stick with it, as rewards are numerous.

    As a point of reference, the point scores in this commentary are based upon how good the image looks vs. the elements available.

    Image - 5

    Audio - 5 (There is enough high end hiss left in the recording to make it seem authentic. I love it!)


    Frankenstein -

    Sampling this Blu-ray, I realized for the first time, that I was seeing the pure composites of the windmill sequence. The resolution pulled out of the elements is very impressive.

    The majority of the Frankenstein image was harvested from a 1939 nitrate lavender of the re-cut short version of the film. The original negative, of which several reels no longer exist, was in too poor a condition to be the centerpiece of the restoration, with missing shots filled in from other elements.

    Beautifully rendered in all respects.

    Image - 5

    Audio - 5


    The Mummy -

    The original negative no longer exists. A fine grain was the basis of the scan, with various replacement sections, as necessary, from other elements.

    Image is a slight step down from the earlier films, but is still very representative. Audio has a bit of built-in wow and distortion in music, but nothing to be of concern.

    Far nicer looking than I've ever seen.

    Image - 4

    Audio - 3.5


    The Bride of Frankenstein -

    The image for Bride was derived from a nitrate composite lavender. The element, due to extensive restoration work, performed beautifully, shows none of the its built-in problems.

    Film jitter, chemical stains, running scratches, film tears, positive and negative dirt, flash frames, film warps, and shifts before and after cuts.

    You'd never know it, looking at this Blu-ray.

    Image - 5

    Audio - 5


    The Wolfman -

    One of my personal favorites is down a notch compared with the earlier films. Derived from a dupe picture negative, itself taken from a nitrate fine grain, the image exhibits just a bit too much digital clean-up to be totally pleasing. The scan was at HD level, and has a bit of grain "management." I'm not thrilled with it, but it's not terribly problematic, and is generally okay.

    Image - 3.5 (window-boxed main title and opening shot)

    Audio - 5


    Phantom of the Opera (1943) -

    From what I'm led to believe, the history of the original Phantom ends around 1948, at which time, and apparently in celebration of the studio's 46th Anniversary, junked all of their original silent camera negatives.

    Happy Anniversary!

    The 1943 re-make, which was photographed in three-strip Technicolor, is derived from the original camera negatives, albeit to an interpositive.

    The problem is that the IP is flawed, uncorrected, and easily could have been.

    Beautiful color comes apart with registration problems.

    Occasionally beautiful Occasionally, not.

    Image - 1.5 (would have been a 2, but for the window-boxing)

    Audio - 5


    Creature from the Black Lagoon -

    A VERY mixed bag, and an odd one.

    Image quality, derived from the OCN have been well handled. I'm at a loss to figure out why the image cuts back and forth from astonishingly beautiful shots to dupes on a reasonably regular basis.

    3D is handled well, if not perfectly, and I'll leave it to other to discuss that.

    Presuming that the dupe shots are a part of the camera original...

    Image - 4

    Audio - 5


    Bottom line on this set is simple. Six out of nine films, handled with great skill and care. One (Wolfman) less so. Phantom, a bit of a mess, and Creature, at least to me, a big question mark.

    A greawt deal of care has gone into most of the films in this set, and should be recognized.

    The Universal Monster Collection is Highly Recommended.

    I highly suggest that you visit Mr. Koster's thread for far fuller information.

    RAH
     
  2. Guest

    I watched the Jack Pierce documentary last night. I had never seen it before. I bawled like a baby.
     
  3. JohnS

    JohnS Producer

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    I receive my set from the UK on Monday.
    I'm anxiously waiting to watch all these films and its extras.
    Like always, great comments Robert.
     
  4. David Weicker

    David Weicker Cinematographer

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    I probably won't get my set until Tuesday. Normally I'd expect Monday, but because it was shipped Royal Mail, that usually ends up in USPS mail, and there won't be delivery Monday because of the holiday (darn 520th anniversary).
     
  5. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    A short side story.
    When I was about to turn 11 or 12, I was put on the train to Manhattan and was told I was going somewhere with my father, who met me in NYC, and walked me to a friend's office.
    At that time, I had been working my way through the films that are the subject of this thread. I was in awe of their history, how they had been made, and the people who made them.
    Apparently, this was a set-up. When we arrived, I was ushered into a conference room, where a tall English gentleman was waiting for me.
    I spent the next hour learning about many of the Universal horror films of the 1930s and '40s.
    The English gentleman, who gave freely of his time, and who could not have been more kind...
    Mr. Karloff.
    RAH
     
  6. WadeM

    WadeM Supporting Actor

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    ^^ great story!
    I've never been that interested in seeing the '43 version of Phantom of the Opera, yet was looking forward to seeing it for the first time with this set in beautiful high def.. It irks me when I read that the problem could "easily" have been fixed and wasn't. Luckily, I'm primarily buying it for the other films.
    I wish everyone would give up on window-boxing.
     
  7. Guest

    I'm watching Phantom now and it looks very good.
     
  8. Paul Penna

    Paul Penna Supporting Actor

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    I've only had time to do some sample comparisons of Dracula, the DVD in the Monster Legacy set vs. the new Blu-Ray, but that was enough to tell me I've never seen it looking so good. Tempted to say it's almost like night and day.
     
  9. Kevin EK

    Kevin EK Producer
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    RAH is very kind.

    I'll have a complete review, including of all the special features, up tomorrow. Did a marathon over the last two days to go through and summarize all the featurettes, commentaries and Monster Tracks.

    I can now state categorically:

    All the movies have AVC encodes of an average of 30 mbps, except the 3D Creature which has an MVC encode of around 20 mbps per eye. All the movies have the DTS-HD MA 2.0 mixes that average around 1.9 mbps. All the special features are SD ports of the prior 1999 and later DVD material, with the exception of the new 100th Anniversary 1080p featurettes. It looks to me like the Monster Tracks idea is new to Blu-ray too, but it only gets used on Dracula and Frankenstein.

    Watching all the trailers for the successor movies for these, like House of Dracula and House of Frankenstein, tends to result in unintentional laughter after a while. (I keep flashing back to Bill Cosby's routine about Old Weird Harold, where they go to one of those and as soon as the Monster comes out onscreen they dive under their seats and stay there for the next 12 hours...)

    After looking at the featurettes, I'm really curious to see The Black Cat with Lugosi and Karloff. Was the skinning idea out of "more than one way to skin a cat..."?
     
  10. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    I'm thinking the first film I'll view is Phantom of the Opera as I don't exactly understand RAH's grade based on his actual comments. Also, since Kevin noted registration problems too I'm really interested to see if my tired old eyes can pick up the same problem.
     
  11. Johnny Angell

    Johnny Angell Played With Dinosaurs Member

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    I have the distinct impression that Mr. Harris could give us more than a few words about his life experiences. Oh, to have been a kid (oh heck, any age) and spend a hour learning about those films.
    My coffin is being sent DHL Global Mail. Any one know how quick they are?
     
  12. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    This will be very viewing size dependent. My grades are based upon the fact that there is no need for registration problems in a 2012 release, especially one like Phantom, for the all other attributes, inclusive of color, are exemplary.

    RAH
     
  13. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    There is a difference of opinion regarding yours and Kevin's thoughts on Phantom than what some other reviewers and regular posters are saying about it. I do attribute that difference to various HT equipment used to view this disc as well as more critical or better yet more knowledgeable eyes regarding what this film should look like on this BD. Anyhow, I'll probably get my UK box set on Tuesday so Phantom is first up due to these opinion differences as I'm curious to see which group my personal opinion will agree with. Apparently, The Wolf Man and The Creature from the Black Lagoon are two other discs in which differences of opinion are noted, but for different reasons than Phantom. Unfortunately, the studios aren't better at producing high quality Blu-ray releases without this same song and dance that's been going on since the beginning in the home video era with each and every improved video format.
     
  14. JoHud

    JoHud Producer

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    I've only watched The Creature From the Black Lagoon (sadly, no 3-D for me), and I thought it looked pretty good. However, I'll echo Mr. Harris's sentiments on this one as it doesn't seem to have a consistent sharpness to it, and that is taking stock footage into account. Most scenes with the creature look great, allowing for the intricate details of the make-up to look better than ever. I haven't seen the other titles in this set yet to compare, and the differences in sharpness and contrast aren't as jarring as The Sting, let alone all that noticeable. It's just not up to the benchmark set by previous Universal efforts.
    I'm definitely looking forward to the Dracula restoration. That film was easily the weakest and rough looking of all on the previous Universal classic horror DVDs, especially the Legacy edition.
    Slow (unless it's DHL Express). From my experience, it is less expedient than standard airmail. Considering I got mine already via airmail yesterday, I'd say you'd get yours later this week or the following week.
     
  15. Kevin EK

    Kevin EK Producer
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    A couple of things:

    1. The Monster Tracks idea actually comes from the 2006 DVDs. They only did it for Dracula and Frankenstein, and then ported the content over to Blu.

    2. The PQ issues become more apparent the larger and more precisely calibrated your display is. On my 65" monitor, even with proper calibration, I don't see the registration errors on Phantom nearly as much as I did on Joe's system. On Joe's projection system on a 90" screen, the issues literally sang to us.

    3. The Wolf Man is likely a question of taste. Joe and I really liked what we were seeing. RAH is not as happy with the grain management. There are good points to be made on both sides. When we compared the grain from the last DVD to the Blu, we were happier with the Blu. But this is something that readers should check out for themselves to see what they think. I don't believe anyone is saying it's a bad looking Blu.

    I'm overall very, very pleased with this set. I wish that the issues we saw on the last two discs hadn't been there, but that doesn't negate the great work done elsewhere in the same set. I would hate to see people pass up the Blus of the first six movies (or the first five for RAH) due to issues with the last two...
     
  16. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    You think Blu-ray is problematic.

    You should have been around during the production of illuminated manuscripts.

    There were monks, and then there were Monks.
     
  17. Bob Cashill

    Bob Cashill Cinematographer

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    Properly illuminated, the illuminated manuscripts, particularly the 4k ones, were gorgeous. And people today look at Kindles. Bah.
     
  18. cjh5801

    cjh5801 Auditioning

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    Regarding the leisurely pace of DRACULA, as I mentioned in the "While we wait" thread, the continuity and pacing of 1931's DRACULA was ruined by Universal's last-minute re-edit of director Tod Browning's original cut of the film. To see the film restored to the continuity of the shooting script, check out:
    If you're a fan of the film, I think you'll be surprised. I'd like to see Universal include a similar re-cut as an extra in a future Blu-Ray release.
    - Clark
     
  19. Richard--W

    Richard--W Banned

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    My goodness.
    My curiosity is piqued.
    About what year was this?
    Tell us more, please. I'd really like to know.
     
  20. JohnMor

    JohnMor Producer
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    But some idiot monks always scrubbed all the grain from the paper.
     

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