Universal has recently released three great Blu-ray collections that are perfect for the movie lover on your holiday shopping list. The box sets — Universal’s Classic Monsters: The Essential Collection, Alfred Hitchcock: The Masterpiece Collection, and Universal 100th Anniversary Collection — are each an ode to the venerated studio’s cinematic history, and come packed with special features that further illuminate films moviegoers have adored for generations.
For the true horror fanatic, Universal’s Classic Monsters: The Essential Collection is a must-have. Though the print transfers of these films available to Blu-ray are nothing to brag about, there is a new documentary about the Dracula conversion/restoration that hopes to convince you otherwise. The highlight of this box set is The Creature from the Black Lagoon in its original 3D format. (Sorry kids, you will need a 3D TV and Blu-ray player to enjoy. Hurry and ask Santa — it’s not too late!) While most of these films don’t stand the test of time (I’m looking at you Dracula), the monsters themselves do. Seeing each one in its cinematic debut is enough to make any viewer hopeful that Universal might one day get these characters right again.
Alfred Hitchcock: The Masterpiece Collection was previously released on DVD, and this high-def upgrade offers nothing new beyond the impressive HD image. This 15-film collection features everyone’s favorites from the Master of Suspense, including Psycho, The Birds, Vertigo, Rear Window and North by Northwest. Despite the recycling of the bonus materials, the crystal clear picture and sound make the set worthwhile, if only to gain a new appreciation Hitchcock’s incredibly visual style. (Personal favorite shot: The bird’s eye view of “Mrs. Bates” flying out of her room to stab an unsuspecting Martin Balsam, which still gives me chills. To this day I have a hard time watching that scene with the lights off.) If the films aren’t enough to satisfy your Hitchcock cravings, the collectable 50-page booklet will. Packed with production sketches, fun facts from each film, letters to and from Hitchcock himself, and even blueprints for the Bates house, the book is a keeper.
These Blu-ray sets are hitting the market now in celebration of Universal Studios 100th anniversary, but the biggest gift of all has to be Universal 100th Anniversary Collection. A behemoth of a box set, The Anniversary Collection spans 100 years of cinema history and is comprised of 25 of the studio’s most-beloved films. While most of the films have been released individually, most as recently as this year (i.e. Jaws, E.T., To Kill A Mocking Bird, etc.), getting them all together makes this set a surefire holiday hit for everyone in the family. The kids (and the young at heart) will love Despicable Me; All Quiet on the Western Front will keep your veteran grandfather enthralled; and National Lampoon’s Animal House will have Dad repeating (yet again) his crazy stories from college.
Universal didn’t skimp on extras for the Anniversary Collection, and have included 2 bonus discs of goodies. The first disc features eight featurettes on Universal’s history, vintage cartoons (remember Woody Woodpecker? He used to be a star!), and rarely seen shorts straight from Universals vault; the second focuses on the music from the film, and contains popular themes including Back to The Future, Psycho, and 13 others.
While the generally high price and lack of new content might discourage buyers from purchasing these collections, they are manna from Heaven for film fans and enthusiasts for whom the upgrade in picture quality that Blu-ray provides is more than enough incentive to seek out these high-quality packages.