[Blu-ray/DVD Review] UNIVERSAL HORROR COLLECTION VOL. 3
Courtesy of Scream Factory
For those familiar enough with the basics of Universal Horror classics, I’m sure the classic monsters come to mind. Images of Dracula, The Wolf Man, The Mummy, Frankenstein’s Monster, and more have become synonymous with the Universal Horror brand in past decades. However, more casual viewers of the brand might not realize that there is so much more than that group of mainstay ghoulies in these horror classics. As has been revealed in the past year by Shout! Factory with their Universal Horror Collection volumes, there is a great array of films from the Universal Horror era to dive into.

It is through the recent Blu-ray release of the Universal Horror Collection Vol 3 that I was able to learn about four new horror classics that had been – essentially – brought back from the vault. In the latest volume of the collection from Shout! Factory, four films are featured on this Blu-ray. The collection includes The Black Cat (1941), Tower of London (1939), Man-Made Monster (1941), and Horror Island (1941). All films appear to be brought in a new 2K scan, which greatly helps bring out the details in the film for both fans and new viewers. The major benefit of having these four films featured is that each provides a different slice of what the horror genre can bring, from abject terror to slow-burn connivery in a historical setting to an oddball slapstick comedy with a horror thriller twist. Because the films are short enough to summarize, I’m going to break down each one below.

Credit: IMDB

THE BLACK CAT (1941)

When I first started watching, I thought it was the 1932 version that had Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff facing off against one another. This film is how I learned that there was actually another film of the same name, so surprise to anyone who didn’t know before starting. Lugosi does star in this THE BLACK CAT, but is seldom used. For anyone who is in love with cats like myself, this horror thriller will probably be for you. However, if you are expecting a film as disturbing as the 1932 version of the same name, you may not get what you are asking for. Clocking in at 70 minutes, the film moves fairly briskly as we follow an ensemble of characters trying to pick away at a murder mystery on an estate owned by an old lady (Cecilia Loftus) with a bunch of cats. Basil Rathbone (who is also in TOWER OF LONDON) is an overeager beaver hoping to inherit from the old lady, but discovers that he isn’t as well-loved by her via what he discovers in her will. Needless to say, a murder happens and the majority of the film is spent trying to figure out whodunit.

Credit: IMDB

TOWER OF LONDON (1939)

The longest film on the Universal Horror Collection Vol 3, the film features Basil Rathbone as the villainous, constantly scheming Richard, Duke of Gloucester as he tries to plot his way to becoming king. The majority of the film is spent watching as he successfully picks off each successor one-by-one with the help of the executioner, Mord (Boris Karloff). Rathbone’s Richard is a memorable one, even after watching various interpretations of the character thanks to William Shakespeare’s demonization of the former King’s character. That being said, some viewers might not be interested in this historical-based thriller as it does tend to lag at times.

Credit: IMDB

MAN-MADE MONSTER (1941)

Of the four films on the disc, this film is arguably the most classic horror and the most heartbreaking. The plot has a fair amount of similarities with Frankenstein as seen by the mad scientist (Lionel Atwill) trying to figure out how to utilize electricity and its connection to life. However, there is a real ethical issue explored here about taking a live human subject (Lon Chaney, Jr.), keeping him out of the loop on experiments, and then essentially murdering him by electrocuting his freewill out of him. I could easily see this film being rebooted if Universal or Blumhouse decided to pick it up. It’s the one on this disc that has the most potential for that easily. At a running time of 60 minutes, I thought the film was quickly paced and had a satisfactory ending. The fun fact that I learned while watching this film was that this was Lon Chaney, Jr’s sci-fi film debut.

Credit: IMDB

HORROR ISLAND (1941)

This one was a bit kooky for my taste. Despite the title, the only thing really horrific about this film is that so many people would be as cavalier about dead bodies as they are in this film. HORROR ISLAND primarily focuses on a down on his luck fellow (Dick Foran) who is trying to find ways to make money after his investments prove to be unmarketable. One of these investments is an island that suddenly draws two weird offers that, to a generally paranoid person’s perspective, read as awfully suspicious. However, upon finding out there are people who are interested in finding treasure on his island, the fellow decides to try to create an adventure cruise of sorts to profit off of it. Unfortunately, there’s a mysterious phantom that would rather have the island all to himself and will murder anyone who tries to get in his way. Overall, the plot and the delivery reminded me very much of one of the original Scooby-Doo episodes I grew up with. It was very kooky and campy and a bit eye-roll inducing.

UNIVERSAL HORROR COLLECTION VOL. 3 Bonus Features

TOWER OF LONDON
·        NEW 2K scan of a fine grain print
·        NEW Audio Commentary with author/film historian Steve Haberman
·        Still Gallery

MAN-MADE MONSTER
·        NEW Audio Commentary with author/film historian Tom Weaver and filmmaker/film historian Constantine Nasr
·        Still Gallery

THE BLACK CAT (1941)
·        NEW Audio Commentary with author/film historian Gary D. Rhodes
·        Theatrical Trailer
·        Still Gallery

HORROR ISLAND
·        NEW Audio Commentary by filmmaker/film historian Ted Newsom
·        Theatrical Trailer
·        Still Gallery

Universal Horror Collection Volume 3 is now available on Blu-ray and can be ordered via Shout! Factory here.

Sarah Musnicky
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Sarah is the managing editor of Nightmarish Conjurings and a lover of all things magical and horrific. All who are familiar with her can attest for her love of glitter, adorable plush, and obsession with folklore and mythology. When she's not chasing after things she probably shouldn't hug, Sarah is making sure that Shannon's sanity stays intact long enough for deadlines to be tackled.
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