Universal Horror Collection: Volume 5 - Blu-ray Review

Michael Scott

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Universal Horror Collection: Volume 5


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Movie: :3.5stars:
Video: :4stars:
Audio: :3.5stars:
Extras: :2stars:

Final Score: :3.5stars:


WARNING: THE SCORES ABOVE ARE A COMBINED SCORE FROM ALL 4 FILMS, THE INDIVIDUAL SCORES ARE CONTAINED BELOW IN THE INDIVIDUAL SECTIONS OF THE REVIEW


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Movie

What started out as a simple Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff collection turned into an entire series of Universal horror/sci-fi/thriller films that span not only the acting careers of the before mentioned dynamic horror duo, but many others as well. This 5th set brings us some new B-movie goodies from Universal. This time going for a little bit of 1940s animal/monster fun with a film about a gorilla turning into a human through mutated surgery, and to top it off we have The Monster and the Girl where the exact opposite occurs. No weird "mystery" dramas to muddy the world of Sci-fi and horror (which were inextricably intertwined during the that time period), nor the inclusion of Bela Lugosi or Boris Karloff. Simply put, some fun and cheesy monster movies that aren't included with the Universal big ones .

The Monster and the Girl :3.5stars:
While The Monster and the Girl is a horror movie at heart, it IS a bit more like a dramatic courtroom drama for the better half of the 1 hour and 5 minute runt time. Scot Webster (Phillip Terry) is put in a pickle when he’s mistaken as the killer of a gangster. You see, Scot’s sister Susan (Ellen Drew) was forced into indentured servitude as a cabaret girl, and the young man came out to free her. In the resulting scuffle the gangster in question is killed by someone else, and Scot was left holding the smoking gun (quite literally in this case). Now he’s up for murder and only Susan’s testimony is keeping him out of the electric chair.

Sadly that isn’t enough and Scot is sentenced to death, claiming to the men who framed him and put his sister in servitude that he would be back for them. The dead man’s chance comes to fruition when a mad scientists takes his barely dead corpse for medical experimentation, putting his brain into that of an ape’s in hope of creating a human/animal hybrid. The experiment SEEMS to not work, but the reality of the situation is that the mind of Scot is working just fine inside of the monkey’s body. Now the human controlled animal is out for revenge, and he is going to rip the very limbs off of the people who put him in this situation.

The Monster and the Girl is not exactly creepy by modern standards, and even by 1941 standards it wasn’t that scary. Instead the film plays out more as a “whodunit?” murder mystery with a little bit of sci-fi horror thrown in for good measure. The tone is a bit off at times, playing between courtroom drama and horror movie, with the last 15 minutes of the film where the bulk of the “horror” elements come to rise. It’s a solid entry, and more a tragedy than anything, but still a fun little jaunt.

Captive Wild Woman :3stars:
Captive Wild Woman is the first entry of a loosely known trilogy of “Paula Dupree” movies. A set of stories around an ape that is turned into a human by mad scientist, dubbing herself “Paula Dupree”. The film starts out simply enough, with animal trainer Fred (Milburn Stone) returning from Safari where he got a gaggle of new tigers and lions for his dual animal act in the circus he’s employed at. However, the lions and tigers aren’t his main passion with this trip. He brought back a lovely Gorilla that is extraordinarily intelligent. Fred is bound and determined to train the animal for a new act, but the animal is sought after by another as well. That “other” being the mad doctor Dr. Walters (John Carradine), a man who is highly sought after in the medical community.

When Fred’s girlfriend Beth (Evelyn Ankers) brings her sister Dorothy (Martha MacVicar) to the good doctor for a glandular problem she doesn’t realize that the good doctor is more intent on experimentation than actual healing. Deciding to grab human glands into an animal body, Dr. Walters steals the gorilla from Fred and transfers Dorothy’s brain glands into the ape, which happens to turn the primate into a human looking being (played by Acquanetta).

Captive Wild Woman is cheesy and pure exploitation film making at it’s finest, but it’s also probably the weakest of the “Paula Dupree” trilogy. It takes a while to get into the actual story and by the time the conclusion happens the horror has worn off. It’s pure B-movie without constraints or abandon, and cheerfully hams it up with glee. It’s crude, simply, and still a lot of fun despite some very obvious pacing flaws.

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Jungle Woman :3stars:
1944’s Jungle Woman is a direct sequel to 1943’s Captive Wild Woman, bringing us into the story right after the events of that first film. Dr. Fletcher (J. Carrol Naish) is brought in to investigate the hullabaloo that happened with the animals, and he’s charged with bringing Paula (e.g, the human ape, played again by Acquanetta) back to the land of the living. Fascinated by her past history as an ape, the good Dr. tries to unravel her psyche and how she ticks, giving her a home while he observes her. However, things take a drastic change for the worst when Dr. Fletcher’s daughter, Joan (Lois Collier) comes to visit with her fiancee Bob (Richard Davis). Paula’s animal instincts take charges as she claims Bob for her own, and chaos naturally ensues.

Jungle Woman is pretty obviously a cash grab by Universal, who were taken aback by how popular Captive Wild Woman was a year earlier. The executives eagerly jumped on the bandwagon to make the closed end story from the previous film into a franchise, miraculously making it so that Paula is alive again instead of dead, and of course adding some more 1940s “smut” (I use the term loosely as the 1940s and today’s definition of smut are so completely alien to the other) to spic things up. It plays off less as horror, but more of a lustful exploitation film that infuses some horror and sci-fi elements into the story. In some ways I like it BETTER than the original, as the B-movie nature of the script is on full display and everyone is just having a ball with the concept. The movie itself is pure pulp fiction trash, but it’s meant to be had fun with and tongue is firmly planted in cheek with the concept on display.

The Jungle Captive: :3.5stars:
1945’s The Jungle Captive is the third, and final, installment of the “Paula Dupree” films, and is really the most fun of them all. Sadly it lost Acquanetta as the titular jungle woman, instead replaced by Vicki Lane due to the fact that Acquanetta wasn’t please with how Universal had treated her over the years. Once again, there’s a little death raising as Paula was once again killed in the previous film. This time it’s blatantly obvious that she was DEAD (unlike the first film where doubt was present. At least enough to bring her back with a few mental gymnastics). You might ask yourself, how are they going to bring her back if she’s ACTUALLY dead? Well, this IS a movie about mad scientists, so voila! Add a little necromancy and some brain surgery mumbo jumbo, and we have the ape woman back again!

However, poor Paula is now brain damaged due to the events of the previous film, and she’s more of a walking corpse than anything. This gives the script the ability to focus on the mad doctor Stendhal (Otto Kruger) and his hulking assistant Moloch (Rondo Hatton) as they commit their crimes against humanity and attract the ire of Inspector Harrigan (Jerome Cowan) as they try and use Dr. Stendhal’s assistant Ann (Amelita Brown) to crack the mystery of the ape woman and how she came to be.

As stated, The Jungle Captive is probably the most fun of the series, as it just has fun with the mad scientist angle, forgoing the stupid oversexed concept of Paula from the previous two films. It’s still not genius material we’re working with, but it’s much more “horror” oriented that the previous two and is wildly intoxicating in a B-moviesque way.




Not Rated by the MPAA




Video: :4stars:
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The Monster and the Girl :3.5stars:
The Monster and the Girl was supposedly struck from a new 2K master, and the results are generally pleasing for a 1941 B-film. The details are usually rather impressive, and the grain not too intrusive. There’s still some mild print debris that shows up here or there, and the last act of the movie has a lot of vertical flickering that comes into play, along with a few soft edges of the frame. It’s a good looking transfer, but due to the source material and it’s obvious decay, is never going to look stunning.

Captive Wild Woman :3.5stars:
I couldn’t see any info about a new scan for this one, but the 4:3 image looks roughly about the same quality as The Monster and the Girl. Fine details and general details are fairly impressive, but the old footage from the animal tricks is quite worse for wear, contrasting against the better filmed human interactions. The rubber gloves and heavy makeup for Paula is pretty blatantly obvious, but right in live with the practical effects of the day. The vertical lines still show up from time to time, but it’s much more restrained, with only minor print debris acting as a real obvious irritant.

Jungle Woman :4stars:
Jungle Woman also benefits from a new 2K scan by Scream Factory, but it also seems to have the most print damage as well. Details and surrounding clarity is surprisingly good, but it also is plagued by speckles, flecks and lines on the screen that are more than noticeable. However it is counter balanced by good shadow delineation and good face tones. Fine detailing on clothing is exemplary and the grain isn’t nearly so aggressive as the previous two.

The Jungle Captive :4stars:
Jungle Captive (also given a new 2K scan according to the press release) looks probably the nicest of the film. It has some print damage, some judder, and some frames missing, but overall it’s very nice looking with clean details and strong shadow delineation. Faces are well crafted and skin tones solidly balanced with the white levels. Details are excellent for the most part, but grain is a bit hit or miss, sometimes being aggressive, and other times lightening up.





Audio: :3.5stars:
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The Monster and the Girl :4stars:
The 2.0 Mono track in DTS-HD MA is a bit nicer than expected for such a B-grade 40s film. The dialog is crisp and strong, and it’s actually rather robust. There’s no major scratchiness or harshness on the high end, and I really can’t say anything bad about it. It naturally has some limitations being a 2.0 Mono track, but everything is clean and free of major distortion, even if it’ll never compare to modern surround mixes.

Captive Wild Woman :4stars:
The same can be said of the 2.0 Mono track for Captive Wild Woman as well. It’s strongly represented with good dialog, and a strong sense of immersion in the front of the room. There’s some minor background hiss if you know what to listen to, but it’s never egregious or obviously distracting. Vocals are crisp and the action with the tigers and lions can really be surprisingly in your face. It’s a good mix and does the film well.

Jungle Woman :3stars:
The mix for Jungle Woman isn’t nearly as appealing, as the track has to battle hiss and popping issues throughout. Vocals are generally clear, but they sometimes get muddied by the hiss and scratches that happen on the upper end of the spectrum. The score is rather nice, but a bit thin, and the overall experience isn’t nearly as impressive as the previous two films.

The Jungle Captive :3stars:
The Jungle Captive falls in line with the mediocreness of Jungle Woman. The film has to deal with some excessive pops and hisses, and scratching on the higher end of the spectrum (especially when someone raises their voice or screams). The score is solid enough, with a few exceptions as it gets tinny at times. It’s not a bad track, but it’s a problematic one and shows the weaknesses of the cheap budgeted film in a time when high end audio wasn’t a priority.







Extras: :2stars:
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The Monster and the Girl
• Commentary featuring film historians Tom Weaver and Steve Kronenberg.

Captive Wild Woman
• Commentary featuring film historian Tom Weaver.
• Image Gallery
• Theatrical Trailer

Jungle Woman
• Commentary featuring film historian Gregory Mank.
• Image Gallery

The Jungle Captive
• Commentary features film historian Scott Gallinghouse
• Theatrical Trailer









Final Score: :3.5stars:


The 5th entry into the now wildly popular Universal Horror sets is a bit different than the rest. It sticks to a particular theme (animal to human transference) and is a bit more cohesive than the rest. However it’s also PURE 40s exploitation filmwork as well, meaning it’s not nearly as serious and lends itself to pulpy overtones. The discs themselves are rather solid, with some new video remasters to enjoy. It’s not a perfect set, but like all the rest, still well worth checking out for these B-level films that get overlooked.


Technical Specifications:

Starring: Otto Kruger, Vicky Lane, Amelita Ward, Samuel S. Hinds, Evelyn Ankers, J. Carrol Naish, John Carradine, Ellen Drew, Robert Paige, Acquanetta
Written by: Stuart Anthony / Neil P. Varnick, Ted Fithian, Griffin Jay, Henry Sucher / Henry Sucher, Bernard Schubert, Edward Dein / Dwight D. Babcock
Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1 AVC (all 4 films)
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA Mono 2.0 (all 4 films)
Subtitles:
English SDH
Studio: Scream Factory
Rated: NR (All 4 films)
Runtime
: 65 Minutes / 61 Minutes / 61 Minutes / 63 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: June 16th, 2020

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Recommendation: Worth Getting


 

tripplej

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Thanks for the review. I don't think I ever saw any of the movies listed in this set. Will check it out.
 
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