Michael Scott

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Apr 4, 2017
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Universal Horror Collection: Volume 6

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

Final Score: :4stars:



Yup, Scream Factory is back again with the 6th in their line of old fashioned horror quadrilogys. What started out as a collection of Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff films has morphed into something much more over the last several years, and instead of just giving us a “best of” from the classic days of Universal’s MASSIVE back catalog of horror films, we get a taste test of some of the lesser known films from those days of yesteryear. Sometimes they’re not always horror films, but usually they’re suspenseful and more sci-fi oriented (Sci-fi and horror were nearly indistinguishable back in the 30s-50s), but almost always entertaining. This time it’s a more horror oriented set from the 50s, jumping us up a decade or so from the 5th Volume that Scream Factory let us take a peak at few months ago, with The Black Castle, Cult of the Cobra, The Thing that Couldn’t Die and The Shadow of the Cat.

The Black Castle: :4stars:
A British noble named Sir Burton (Richard Greene) is going undercover to investigate the suspicious death of his two best friends and confidants. Traveling to the castle of Count Von Bruno (Stephen McNally), the young nobleman is going with another name to find out what happened. Once there he finds a bit more than he bargained for, as the Count is ridiculously cunning and every clue that his friends might have died at his hands results in him being drawn deeper and deeper into the count’s machinations.

The 1952 film is a true Gothic horror film at heart, giving us all the damp and musty castles we could desire, along with Boris Karloff playing a sympathetic doctor (almost didn’t recognize him due him being so old and slender in this role), and ill fated romance between the Count’s wife and Burton. There’s a crocodile filled moat, a bit of wrestling with a leopard during a hunt, and a creepy opening scene that sets the horror filled mood for the rest of the film. The movie isn’t perfect as it does go on a bit too long for the simplistic plot (back in the 1950s an 80+ minute film was considered rather long for these types of pulp fiction entries), but overall it delivers all the chills and thrills you could want.

Cult of the Cobra: :3stars:
Before they head home after service, 6 American G.I.’s visit a local legend and seek out the supposedly supernatural temple of the Lamian Cult, where they enter and view as observers, only to leave the temple with a death curse placed upon them by the Cobra Goddess that they worship. Heading home to America, the 6 men don’t think much of it, until people start dying by strange cobra attacks throughout the city. Mysteriously enough, a beautiful woman by the name of Lisa (Faith Domergue), who visits each and every one of them before their deaths occur. Now it’s up to tow of the surviving G.I.’s to figure out what’s going on, and hopefully put a stop to their curse.

Cult of the Cobra plays into the classic theory of “show the monster at the end, but leave suspense throughout the film” as it doesn’t really show the monster until the very end of the movie, but instead uses the allure and suspense of POSSIBLY being hunted by a cobra goddess as the fuel for the murder mystery film. The movie is semi-slasher in nature, as the six rough and tumble soldiers are taken out one by one, ala Nightmare on Elm Street and countless others, but it does it in a much more mysterious and classy way. The only real “problem” with the film is that it is much more character driven instead of monster and death driven, which leaves horror fans feeling a bit underwhelmed as the terror is definitely downplayed for character dissections of the 6 men and Lisa.

The Thing that Couldn't Die: :1.5stars:
1958’s The Thing that Couldn’t Die goes back to the late 1950s and 1960s obsession with Satanic villains. The story revolves around a young psychic girl Jessica (Carolyn Kearney) who uses her powers to help divine water for her local town. On one of her divining trips Jessica finds a hidden box, only to open it and discover the head of a “dead” warlock who has been imprisoned in this box for the last 400 years. Now that he’s “out” the ancient evil warlock wants to find the rest of his body and resume his Satanic powers against humanity and once again dominate over the earth.

The Thing that Couldn’t Die is one of those movie that just stretches your suspension of disbelief just a bit, and turns out to be an excruciating watch as the movie just s drags on and on. The movie had a decent premise and some good actors, but the movie just drones on and one without anything happening for almost 70 minutes. Even at that reduced run time the movie feels as if it’s about 50 minutes too long, making for probably the one true “bomb” of this 4 film set.

The Shadow of the Cat: :4stars:
Walter (Andre Morell) masterminds the death of his aging wife in hopes of inheriting all her vast wealth, and actually succeeds at the macabre deed. The only thing was that there was a solitary witness to the murder, and it’s out for revenge. This solitary angel of vengeance just so happens to be the family’s cat, and due to some supernatural miracle, as the cognizance to see the crime and do something about it. One by one the cat, Tabitha, takes out the mansion’s staff in vengeance, all the while Walter is desperately trying to hide his dirty deed from his wife’s niece, Beth (Barbara Shelley).

The film is so ludicrously goofy and Stephen King in nature that it really is a blast to watch. It felt like such an inspiration for King’s obsession with cat’s in his horror movies that the 80s horror nerd in me was having a blast. The set location is pretty much limited to one house (and usually just one room), but they do a great job of shifting camera angles all around to make it seem more dynamic. The movie is a bit more of a murder mystery than a horror, but Tabitha knocking off the staff one by one blends in some of that 80s slasher vibes as well. Definitely one of the most fun films of the set.

Not Rated by the MPAA

Video: :4stars:
The Black Castle: :4.5stars:
All the films have been announced as getting a brand new 2K scan for this edition, and The Black Castle looks fantastic in this regard. It’s striking with good visual clarity and a nice grain structure that fits in with the time period. There’s a few times where the black and white photography gets a bit murky and shows some grain spikes (think the scene where Burton is hunting the leopard and our view is solely on his feet through the forest grasses), but overall this is a fine looking film in 1.37:1 AVC. Shadow details are great, and the inkiness of the blacks make this a sumptuous film to look at, especially during the castle interiors.

Cult of the Cobra: :4stars:
The first of the Universal Horror sets to fit in with the typical 1.37:1 framing from back in the day, we get a nicely detailed 1.85:1 framed film that, while a bit softer in tone and detail levels than The Black Castle, still looks mighty fine all things considering. Grain is nice and textured and details look great most of the time. Some of the interior shots (especially of the temple at the beginning) tend to be a soft and smooth, but there’s plenty of fine detail to still go around. Faces are well nuanced and cleanly lined around the edges, and despite some minor black crush, is a solid looking encode.

The Thing that Couldn't Die: :4stars:
While not as perfect as The Black Castle, The Thing that Couldn’t Die looks better than Cult of the Cobra with it’s 1.85:1 framing, and tends to look a bit crisper and more detailed. It’s not nearly as smooth and sports a lovely grain texture that stands out quite impressively. Details are strong all the way around, and faces showcase good detailing up close. Some minor black crush still comes with the territory, but this is still a fantastic looking encode.

The Shadow of the Cat: :4stars:
The Shadow of the Cat is the newest of the 4 films (1961 to be exact), but it also has the weakest image of the three, and partially not due to any fault of it’s own. The regular filmed parts look excellent, with good grain levels, strong details and a nice look to it. The only “fault” of the film comes from the “cat vision” portions which look fish eyed and slightly changed with the clarity. It seems a bit more blurry and gauzy, if you know what I mean. Something that I notice many a cat horror film seems to replicate to this day (just thinking of “The Cat From Hell” in the Tales from the Darkside movie I reviewed the other night as a colored representation of what we’re seeing here). All in all, a good encode for the remaster, just not perfect.

Audio: :3.5stars:
The Black Castle: :3.5stars:
The 1.0 DTS-HD MA track (all the films have a 1.0 Mono track instead of 2.0 Mono) is solid for what it is, but I noticed right off the bat that this one needed a substantial boost to the volume lever to get it up to optimal listening performance. That being said, once it’s been volume leveled the track sounds good. Voices are strong and clean with only a hint of reverberation, and pops and mild hisses are only mildly noticeable.

Cult of the Cobra: :3.5stars:
The dialog heavy film that is Cult of the Cobra is a solid entry, with good dialog and some nifty little screams and yelling bits that don’t actually artifact when blasted that high. There’s some tinniness to the track, and some mild pops and hisses, otherwise it’s a good sounding mix that just does the job it’s asked to.

The Thing that Couldn't Die: :3.5stars:
Like the rest, the track manages to hit most things right, with good vocals, some decent scoring and only minor hisses and crackles here and there. Just like The Shadow of the Cat, the highs can be a bit fuzzy sounding and have some minor distortion, otherwise it’s a perfectly capable mono mix.

The Shadow of the Cat: :4stars:
The Shadow of the Cat is the newest of the films, and subsequently has the nicest sounding audio mix of the 4 movies. Dialog is presented cleanly, but there is a fuzzy almost “hazy” sound to the mix when it gets up into the higher regions. The scoring is adequate, albeit a little downplayed due to only being a 1.0 Mono mix. Simply put, it does everything well and things like hisses and pops are no longer an issue.

Extras: :4stars:
The Black Castle
• NEW Audio Commentary with author/film historian Tom Weaver
• NEW Universal Horror Strikes Back! – a look at Universal Horror in the 40s
• Still Gallery

Cult of the Cobra
• NEW Audio Commentary with film historians Tom Weaver, Steve Kronenberg, David Schecter and Robert J. Kiss
• Theatrical Trailer
• TV Spots for the double feature of REVENGE OF THE CREATURE/CULT OF THE COBRA
• Still Gallery

The Thing that Couldn't Die
• NEW Audio Commentary by authors/film historians Tom Weaver and C. Courtney Joyner
• Theatrical Trailer

The Shadow of the Cat
• NEW Audio Commentary by author/film historian Bruce G. Hallenbeck
• NEW In the Shadow of Shelley – an interview with Barbara Shelley
• TV Spot for the double feature of THE CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF/THE SHADOW OF THE CAT
• Still Gallery

Final Score: :4stars:

The 6th set from Scream Factory’s Universal Horror Collection series is a good one. I actually found the films enclosed to be much more authentic to the original decision to choose 4 HORROR films and combine them into a set. Too many times have we had non horror or sci-fi films in the collections (despite them being interesting dramas or mysteries) and this one gets the series back on track with the original intentions. Some fun movies, some good to great video presentations, and TONS of extras makes this one of my favorite of the Universal Horror Collections to date. Highly recommended.

Technical Specifications:

Starring: Richard Greene, Boris Karloff, Stephen McNally, Richard Long, Faith Domergue, Marshall Thompson, William Reynolds, Andra Martin, Andre Morell, Barbara Shelley
Directed by: Nathan Juran / Francis D. Lyon / Will Cowan / John Gilling
Written by: Jerry Sackheim / Jerry Davis, Cecil Maiden, Richard Collins / David Duncan / George Baxt
Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1 AVC / 1.85:1 / 1.85:1 / 1.66:1
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA Mono 1.0 (all 4 films)
English SDH
Studio: Scream Factory
Rated: NR (All 4 films)
: 82 Minutes / 80 Minutes / 69 Minutes / 79 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: August 25th, 2020


Recommendation: Highly Recommended

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Thanks for the review. I don't think or at least I can't remember seeing this so will check it out. :)
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