If you’re a big fan of Svengoolie (Saturday nights on MeTV), you’ll occasionally catch a movie from Universal’s Classic Monster era that doesn’t feature Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, The Invisible Man, The Mummy or The Wolf Man. They aren’t exactly starring monsters that didn’t quite catch on with audiences of the time. They are meant to provide a few jolts for the crowd that were seeing Universal as the home of horror (as much horror as you could get during the Hayes Office era). What they did get was plenty of the stars that were normally hidden beneath Jack Pierce’s make up creations getting to show more of their own faces. Universal Horror Collection: Volume 3 is another four movies from these glory days with Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Basil Rathbone, Lon Chaney Jr, Lionel Atwill and Dick Foran in different roles.
Tower of London (1939 – 92 minutes) is a bit of a historical film that explores a bit of the horror from Richard, Duke of Gloucester’s rise to power. Richard (The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes‘ Basil Rathbone) doesn’t wait for people to die of natural causes as he eliminates those between him and the crown. His secret is Mord (Frankenstein‘s Boris Karloff), an executioner with a medical issue. Richard is so ruthless even when he has to deal with Duke of Clarence (The Fly‘s Vincent Price). It’s a good way to remember all the people who Richard took out without reading the Shakespeare play.
Man Made Monster (1941 – 60 minutes) is all about the fun you can have when electricity can’t kill you. Lon Chaney, Jr. (The Wolf Man) is the only survivor when a bus meets an electrical cable. Everyone else is electrocuted to death. Lon just walks away. He puts this immunity to work as a side show freak. Eventually a mad doctor wants to experiment to see if he can be a human battery and shock others to death. The mad scientist is naturally played by Lionel Atwill (Murders in the Zoo). This was the shocker in a double feature. The movie would be renamed The Atomic Monster for a period of time.
The Black Cat (1941 – 70 minutes) is not to be confused with the previous The Black Cat from 1934. Even though the film has the same title and stars Bela Lugosi, this is not a remake or even a reimagining of the darker film. This new movie has a lot more cats on the screen though. An old lady (Young Sinners‘ Cecilia Loftus) lives with her numerous cats. Basil Rathbone (Son of Frankenstein) is eager to inherit her fortune except he learns that her precious kitties and a maid (The Invisible Man’s Revenge‘s Gale Sondergaard) might be ahead of him in the will. When there’s a mysterious death at the estate, it’s up to two antique dealers (Broderick Crawford and Hugh Herbert) to investigate. What about Lugosi? He has a rather small part in the rather short film. This is not nearly as disturbing as Lugosi’s first time around with the title. It’s a good movie for cat lovers.
Horror Island (1941 – 61 minutes) isn’t quite a trip to a frightful island filled with monsters. But it packs a few frights. Dick Foran (The Mummy’s Tomb plays an Ivy league graduate slumming it down in Florida running a ship and owning a rather worthless island off the coast. He gets two unusual offers about the island. A relative is willing to pay a fortune for play and a stranger claims to have a treasure map involving the island. He gets told that the map is fake, but there’s enough people eager to explore he sets up a cruise for those who want to dig for loot. There’s a phantom who wants to make neither offer and instead makes attempts on several lives with various weapons. Even with the word “Horror” in the title, it’s more of an adventure flick with a mystery angle. But Horror Island was syndicated as part of the legendary Shock Theater TV package back in the Fall of 1957. The film can be thought of as a scary film for the time.
Universal Horror Collection: Volume 3 digs deep into the studio’s vaults for fans who want more than the usual titles from this era. For those looking ahead, Volume 4 is slated for March 17 with Night Key, Night Monster, The Climax and House of Horrors.
The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The black and white transfers upgrade the image from when these were previously put out on DVD collections. The audio is DTS-HD MA Mono on all four films. The sound rather sharp even with their age. You’ll hear a lot of meowing on The Black Cat. All four movies are subtitled.
Tower of London
Audio Commentary With Author/Film Historian Steve Haberman goes into Karloff and Vincent Price first crossing paths here.
Still Gallery (3:06) incluses press photos from when the film was re-issued in 1979, behind the scenes pics, lobby cards and posters.
Audio Commentary With Author/Film Historian Tom Weaver And Filmmaker/Film Historian Constantine Nasr discuss how this film got Lon to be part of the Universal monsters.
Still Gallery (1:53) includes press photos, lobby cards and posters.
The Black Cat
Audio Commentary with Author/Film Historian Gary D. Rhodes goes into the charms he finds in the film.
Theatrical Trailer (1:49) tells us to beware of the cats and swears this will be bigger than Dracula and Frankenstein.
Still Gallery (4:20) includes press photos, lobby cards and posters.
Audio Commentary By Filmmaker/Film Historian Ted Newsom has him talk about how rare they used the word “horror” in the title and how rare horror is a part of the film.
Theatrical Trailer (1:30) tells you to look out! The focus is on the adventure and the treasure hunt.
Still Gallery (1:53) has press photos, lobby cards and posters.
Scream Factory presents Universal Horror Collection: Volume 3. Starring: Vincent Price, Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Basil Rathbone, Lionel Atwill and Lon Chaney Jr. Rated: Unrated. Boxset Contents: 4 movies on 4 Blu-rays. Released: December 17, 2019.
Tags: Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff, Scream Factory, Universal Horror Collection