You want monsters? Universal serves a second 4K helping in ‘Icons of Horror Collection’
Updated: Dec 12, 2022
4K ULTRA HD REVIEW / HDR FRAME SHOTS
The great Boris Karloff takes the guise of Egyptian historian Ardeth Bey 10 years after the mummy of the high priest Imhotep was accidentally resurrected.
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“UNIVERSAL CLASSIC MONSTERS ICONS OF HORROR COLLECTION”
4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, digital copy; 1932, 1935, 1943, 1954; unrated; streaming via Amazon Prime Video (4K), Apple TV, Movies Anywhere (4K), Vudu (4K), YouTube (4K)
Best extra: The 2008 feature, “He Who Made Monsters: The Life and Art of Jack Pierce”
IF YOU put together a list of the best-ever entrances in a scary movie, there would be a three-way tie for first: when King Kong gets a load of Fay Wray; when Frankenstein’s Monster backs into the room and sloooowly turns around; and when the mummified Imhotep awakens after 3,700 years, the camera revealing the faintest glint in his eyes.
Can you imagine how audiences reacted? They settled into their seats in a big, ornate movie palace without a notion of what was coming. No Internet. No streaming. Just antici … pation.
Hats off to Universal for giving us a sense of what it was like with this second set in its “Icons of Horror Collection.”
“The Mummy” (1932), “The Bride of Frankenstein” (1935), “Phantom of the Opera” (1943)” and “The Creature from the Black Lagoon” (1954) have all been remastered in 4K with a healthy dose of HDR toning. Like the first set, which collected “Dracula” (1931), “Frankenstein” (1931), “The Invisible Man” (1933) and “The Wolf Man” (1941), the attention to detail breathes new life into these all-time greats.
One reason why “Frankenstein” and “The Mummy” are etched forever into our collective consciousness is that both star the inimitable Boris Karloff. OK, that’s a no-brainer. Anyway, “The Mummy” turns 90 next month, so that’s the focus here.
(1) “The Mummy” premiered Dec. 22, 1932. (2) Makeup pioneer Jack Pierce reportedly spent eight hours wrapping Karloff from head to toe. (3) Reading from the Scroll of Thoth, archaeologist Bramwell Fletcher (Ralph Norton) brings Imhotep back to life. (4) The Mojave Desert and Red Rock Canyon State Park, also in California, stood in for Egypt. (5-7) Frank Whemple (David Manners, left) and Professor Pearson (Leonard Mudie) are taken by Ardeth Bey to the tomb of Princess Ankh-esen-amun.
In 1921, a British Museum archaeological expedition led by Sir Joseph Whemple (Arthur Byron, “The Whole Town’s Talking”) discovers the undisturbed remains of the Egyptian high priest Imhotep (Karloff). Close examination of the mummy by Dr. Muller (Universal stalwart Edward Van Sloan, “Dracula”) reveals that Imhotep’s demise wasn’t pretty: He was buried alive for trying to resurrect his love, Princess Ankh-esen-amun. They also find a casket with a curse on it.
Despite being warned not to, young archaeologist Bramwell Fletcher (Ralph Norton, “Svengali”) opens the casket and finds the Scroll of Thoth. As he’s reciting it, Imhotep awakens, takes the scroll, and disappears into the night. Fletcher flips out and dies years later in a straitjacket.
Ten years later, Imhotep reappears as Ardeth Bey, an Egyptian historian who shows Whemple’s son Frank (David Manners, “Svengali”) and Professor Pearson (Leonard Mudie, “Captain Blood”) where to find the princess’ tomb. The treasures, including her mummy, are taken to the Cairo Museum. Not long after, Bey meets Helen Grosvenor (Zita Johann, “The Sin of Nora Moran”), a half-Egyptian woman who looks a lot like Ankh-esen-amun. He hypnotizes a Nubian (Noble Johnson, “Moby Dick”) and has him bring him the scroll.
You can guess the rest.
(1) Zita Johann plays Helen Grosvenor, a part-Egyptian woman who bears an uncanny resemblance to the princess. (2) Frank comforts Helen after she feels faint at a reception. They soon fall in love. (3-6) Ardeth Bey has Helen kidnapped and prepares to kill her so he can use her soul to resurrect the princess.
With films of this vintage, the quality of the remastering depends on the condition of the surviving elements. That said, “The Mummy” looks splendid. Detail, especially in that first close-up of Karloff and when the camera zooms in on Ardeth Bey, is first-rate. The HDR10 toning intensifies the grayscale—blacks are deep and cinematographer Charles J. Stumar’s (“The Raven”) dramatic lighting shines. The print is remarkably clean.
No surprise that the audio is directed to the center speaker. Still, there’s no competition between the dialogue—John L. Balderston (“Frankenstein,” “The Bride of Frankenstein’) wrote the screenplay—and the evocative score of James Dietrich, who scored a bunch of classic cartoons.
Rick Baker, Christopher Frayling, Howard Bergman, Steve Haberman and Greg Nocotero are among the makeup artists, authors and producers who share their thoughts in the excellent feature, “He Who Made Monsters: The Life and Art of Jack Pierce.”
Pierce was the pioneering genius behind “Dracula,” “Frankenstein,” “The Wolf Man,” and, well, the list goes on and on, but you might not realize it. Until the mid-40s, his work was uncredited. Amazing. Before Pierce broke ground, many actors stuck to the theatrical tradition and did their own makeup. Also amazing: Pierce started from scratch every day — there were no prosthetics in those days. The story goes that he spent eight hours wrapping Karloff from head to toe. Many of his techniques are still used today.
Many of the aforementioned also sit in for a relaxed, informative commentary. They point out that “The Mummy” took its lead from the 1922 discovery of King Tut’s tomb, which also had a curse on it, and that the film was the first directed by Karl Freund, whose work as a cinematographer included “Metropolis” and “All Quiet on the Western Front.”
They also talk about Karloff’s face being the perfect canvas for Pierce. “I believe that God sent Jack Pierce the gift of Boris Karloff” is how one participant puts it.
Other extras include a dull, dull, dull commentary by film historian Paul M. Jensen, the features “Mummy Dearest: A Horror Tradition Unearthed” and “Unraveling the Legacy of ‘The Mummy,’” “‘The Mummy’ Archives” and a trailer gallery.
“The Bride of Frankenstein”
“Phantom of the Opera”
“The Creature from the Black Lagoon”
Here’s a rundown of the other titles in this handsomely packaged eight-disc set:
“The Bride of Frankenstein” Elsa Lanchester, who, you may recall, also played author Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley in “Frankenstein,” is The Monster’s mate. Among the extras: The feature, “She’s Alive! Creating “‘The Bride of Frankenstein.’”
“Phantom of the Opera” No one will ever top Lon Chaney Sr. in the silent classic, but Claude Rains “The Invisible Man,” “Casablanca”) is no slouch as the tortured Erique Claudin. This one was shot in glorious Technicolor and it looks fab. Extras include the feature, “The Opera Ghost: A Phantom Unmasked.”
“The Creature from the Black Lagoon” Scientists discover more than they bargained for on an expedition on the Amazon. Extras include the 3D version (Blu-ray only) and the feature “Back to the Black Lagoon.”
— Craig Shapiro
“The Mummy” gatefold within the “Icons of Horror Collection.”