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October 17, 2012

Universal horror: ‘Essential’ Blu-ray spotlights classic actors

Posted in: It's Alive,Movies

Bela Lugosi, David Manners, Helen Chandler, Dwight Frye and Edward Van Sloan in “Dracula.” (Scott Essman and Eric Hoffman Collections)

The month of October has been a big one for fans of Universal’s landmark horror films — the classic movies have not only been the subject of an ongoing tribute at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences here in Los Angeles but they’ve also been reissued on Blu-ray as part of a new set, “Universal Classic Monsters: The Essential Collection.” The set includes eight of the seminal films from the studio’s golden age of horror.

In order to commemorate its 100th anniversary, the studio painstakingly restored the picture and sound of the classic films in its library, the legendary horror movies among them. The set features pristine iterations of Tod Browning’s 1931 “Dracula,” and the Spanish-language version starring Carlos Villarias and Lupita Tovar that was shot concurrently with Browning’s production; James Whale’s 1931 “Frankenstein” and 1935’s “Bride of Frankenstein” and the filmmaker’s 1933 feature “The Invisible Man,” which introduced Claude Rains to the screen; Karl Freund’s 1932 chiller, “The Mummy”; 1941’s “The Wolf Man,” starring Lon Chaney Jr. in the title role; 1943’s Technicolor version of “Phantom of the Opera”; and the 1954 “Creature From the Black Lagoon,” which was shot in 3-D.

Photos: Beyond Boris and Bela: Universal horror’s supporting players

Each disc is filled with extras including documentaries, galleries, trailers and commentaries that appeared on earlier DVD releases, though “Dracula” is accompanied by a new featurette, “’Dracula: The Restoration.”

This seemed like an opportune time to celebrate a selection of actors who appeared opposite Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff and the other stars of the films in the Universal canon, delivering memorable turns in smaller roles. Click on the image above to take our tour through some fantastic performances of years past.

– Susan King

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