Universal Pictures is, for horror fans famous for the Universal Monsters. Dracula, Frankenstein, The Creature from The Black Lagoon, etc. Well guess what they made lots and lots of other horror films as well. From Serial Killers, to Ghoul’s there were quite a few put out by the studio. Well not nearly as well-known as our Monsters these films were all well regarded by not only horror fans but critics alike. Luckily for us Scream Factory has been releasing sets of these films on their Universal Classics Collection. Volume 2 is set to come out, and let me tell you its just as great, if not better in a few films cases as the first set. This collection once again features 4 classic movies from the Universal Vault.
The first film up is titled Murders At The Zoo. Made back in 1933 it’s the story of Eric, a zoologist who has a horrible cheating wife. We first meet him sewing the lips of one of his wife’s lovers shut then throwing him out into the jungle to be killed by animals. He’s in the jungle with his wife to bring animals back to the states to keep in his zoo. His wife begins a romance with one of the ship hands so Eric devises a way to create a mechanical snake, load it up with Mamba venom and murder him. It’s a very well thought out plan that really is not a corny as it may sound. The film is fantastic. Played very seriously it really is a tale of a man driven to the depths of madness. Its one of the better psychological thrillers out there. Great acting, and a great cast and a very short run time (66min) make this fly right by. It’s a must see for horror fans.
Our next picture on the collection is The Mad Dr. of Market Street. Made in 1942 it’s like a cross between Frankenstein and the Island of Dr Moreau. It’s about a mad dr. The Dr. in question is Dr. Ralph Benson. He is trying to reanimate people or as he calls it Experimenting with suspended life. He finds a human guinea pig for his experiment by that person dies. As he’s now a murderer he slips onto a boat to skip town but the boat crashes after catching fire. He manages to make it safely to a tropical island. He encounters a native woman who is dying, but he manages to save her. The natives believe he is a God and dub him “The God of Life”. As he is a mad scientist he begins to rule over the natives, the other passengers that survive notice he is becoming increasingly power hungry and begin to fear for their lives. Well-acted, and fun it’s a good albeit short (barely 60min) runtime. It’s a really good one to check out late one evening.
The third film is The Strange Case of Dr RX. This one was made back in 1942, and also has a short run time (a little over 60min) It’s a pretty effective, yet strange Detective Movie. A private investigator named Jerry Church is asked by his old colleague Dudley, who happens to be a defense lawyer help find a killer by the name of Dr. RX. See the last detective to get close to Dr Rx has gone insane, not to mention he was unable to capture him. In another twist every victim of this killer has been a client of Dudley who was found not guilty. Church is more effective than the others who were tracking him. So effective he gets captured and we learn Dr. Rx is also a crazed mad scientist who plans on swapping Jerry’s brain with that of a gorilla. This film is a bit more off the rails then the previous three but still a fun watch. Not played for laughs but a bit more unintentionally funny than the others. Its still a fun short watch that horror fans will enjoy.
The final film in the collection is The Mad Ghoul from 1943. This is my favorite of the bunch. Its about Dr. Morris and his assistant Ted who are conducting experiments with Mayan nerve gas. They are testing it on animals and when there monkey dies they are able to bring it back to life with fluid drained from another animals heart. Ted is dating a woman named Isabel who Morris instantly becomes infatuated with. He plans to gas Ted so he will become essentially a ghoul like the monkey and steal Isabella from him. It works, but for some reason Morris helps Ted stay alive by stealing the hearts from freshly dead bodies to keep him in a normal state. Isabel travels as she is a singer, and Ted and Morris follow her on tour and drain hearts in each town. It doesn’t take police long to notice that bodies keep dropping and they soon begin hunting the killer along with a local reporter who has a hunch a ghoul may be behind this. This one is also shot, and well-acted but the element of adding a ghoul that almost in a Jekyll and Hyde state really throws a classic monster twist on this one. It’s the most fun I had in quiet some time watching this old flick.
Its Scream Factory so you know the audio and video are great. These are all black and white films but they look crisp and clear. The shadows, and fog, and especially the jungle setting in The Mad Dr of Market Street all look and sound amazing. They even included special features for every film.
DISC ONE: MURDERS IN THE ZOO
· NEW Audio Commentary With Author/Film Historian Greg Mank
· Still Gallery
DISC TWO: MAD DOCTOR OF MARKET STREET
· Theatrical Trailer
· Still Gallery
DISC THREE: THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. RX
· NEW Gloriously Wicked: The Life And Legacy Of Lionel Atwill Featurette
· Still Gallery
DISC FOUR: THE MAD GHOUL
· NEW Audio Commentary By Film Historian Thomas Reeder
· Still Gallery
Another fantastic set for fans of classic horror. Universal has lots out there to chose from so I for one hope that Scream Factory can continue to put these out. Pick it up today.
Overall 4out of 5 Stars!