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ON DVD

Reuniting with good old fiends

June 06, 2004|Susan King | Times Staff Writer

Monster mash: From Universal Home Video -- deluxe "Legacy Collection" sets ($27 each) of classic "Dracula," "Frankenstein" and "The Wolf Man" movies produced by Universal in the 1930s and '40s.

Blatant plug: Universal timed the DVDs to coincide with the release of its new horror film, "Van Helsing." Each disc features an interview with "Van Helsing" director Stephen Sommers, ample clips from the new movie and interviews with the actors who play Frankenstein, the Wolf Man and Dracula.

Extras: The collections feature informative documentaries and commentaries, plus trailers, photos and art galleries -- most of which have been featured on previous DVD incarnations of these movies.

*

"Dracula -- The Legacy Collection"

Universal Home Video, $27

The stars: Bela Lugosi, Gloria Holden, Lon Chaney Jr.

The films: "Dracula." Tod Browning directed this spooky 1931 classic with the iconoclastic Lugosi as the blood-sucking count. An entertaining 1931 Spanish-language version is also included in the collection.

"Dracula's Daughter." Effective 1936 thriller starring Holden as the count's offspring who tries ("in vein") to stop murdering young women.

"Son of Dracula." German director Robert Siodmak gives this juicy 1943 entry terrific gothic style. Chaney plays a mysterious man named Alucard -- Dracula spelled backward -- who arrives in the Deep South for some fine dining.

"House of Dracula." Enjoyable little 1945 chiller with Onslow Stevens as a scientist who attempts to cure the three monsters of their ills. Glenn Strange plays the monster, John Carradine is Dracula and Chaney is the Wolf Man.

*

"Frankenstein -- The Legacy Collection"

Universal Home Video, $27

The stars: Colin Clive, Boris Karloff, Elsa Lanchester, Basil Rathbone, Lugosi

The films: "Frankenstein." James Whale directed this influential 1931 horror film based on Mary Shelley's classic novel. Karloff painted an indelible portrait of the tormented creature made from various body parts and a madman's brain.

"Bride of Frankenstein." Whale also directed this funny and terrifying 1935 sequel, which finds the monster (Karloff) forcing Dr. Frankenstein (Clive) to make him a bride (Lanchester).

"Son of Frankenstein." Karloff made his last appearance as the monster in this surreal 1939 installment. Rathbone plays the son of the good doctor who returns intent on clearing the Frankenstein name by turning the creature into a nice monster.

"Ghost of Frankenstein." Cheesy fun. In this 1942 film, the latest Dr. F (Cedric Hardwicke) tries to replace the monster's evil brain with that of a brilliant doctor's. Chaney plays the monster in this version.

"House of Frankenstein." Karloff is a hoot as an evil scientist in this 1944 release.

*

"The Wolf Man -- The Legacy Collection"

Universal Home Video, $27

The stars: Chaney, Claude Rains, Lugosi, Henry Hull, June Lockhart

The films: "The Wolf Man." Chaney's signature role. He gives a haunting performance in this seminal 1941 horror film as a young man who survives a savage attack by a werewolf (Lugosi), only to discover he carries the werewolf curse.

"Werewolf of London." Produced in 1935, this is the first film dealing with lycanthropy. Hull plays a British scientist who terrorizes London after a werewolf bites him.

"Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man." In this snappy 1943 chiller, Chaney's Wolf Man encounters the monster (Lugosi -- in his only time as the creature).

"She-Wolf of London." Troubled young Lockhart believes she is a werewolf in this silly 1946 programmer.

The upshot: One-stop shopping for the monster genre.

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