Stephen Sommers on Universal's Original Monsters (2004)

If you create a user account, you can add your own review of this DVD

Released 12-May-2004

Cover Art

This review is sponsored by
BUY IT

Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Horror Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Trailer-Van Helsing, Thunderbirds, The Chronicles Of Riddick
Rating ?
Year Of Production 2004
Running Time 18:20
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By None Given
Studio
Distributor

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Stephen Sommers
Hugh Jackman
Richard Roxburgh
Kate Beckinsale
Bela Lugosi
Lon Chaney Jr.
Case ?
RPI ? Music None Given


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
French
Italian
Spanish
German
Czech
Danish
Dutch
Finnish
Hungarian
Norwegian
Polish
Portuguese
Swedish
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement Yes
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Rather than a plot synopsis, this disc requires an explanation. What is it? Where can you get it? Well, Universal have recently re-released their "classic monsters" range (including films like The Wolf Man, Dracula, and Frankenstein), and to coincide with the theatrical release of their big "summer" film (yes, it's almost winter here, but the term comes from Hollywood) Van Helsing, they have decided to put together a special deal. Along with the relatively standard "it's been out for a while so why don't we have a" two for the price of one deal, you get the right to put your hands on this "exclusive" bonus disc. Don't forget to pay for the postage though.

    So, that covers what the disc is, and where you can get it, but what is on the thing? From the title, you can probably guess that it has Stephen Sommers and that it is about Universal's original classic monsters. Just who is Stephen Sommers then? Okay, for those who don't know, he was the writer/director of The Mummy and its sequel, and had a "creative" role (as in, he had a vague thought and a bunch of other people went with it) on The Scorpion King. Not everyone fully appreciates The Mummy, but I just happen to be someone who thinks of it as the greatest adventure film this side of the mighty Indiana Jones. To my mind, John Hannah's casting as the totally unadventurous archaeologist was pure brilliance, and played off perfectly against Brendan Fraser's macho confidence. But that is sidetracking. The other film that Stephen Sommers is responsible for is...wait for it...I'll give you one guess...yep, Van Helsing! So is it coincidence that just as his mega-budget action/adventure (staring "our" Hugh Jackman, David Wenham, and Richard Roxburgh) is about to hit theatres, that he pops up talking about how he has always loved the original Universal monster movies? I think not!

    So are his comments worthwhile? Not really. Running all of around 18 minutes, with 6 minutes dedicated to each of Dracula, The Wolf Man, and Frankenstein, and probably half of that time taken up with discussing Van Helsing (which I must say should at the very least be a visual treat, even if not a particularly cerebral one), there isn't exactly all that much here for the early horror connoisseur. On the up-side there are some rather interesting behind the scenes looks at the sets for Van Helsing, and some time taken to get the new actors' perspectives on the classic roles they are playing - which is actually quite interesting.

    The biggest question will be "is this disc worthwhile?" And the answer is entirely up to the individual. Those who are looking forward to Van Helsing with bated breath (and by all accounts that should really be "bad breath" as the film is reportedly a stinker - although I must say that the worse the early reviews are for an action blockbuster, the better it usually is), or thought The Mummy was genius should probably consider shelling out the few bucks. Those looking for an analysis of the early horror classics from the new kid on the block, however, are advised to stay away.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality

Video

    This "transfer" looks pretty much like what you would expect - the old footage looks old, the sequences from Van Helsing look positively gorgeous, and the interview footage looks like new interview footage.

    The transfer is presented at 1.33:1, and is not 16x9 enhanced.

    The image is quite variable, with the new footage, especially that from Van Helsing itself being extremely clean and a pleasure to look at, while the footage from the classic Universal horrors is still relatively clear, but lacks the fine detail.

    Colours is fine, with the interview footage being a little pale, while the black and white classic scenes are rendered without issue.

    There is no aliasing or compression artefacts, but the classic footage is littered with film artefacts.

    This disc contains subtitles in virtually every language imaginable (okay, so it's really only about 20 or so, but still, that's a lot). The English subtitles are pretty much word-for-word accurate, and in a nice touch subtitle all the interview dialogue in normal type, while all the film dialogue is in italic text.

    The disc contains less than half an hour of material total - it doesn't exactly need a second layer.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The audio sounds like what you would expect from a standard interview featurette - clear with no frills.

    There is one solitary audio track on this disc - an English Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio track.

    Dialogue is clear and easy to understand at all times. Sync isn't a problem for the new dialogue, while the classic scenes suffer from some considerable lag on occasion.

    The music is both from the classic films, and some "modern" score work, which may or may not be from Van Helsing's score (probably not - the score is usually only written in the last few weeks before release), but could really be from any film or other incidental work in the last ten years. These are interviews, so the score really doesn't matter all that much, except to make the interviews sound less stuffy.

    Again, as these are interviews, don't look for the surrounds to jump into life, or the subwoofer to knock the walls down.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    There are actually extras on this disc - or rather more extras, on top of the main "feature".

Menu

    The menu is animated, themed around the original films, 16x9 enhanced (why that is the case when none of the features are is a mystery), and features Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio.

Trailers

    Okay, so they're not really exciting extras, but they are here at least. This collection of trailers, which - surprise, surprise - includes Van Helsing is as follows:     All three feature Dolby Digital 2.0 surround audio, while the Thunderbirds trailer is even 16x9 enhanced (the only other thing on this disc aside from the menus that is). All are in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1. I must give Universal credit for this Thunderbirds trailer - set to Blur's Song 2 (you know, the "Woo Hoo" one...), it is a far better effort than the other trailers for the movie.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    As this is a mail-in rebate disc only, there is no way to get this disc from any other region (at least, not with going to lengths not justified by the disc itself), so there really is no point in a region comparison. If you must have this, just mail away to Universal here in Australia.

Summary

    A pure marketing exercise if ever there was one, it is hard to justify shelling out any money on this disc. Huge Stephen Sommers fans only need apply.

    The video looks like what you would expect from an interview featurette intercut with both old and new movies...

    ...and the audio sounds just like you would expect from the same.

    The "extras" are a collection of trailers.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Nick Jardine (My bio, it's short - read it anyway)
Sunday, May 09, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-555K, using Component output
DisplayLoewe Xelos 5381ZW. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-DS787, THX Select
SpeakersRochester Audio Animato Series (2xSAF-02, SAC-02, 3xSAB-01) + 12" Sub (150WRMS)

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
These interviews ARE avail. in region 1 -
R1 wins again! - Sean Brady
R1 Box Sets are Good, but could be better -