Stephen Sommers on Universal's Original Monsters (2004)
Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Trailer-Van Helsing, Thunderbirds, The Chronicles Of Riddick
|Year Of Production||2004|
|RSDL / Flipper||No/No||Cast & Crew|
|Start Up||Language Select Then Menu|
|Region Coding||2,4||Directed By||None Given|
Universal Pictures Home Video
Lon Chaney Jr.
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||Full Frame||English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||None|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.33:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||Yes|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
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.
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.
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.
|Surround Channel Use|
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
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.
|DVD||Pioneer DV-555K, using Component output|
|Display||Loewe Xelos 5381ZW. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.|
|Amplification||Onkyo TX-DS787, THX Select|
|Speakers||Rochester Audio Animato Series (2xSAF-02, SAC-02, 3xSAB-01) + 12" Sub (150WRMS)|