Dracula: Complete Legacy Collection (Blu-ray Review)
DirectorTod Browning, Lambert Hillyer, Robert Siodmak, Erie C. Kenton, Various
Release Date(s)1931-1948 (May 16, 2017)
Studio(s)Universal Pictures (Universal)
- Film/Program Grade: See Below
- Video Grade: See Below
- Audio Grade: See Below
- Extras Grade: B+
- Overall Grade: B+
Universal first began releasing its Classic Monsters titles on DVD starting in 1999 with the original films, Tod Browning’s Dracula (1931) among them. Their Dracula: The Legacy Collection followed on DVD in 2004, featuring the original film, the Spanish version, and its three sequels. Then in 2014, the Dracula: Complete Legacy Collection was released on DVD, including the original and all of its sequels and related films. Complete though it was, however, the set was still somewhat frustrating, as Universal had already begun to release the originals in HD in 2012, as part of the studio’s 100th Anniversary celebration, with the Universal Classic Monsters: The Essential Collection Blu-ray box set (see our review here). Fans made their feelings clear; they wanted all the films in that level of quality.
Frustrating or not, the DVD version of the Dracula: Complete Legacy Collection included Dracula (1931), the Spanish version of Dracula (1931), Dracula’s Daughter (1936), Son of Dracula (1943), House of Frankenstein (1944), House of Dracula (1945), and Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948), plus extras.
The good news is, following the success of Universal’s 2012 4K restorations of Dracula, Frankenstein, and The Bride of Frankenstein, the studio began restoring the sequels films in 2015. The first fruits of this work were released last year in the form of Blu-ray upgrades of the Frankenstein: Complete Legacy Collection (see our review here) and The Wolf Man: Complete Legacy Collection (see our review here). Now they’ve followed up this year with Dracula: Complete Legacy Collection and The Mummy: Complete Legacy Collection (see our review here).
Here’s what’s included in the new Dracula: Complete Legacy Collection Blu-ray set:
Disc One – Dracula (1931) – This is essentially the same disc that was released in 2012. It includes both the film and the Spanish version in HD (the latter with introduction by Lupita Tovar Kohner), along with The Road to Dracula (SD – 35:04), Lugosi: The Dark Prince (SD – 36:07), the Monster Tracks trivia track, Dracula: The Restoration (HD – 8:46), Dracula Archive (SD – 9:11), an alternate score by Philip Glass and the Kronos Quarter, audio commentary with David J. Skal, audio commentary with Steve Haberman, and trailers for Dracula, Dracula’s Daughter, Son of Dracula, and House of Dracula (SD – 6:22 in all)
Disc Two – Dracula’s Daughter (1936) and Son of Dracula (1943) – includes both films in HD, along with the trailer for each film in SD
Disc Three – House of Frankenstein (1944) and House of Dracula (1945) – includes both films in HD, along with the trailer for each film in SD
Disc Four – Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948) – This is exactly the same disc that was released in 2012. It includes the film in HD, along with Abbott and Costello Meet the Monsters (SD – 33:18), audio commentary with Gregory W. Mank, 100 Years of Universal: The Lot (HD – 9:25), 100 Years of Universal: Unforgettable Characters (HD – 8:18), and the film’s trailer in SD
As you can see, virtually all of the previous DVD and Blu-ray features carry over here, so you lose nothing of note if you upgrade to this set. If you already own the Universal Classic Monsters: The Essential Collection Blu-ray box, there is obviously a bit of duplication in that Dracula and the Spanish version are included in both sets. House of Frankenstein, House of Dracula, and Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein have also been released on Blu-ray in last year’s Frankenstein: Complete Legacy Collection. Otherwise, the two Dracula sequels are new to the format in HD.
The new transfers are spectacular, especially considering the age of the films in question. All are presented in their original 1.37:1 theatrical aspect ratios. Both versions of Dracula were originally remastered from new 4K element scans (you can read our thoughts on their A/V quality here), and nearly all the rest of these films have been given new 4K restorations too. The actual scans and digital remastering work here are first rate; the A/V quality really just depends on the condition of the original elements. Dracula’s Daughter and Son of Dracula are clean looking but never edgy, offering lovely grain, deep contrast, and fine detail and texturing. House of Frankenstein and House of Dracula are excellent as well. Quite simply, these films have never looked so good at home before and have probably seldom looked this good in theaters either. Though it may not feature a 4K transfer, Abbott and Costello is also very good in HD, though not quite up to the level of the others. Contrast and detail are solid, with nice black levels.
The sound on all of these films is English 2.0 mono in DTS-HD Master Audio format. The original Dracula also includes French 2.0 mono audio in DTS-HD MA. The mixes are front-and-center, as they should be, though the uncompressed nature of the tracks offers a somewhat fuller sound than found on DVD, delivering good fidelity and every bit of the quality possible from the original audio elements. Dialogue is generally clean and clear. Optional subtitles are included in English SDH and Spanish on all films, and the sequels include French subtitles as well.
On the whole, this set represents an excellent Blu-ray upgrade of the previous DVD release. However, its value to you personally will depend on just how much you love these films, which you’ve purchased previously on either Blu-ray or DVD, and what kind of sale price you can get. At $30 on Amazon for only two new films in HD, that’s a tough sell and the price may get sweeter with time. In any case, as a Universal Classic Monsters fan, it’s a thrill to finally have all of these films available in such high quality. Better still, it’s enormously reassuring to know that they’ve been newly restored and preserved for the future. If you can get it at a good price, this set is definitely recommended.
- Bill Hunt
QUALITY RATINGS (FILM/VIDEO/AUDIO/EXTRAS):
Dracula (1931): A-/A/A/A
Dracula’s Daughter (1936): B+/A/A-/B-
Son of Dracula (1943): C-/A-/A-/B-
House of Frankenstein (1944): B-/A-/B+/D
House of Dracula (1945): C/A-/B+/D
Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948): B+/B+/B/C+