Karloff & Lugosi Horror Classics

Karloff & Lugosi Horror Classics (1936)
Warner Home Video
Cast: Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Peter Lorre, Alan Carney, Wally Brown, Kay Kyser
Extras: Commentary Tracks, Theatrical Trailer

As Halloween approaches we are naturally seeing an increase in horror related titles and fortunately for fans of classic horror movies, among these releases there is usually a number of old school gems. In this 2-disc DVD set, Warner Home Video has prepared 4 classic movies featuring two of classic horrors greatest icons – Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi.

The first film in the set if "The Walking Dead," a wonderfully atmospheric tale by Michael Curtiz that is vastly underrated. Featuring one of Karloff's most memorable performances, this is the story of John Ellman who is framed of murder and innocently sent to the electric chair. A scientist revives him, but it soon turns out that the death-experience has changed something in Ellman. While he seems to have lost most of his memory in the experience, he did not forget who had him killed in the first place and one by one he hunts them down to take his revenge.

"Frankenstein 1970" on the other hand is a silly take on the Frankenstein franchise – but absolutely not without its charms either. Instead of playing the tormented creature, this time Boris Karloff plays an aging Victor von Frankenstein, the last of the family descendants, who has been plagued all his life by the shadows of his forefather's work. In order to raise money, Frankenstein is renting out the ancient family castle to a film crew for a horror film shoot. But when suddenly cast and crew members disappear, it becomes obvious that the Baron has more in common with his ancestor than merely the name. Determined to breathe life into a dead body once again, Frankenstein soon finds himself tangled in his own web.

The second disc of the DVD set is dedicated to the Hungarian legend, Bela Lugosi. In "You'll Find Out" he appears alongside Boris Karloff and Peter Lorre, a funny haunted house tale that is more comedy than horror film. Nonetheless, in the vein of Abbott & Costello movies, it does have the signature charm and look of classic horror films, filled with Lugosi's penetrating stare and brick-walled vaults.

"Zombies On Broadway" is another funny film starring Bela Lugosi, in which two Broadway agents stumble into a mad scientist who performs his voodoo to raise the dead. Since zombies are exactly what the show producers need, they plan to make them the main attraction in their night club, but of course, things don't go over just that smoothly.

The movies in this DVD set range from 1936 to 1958 and are there fore of varying quality. I was very impressed with the presentation quality of "the Walking Dead," the oldest film in the pack, however, as the movie offered a deep black and white picture that was mostly free of defects. There are signs of aging, naturally, and the image is jittering occasionally, but overall for such a little-seen film of such age, the presentation is beautiful. The two Lugosi films are probably the ones in worst shape. While not bad, all things considered, there are blemishes and defects in the print that do show the movie's age. Regardlessly, however, the transfer's black levels and gradients are well handled and create an image that is detailed and lively without the incredibly harsh look of some other films of the era.

Not a whole lot of extras are included in the release but you can find commentary tracks with film historians on the two Karloff features, both of which do discuss the movie and its heritage in more detail. Particularly the track on "Frankenstein 1970" is reveling in wonderful details as it is not nearly as scholarly as many historian commentaries tend to be. Bob Burns' contribution has a lot to do with it, as he is always an energetic and exciting storyteller who typically talks from memory rather than notes.

For fans of classic horror movies, or for fans of Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi, this is a release to take note of. For me, the inclusion of "The Walking Dead" alone was worth checking it out, as it is a top notch movie of the era that puts Boris Karloff to best use. Check it out!