- BD-50 Dual-Layer Disc
- Region Free
- 1080p/AVC MPEG-4
- English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono
- French Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono
- English SDH
- Audio Commentary
- Still Gallery
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The Invisible Man (1933) (Blu-ray)
Universal Studios / 1933 / 71 Minutes / Unrated
Street Date: October 02, 2012
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Reviewed by M. Enois Duarte
Thursday, October 04, 2012
This review is part of our extensive coverage of 'Universal Classic Monsters: The Essential Collection.'
One aspect Universal Studios is best remembered and remains highly regarded for is their collection of monster features. Their immense impact and influence in the horror film genre is virtually irrefutable. More than any other movie production company, the studio has left an indelible mark in the cinema of horror, pretty much becoming synonymous with the genre and creating some of the most iconic figures in all the history of film. Who can deny the faces of Dracula, Frankenstein's monster or his Bride are not permanently etched into our collective memories when thinking of a scary movie or every year Halloween season rolls around. Even if you've never watched a single one of these films, you're already familiar with the names of the characters, their haunting images or the actors who portrayed them.
Universal's legacy dates are far back as the silent era when Carl Laemmle first founded the company, initially producing a variety of melodramas, westerns and serials. Thanks to the amazing work done by character actor Lon Chaney, the studio starting making a name for itself with horror hits 'The Hunchback of Notre Dame' (1923) and 'The Phantom of the Opera' (1925). Three years later, Carl passed the business down to his son Carl Laemmle Jr. on his 21st birthday, who quickly went to work on converting future production to include sound. He proved himself to nervous shareholders when the massively expensive war epic 'All Quiet on the Western Front' went on to become an Academy Award winner. It's during these years that company produced many prominent motion pictures which continue to be admired and are affectionately known as Universal Horror.
Following one successful horror feature after another during these influential years, Carl Laemmle Jr. was soon becoming synonymous with the genre, a name we can now look back on as one of the first true masters of horror. As general manager in charge of production at Universal Studios in the early 1930s, the producer is largely remembered as a filmmaker that spent a great deal of money on projects with little box-office returns, often barely enough to cover their cost or be considered profitable. But if it weren't for his sort of risk-taking prodigality, we probably wouldn't have the several film classics the Laemmle name is also recognized for, particularly these horror classics, which were commercially successful.
By the time his desire to adapt H.G. Wells' sci-fi novella The Invisible Man finally became a reality, tension between a then 25-year-old Laemmle and the studio's investors was beginning to ferment. Added to that, the production of 'Invisible Man' was off to a bad start when issues with the script kept causing severe delays. It took three writers, one of which was Preston Sturges, to complete a final draft which Laemmle liked. The young filmmaker then met with more problems when Boris Karloff, who was originally offered the lead, withdrew from the project. Laemmle also had to replace the original director with James Whale at the last minute, and considering the success Whale has just achieved with 'Frankenstein,' these troubles had turned out to be a series of fortunate accidents.
Whale championed for a then-unknown Claude Rains to voice the titular character, supposedly because he found Rains voice appealing and seemed smart. This, too, could be argued as a fortunate accident since imagining Karloff as the voice of Dr. Jack Griffin today could have proven disastrous. With things finally settling, the biggest portion of the budget went into the groundbreaking special visual effects of John P. Fulton, Roswell A. Hoffmann, John J. Mescall, Bill Heckler, and Frank D. Williams. Without a doubt, these men's innovative and influential techniques are partly responsible for the film's success, and arguably the reason why it is today remembered as a classic of sci-fi horror. Of course, since the main character is meant to be invisible, it's the figure of Rains wrapped in bandages and wearing dark sunglasses which we remember the most.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Universal Studios Home Entertainment brings the 'Universal Classic Monsters: The Essential Collection' to Blu-ray in an attractive and elegantly sturdy eight-disc box set. The package is a familiar one which opens much like a book with each shiny page showing poster artwork, a brief entry on the film and disc contents. Those same pages also serve as sleeves for each disc which slide out by placing some slight pressure to the top and bottom, widening the mouth only a little. The inside is smooth and glossy to prevent the discs from scratching.
All eight films are contained on separate Region Free, BD50 discs and found inside one of the pages, respective of the order in which they were theatrically released. The package comes with a 46-page book that features a lengthy essay by Universal Horrors author Tom Weaver, entitled "A Legacy in Horror." The rest is a collection of photos and artwork with interesting blurbs and trivia on each film, the filmmakers, the actors, and on the special effects and make-up work. The side-sliding slipcover is made of a hard cardboard material with beautiful artwork and lightly embossed. At startup, each disc goes straight to a main menu screen with full-motion clips and music playing in the background.
Like others in the box set, the classic film defies its age with this great-looking 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode. Definition and resolution are at times phenomenal, revealing a good deal of background objects with distinct clarity and exposing strong visible texture in facial complexions. Fine lines in the costumes and bandages are sharply detailed. On the other hand, the transfer can appear quite soft and blurry on several occasions, but this is mainly due to the original photography and early visual effects techniques. I also detected some minor print damage in the video, but nothing too severe as to distract from the movie's enjoyment. A nice layer of grain is ever present, giving the picture a welcomed film-like appeal. Contrast and brightness is very well-balanced with crisp whites and deep, rich blacks throughout, providing a few excellent moments of dimensionality.
'Invisible Man' also arrives to Blu-ray with a terrific DTS-HD MA mono soundtrack. Hissing and noise is kept to a minimum, barely audible for the majority of the film's runtime. Background activity is clear and distinct with a sharply-rendered mid-range. Imaging feels broad with a strong, commanding presence in the center, creating a wide and engaging soundstage. Music is detailed with clean differentiation in the orchestration and good bass that provides palpable depth. Dialogue reproduction is superb and precise, allowing fans to really appreciate the uniqueness of Claude Rains voice and performance. There isn't much range in the presentation, but the lossless mix is still a great one.
- Audio Commentary — As in the other commentaries, film historian Rudy Behlmer providing loads of insight and history of the production in a rather dry manner. Providing some background on the script's origins and talking about several other aspects of the film and its cast, he shares many anecdotes and technical details that's worth listening but not wholly exciting. Still, for devoted fans, there is plenty to gain from this audio track.
- Now You See Him, Now You Don't: The Invisible Man Revealed (SD, 35 min) — Behlmer returns to host this short making-of doc with interviews of other historians, actors and filmmakers discussing several interesting tidbits about the production. Part of the discussion is on Whale and his career as well as the film being remembered for its breakthrough in special visual effects.
- Production Photographs (SD) — A collection of poster artwork, marketing stills and other photos from the set.
- Trailers (SD) — Theatrical previews for 'The Invisible Man Returns' and 'Invisible Agent.'
This Blu-ray edition of 'The Invisible Man (1933)' arrives with one high-def exclusives.
- 100 Years of Universal: Unforgettable Characters (HD, 8 min) — Another short featurette commemorating the studio's 100th anniversary which takes a look back at some of cinema's most memorable characters.
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Universal Studios' impact and influence in the cinema of horror is virtually irrefutable, responsible for popularizing the genre and for creating some of the most iconic figures in film history. Their indelible mark is fairly obvious and most felt every year around the Halloween season, and the faces of these monsters are permanently etched into our collective cultural memories when thinking of horror. They are a part of our lives, yet many have probably never even seen these classics all the way through. Now, they can be enjoyed on Blu-ray for the first time in this elegant eight-disc box set, featuring the main creatures often associated with Universal Horror. Each comes with excellent audio and video presentations, bringing these icons of the genre as close as possible to their former glory. And they have never looked as beautiful as they do here. Many of the supplements from previous special edition DVDs are preserved here as well, making this an exhaustive must-own for horror fans and cinephiles everywhere.
You can read more about the complete set and order it here!
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