Video releases from around the world: Universal Monsters

You'd be hard-pressed to find many horror fans who do not praise the old Universal films, and there's a good reason for that; while not just iconic and timeless, for a lot us they were our first experience with the genre.  These famous films were the first ones we grew familiar with, before our parents were comfortable with their children viewing the Friday the 13th's or the Halloween's.

Today we're going to take a look at the various home video releases of these films.  Universal has always put a lot of thought and care into their releases throughout the years.  I guess we should start with the humble beginnings, while these films would see various VHS releases, I think a lot of people would be most familiar with these.

This series kicked off in 1991, it would last a few years and would see the release of more than 30 classic films.

 Picture courtesy of UMA.

Universal would give the European audiences similar treatment with a British version of the line.

Years later things would get pretty interesting with the advent of the digital versatile disc.  In the late 90's a few of the more popular of the Universal Monster titles would be given the DVD treatment.  The rest of the titles would eventually follow suit.  While not bad releases by any means, over in Japan monster fans had the option of purchasing these.

Each box set includes a number of the films on DVD collected in limited coffin shaped boxes.  Germany also 
had a similar release.

While the US just had normal run-of-the-mill releases, things would soon change.  2004 saw the release of Van Helsing, a big budget picture in which Hugh Jackman would take on a number of famous creatures.  In conjunction, Universal gave these classic films the treatment they so truly deserved in the form of the Legacy Series.  The initial release featured Dracula, Frankenstein, and The Wolfman along with the film's various sequels and spinoffs.  As if that were not enough the company partnered with Sideshow collectibles to offer a limited edition set which included three resin busts.

Later that year Universal would complete the series with The Creature From the Black Lagoon, The Invisible Man, and The Mummy.

These Legacy sets would be released throughout the world, some countries would luck out and get the multi-film treatment similar to the US, whereas other countries would get singular titles only sharing the same case design as the initial US run.  Here's a nice example, this is a German release of 1943's The Phantom of the Opera, the DVD sports a design that's almost exactly like the US Legacy sets.  Interestingly enough the US version of this film did not get a similar treatment.

In 2006 the company released 75th Anniversary editions of Dracula and Frankenstein, these editions contained a few new bonus features along with brand new transfers.  Still under the Legacy moniker, this time the discs were held in a book-like package complete with faux leather finish.  The Mummy and The Wolfman would eventually follow.

October, 2012 would see the inevitable US blu-ray release.  Eight classic films collected into one massive set, each of the films were meticulously remastered and and included a handful of new bonus features.  

Also included was the much talked about 3D version of The Creature From The Black Lagoon.  This was a pretty damn solid release...But sure enough better editions could be found elsewhere...

For those limited-edition hounds Europe had something special planned..  Much like the Japan release from years earlier you could own these films housed in a coffin shaped box.  The coffin sets were available in France, Germany, and the UK.  Each set varied from Country to Country.  Germany and the UK had the most similar sets featuring a Digipack that fit snuggly into the coffin, though the French release featured a number of slimline  DVD cases packed inside the box.  Which set has the upperhand?  I guess that just depends on your preference.  I went with the UK set as it was the most English Friendly of the trio, though the French set was pretty tempting.

The most recent releases are a little on the plain side I'm afraid, just simple stand alone titles culled from last year's great set.  Who knows what the future holds though, we've yet to see some of the secondary titles from the Legacy line get the HD upgrade so I'm assuming we will eventually get those...Will they be housed in a crypt or some other gimmicky packaging?  One can only hope!