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Universal Horror Collection Volume 3 Main

Universal Horror Collection: Volume 3 - Horror Island Blu-ray Review

Written by Robert Gold

Blu-ray released by Scream Factory

Universal Horror Collection Volume 3 Large

Directed by George Waggner
Written by Maurice Tombragel and Victor McLeod
1941, 61 minutes, Not Rated

Dick Foran as Bill Martin
Leo Carillo as Skipper
Peggy Moran as Wendy Creighton
Fuzzy Knight as Stuff Oliver
John Eldredge as Cousin George

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Bill Martin is a down-on-his-luck entrepreneur who coordinates a variety of sea tours and other schemes with his trusty assistant, Stuff Oliver. They meet a one-legged sailor they dub “Skipper”, who tells them of hidden treasure located on an island Bill has recently inherited. He shows them a torn map telling them a mysterious phantom stole the other half and vanished. Naturally, Bill’s response is to place an ad calling for tourists interested in paying $50 to go to a “haunted” island for a treasure hunt. A group of colorful characters show up, including the lovely Wendy Creighton, who captures Bill’s heart, and they set sail immediately.

When the reach the island, the phantom is already inside the castle where they will be staying. Everyone settles in for the night when strange voices urging them to leave are heard over a speaker. Things take a deadly turn when tourists begin to die at the hands of an unseen madman. Bill, Wendy, Stuff Oliver and the Skipper set out to solve the mystery and find the treasure before there are more murders. Our heroes must navigate secret passageways, booby traps, puzzles and other big adventure tropes if they plan to leave this island alive.

Horror Island is a light-hearted, fast-paced thriller that is loaded with clichés and stereotypes. This is your standard low-budget B-movie rushed into production and released a few weeks after filming was completed. Stock sets, recycled music cues and no-name actors are all called upon to make a fast buck. The finished product is surprisingly charming while remaining unremarkable. The one thing missing from this flick is the horror element promised in the title. There is nothing scary here, except possibly how quickly everything wraps up – the entire film only runs an hour. Directed by George Waggner (The Wolf Man), there are some nice shots and some decent shadow play, but the performances are only so-so. This is easily the weakest title in the collection, but if you’re on a tight schedule and looking for a weird hodgepodge of elements, you may find something to enjoy here.

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Video and Audio:

Picture quality on all four films is surprisingly strong, with Tower of London receiving a 2K scan of a fine-grain print. All are presented in the 1.33:1 aspect ratio and the image features plenty of small-object detail missing from earlier releases.

The original mono recordings are given a DTS-HD MA 2.0 mix that is free from audible pops, hiss or other distortion. Dialogue levels are always understandable and optional English subtitles are provided for anyone in need.

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Special Features:

Disc 1: Tower of London

In this audio commentary, film historian Steve Haberman begins by providing background information on the historical era and Shakespeare’s Richard III as source material – and where the film deviates. From there he provides cast and character notes and additional bits of trivia.

A still gallery slideshow (3 minutes) contains production stills, publicity shots and color poster art.

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Disc 2: Man Made Monster

Film historians Tom Weaver and Constantine Nasr tag team this audio commentary, recorded separately and taking turns with the information. The discussion covers a lot of ground with trivia about the writers and director, early drafts of the script and original plot synopsis. Other topics include some great comments about Lon Chaney, readings from studio publicity notes and the official press release. The track is highly informative and largely satisfying, though Weaver gets sidetracked listing the results of a survey he conducted of the “Top 7 Lon Chaney Jr. films”.

A still gallery (2 minutes) features black and white publicity shots and color lobby cards.

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Disc 3: The Black Cat

In his audio commentary, author/film history Gary D. Rhodes begins by reading selections from Poe and describes this picture as charming but not very good. He talks about the studio’s decision to revisit the material following their 1934 effort and reads from a variety of production notes. Rhodes examines this script and how it fits within the horror and mystery genres and provides his thoughts on the cast and the film’s release.

The original theatrical trailer has been included.

A photo gallery (4 minutes) offers publicity shots, production stills and a collection of colorful poster art.

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Disc 4: Horror Island

Film historian Ted Newsom provides an insightful audio commentary that starts with an explanation of low-budget B-movies. From there he admits this is an unremarkable but harmless film. He reads notes about the cast and director and points out recycled sets and music and talks about the picture’s speedy production schedule.

The theatrical trailer has been included.

A still gallery (2 minutes) containing publicity shots, promotional stills, color poster art and lobby cards has been included.

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Tower of London:
Man Made Monster:
The Black Cat:
Horror Island:
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Video: Threeandahalfstars
Audio: Threeandahalfstars
Features: Twoandahalfstars
Overall: 3.5 Star Rating

man mad monster poster small prev horror island poster small next

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About The Author
Robert Gold
Author: Robert Gold
Staff Reviewer - USA
Robert's favorite genres include horror (foreign and domestic), Asian cinema and pornography (foreign and domestic). His ability to seek out and enjoy shot on video (SOV) horror movies is unmatched. His love of films with a budget under $100,000 is unapologetic.
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