Monday, March 28, 2022

Three Monster Tales of Sci-Fi Terror – Eureka Video (Blu-ray)

Theatrical Release Dates: USA, 1941 (Man-Made Monster), USA, 1957 (The Monolith Monsters), USA, 1958 (Monster on the Campus)
Directors: George Waggner (Man-Made Monster), John Sherwood (The Monolith Monsters), Jack Arnold (Monster on the Campus)
Cast: Lionel Atwill, Lon Chaney Jr., Anne Nagel, Frank Albertson, Samuel S. Hinds (Man-Made Monster), Grant Williams, Lola Albright, Les Tremayne, Trevor Bardette, Phil Harvey (The Monolith Monsters), Arthur Franz, Donald Blake, Joanna Moore, Judson Pratt, Nancy Walters, Troy Donahue (Monster on the Campus)

Release Date: April 11th, 2022
Approximate Running Times: 59 Minutes 50 Seconds (Man-Made Monster), 77 Minutes 18 Seconds (The Monolith Monsters), 76 Minutes 34 Seconds (Monster on the Campus)
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 Aspect Ratio / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVCC (Man-Made Monster, Monster on the Campus), 2.00:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVCC (The Monolith Monsters, Monster on the Campus)
Rating: PG (UK)
Sound: LPCM Mono English (All Films)
Subtitles: English SDH (All Films)
Region Coding: Region B
Retail Price: £24.99

"A trio of chilling sci-fi tales from the vaults of Universal Pictures, starring a number of genre legends including Lionel Atwill (Son of Frankenstein), Lon Chaney, Jr. (The Wolf Man), Grant Williams (The Incredible Shrinking Man).

A mad scientist transforms a carnival performer (Lon Chaney, Jr.) into a murderous monster in Man-Made Monster (dir. George Waggner, 1941). In The Monolith Monsters (dir. John Sherwood, 1957), a giant meteor crashes to Earth and the fragments begin to spread – turning everyone they come into contact with to stone! And finally, fear stalks the seemingly tranquil halls of Dunsfield University in Monster on the Campus (dir. Jack Arnold, 1958) when a paleontology professor becomes infected with irradiated blood and begins to devolve into a primitive beast." - synopsis provided by the distributor

Video: 3.5/5 (Man-Made Monster), 4/5 (The Monolith Monsters), 4.25/5 (Monster on the Campus)

Man-Made Monster and The Monolith Monsters come on a 50 GB dual layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 39.8 GB

Feature: 17.1 GB (Man-Made Monster), 21.9 GB (The Monolith Monsters)

Monster on the Campus comes on a 50 GB dual layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 44.1 GB

Feature: 21.7 GB (1.33:1 Aspect Ratio), 21.7 GB (2.00:1 Aspect Ratio)

The sources used for these transfers look like the same sources used for Shout! Factory’s Blu-ray releases. That said, these sources are in great shape. Image clarity, contrast, and black levels are strong; there are no issues with compression, and the grain remains intact. Of these three films, Man-Made Monster has the weakest transfer, while Monster on Campus has the strongest transfer.

Audio: 4/5

Each film comes with one audio option, a LPCM mono mix in English, and each film comes with removable English SDH subtitles. All the audio mixes sound clean, clear, and balanced. That said, range-wise, they are all limited.

Extras:

Extras for Man-Made Monster include stills gallery #1 (29 images-production stills), stills gallery #2 (7 images-artwork and ephemera) and an audio commentary with author Stephen Jones and author/film critic Kim Newman.

Extras for The Monolith Monsters include stills gallery #1 (47 images-production stills), stills gallery #2 (7 images-artwork and ephemera), theatrical trailer (2 minutes 5 seconds, LPCM mono English, no subtitles) and an audio commentary with Kevin Lyons and Jonathan Rigby.

Extras for Monster on the Campus include stills gallery #1 (8 images-production stills), stills gallery #2 (11 images-artwork and ephemera), theatrical trailer (1 minute 47 seconds, LPCM mono English, no subtitles) and an audio commentary with Stephen Jones and Kim Newman.

Other extras include a limited-edition O-card slipcase (2000 copies) and a limited-edition booklet [2000 copies] with cast & crew information, an essay written by Craig Ian Mann and information about the transfer titled Notes on Viewing.

Summary:

Man-Made Monster: Though Universal Pictures was still churning out monster films in the early 1940’s. The films from this era were not in the same league as the films Universal Pictures made during the first half of the 1930’s. With most of their horror output being impoverished B films,

This brings us to a film like Man-Made Monster, a textbook example of the B horror films that Universal Pictures was making at that time. Everything about this Man-Made Monster screams slapdash B-movie. Whether it's the anemic narrative that barely holds everything together or the short running time of just under an hour. Also, the characters are one-dimensional stereotypes, and the cinematography is pedestrian. That said, outside of the glowing effect, the special effects generally look good.

The main attraction of Man-Made Monster is Lon Chaney Jr. in the role of Dan McCormick, a man who is able to absorb electricity due to an accident. Though this performance is nothing special, it would play a role in launching Lon Chaney Jr.’s ascension as a horror film star. Also, he would later reteam with George Waggner for what is arguably his most iconic film, The Wolf Man.

At the heart of Man-Made Monster is a tale about a mad scientist whose determination to get results leads him to create a monster who ultimately turns on its creator. The narrative can be split into two sections. Man-Made Monster is an entertaining film if you like it's so bad it's good cinema.

The Monolith Monsters: By the 1950's, sci-fi cinema had become more popular than horror cinema. That said, many sci-fi films from this era contained elements commonly associated with horror cinema. A case in point is The Monolith Monsters, a film that has killer rocks from outer space. 

The narrative revolves around an isolated town that is besieged by an alien entity that turns humans who come into contact with it into stone. And to make matters worse, when said entity is exposed to water, it multiples. This forces the townspeople to quickly come up with a way to destroy the entity before it absorbs them.

Though definitely a low-budget film, The Monolith Monsters does a reasonably good job of maximizing its limited resources. Also, the narrative keeps things moving forward by building and managing tension. And the special effects hold up well, despite looking dated at times.

It's sometimes hard to fairly judge performances when it comes to a film like The Monolith Monsters. And though there is no performance that stands out, the cast as a whole fulfills their roles. Ultimately, The Monolith Monsters is a fun film that fans of 1950's sci-fi are sure to thoroughly enjoy.

Monster on the Campus: In the 1950's, the cinema saw a lot of films where science crossed paths with elements traditionally linked to horror. Many films from this era featured characters whose experiments would unleash a monster. A case in point is a film like Monster on the Campus.

The narrative revolves around a professor who has recently acquired a prehistoric fish that was exposed to gamma rays. From there, anyone who is exposed to the water from the crate that the fish traveled in temporarily transforms into their ancestors' prehistoric roots.

Though most viewers may have been terrified by Monster on the Campus at the time of its release, looking back on a film like Monster on the Campus, it's hard to look past its absurd premise. Also, when it comes to sequences where characters return to their prehistoric roots, the majority of the violence occurs offscreen, which lessens the impact of these moments.

Despite the fact that the plot moves slowly at times and the acting is one-dimensional. There is one area where Monster on the Campus looks surprisingly good, and that is its visuals, which do a good job exploring light and shadow. It should be noted that the cinematographer, Russell Metty, photographed Touch of Evil the same year. Ultimately, Monster on the Campus is a mildly entertaining film that fans of 1950’s sci-fi and horror are sure to get the most mileage out of.

Eureka Video’s Three Monster Tales of Sci-Fi Terror is a solid release that comes with a trio of insightful audio commentaries, recommended.
























Written by Michael Den Boer

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