My wife got me this set for Christmas (bless 'er) and I've been wading through a film or tow a night the last few days. So far, I've watched both Frankensteins, Dracula, The Mummy and The Invisible Man.
Aside from the two Frankensteins, (particularly BOF), I've never been much of a fan of Universal's "classic horror: movies, my love of gothics pretty much starts with the Hammer Films. Thus, possibly astonishingly, this was the first time I've watched Dracula, The Invisible Man and The Mummy completely though in one sitting. On one hand, I've gained an appreciation for the films in some respects while reinforcing certain dislikes for them in others.
Starting with the two Frankensteins, they have been and remain the only two films of Universal's classic horrors to rate and continue to exude a still relevant level of quality, novelty and art. It is true there's bits here and there that no longer work in the context of modern scrutiny such as the dated stagey dialog and especially in the annoying case of over-the-top hysterics of Una O'Conner (also in Invisible Man) but it's offset by how much of the direction, the acting (excepting Colin Clive), the direction, production design, the score and especially the photography all retain much of their impact nearly 80 years later.
Dracula.... I still do not care much for. I do have a better appreciation for the set design and strong gothic atmosphere that permeates the film. And I finally do "get" the appreciation many fans have for Lugosi's overall appeal in the role as a *presence* of evil. But the plodding, stagey (it was basically a filmed version of the Broadway play) manner in which the story unfolds, often with character descriptions of events that happen offscreen far more interesting than what happens onscreen continuously frustrates any attempts at horror. I can't help but chuckle watching Renfield half-heartedly tumble down the stairs after receiving what appears to be a Vulcan death-tickle from Dracula.
The Invisible Man is another thing altogether. It's execution seems more... modern, energetic than I had expected for one of the movies from this early 30's run. Director James Whale's dark, dry sense of humor seems most unfettered in this film and it works more successfully than in the Frankenstein films. On the other end of the spectrum, The Mummy moves at a snails pace, but also in many ways is the best photographed (and so far, best looking of these "restorations").
Getting to the overall Blu-ray presentations, certainly at least the Frankensteins look the best I've ever seen compared to the various dvd and laserdisc releases. However, whatever digital process Universal used for these transfers, while bringing out previously unseen details and textures, also often creates ugly, cartoonish black outlines between black foreground objects and light backgrounds, most noticeably in Dracula where his cape and hair are often 100% crushed black with no nuance and a odd outlines as if he was a comic book pen and ink drawing. It's like every gradient of black between 85% to 99% was just pushed to 100% black. Very much reminds me of the process used for the original King Kong.
And perhaps stranger, during the scene in BOF where The Monster approaches the blind mans hut for the first time, there's a dark clump of branches on the lower right side of the screen as the Monster walks past, it appears there's a dropped frame and the branches disappear almost as if the scene was composed of two takes! It bugged me so much, I checked my old dvd and sure enough, it appears that Universal half-heartedly attempted to digitally "merge" what was originally the two separate takes which had a bad jump cut or splice but didn't bother to digitally "correct" the tree branches making the scene look even stranger!
More as I watch more......