John Brahm directed all three films of this set and so it is with great pride that 20th Century Fox present this first box full of horror, drama and suspense straight from the 40s. The overall feel is superb, the settings are classy, actors give nice enough performances and the transfers are beautiful.
There are a few special features each movie provides, which lets us know a bit more about the time the movies were made, the actors involved and some actors who went a bit too far to achieve the unthinkable.
Honestly, as a fan of black and white 30s-50s horror cinema, this set came as a no-brainer. These may not be classic by stretch of the imagination, but one thing cannot be denied: it was made with talent and heart, something many contemporary productions lack.
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99 of 104 people found the following review helpful
Long Lost Fox Horror Gems.Oct. 2 2007
- Published on Amazon.com
Three little known but effective horror films from a major hollywood studio complete this box set. Last year MGM released some of their little known horror films and now Fox has followed suite. None of the these titles have been on DVD before, and even rarely on VHS. They occasionally showed up on the lackluster Fox Movie Channel a few years ago at odd hours of the early morning. It was on such an occasion that I encountered "The Lodger". This is a top notch effort which rests comfortably between the Gaslight thriller and the classic horror film. Cregar plays the villain with an off kilter, understated creepiness that was way ahead of it's time and could be called the screen's first serial killer performance. The cinematography looks better and more atmospheric than what Universal was shoving out in the mid 40s'. Fog bound London streets and dimly gaslit interiors play with the viewers sense of claustrophobia. You almost feel as trapped by the heavy atmosphere as Cregar's character. Lodger is no doubt a lost classic of psychological horror.
I have to disagree with other reviewers that "Undying Monster" is the poor cousin of this set. "Hangover Square" feels more like a re-make of Lodger than a film of its own right. But Undying Monster takes us to the dark, atmospheric Sea coast. The sparse sets and jagged cliffs and caves work beautifully here. We have Jane Eyre meets Bram Stoker. A family curse is the plot engine to drive the lush monochrome cinematography. In fact Undying Monster boasts some of the best shots of the set, particularly the opening interior shot as the moon streams into a tudor drawing room. It looked great on the badly duped VHS copy I've had for years. On DVD it promises to be stunning. The titular Monster is not revealed until near the end, so forget about it and soak up the atmosphere. There is an interesting sequence near the end, all done in long shot as if you were a passerby. It's effective and helps cover the lack of make up talent Fox had for horror films. These films were rarely seen even back in the days of Late Night Creature Features. Universal's films are better known, and MGM's more highly regarded by critics. But these lost Fox Horror films can now find an audience of their own and be appreciated for the loving cinematography. If you're tired of the bad Hollywood "horror" films lately, which bear more resemblance to a series of snuff films rather than anything else, this box set is for you. Curl up on your couch with the DVD remote clutched in your hand. Be sure to darken the room, and quiet the mind. The intelligence and atmosphere of these gothic horrors will soon overcome the decades they have sat waiting in Fox's vault to return to the screen.
33 of 34 people found the following review helpful
Horrors?Dec 23 2007
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In the 1930s, the relatively new field of horror cinema was dominated by Universal, with its often wonderful monster movies such as Dracula, Frankenstein and the Mummy. As the Universal movies got campier in the 1940s, not many studios really filled the void. Certainly, the best of 1940s horror came from Val Lewton's pictures for RKO (Cat People, The Leopard Man and others). Fox, on the other hand, did not really have a reputation for horror in this era, as is obvious from the Fox Horror Classics set. That's not to say that they are bad movies, just that I don't know if they are really horror.
Besides being Fox movies, the three movies in this set are also tied together by all being directed by John Brahm. First made of these three - and the closest to being a horror movie - is also the weakest in the set: The Undying Monster. The story deals with the isolated Hammond family that is plagued by a curse that has a monster preying on the male Hammonds over the past few generations. This is a pale imitation of two genres made famous by Universal: the monster movie (particularly the Wolf Man) and the mystery movie (particularly the Sherlock Holmes movies, though Fox was actually the first to do the Rathbone movies). The biggest failing of the movie is the fact that the monster is on screen too infrequently.
Much better is The Lodger, a remake of what was Alfred Hitchcock's first suspense movie. Even if you've watched the older version, however, this one is still fun to watch and substantially different, plotwise. Among the big names in the movie are Merle Oberon and George Sanders, but the star is Laird Cregar who plays the title character. Sadly, Cregar's career was very short (less than a decade) because he steals the show in most of his movies (especially in I Wake Up Screaming, part of the Fox Film Noir series). The movie itself deals with Cregar as Jack the Ripper, taking up residence in a rooming house where his fellow residents begin to suspect he may not be fully on the up-and-up.
Best of all is Hangover Square. In a way, it is a reworking of The Lodger to capitalize on that movie's box office success, with Sanders and Cregar both returning in hero and villain roles respectively. Actually, Cregar is not so much evil as sick, driven under stress to take on a second, homicidal personality; in his lucid moments, however, he is a good guy, a musician who falls for bad girl Linda Darnell, my favorite femme fatale from the 1940s (who, like Cregar, would die at a young age under tragic circumstances). Besides Cregar and Darnell, there is also the great music of Bernard Herrmann that is an essential part of the movie.
The Lodger and Hangover Square fit more in the thriller or mystery category than horror, but that doesn't diminish their quality. Overall, The Undying Monster merits a low three stars, The Lodger four and Hangover Square five. Add to that some special features, most notably commentaries on the Cregar movies and some mini-documentaries on Cregar and Brahm, and this set merits a full five stars. It may not really be a horror set, but Fox Horror Classics is a worthwhile collection of some generally obscure movies.
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
Classic Horrors that shouldn't be forgotten.Oct. 31 2007
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The Fox set of classic films are just great. The Lodger remake from 44' is awesome and one of the better Jack the Ripper movies made. Hangover Square has most of same cast as Lodger and is more film noir/mystery than horror but also very well made. Better than most. Undying Monster was an attempt at making a wolfman movie but it's more of a mystery movie but again very well made and acted. I highly recommend this set.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Not really horror but good cheap packageNov. 14 2007
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This DVD collection contains 3 films from 20th Century Fox directed by German John Brahm. It would have been better if called the John Brahm Collection because only one of the films is really of the horror genre, the other 2 being psychological thrillers. The package is not as good as it might have been if a greater variety of films had been included.
"The Undying Monster" is a classy B picture with great photography, some excellent sets and a mobile camera worthy of an A. The film betrays its B status with the woeful James Ellison badly miscast as a Scotland Yard forensic expert and a melodramatic plot set in a dark house by the sea. Brahm's direction is very good in the circumstances and there are some good isolated scenes but overall, the effect is a bit corny and the plot development is truncated as befits a B film.
The other films are two book ends starring the enigmatic Laird Cregar. Cregar was a superb character actor with a complex and short life which is described in a very worthwhile documentary included in the package.
"The Lodger" is Brahm's version of Jack the Ripper with a dose of "Phantom of the Opera". Since it is obvious that Cregar plays the Ripper, the film relies on its camera angles, moody lighting and psychological implications for its suspense. Merle Oberon is the leading lady. Oberon was a wooden English actress with a clipped hostess delivery and stylish presence. As usual, she does not project much personality. She performs 2 musical hall numbers, with poor lip-synching, and one famous critic said "Merle Oberon performs the Can Can. Might we call it the Can't Can't" - hilarious but a bit harsh. With the exception of Cregar's towering performance, I find the film strangely detached and uninvolving and a number of the sets are 2 dimensional.
"Hangover Square" is the best film in this package. Cregar was unhappy because the screenplay changed the settings of the novel among other things and it was obvious that Darryl F. Zanuck, never one to miss an opportunity to repeat a success, transformed it into a sequel to "The Lodger" with a dose of "Of Human Bondage". Cregar plays a schizophrenic composer and gives a masterly portrayal. Linda Darnell plays the slut who seduces him and she is very good in her typical artificial way even if she squeals in moments of enthusiasm. She is spectacularly photographed and her beauty was never more lush. The film touches on film noir with the lighting and low slung camera angles and particularly in Darnell's performance.
The prints of the films are very good although I was surprised by an obvious tear in "Hangover Square" and the appearance of a white vertical line at one point. The DVD contains a generous list of extras including trailers, stills and some worthwhile commentaries with the exception of Richard Schickel's pointless commentary on "Hangover Square". Schickel needs a shot of adrenalin. He sounds as if he is half asleep and many of his comments are cursory. Maybe the producers of the DVD realized because "Hangover Square" actually has 2 commentaries and the other one is far superior. Charming Faye Marlowe who had a supporting role in the film speaks to an excellent historian. Her memory is vivid and she adds an unusual personal touch, a rare occurrence with a classic film since most of the participants are usually dead of course.
Overall, the value of this set is in the preservation of Laird Cregar's impressive acting. The rest is secondary.
21 of 26 people found the following review helpful
One of the better classic horror sets this Halloween seasonSept. 15 2007
- Published on Amazon.com
Fox has been taking a play from Warner Home Video on how to package their classics. They've been making a habit of adding commentary and extras to their classics, and this group is no exception. What you have here is two very good classic horror movies from the 1940's and one mediocre one, all newly restored and remastered. "The Undying Monster" is just not that interesting. The movie introduces all of these strange characters, and has you thinking something interesting is going to happen when in the end it is all too ordinary. Horror films that are campy and Ed Wood bad tend to be more satisfying than the ones that are just ordinary. At least that's my opinion. The list of extras for this set keeps appearing and disappearing from the product description, so at this point I'm just listing the Fox Home Video press release for this set. Also, I've listed the rating of each film as given by a popular internet film database. It's been my experience anything above 7/10 is very good and anything above five is OK/mediocre.
Hangover Square (1945) 7.1/10 - Based on the novel by Patrick Hamilton, Hangover Square stars Laird Cregar as a composer who suffers from unexplainable blackouts. When he discovers the young attractive woman he has fallen for wants to steal his music, his blackouts may result in murder. Features include: Commentary by Film Historian / Screenwriter Steve Haberman and Co-Star Faye Marlowe Commentary by Richard Schickel The Tragic Mask: The Laird Cregar Story Hangover Square Vintage Radio Show - Performed by Vincent Price Restoration Comparison Trailer Advertising Gallery Still Gallery
The Lodger (1942) 7/10 - Cregar also stars in The Lodger, a tale of a family suffering from financial hardship that offers a room in their home to a mysterious wanderer to help make end's meet. But when suspicious habits come to fruition, they begin to fear this peculiar stranger may in fact be the infamous serial killer Jack the Ripper. Features include: Commentary by Film Historian s Alain Silver & James Ursini Man In The Fog: The Making Of The Lodger The Lodger Vintage Radio Show - Performed by Vincent Price Restoration Comparison Trailer Still Gallery
The Undying Monster (1942) 5.3/10 - An inspector investigates the murderous connection of a werewolf's relentless pursuit of a certain family. Features include: Concertos Macabre: The Films Of John Brahm Restoration Comparison Trailer Advertising Gallery Still Gallery All titles are presented in Full Screen with English and Spanish audio and English, French and Spanish subtitles.