Blu-ray Review: Universal Horror Collection Vol. 2

MURDERS IN THE ZOO (1933) was directed by A. Edward Sutherland from a screenplay by Philip Wylie and Seton I. Miller and stars Charlie Ruggles, Lionel Atwill, Kathleen Burke and Gail Patrick.

Dr. Gorman (Lionel Atwill) is a millionaire adventurer, traveling the world in search of dangerous game. His bored, beautiful, much younger wife (Kathleen Burke) entertains herself in the arms of other men. In turn, Gorman uses his animals to kill these men. When a New York City zoo suggests a fundraising gala, Gorman sees a prime opportunity to dispatch the dashing Roger (John Lodge) and anyone else who might cross him. Can a reptile expert (Randolph Scott) stop the doctor’s murderous ways?

The story for Murders in the Zoo centers around this jealous husband who goes too far and starts killing the men his wife flirts and flings with by using Mamba venom. He turns into an unhinged mad man and takes things way too far because he even ends up murdering his own wife by feeding her to the alligators. Of course, he finally gets a heavy dose of karma in the end. I can see why this movie would’ve been labeled as shocking or controversial back in 1933 when it was first released because it really does have some dark and disturbing moments. There’s a man that has his mouth sewn shut by the villain who shows absolutely no remorse for what he does to others, whether it be inducing pain or killing them in cold blood. This is my favorite film out of the four included here in this second volume.

Run Time: 63 Minutes

Rated: Not Rated

Blu-ray Video: 1080p High-Definition Fullframe (1.37:1)

Blu-ray Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono

Subtitles: English

Special Features: The extras include some brand new audio commentary and a still gallery.

  • NEW Audio Commentary with author/film historian Greg Mank
  • Still Gallery (01:48)

MAD DOCTOR OF MARKET STREET (1942) was directed by Joseph H. Lewis from a screenplay by Al Martin and stars Lionel Atwill, Claire Dodd, Richard Davies, Nat Pendleton, Una Merkel and Nat Pendleton.

A fugitive doctor (Lionel Atwill) tries to raise the dead for South Sea Islanders.

This 1942 psychological thriller is another mad scientist chiller with Lionel Atwill showing up once again as the antagonist and he makes a really good one. This movie has the whole “marooned on an island” scenario that blends in with the mad scientist vibe. The story deals with this sleazy doctor on the run who sells himself as a man who can raise the dead. Deep down he’s nothing more than a sinister con artist who hurts a lot of people to get what he wants. Of course, in the end he ultimately gets what he deserves. Mad Doctor of Market Street was a low budget studio movie that actually covers a lot of territory in its short run time. This one comes in fourth in my Vol. 2 ranking.

Run Time: 61 Minutes

Rated: Not Rated

Blu-ray Video: 1080p High-Definition Fullfram (1.37:1) B&W

Blu-ray Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono

Subtitles: English

Special Features: The extras include the original theatrical trailer and a still gallery.

  • Theatrical Trailer (01:41)
  • Still Gallery  (05:55)

THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. Rx (1942) was directed by William Nigh from a screenplay by Clarence Upson Young and stars Patric Knowles, Lionel Atwill, Anne Gwynne, Ray “Crash” Corrigan and Samuel S. Hinds.

This 1942 psychological thriller follows this serial killer who calls himself Dr Rx as he goes around murdering men, and they all have one thing in common, they were all former clients of a particular lawyer. What happens is, this lawyer teams up with a private investigator to see if they can figure out the identity of the mystery man. It’s also almost like Dr. Rx plays with some of these people on the case because it drives some of them mad. What happens is, the private investigator comes face-to-face with the mad scientist who has some really sick plans for him but he’s able to trick Dr. Rx into thinking that he’d killed him and is able to turn things around on the relentless doctor who is ultimately exposed in the end. There’s a reason why Dr. Rx has been doing these things and it’s all finally explained.

Okay, the story for this mad scientist creeper was fun even though it got way over-the-top in a few scenes that actually couldn’t be explained. There’s just no way some of this stuff could’ve happened. As far as the cast goes, I thought they did a good job with their characters and once again Lionel Atwell shows up but this time he’s on the other side of the law. This one also had a little humor to it. This one comes in as my third favorite out of the four movies.

Run Time: 66 Minutes

Rated: Not Rated

Blu-ray Video: 1080p High-Definition Fullframe (1.37:1) B&W

Blu-ray Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono

Subtitles: English

Special Features: The extras include a brand new featurette that focuses on Lionel Atwill and a still gallery.

  • NEW Gloriously Wicked: The Life and Legacy of Lionel Atwill (19:02)
  • Still Gallery (05:16)

THE MAD GHOUL (1943) was directed by James Hogan from a screenplay by Paul Gangelin and Brenda Weisberg and stars David Bruce, George Zucco, Evelyn Ankers, Turhan Bey, Robert Armstrong and Milburn Stone.

A mad scientist (George Zucco) turns his assistant (David Bruce) into a zombie as part of a plan to steal his assistant’s lover (Evelyn Ankers).

Decades before zombies were officially introduced, we had ghouls to be afraid of. The story for this 1943 mad scientist creeper deals with life after death. We follows this doctor who turns his innocent assistant into an undead servant that does his evil bidding. The things this doctor does to his assistant is unforgivable. There’s also jealousy involved in this twisted love triangle and that’s why the doctor does these things to his assistant – to get him out of the way so he can steal his girl. The thing is, she doesn’t want the old man and in the end it all backfires on him and he finally gets what he deserves. The basic makeup effects looked good enough and that’s what gave the movie its ghoulish creepy factor.This movie ended up being my second favorite out of the four movies and kind of had the whole Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde thing going for it.

Run Time: 66 Minutes

Rated: Not Rated

Blu-ray Video: 1080p High-Definition Fullframe (1.37:1) B&W

Blu-ray Audio: English DTS-HD MAster Audio 2.0 Mono

Subtitles: English

Special Features: The extras include some brand new audio commentary, a still gallery and press kit.

  • NEW Audio Commentary by film historian Thomas Reader
  • Still Gallery (05:51)
  • Press Kit (01:01)

The packaging comes with a slipcase with a blue plastic keepcase inside. The front of the slipcase features the artwork you see up top and the back includes the list of special features and specs for each movie along with some classic artwork. The front of the plastic keepcase features matching artwork and the back includes the list of special features and specs for each movie along with some classic artwork. The reverse sleeve features the release title. All four Blu-ray discs are black and feature the movie logos. There’s also a booklet that includes a lot of images and movie credits. Inserting each disc, the menu screens were simple and easy to navigate. The picture and sound quality for these high-definition features were crisp and clear. I didn’t have any issues with the video and audio.

Bottom line is, Universal Horror Collection Vol. 2 ended up being a fantastic followup to Scream Factory’s Vol. 1 release back in June and these were also first time watches for me. Where Vol. 1 featured Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi, this release has several movies that star Lionel Atwill, who makes a great villain, especially in Murders in the Zoo. Just like Vol. 1, each movie in this Vol. 2 set was entertaining in their own right and completely different from one another. I guess you could label these lessor known horror classics from way back as mad scientist or evil doctor movies because that’s the theme going here. A lot of these oldies had extremely short run times which helps them stay fast-paced so things never stall or getting boring during the watch. Once again, Scream Factory did an amazing job with these four lessor known horror movies from the 30’s and 40’s that so many horror fans will be able to experience for the first time ever- just like I did. The Universal Horror Collection Vol. 2 will be available on a 4-disc Blu-ray set on July 23rd.

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