Shout Factory continues the growing of their library of Universal genre films, all of which expand to heavyweights like Boris Karloff, Lionel Atwill and the iconic Rondo Hatton. Although the selection isn’t all purely horror by definition, these are all fairly solid and entertaining genre pictures with appearances by various horror icons. This is another in the growing library for horror buffs anxious to add more depth to their collection, all now upgraded and restored.
“Night Key” from 1937 isn’t particularly a horror film, but it stars Boris Karloff as inventor David Mallory who is gradually going blind who runs afoul a company that is trying to override his burglar alarm tech with new technology stolen by an old business partner. Meanwhile Karloff’s character David Mallory is forced to work with a group of criminals that force him to rig his own technology to help then commit crimes. It is science fiction and more a tale of tech wars that would become the gold standard for modern times. “Night Monster” from 1942 bills Bela Lugosi and Lionel Atwill prominently, but they’re more walk on roles in what is a basic murder mystery surrounding a mysterious swamp.
When a group of strangers arrive at the mansion of a reclusive wheelchair bound doctor, they realize he is psychologically holding his waiting staff and family hostage. From there, the strangers begin getting knocked off by a mysterious being in the swamps, and hero Dick Baldwin, as played by Don Porter, sets off to investigate before more people die. Ford Beebe’s thriller is fine enough for a quick late night genre session. “The Climax” from 1944 is a Technicolor horror thriller starring Karloff as a caretaker for a group of people performing at a Vienna Royal Theater. He’s bearing a secret from the past involving his murder of a dancer he was in love with and now garners jealous feelings for new singer Susanna Foster.
As the murderous urges boil to the surface, her fiancé Franz struggles to save her. Finally, there’s the 1946 chiller “House of Horrors” gives Rondo Hatton a lead role finally, playing The Creeper, a man who is found by a local sculptor when he nearly drowns. When the sculptor receives terrible reviews after sculpting The Creeper, he sends the man to stalk, and murder the critics. A solid horror film, this is one of the few starring roles for Hatton, including “The Brute Man,” which is an MST3K classic.
Included in the Volume 4 collection, there are Audio Commentaries are provided for each movie so you can get more details on the horrors from the vault. Night Monster has author Gary D. Rhodes give the background on Bela Lugosi. House of Horrors has historian Scott Gallinghouse give the inside tales of Rondo Hatton. He points out that that film was shot in two weeks. Night Key has Tom Weaver and Dr Robert J. Kills unlock the mysteries. The Climax gets a duet of Kim Newman and Stephen Jones. There’s the original theatrical trailer for Night Key which heavily promotes Karloff’s Frankenstein connection for to help hype the movie. There are Production Art Galleries with photos of various elements from Night Key, including drawings of the sets from the production department, the publicity magazine, posters and lobby cards for the release.
Included in the “House of Horrors” disc is an Image Gallery that includes stills, publicity photos, behind the scenes snaps, posters and lobby cards. The Image Gallery for “The Climax” includes publicity photos, posters and a lobby card, “Night Monsters” features stills, publicity photos, posters, lobby cards and an advertising page. There are two Theatrical Trailers, one for “The Climax,” which heavily leans on “The Phantom of the Opera” angle to help sell the premise, along with the original theatrical trailer for “Night Monsters.” Finally there’s the twenty two minute “The Creeper: Rondo Hatton at Universal” which offers a biography on the famed character actor known for his distinctive face. We learn about his life, the circumstances that gave him his unfortunate deformities and his career in acting before his passing. It’s a great feature in a pretty good gallery of bells and whistles.