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Blu-ray Review: Universal 100th Anniversary Collection

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How does one even begin to describe the legacy that Universal Pictures has brought forth upon the film industry over the course of the last century? It is certainly an uneasy task — especially if you’re not all-too familiar with the movies the studio has released. Thankfully, should one be new to the world on home video in High-Definition (read: Blu-ray) and have saved up a few pennies to spend, the iconic company has released Universal 100th Anniversary Collection: a massive compilation of titles that earned them a few bucks back in the day — all of which have been released before as individual releases.

That in itself might raise an eyebrow or two. In fact, there are a lot of people out there who are utterly confused as to what the point of this anthology is. Essentially, this assortment of titles exists solely to be acquired or distributed as a gift for this holiday season. Anyone looking for improved masters or additional special features will be sorely disappointed (though there are a couple of exclusive goodies here: more on that later), and any soul that as already picked up some of these movies on Blu-ray will undoubtedly see this as a massive double-dip.

But then, who do you know that would own the 1931 classic Dracula with Bela Lugosi alongside of Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing? Or The Fast and the Furious (2001) with Mamma Mia! The Movie? Despicable Me versus Hitchcock’s The Birds? Abbott & Costello in Buck Privates, as made complete by a viewing of The Bourne Identity? OK, you get the idea now, I’m sure: the Universal 100th Anniversary Collection boasts a wide array of (mostly award-winning) filmic pleasures — all of which were a hit for the studio.

The question is, of course: “Will the twenty-five flicks in this set be a collective hit for me?” Heck, folks, I think you can answer that one better than I ever could, but let’s review the titles in this set just for argument’s sake anyway, okay? In chronological order (with links to the blogcritics review for each title available where applicable):

All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)
Dracula (1931)
Dracula (the Spanish-language version, also from 1931)
Buck Privates (1941)
Pillow Talk (1959)
Spartacus (1960)
To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
The Birds (1963)
American Graffiti (1973)
The Sting (1973)
Jaws (1975)
National Lampoon’s Animal House (1978)
E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

Scarface (1983)
The Breakfast Club (1985)
Back to the Future (1985)
Out of Africa (1985)
Field of Dreams (1989)
Do the Right Thing (1989)
Jurassic Park (1993)
Apollo 13 (1995)
The Fast and the Furious (2001)
The Bourne Identity (2002)
Mamma Mia! The Movie (2008)
Despicable Me (2010)

Yeah, that’s quite a lot, isn’t it? Interestingly enough, a Standard-Def DVD version of this collection is also available. Even more curiously, it does not include the Spanish Dracula, but does feature a copy of Schindler’s List — a title that has not been released to Blu-ray. As an additional note of interest, both versions of Dracula from 1931 are only available in the excellent Universal Classic Monsters: The Essential Collection box set.

As stated earlier in this article, all discs include the exact same transfers and supplemental materials that were included in whatever edition(s) you’ve most likely seen (and perhaps bought) on Blu-ray over the last four years. The collection is housed in a book-style case, each of the two pages devoted to their respective film boasting much (if not all) of the same information included on the inside of the slipcovers of the aforementioned previous releases.

As far as limited supplemental materials go, Universal 100th Anniversary Collection includes 72-page booklet that covers the many films in this set, along with the history of the studio that gave birth to them. The real highpoint here is to be found in an exclusive bonus disc, which includes a number of vintage cartoons and classic short subjects from the Universal vaults. Eight of the “100 Years of Universal” featurettes you’ve most likely already seen before are also on this disc, which is a bit odd — since I think all of those filler featurettes are available on some of the discs included in this set.

A second bonus disc — an audio one this time ’round — is a CD featuring memorable theme songs from 15 different Universal favorites. And it is here that the set’s most intriguing enigma emerges: one of the tracks is for Airport — a film that was recently released to Blu-ray, but which is not included in this collection. Frankly, I would settle for Airport over Do the Right Thing or The Fast and the Furious any ol’ day.

OK, then — with all the facts of the Universal 100th Anniversary Collection now on the table, the most pertinent question of all comes to mind: “Do I really need this set?” The answer to that, kids, is again up to you. If you already have all of the titles you would theoretically like to own in your home video library, I would see no reason to buy them again. And, if you have most of these titles already at home, the only valid motive for purchasing the Universal 100th Anniversary Collection (which carries a $350 MSRP, by the way — though you can find it online for far cheaper) would be to free up a tiny bit of space.

And, with that, I proudly make the following suggestion, reiterating the very purpose of this item in the process: buy it as a holiday gift for that friend or family member who is either extremely hard to shop for movie-wise, or who is just in dire need of an instant Blu-ray collection.

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About Luigi Bastardo

Luigi Bastardo is the disgruntled alter-ego of a thirtysomething lad from Northern California who has watched so many weird movies since the tender age of 3 that a conventional life is out of the question. He currently lives in Chico, CA with four cats named Groucho, Harpo, Chico, and Margaret. Seriously.