Digging up Some Universal Classics and Exploring the Dark Side of Golden-Age Cinema

Digging up Some Universal Classics and Exploring the Dark Side of Golden-Age Cinema

Creeping Horror
Murders in the Zoo, Night Monster, Horror Island, and House of Horrors

Rating (Passed) -     

Genre: Adventure, Crime, Horror, Drama, Mystery
Year Released: 1933, 1942, 1941, 1946, 2023 Eureka Blu-ray
Runtime: 4h 23m
Director(s): A. Edward Sutherland, Ford Beebe, George Waggner, Jean Yarbrough
Cast: Lionel Atwill, Bela Lugosi, Robert Lowery, Virginia Grey, and many more
Where To Watch: releasing April 17, 2023, available for pre-order now at

RAVING REVIEW: Take a journey into Universal Pictures' horror treasure trove, unearthing four horror classics from the golden age of Universal, each showcasing the remarkable talents of a cast of renowned actors. Eureka does it again, mixing a group of classic horror films that are each their own experience but also feel interconnected simultaneously.

MURDERS IN THE ZOO, the first film, directed by A. Edward Sutherland in 1933, tells the tale of a twisted animal enthusiast who employs his exotic menagerie to defeat his foes. NIGHT MONSTER is next, a 1942 creation by Ford Beebe, which recounts the chilling story of an evil killer possessing mind-control powers. The third film, crafted by George Waggner in 1941, takes us on a dangerous treasure-seeking adventure set in the eerie fortress of HORROR ISLAND. Last up is Jean Yarbrough's 1946 HOUSE OF HORRORS which unveils the tragic story of "The Creeper," a towering man manipulated by a deranged sculptor.

MURDERS IN THE ZOO may not be one of the most acclaimed films, but it presents an engaging experience that pushes the boundaries of the horror genre. Set within a zoo, the film creates a unique and thrilling atmosphere. Mixing in its animal stars generates a special kind of horror environment. Although the plot follows a somewhat predictable path, the successful use of the unique setting and animals is impressive.

Edward Sutherland's directorial approach evokes a sinister aura, focusing on the animals' eeriness rather than graphic violence. You don’t have tigers mauling their prey; instead, the focus is on the unknown. The movie's pacing maintains the audience's interest; this is one of the things all of these films have in common, short runtimes and solid pacing.

NIGHT MONSTER, helmed by Ford Beebe, is a suspenseful film that melds a gifted ensemble cast with an atmospheric narrative. As with many movies (even modern-day), sometimes the cast members you want to see the most end up not getting the screen time you’d like.

Viewers who appreciate the film as an ensemble piece will discover a gripping horror tale that captures their imagination. You can feel so much of this film's modern revenge thriller roots; it’s always intrigued me to see how far classic storylines go back.

Working with a limited budget, George Waggner's HORROR ISLAND offers a fun and haunted house-style adventure. A group of treasure seekers finds themselves in a creepy mansion on an island. While all of Universal’s early films aren’t interconnected, you can watch them and almost feel like they are. Universal created a clear filmmaking style across many of its early horror films.

HORROR ISLAND is an enjoyable horror-comedy; the captivating mystery and fun cast keep the audience engaged. Elwood Bredell's cinematography accentuates the film's shadowy setting, and the surprising revelation of the “villain” adds an intriguing twist.

In HOUSE OF HORRORS, the tale of "The Creeper" is brought to life as a disenchanted artist manipulates the man he saves from drowning to avenge his critics. You felt the story's strength, even if it was a little predictable. This may have been the most “classic” feeling film of this grouping.

Director Jean Yarbrough grapples with maintaining a consistent pace and excitement throughout the film. This also may be one of the most “aged” films in the set; a narrative like this wouldn’t be made today, but you have to remember that these films are a product of their time.

In conclusion, this compilation of four films from Universal Pictures' vaults offers a fascinating dive into the world of classic horror. These movies highlight the exceptional talents of actors like Lionel Atwill and Bela Lugosi. Each film has its strengths and weaknesses, but they provide horror enthusiasts with a unique grouping of some lesser-known titles.

- Limited Edition slipcase [2000 copies]
- 1080p presentation of all four films across two Blu-ray discs
- Optional English SDH
- Brand new audio commentary tracks on Night Monster and House of Horrors with author Stephen Jones and author/critic Kim Newman
- Brand new audio commentary tracks on Murders in the Zoo and Horror Island with Kevin Lyons and Jonathan Rigby
- Stills Galleries
- Trailers for Horror Island and Night Monster
- A limited edition collector’s booklet featuring new writing by Craig Ian Mann and Jon Towlson [2000 copies]

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[photo courtesy of EUREKA CLASSICS]

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