Craig J. Clark — Dec. 12th 2016
As film historian Tom Weaver points out on his commentary, much of the werewolf mythology we take for granted today was codified in Curt Siodmak’s screenplay for The Wolf Man and further refined by the sequels that followed. Happily, Weaver’s informative commentary track is one of the many special features Universal ported over from its previous releases to the Complete Legacy Collection, which got a DVD release in 2014 and has been upgraded to Blu-ray just in time for the original’s 75th anniversary.
Since its general release on December 12, 1941, and home-video bow four decades later, The Wolf Man has been trotted out many times by Universal in multiple formats — VHS, laserdisc, DVD, Blu-ray. What makes the Complete Legacy Collection special is it collects the entire Lawrence Talbot saga in one set for the first time. If you bought the previous Legacy Collection released in 2004, all you got was The Wolf Man and its sequel, Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, plus 1935’s unrelated Werewolf of London and 1946’s worthless She-Wolf of London. If you wanted to find out what happened to Larry after he threw down with the Monster, you also had to get the Frankenstein Legacy Collection (for House of Frankenstein, which also came as part of a double feature with Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man) and the Dracula one (for the otherwise unavailable House of Dracula). And that’s not even taking into account 1948’s Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, for which Universal brought back all its heavy hitters from the undead.
The point is, in the DVD era you had to shell out for a lot of extraneous content if all you wanted to do was follow Lon Chaney, Jr. from first bite to monster-mash finale. Now there’s no need to jump through so many hoops and, with any luck, this Blu-ray release, which also comes with the Abbott and Costello title, will be definitive. And best of all, it isn’t sullied by the behind-the-scenes featurette on Stephen Sommers’s Van Helsing, which the initial trio of Legacy Collections were put out in tandem with. As much as Universal likes to repackage its horror classics, at least it knows well enough what to excise from later editions.