Eureka is a label most famous for its ongoing Hong Kong releases and its Master of Cinemas sub-label. What often gets overlooked are the non-Hong Kong components of the Eureka Classics sublabel. Most recently, this has included many films of the late great Boris Karloff across several releases. The latest of these is Universal Terror, a three-pack of restored Karloff flicks from Universal Pictures. Before we get to the review proper, I would like to add I always really love seeing boutique labels like Eureka take the time to acquire and release these films from major studios in areas that might not otherwise see them. It means we get to see gems like those displayed here.
The first of these, and my favourite, is 1937’s Night Key. A typical Karloff flick, it sees him as an eccentric inventor who has developed a high-tech security system. Screwed over by his would-be partner, Karloff’s inventor becomes ensnared by some legitimate criminals after he devises a way to get back at his idea-stealing former friend. Even 85 years later, Night Key feels fresh and fun, and Karloff gives a really winning and humane performance. It’s also got something to say about the morality and karmic outcomes of cutthroat business (something surely topical in both 1937 and now). It comes with an audio commentary and looks great, restored from a 2K scan. I can’t get enough of older movies looking this good.
The second film, 1944’s The Climax, is a little like The Phantom of the Opera. Karloff stars as the house physician whose insane jealously drives him to murder his former soprano-singing lover. The film follows Karloff’s looming threat to the new soprano on whom he has his eyes. It’s fairly ho-hum, and Karloff isn’t given a huge chance to spread his wings. Still, it is the finest-looking of the films in the set, and if you think you’ll like it based on the description, you probably will. This also comes with an audio commentary.
The final film in the set is 1952’s The Black Castle, one in which Karloff is merely a supporting player. Still, that doesn’t make it any less worth your attention; a gothic horror adventure is always worth seeing. The film follows a British gentleman who goes undercover at an evil Austrian count’s estate to investigate the disappearance of his two friends. (Karloff plays the count’s doctor.) The Black Castle is just a lot of simple fun. It will neither chill nor totally thrill you, but you will have a good time with its winning combination of swashbuckling action and gothic horror atmosphere. A last hurrah for the heyday of Universal horror, it’s a welcome inclusion to the set. This, too, comes fresh from a new 2K scan and has an audio commentary.
It really is a swell time to be a fan of these films. Overall, Universal Terror isn’t exactly a box of classics that the uninitiated should grab off the shelf. But it does contain a few wonderfully remastered Karloff flicks, which any fan of his will enjoy, and, as always with these sets for fans, comes with extras as worthwhile as the films themselves. So maybe not so much Universal Terror but Cult Favourite Terror instead.