“Have a Festival of Horror” proclaims the full-page magazine ad from 1973.
It was in the quarterly magazine called The Film Journal and it literally meant to have a film festival, as in “hey, buy these movies on 16mm film.” The company – Universal 16 – offered five festivals including “Horror Festival #1” that unexpectedly included the sublime ghost story “The Uninvited” among its six films.
“Karloff & Lugosi as a Team” had five movies that starred the two horror icons and “The Mummy Festival” celebrated five offerings with the ancient Universal creature.
“Festivals are great entertainment when presented all in one evening,…” the ad went on to read.
Nearly 50 years later, we call that “binging.” But instead of doing it with 16mm film, we use streaming services to binge on televisions, tablets and phones.
Stumbling across this ad touting 16mm film made me think of the nearly lost art of home video box sets and collections. The same streaming services that made binging all the rage, also dimmed the appeal of physical media for being too bulky or too expensive.
But those big sets – the original way to binge – hold a special appeal in that they are there for you any time you want without worrying that they are among the films “leaving” the next month.
In the same way that designers tell us to “shop from our own home,” we can do the same with video libraries, to watch a movie or create our own festival. So I looked to set up my own Festival of Horror by perusing my collection. With a mix of amusement and weird pride, I saw that I own the very same “Mummy Festival” promoted in that 50-year-old ad.
Here’s more on that set as well as a few of my other favorites. These aren’t “new” to DVD, but they are readily available for purchase if you don’t have them. Look at your own collection and see what you can rediscover – then be sure to share your own Festival of Horror.
The Legacy Collection from Universal
In 2004, Universal released its impressive Legacy Collection on DVD that focused on four of the studio’s original monsters: Dracula, Frankenstein, the Wolf Man and the Mummy. It was a tie-in with director Stephen Sommers’ film Van Helsing, released the same year and that’s OK since it gave us these fantastic sets. They are candy for Universal monster fans and an easy introduction for those who don’t know the classic creatures.
Each monster gets its own two-disc release (one disc is double-sided) that includes a wealth of movies that relate to the creature, plus documentaries, commentary and other extras. All include the original film in the Universal canon and later movies as well. For the Mummy, the films are Boris Karloff in the 1932 film, plus The Mummy’s Hand, The Mummy’s Tomb, The Mummy’s Ghost and The Mummy’s Curse – yes the same films from the 1973 ad.
The Dracula collection is a clear binge winner. Start with the 1931 film that included the atmospheric use of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake. Then watch it again, this time with the score written by Philip Glass in 1998 and performed by the Kronos Quartet; then a third time while listening to the commentary by film historian David J. Skal. Oh, I’m not done – this is a film festival after all. Go to the highly regarded Spanish-language version of the movie that was filmed at night once the crew making the Bela Lugosi film was done with the set and costumes. (This was a common in Hollywood at the time.) Follow it with the direct sequel Dracula’s Daughter (1936), then Son of Dracula (1943) and House of Dracula (1945), and finally the documentary The Road to Dracula.
Yes, that’s a lot but you’ve binged at least this much at one sitting of some TV series. Some of these films are barely more than an hour so total binge time for the Dracula set, for example, would still be less than 10 hours.
The Hammer Horror Series (The Franchise Collection)
Fans of Hammer horror have plenty of sets to watch. My collection has this eight-film, two-disc set. It’s not a Hammer greatest hits collection, and that’s fine with me since most of these aren’t often shown on television.
Or watch three films directed by Freddie Francis in Paranoiac (1963), Nightmare (1964) and Evil of Frankenstein (1964).
Or Oliver Reed in Curse of the Werewolf, Paranoiac and Night Creatures.
Also included is The Kiss of the Vampire (1963) about a honeymooning couple stranded in a small European village who are welcomed into the castle of a count, who happens to be a vampire.
Total binge time for the entire set is roughly 12 hours (each movie lasts about 90 minutes) or four to five hours for one of the mini three-film festivals.
Vincent Price: MGM Scream Legends Collection
It should go without saying that any set of Vincent Price films should be watched from start to finish. This collection is a good mix of seven films from the 1960s and ‘70s on four discs plus a fifth disc of bonus features.
It includes the double feature The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971) and Dr. Phibes Rises Again (1972); entertaining anthologies of stories by two literary greats in Tales of Terror (1962, based off Edgar Allan Poe’s work) and Twice Told Tales (1963, Nathaniel Hawthorne). We also get Theater of Blood (1972) and Madhouse (1974).
Finally, there is Witchfinder General (1968) and a bonus disc of featurettes called Disc of Horrors. Witchfinder General, in which Price plays the title role of a man who travels from town to town in the Middle Ages to find, torture and kill witches, comes with an audio commentary with producer Philip Waddilove and actor Ian Ogilvy, plus a featurette.
The Disc of Horrors has three featurettes: Vincent Price: Renaissance Man, which details his love of art and theater; The Art of Fear, an entertaining but way-too-short (5 minute) look at why we love horror; and Working with Price, in which historians basically rattle off a long list of his co-stars.
The Fly Collection
Most classic horror fans have a soft spot for The Fly (1958), and its iconic (and tragic) “Help me” line. But you may not know about the sequels Return of the Fly (1959) and The Curse of The Fly (1965).
This four-disc set, which I wrote about in a previous Monsters and Matinees column, includes the three films, a bonus disc with a 1997 interview with Vincent Price from the TV series Biography, featurettes and photos, plus a color booklet. I’ve binged the three films and while they don’t flow together in a cohesive manner – each has a distinct personality – they are entertaining. Clocking in at a total of about four hours, it’s well worth the time to watch the trio.
Be sure to share suggestions on more film festivals we can create at home by looking at your own film collection.
–Toni Ruberto for Classic Movie Hub
Toni Ruberto, born and raised in Buffalo, N.Y., is an editor and writer at The Buffalo News. She shares her love for classic movies in her blog, Watching Forever. Toni was the president of the former Buffalo chapter of TCM Backlot and now leads the offshoot group, Buffalo Classic Movie Buffs. She is proud to have put Buffalo and its glorious old movie palaces in the spotlight as the inaugural winner of the TCM in Your Hometown contest. You can find Toni on Twitter at @toniruberto.