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Film:
DVD:

Written by: Richard Matheson (Dracula, based on the novel by Bram Stoker), William F. Nolan (Turn of the Screw, based on the novella by Henry James), Ian McLellan Hunter (Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, based on the novel by Robert Louis Stevenson), and John Tomerlin (The Portrait of Dorian Gray, based on the novel by Oscar Wilde)
Directed by: Dan Curtis (Dracula & Turn of the Screw), Charles Jarrott (Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde), and Glenn Jordan (The Portrait of Dorian Gray)
Starring: Jack Palance, Fiona Lewis, Penelope Horner, Murray Brown, Lynn Redgrave, Jasper Jacob, Eva Griffith, Shane Briant, Nigel Davenport, Denholm Elliott, Torin Thatcher

Features:

  • Interviews with director Curtis, actors Palance and Redgrave
  • Dracula European trailer

Released by: MPI
Region: 1
Rating: NR
Anamorphic: N/A; all films appear in their original 1.33:1 format.

My Advice: Get it.

The Macabre Collection contains four classic horror telefilms of the late 1960s/early 1970s, all based upon classic literature. We are provided with Dracula (1973), The Turn of the Screw (1974), Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1968), and The Picture of Dorian Gray (1973).

The plots of these classic films are well-known to anyone who has ever read a book or seen a film, but it’s worth a moment to say how carefully the screenwriters brought these works to the big screen. While at times extensive liberties were taken with the source material for reasons of filmability or time, the basic stories are intact and effective for their new medium of television. Of special note is Matheson‘s rework of Dracula.

Palance is, of course, always fun to watch in film, but his work on Dracula is worthy of particular note. Not only is he as creepy as you expect him to be, but he’s not “Jack Palance.” You won’t see the cowboy screaming out through every scene. His voice is very distinct, and of course you’ll recognize him, but he is an actor and manages to make you think he’s Dracula, not just Palance playingDracula–no mean feat for an actor as well-known as he is.

Dan Curtis is one of the leading lights of the horror field, and in this collection, we get to see why. While some of the filming choices might look cliché now, the truth is that Curtis pioneered them here and in his other films. While no one ever can match the suspense genius of Hitchcock, Curtis comes closer than just about anyone else and works with more directly horrific materials, such as Dracula. In some ways, working with such obvious horror fodder is a handicap, as Curtis must overcome years of expectations on the parts of the audience to create a tale that is both unusual and entertaining.

The audio and video quality on this set are both very good considering the age of the original film stock. The sound is a bit muffled and low on some of the individual scenes, but certainly not enough that you would notice if I hadn’t just told you. Besides, the filming is done so well that you will appreciate the way the films look even if they are a bit purposefully dark in places.

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Jack Palance as Dracula

The interview with Palance is wonderful, as he’s just always entertaining and informative. Seeing him reminisce about these films thirty years after he made them is touching and an experience not to be missed. The two interviews with Curtis are also fun, and provide insight into his choices and his thoughts while making these fine, classic films. Lynn Redgrave’s interview is a bit less entertaining, but she still has a great deal of worthy insight. In addition, for some reason, I just loved seeing the European version of the Dracula trailer.

In short, if you’re a fan of horror films, classic versions in general, or just well-crafted telefilms, then you should add this box set to your collection. Fifty bucks for four great TV movies is just an amazing price, and add to that the cool interviews for a total splendid package. Remember, if you love these, you can also check out Curtis’ other gothic opus, Dark Shadows.

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