“This life ends one of two ways: Dead, or in jail. I did both!” So says John Gotti, narrating the film Gotti from beyond the grave. That’s how Gotti, starring John Travolta, kicks-off, and it doesn’t get any better from there. By now, Gotti has achieved a certain notoriety. A delayed release gave way to downright savage reviews, and yet, audiences – using MoviePass – turned out for the film. Sort of. And now, it’s on Blu-ray. So is Gotti as bad as some claimed? It’s by no means a good movie, but it’s also surprisingly short – which is a plus. The film almost breezes by, and when it’s over, you feel no worse than when you started off. But let’s be clear: this is a dumb movie. Director Kevin Connolly burns through the life of notorious mobster John Gotti, giving us a sort-of greatest hits about Gotti’s life. All the while, John Travolta has the time of his life playing the Teflon Don. Travolta is fun to watch here – his performance is big and broad, but that’s kind of what the character calls for. Everything else around him, though, is a disaster. And curiously enough, Gotti goes to great lengths to try to claim that even though he was a murderer, John Gotti was also a good family man who loved his son. There’s even a montage at the end with people talking about what a great guy John Gotti was. It’s mind-boggling. Gotti never enters “so bad it has to be seen to believed” territory, but you might get a certain thrill watching such an incompetent, ineffectual film unfold.


Special Features to Note:

Oh, fuggedaboutit! The Gotti Blu-ray has zero special features, paisan.

Special Features Include:

Madonne! What’s the matter wit you? Didn’t you see what I said above!? No special features here, capiche?


Universal Classic Monsters: Complete 30-Film Collection 

Long before Tom Cruise ruined The Mummy, Universal Monsters reigned supreme. These films might seem quaint and even antiquated now – horror as a genre has only grown more extreme. But the Universal Monsters films still hold plenty of magic. These are gothic, lonely films – melancholy is almost as prevalent as horror. Yes, these films focus on monsters – but I always found myself relating to the monsters here. Understanding their plight, and empathizing with their isolation. As Frankenstein’s Monster journeyed through dark, twisted woods, a solitary figure cutting across the landscape, you can’t help but sympathize. It’s a trait modern horror has lost – filmmakers often fail to find the humanity lurking within their monsters. Which is why this new 30-film Universal Classic Monsters collection is so essential. All of the films are gathered here on Blu-ray for the first time ever. The gold standards are here: Frankenstein, Dracula, The Wolf Man. But then there are the curiosities – the cross-over films House of Frankenstein and House of Dracula; the captivating Dracula’s Daughter, with its lesbian subtext; the hilarious Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. It’s a wonderful set, and a must-have for any horror fan.

The set includes:

Dracula(1931), Frankenstein (1931), The Mummy (1932), The Invisible Man (1933), The Bride of Frankenstein (1935), Werewolf of London (1935), Dracula’s Daughter (1936), Son of Frankenstein (1939), The Invisible Man Returns (1940), The Invisible Woman(1940), The Mummy’s Hand (1940), The Wolf Man (1941), The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942), The Mummy’s Ghost (1942), The Mummy’s Tomb (1942), Invisible Agent (1942), Phantom of the Opera (1943), Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943), Son of Dracula (1943), House of Frankenstein (1944), The Mummy’s Curse (1944), The Invisible Man’s Revenge (1944), House of Dracula (1945), She-Wolf of London (1946), Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man (1951), Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954, and includes a 3D version), Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy (1955), Revenge of the Creature (1955 and includes a 3D version) and The Creature Walks Among Us (1956).

Special Features to Note:

The set comes loaded with features, all of which have appeared on previous Blu-ray releases. While there’s technically nothing new here, the features present are all worthwhile. The making-of featurettes that accompany the Dracula and Frankenstein discs are essential – offering concise, fascinating background into the creation of the films, tracking their path from classic novels, to stage plays, to feature films. Dracula kicked things off in 1931, and Universal quickly learned that horror was big business. Film historians, relatives of actors Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff, and more are all interviewed, giving their insight into the histories of these films. My favorite interview subject is soft-spoken make-up effects man Rick Baker, who pops-up to discuss the ground-breaking make-up from these films created by Jack Pierce.

Also included: the Spanish-language version of Dracula. Filmed at night on the same sets as the English-language Dracula, this film is actually better than the more familiar English version. Tod Browning, who directed the English version, brought a boring, point-and-shoot style to his film – the movie is shot like someone recording a stage play. In sharp contrast, George Melford, the filmmaker behind the Spanish-language version, displayed real artistry, borrowing from German expressionist films. None of this is to say the English-language Dracula is bad. For one thing, it has Bela Lugosi as the blood-sucking count. Lugosi is phenomenal, and Carlos Villarías, who plays Drac in the Spanish-language version, can’t hold a candle to Lugosi’s portrayal.

As great as this set is, it does have an issue. The transfer of Revenge of the Creature is extremely poor – it doesn’t resemble the HD look of the other transfers included here. On top of that, the 3D version of the film isn’t an actual 3D transfer, and doesn’t work on some 3D players. Personally, none of these issues bother me – I don’t care about 3D. But I’d be remiss to ignore these problems, as I’m sure they’ll bother someone, somewhere. Universal will likely be putting out a new edition that fixes the issues, so if you’re concerned about this, just wait a little longer.

Special Features Include:

  • Behind-the-Scenes Documentaries
  • 3D Versions of Creature from the Black Lagoon and Revenge of the Creature
  • 1931 Spanish Version of Dracula
  • Featurettes on Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff, Lon Chaney Jr., and Jack Pierce
  • 13 Expert Feature Commentaries
  • Archival Footage
  • Production Photographs
  • Theatrical Trailers


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