Review: Monsters: The Complete Series (DVD)

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Title: Monsters: The Complete Series
Format: DVD
Release Date: March 18, 2014
Studio: Entertainment One
Original MSRP: $99.98
Number of Discs: 9
Language: English
Subtitles: English
MPAA Rating: NR
A copy of this DVD set was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy.

Audio Review:
The audio review for this DVD set is available on Episode 363 of the podcast.

Story:
An anthology series from the late 80’s, Monsters ran for three seasons in syndication and later in reruns on the SciFi Channel (before it became SyFy). I can best describe it as a cross between Tales From the Darkside and The Outer Limits. While there are elements of science fiction with the occasional aliens, the series tends to lean more towards the horror.

The entire series is available now for the first time in this nine disc DVD set. Being a syndicated show that ran from 1988-91, you’ll probably need to adjust your expectations a bit here. With a smaller budget and very little in the way of special effects, expect a lot of rubber suit monsters. That’s not to say they look bad (although some do), but really that’s part of the charm of Monsters. Just keep in mind that the show is very much a product of its time.

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The more important aspect of the series, and really any anthology series for that matter, lies in the stories themselves. Here things can be a bit hit or miss where you’ll get some really good and some just middle of the road. While often a morality play and always involving some kind of monster (naturally), the producers weren’t above injecting a little humor into some of the stories, again, to mixed results. The nice thing about it is that at 22 minutes per episode, things tend to move along at a good clip with pretty tightly written scripts.

Some of the standouts include “The Hole” from Season 3 which is set in a bunker during the Vietnam War, “A Bond of Silk” from Season 2 is about a newlywed couple on their honeymoon and “Glim-Glim”, a Season 1 gem about an alien in a small town and the survivors of a terrible sickness that would fit right in as an episode of The Twilight Zone.

Being an anthology, Monsters really relied on its guest stars and the cool thing about this series in particular was the number of highly recognizable (or soon to be) people they were able to attract. The list includes icons spanning the 50’s to the 80’s such as Barbara Billingsley, Frank Gorshin, Jeff Conaway, Adrienne Barbeau, Gina Gershon, Tony Shalhoub, David Spade, Steve Buscemi and on and on. In nearly every episode I was able to recognize at least one of the actors, no matter how obscure which made it that much more fun.

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Video:
Again, late 80’s, syndication, expectations. Presented in their original 4×3 aspect ratio, the episodes look as though they were pulled from the old tapes and moved directly to DVD. It’s not terrible, but it’s clear there was no real restoration work done here which, while expected, is still a little disappointing.

The sets and costume design tend to look like low-budget TV (which it was) but that really gives the show its flavor. The effects can come off as goofy considering how far we’ve come in the last twenty-five years but they have a certain charm for people who grew up in that era. For fans of the series, it’s more important that the entire run is finally available on DVD more than anything else. For everyone else, know what to expect.

Audio:
The audio holds up pretty well, with dialogue coming across with nice clarity. The music relies heavily on synthesizers as did most TV from that time period and it really cements the show to a unique time and place in American television history.

Bonus Features:
Nothing to see here folks. While it would have been nice to see something added, commentaries, interviews, anything, it’s enough for most fans that it’s even available in a complete set.

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Conclusion:
More than twenty-five hours of content will keep you busy here. Sure the effects and the music are cheesy in a late 80’s kind of way, but that’s a big part of the charm of Monsters. This was a show that put a lot of recognizable faces to work over its three year run and in the process added to the horror anthology show genre in its own unique way.

If you were a fan it’s great to go back and see them all over again, the good and the bad. If you weren’t, you may not get what all the fuss was about, but there are definitely some good stories here that may be worth your time.

Score:
7.0

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the DVD’s using the Elgato Game Capture HD Pro screen capture feature.

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  • Keith Dunn

    I can do worse than this! I have the first season collection of Superboy! Predates Smallville but it’s basically the same premise. Shot on location in Florida….around the time Fox was just starting with the Swamp Thing and Werewolf also shot in FL. Now THERE are two shows I’d like to see in a collection! LOL!!