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Frankenstein 1970 (Blu-ray Review)

The Warner Archive Collection released the 1958 film Frankenstein 1970 on Blu-ray for the first time this past week (street date was April 9th). A futuristic title in its time, the film has become a relic of the past. Notable above many as it boasts the original monster himself in the cast, the legendary horror icon Boris Karloff. With a new transfer, the release is porting over the bonus features (Just a pair of them) from the Warner Archive Collection DVD release from some years back. While it wasn’t atop peoples’ wishlists and isn’t a really beloved film, its an interesting one, and a movie that deserves the format jump and came as a decent enough surprise during last month’s (March) title reveals. As mentioned, its already out, so you can pick this one up at your leisure. Most conveniently by using the Amazon link below.

Film 

Desperate for money, the disfigured descendant of the original Victor Frankenstein (Boris Karloff) rents Castle Frankenstein to a film crew to shoot a horror film about the legendary monster that shares his name. The victim of Nazi torture, this Frankenstein pursues his ancestor’s legacy with this injection of fresh capital in order to build a nuclear reactor that creates an atom-powered monster. And with a whole film crew around, there’s no shortage of spare body parts!

While Frankenstein 1970 isn’t the greatest of films, it stands above others as it has a very nice concept and fascinates in plenty of areas. The set up for this one has a hand in being meta well before that was even thought of being a thing. Its not a complete commentary, but its used in a way I found very similar to Blair Witch 2: Book of Shadows. That’s not a comment on quality or a VS statement, but the idea of a film crew or research enthusiasts returning to have a stay at the “actual” locations from a fictional event that in this world was real, is a pretty cool and novel concept.

Concept is key, but what works best in this film is what works best in a lot of not quite there movies or ones that just kind of float; an iconic horror star. Boris Karloff is the life of this movie and he’s a joy as always to watch play such a sinister fiend. The monster in this movie is probably its biggest disappointment as its kind of a “What exactly are we trying to pull off here?” thing that feels more like a later Universal Mummy monster on steroids wearing a knight’s helmet (That also go wrapped) than it does a Frankenstein monster. Overall though, the solid stuff and beautiful photography on display make this a pretty fun curiosity and itch to scratch even if it all doesn’t come together quite well or end up in a complete success.

Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

Layers: BD-25

Clarity/Detail: Frankenstein 1970 debuts on Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection with a transfer that is pretty impressive with source materials in pristine shape. This is a crisp, sharp picture with loads of information to share in every frame. It almost looks like a film made much later than 1958 that made an artistic choice to be in Black and White. This transfer really accentuates and shows off the wonderful photography on display in the film.

Depth:  There is a good depth of field on display here even thought its quite dark, you can see nice separation and spacing merely between flooring, characters and objects. Movements are confident, smooth and clear with no motion distortions.

Black Levels: Blacks are a little grayer and lighter in tone, but consistent and still retain plenty of details with no crushing present. The shading and shadows looks quite lovely here as well.

Color Reproduction: N/A

Flesh Tones: Skin tones keep a consistent white/gray look throughout and there are no issues with flickering or anything. Facial features are sharp, impressing in close ups and solid in medium shots.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 2.0 Mono DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English SDH

Dynamics: Frankenstein 1970 features a mono track on the lighter end of things that is plenty loud and decently mixed. Its a mere just above average, but is enough to get the job done. There’s a little bit of hiss and some musical portions strike a hair too high. But those are nitpicks. Being that this isn’t some lost gem or classic, its a track that is plenty acceptable.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension: N/A

Surround Sound Presentation: N/A

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are clear and crisp.

Extras 

Audio Commentary

  • With Charlotte Austin, Bob Burns, and Tom Weaver

TV Spot Trailer (HD, 1:03)

Summary 

Frankenstein 1970 is a fun little project that has some nice ideas, great photography and a twisted performance from a genre icon. Its not a complete success but its an interesting watch if you’ve never seen it. Warner Archive Collection’s Blu-ray has a very nice video transfer and a decent audio track to accompany it. Extras are the same as the DVD edition. A solid pick up for Frankenstein fans or Karloff Kollectors(TM).

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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