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The Curse Of Frankenstein – 2-Disc Special Edition (Blu-ray Review)

Fans of Hammer Horror have been waiting and wondering for many years now as to where one of them most seminal films in the catalog was on Blu-ray. The Curse of Frankenstein is literally considered “the one that started it all”. Warner Bros held the rights and wasn’t putting it out, leading collectors to seek the film out overseas to satisfy their shelves. Two years ago, Horror of Dracula was released and many thought surely it was around the corner. Indeed it was, just not as quickly as we’d hoped. However, Warner Archive Collection decided to go above and beyond their normal call of duty here with this one featuring a new 4K transfer and bonus features made for this release. If it goes well, they’ve told us to expect more releases similar to this one. If you’re a collector or support the efforts of Warner Archive Collection, be sure to pre-order this one as to show them that this is the kind of thing you want from them more often!

Film

Victor Frankenstein (Peter Cushing) is a brilliant scientist willing to stop at nothing in his quest to reanimate a deceased body. After alienating his longtime friend and partner, Paul Krempe (Robert Urquhart), with his extreme methods, Frankenstein assembles a hideous creature (Christopher Lee) out of dead body parts and succeeds in bringing it to life. But the monster is not as obedient or docile as Frankenstein expected, and it runs amok, resulting in murder and mayhem.

Hammer Horror really sort of launches here. It would take another huge leap to cement success with Dracula, but The Curse of Frankenstein is where it all begins. Hammer did what has been happening in the horror genre ever since, taking a classic horror tale and giving it a modern make-over and polish. No, they didn’t reset the film into its modern times, they moreso made the film with modern film techniques and styles of the time. Hammer also crafted and set their own beautiful period Gothic aesthetic with the film as well.

One thing they do with these classic tales is they spruce them up a bit in the scripting stage. Their tales are from the same novels, but what Hammer brings is a bit tighter, leaner plotting to them. The films move at a quicker pace. They also add more action to them as well. Still, they don’t shy away from great speeches and character exchanges. And the heart and soul of the story still remains intact. The themes keep together and overall while some details are their own, the story largely stays true.

Set design and period costume fashion in the sense of being Gothic is what Hammer largely is appreciated for, even from the most uninterested parties. Grand castles, wonderful Victorian styles and rich antiques populate these worlds. And thrown into them some gruesome horror. The Curse of Frankenstein contrasts between these beautiful interior homes and the frantic overdone lab of Dr. Frankenstein. Its all luscious to the touch and just a gorgeous arena that one wants to just soak in and visit over and over again.

The Curse of Frankenstein has held true for 63 years now. I’d say its probably the second best adaptation of the book of all time. And Christopher Lee defies the odds in being a fantastic monster in the face of a world where Boris Karloff exists. Like Horror of Dracula, this film is a lean, mean, fast paced and more action oriented version. You can love both it and the Universal one. Its allowed and it should be embraced.

Video

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p.

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 & 1.66:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/DetailThe Curse of Frankenstein has been given a new 4K restoration from the original technicolor negatives. While it has a little bit of a soft look to it, the seminal Hammer film features a very filmic and rich look to it. Details shine through pretty well and the film looks plenty fresh and clean overall. Colors are very strong and quite bold with upholstery and clothing looking quite beautiful.

Depth:  The film features a very nice depth of field and the spacing of the interiors is impressive. Actors move very cinematically and smoothly through the frame as does the camera. No issues occur with any jitter or blurring.

Black Levels: Blacks are deep and carry a little more grain on the darker areas or surfaces. However, information is retained pretty impressively in textures, patterns and follicles. No crushing witnessed.

Color Reproduction: Colors come through quite beautifully with good saturation and contrast throughout every frame. Clothing and upholstery shine quite lovely as do some of Doctor Frankenstein’s colored potions in the lab. Overall, there’s a lovely Victorian look to it all while having a slightly washed look to it.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural and consistent from start to finish of the film. Facial features and textures make due better in close ups and most medium shots due to the natural of the film’s look and condition. Christopher Lee’s make-up still looks quite impressive and the red scarring pops quite well in the image.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean.

Audio

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

Subtitles: English

Dynamics: The Curse of Frankenstein has a solid little audio track here, lacking on the deep end to be expected, but having a nice classic cinematic luster to it overall. The film features a solid balance of effects, music and vocals with good layering. Overall, its up to snuff with the best of classic Hammer audio tracks.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension: N/A

Surround Sound Presentation: N/A

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are clear and plenty audible with a slight hiss behind them as a backing.

Extras

The Curse of Frankenstein is a 2-Disc set.

Disc 1

Audio Commentary

  • By Steve Haberman and Constantine Nasr (Available in both aspect ratios)

Disc 2

1.37 “Open Matte” Version (HD, 1:23:35) – Provided here as a kind gesture to fans who grew up watching the film on either television or VHS. So there are 3 ways to watch the film on this release.

The Resurrection Men: Hammer, Frankenstein and the Rebirth of the Horror Film (HD, 21:51) – Richard Kemensen give his own history with horror at the time and gives a nice dissertation about Hammer as a studio and The Curse of Frankenstein as a landmark film for it and horror. He catalogs the production step by step as well.

Hideous Progeny: The Curse of Frankenstein and the English Gothic Tradition (HD, 22:49) – Cultural historian Sir Christopher Frayling gives a discourse on the history and obsession with the Gothic look in English horror and does so by citing and reading passages throughout.

Torrents of Light: The Art of Jack Asher (HD, 15:14) – David J. Miller, a cinematographer for VEEP and The Good Place, takes a look at the legendary Hammer cinematographer’s work. This is an absolutely terrific piece where he gives examples, defines technique and really pinpoints what made Asher special and unique.

Diabolus in Musica: James Bernard and the Sound of Hammer Horror (HD, 17:05) – Christopher Drake, composer of The Dark Knight Returns, shows his appreciation for James Bernard and goes over his history on getting to Hammer, how he worked in the system and how his work stands out and feels his own and brings familiarity. Drake actually plays some stuff and really showcases by example, the skills & technique of James Bernard.

Theatrical Trailer (HD, 2:19)

Summary

The Curse of Frankenstein remains a staple horror film and wonderful compliment to Universal’s film from the 1930s. And Warner Archive Collection has really gone above and beyond for those who are going to pick this up. The video and audio are beautiful and it goes down with some wonderful nutritious extras to boot. Yes, we waited and waited some more, but this is indeed the case where the United States Blu-ray of The Curse of Frankenstein was worth that wait. I’m not sure (Until, if it ever gets a 4K disc) we are going to see Hammer’s The Curse of Frankenstein come to life better than this.

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Brandon is the host, producer, writer and editor of The Brandon Peters Show (thebrandonpetersshow.com) on the Creative Zombie Studios Network. At Why So Blu he is a Writer/Reviewer. Brandon is a 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. You can also find older essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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