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Terence Fisher
Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Hazel Court
Writing Credits:
Jimmy Sangster

Victor Frankenstein builds a creature and brings it to life, but it behaves not as he intended.

Rated NR.

Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
English DTS-HD MA Monaural
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 99 min.
Price: $21.99
Release Date: 12/15/2020

• Audio Commentary with Film Historians Steve Haberman and Constantine Nasr
• “The Resurrection Men” Featurette
• “Hideous Progeny” Featurette
• “Torrents of Light” Featurette
• “Diabolus in Musica” Featurette
• Trailer


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-SVS SB12-NSD 12" 400-watt Sealed Box Subwoofer


The Curse of Frankenstein [Blu-Ray] (2007)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (December 7, 2020)

Eventually, Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee would become the faces of the Hammer Studios horror franchises. All good things start somewhere, and 1957’s The Curse of Frankenstein brings their first collaboration under the Hammer Horror banner.

The first of seven Hammer Frankenstein films made through 1974, Curse adapts the 1818 Mary Shelley novel that inspired James Whale’s 1931 classic Frankenstein. As always, the story introduces us to Baron Victor Frankenstein (Cushing), a wealthy scientist.

At the film’s start, Victor finds himself in prison, as he awaits execution for murder. Victor confesses to a priest (Alex Gallier) the actions that brought him to this fate.

Victor studied under mentor Paul Krempe (Robert Urquhart) and developed an interest in the basics of life – and potential revivification of dead matter. Eventually they manage to resurrect a dead dog, Paul gets spooked by these experiments and steps away from them.

On the other hand, Victor feels emboldened by these successes and craves more. As such, he attempts to assemble a man based on component parts, a task that works – but not as Victor hoped.

As noted, Curse comes from the oft-adapted Shelley source, so no one should expect a whole lot of surprises from its story. All of the various adaptations take their liberties, and Curse does as well.

At least this means it doesn’t offer a rote remake of the 1931 version, as it goes its own way. These choices don’t always work, but I appreciate the variations, and they usually seem fairly successful.

In particular, Curse focuses more on Victor and less on the Creature than the standard Frankenstein tale. We don’t get Lee’s Creature until well into the running time.

On the surface, that choice could frustrate, as audiences may grow anxious to get to the meat of the tale. However, Curse builds matters in a compelling enough manner that we don’t resent the delay in the Creature’s introduction.

This decision works because Curse makes Victor much more intriguing than usual. As much as I like the Whale version, Colin Clive’s Frankenstein – there called “Henry” – never becomes especially dynamic or interesting, so the movie relies much more heavily on Boris Karloff’s legendary Creature to carry the film.

In this case, Cushing’s Victor more than holds his own. He feels more sinister than Clive’s Henry, as the latter gives off more of a standard “mad scientist” vibe.

Instead, Cushing’s Victor feels less nuts and more sociopathic, and the actor handles the part with aplomb. Cushing carries the story and makes it an involving effort.

Though not as big a part of the film as anticipated, Lee’s Creature also works, partially because the character’s design seems more horrifying than Karloff’s. Perhaps that stems from our intense familiarity with Jack Pierce’s 1931 makeup. We’ve seen that image so many times over the last nearly 90 years that the Karloff/Pierce Creature lacks the ability to shock.

Still, I think Lee’s Creature feels more objectively terrible. He feels more like an actual “cobbled together” being than Karloff’s, and that makes him more awful to view.

I will admit I wish Curse spent a bit more time with the Creature, as its short 83-minute running time leaves room for additional material. Still, the movie does much more right than wrong and turns into an effective rendition of this oft-told story.

The Disc Grades: Picture C+/ Audio B-/ Bonus B

The Curse of Frankensteing appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.37:1, 1.66:1 and 1.85:1 on these Blu-ray Disc. Why do we get three separate ratios?

The 1.66:1 and 1.85:1 versions replicate how the movie played in the UK and in the US, respectively. The 1.37:1 edition brings an “open matte” take that exposes more information – albeit visual material that was never intended to be seen – and reminds many viewers of the TV screenings that acted as their first experiences with the movie.

All three claim to come from new 4K scans. For the purpose of this review, I watched about 27 minutes of each one: I started with the 1.66:1, moved to the 1.85:1 and finished with the 1.37:1.

In terms of picture quality, all three seemed equivalent. Because they all stemmed from new 4K scans, they boasted equivalent visuals.

Sharpness seemed fairly mediocre, an issue related to the source and issues with the film stock used. While most of the movie offered reasonably good delineation, one shouldn’t expect anything razor sharp.

I saw no examples of moiré effects or jagged edges, and the presentation seemed to lack evidence of edge haloes. Source flaws also failed to create any distractions, and grain remained natural, without signs of digital noise reduction.

Colors came across as fairly full. The movie opted for a reasonably natural palette that could lean a bit toward teal. Though the hues didn’t excel, they felt largely productive.

Black levels usually stayed fairly deep and dense, while shadow detail showed positive consistency. These old Hammer movies often don’t hold up well in terms of visuals, so Curse provided an acceptable visual presentation given the nature of the source.

When I compared the framing of the three versions, obviously the 1.66:1 and 1.85:1 felt the most similar. Minor alterations resulted from the two, but they looked a lot alike most of the time.

Unsurprisingly, the 1.37:1 left a different impression, as the “open matte” image exposed more information on the top and bottom – too much information, in my opinion. This extra space made characters seem too small in the frame most of the time.

The disc notes that Warner included the 1.37:1 version as a bone toward fans who grew up with the “TV presentation”, and they might like it best. For those who want a more appropriate rendition of the film as intended, I’d go with the 1.66:1.

As for the DTS-HD MA monaural soundtrack of Curse, it was perfectly adequate for its era but not much better than that. Speech sounded intelligible and clear, with only a little edginess at times.

The movie offered a moody score, and these elements came across reasonably well. While the music lacked great range, it seemed clear enough.

The effects represented the source elements in a competent manner. These elements offered reasonable accuracy without great punch. All of this was good enough for an age-adjusted “B-“.

This two-disc set offers a mix of bonus features, and we open with an audio commentary from film historians Steve Haberman and Constantine Nasr. Both sit together for this running, screen-specific look at story/characters, drafts of the screenplay, cast and crew, genre areas and related domains.

Nasr and Haberman combine well during this chatty and engaging track. They cover a lot of ground and deliver useful material, especially in terms of the script and its permutations. Expect a high-quality discussion here.

Note that when you choose the commentary, the menu offers the choice of the movie’s 1.66:1 or 1.85:1 presentations. To make it clear: both bring the same commentary, so don’t expect separate chats based on the aspect ratio in question.

All the rest of the extras pop up on Disc Two, and we start with The Resurrection Men. It runs 21 minutes, 51 seconds and brings remarks from Little Shoppe of Horrors publisher Richard Klemensen.

“Resurrection” looks at the state of horror films in the mid-1950s as well as Hammer in the period, Curse’s production and its impact on the genre. Klemensen offers a solid overview of these subjects.

Hideous Progeny goes for 22 minutes, 49 seconds and features film historian Sir Christopher Frayling. He covers aspects of the Gothic genre as well as the adaptation and creation of Curse. Frayling makes this another good piece, one that complements Klemensen’s chat.

With Torrents of Light, we find a 15-minute, 14-second featurette that involves cinematographer David J. Miller. He talks about the work of Curse director of photography Jack Asher in this informative overview.

In addition to the film’s trailer, we finish with Diabolus in Musica, a 17-minute, five-second program. It offers notes from composer Christopher Drake, as he tells us about the work of Curse composer James Bernard. Like “Light”, “Diabolus” offers a nice perspective on the movie’s music.

A seminal horror film, The Curse of Frankenstein becomes a quality affair. Dark and complex, it reworks the material in a satisfying manner. The Blu-ray brings generally positive picture and audio along with some informative bonus materials. Fans should feel pleased with this sold release.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3 Stars Number of Votes: 1
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