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.