What is an acceptable time frame for a movie to be re-released on DVD? Apparently a year and a half, according to Universal. Frankenstein is definitely a film worth buying twice, but there's a problem on the consumer level when this becomes a separate release.
There's very little left to discuss about Universal's classic horror film. It's more than iconic; it's the version of Frankenstein the public is aware of. Boris Karloff, in a stunning piece of makeup, has been used countless times to represent the monster. His performance sets the tone for every interpretation to follow.
Direction by James Whale is ahead of its time. The lack of music creates a deeper sense of dread and horror, while close ups of the monster are executed flawlessly. The only Universal classic horror film that even comes close is the sequel, Bride of Frankenstein.
Filmed in 1931, it's amazing how effective the film is. In an era of explosions, big budget effects, and even deadlier monsters, Frankenstein still has the necessary impact that made it a success. That's the mark of a classic.
Remastered for another DVD release, the print is slowly becoming perfect. Heavy dirt is evident throughout, though there has been progress made to limit it and nearly all signs of damage have disappeared. Detail comes through clearer than ever and the sets shine in digital form. The dull, pale face of Karloff can truly be appreciated.
Audio remains roughly the same. There's still nagging hissing and popping for the entire running time. The mono audio still provides what it needs to, and that's understandable dialogue. Anything else is a bonus given the age.
Extra features are where this edition begins to fall apart. The previous DVD, The Legacy "Collection," featured all five movies from the Frankenstein series on two discs. That set now costs less than this disc, simply called a part of the Legacy "Series." Extras are repeated from the Collection here, too, though a few pieces are worth watching.
Two commentary tracks go along with the film; Rudy Behlmer and Christopher Frayling are both monotone. Information is shared between them extensively, repeating focal points, actors, and facts about the shoot. Frayling is especially awful in his delivery, seemingly reading a script instead of following the film. Monster Tracks is a third way to learn about the shoot via text pop-ups. Again, this tends to be redundant information with the commentaries.
Karloff: The Gentle Monster is a short look back on the actor's career. It stays focused on acting. There is hardly anything said about his life offstage.
Disc two begins with the superb Frankenstein Files, running 90-minutes. Covering each film, this commendable documentary is produced beautifully. Fans of the DVD format have probably seen this, however, since it popped up on the Legacy Collection.
The Frankenstein Files turned up on the previous DVD set as well. It's a 45-minute piece hosted by David J. Skal, with interviews from familiar faces in Hollywood. Universal Horror was produced in 1998 for TV viewing. A little over 90-minutes, this covers the studio's horror lineup from the beginning and into the early 40s.
Two final pieces round off this set. Boo! is a short comedy produced in the silent era featuring many of the Universal monster roster before they became iconic figures. Finally, The Frankenstein Files is a collection of posters and lobby cards from the film.
Presented in an undeniably gorgeous thick cardboard cover, this Legacy Series release is a looker. Sadly, the product contained inside isn't worth the asking price. Unless the weak commentaries are worth it to you personally, it makes far more sense to buy the package with five films and a few less items to find in the extras department.