on 19 August 2006
Universal Studio's great black and white "horror" films from the 1930s and 40s were put together in special themed collections called "The Legacy Collection".
These collections were themed movies, about 4 to 6 films in each collection, that were focused around the one "big hit" and it's "Sons of" features.
The Frankenstein Collection is probably the best of the collections, containing more films that were of better quality overall than the other collections. Frankenstein was a big hit, and they actually had better scripts and actors in the "Sons of" films than the others.
We start with the classic Boris Karloff Frankenstein. This film examines our right to be "god" when it comes to "life and death". Karloff plays the monster, and while we see him growling around the set check out his facial expressionsI It is well shot, love the angry mob scenes, and is a classic horror film.
The next biggie is the classic follow up Bride of Frankenstein. Still staring Boris Karlof, this is one of the few "Sons of" in these collections that was almost as popular as the original. Gotta love the hair, and her "eeps" in the film. It is a monster love story. Quite bizarre and unique, it is a must have also. The title of this review comes from a quote by Mary Shelley in this movie, played by Elsa Lanchester, who is also the Bride.
Boris Karloff reprises his successful monster role yet again with the original "Son of" in Son of Frankenstein. I actually like this film. This is a remarkable in that it is almost as good as the original, in some cases probably even better in that it does have more of a plot, if that is possible. We also have Bella Lugosi playing Ygor in this one. Very dramatic is Josephine Hutchinson as Elsa von Frankenstein. And don't miss Lionel Atwill as Inspector Krogh. Good acting, great follow up story and another "must have".
The silly entry here is Ghost of Frankenstein and while it may have seemed humorous back in the 40s, I found it just silly. Lon Chaney Jr is the monster, playing against Sir Cedric Hardwicke. Oh, and Ygor... painfully reprised by Bela Lugosi. This becomes the bad joke that gets all the airtime by classic comic acts on TV... the hunchback dragging his foot around, being chased by the mad doctor for his brain. In the end we have rampaging monsters and a predictable "death by monsters".
The final entry is House of Frankenstein. We find Karloff here as a mad scientist escaping from prison, bringing Dracula, played by John Carradine, back to life, unfreezing the monster and throwing in Lon Chaney Jr as the Wolf Man, to produce an all inclusive monsterfest that allows everyone to go on a rampage till we see the monster drown Karloff in the end. This started a chain of "all monster" movies that are included in some of the other collections. Great for monster lovers, not much in the plot department.
Quality wise, these films are nicely cleaned up, the sound is very good and overall the appearance of these films is remarkable. There are also extras, like the making of the film, theatrical trailers, stills, and film history. This is a two disk set with a double sided DVD.
As I said, this is the better of the collections, with more of the great films that started the horror film industry back then. This one is a good one to own, and I do recommend it. boudica
Basically "Frankenstein: The Legacy Collection" deserves five stars on the basis of Disc One alone. There you have both of the classic Universal films directed by James Whale, "Frankenstein" (1931) and "Bride of Frankenstein" (1935), available on DVD for the first time. You also have the trailers for each film, a original poster and photo gallery for "The Bride of Frankenstein" (the one for "Frankenstein" is on Side Two of Disc Two) and audio commentaries by film historians, with Rudy Behlmer for the original and Scott MacQueen for the sequel. Then, in the "oh by the way" category, we have the fact that in these two films Boris Karloff turns in the greatest performance as a monster in movie history (also one of the most moving). Karloff thought it was a mistake to have the monster speak in the sequel, but he was wrong and when you watch these two classic movies again, with their remastered audio tracks, you will know why.
I used to show both of these films in literature classes where my students read Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein" and then had to write a paper evaluating how the movies changed, added or deleted key elements when compared to the orignal novel. Given that today more people know about the movies than the original novel, such distinctions are worthy recognizing. For Shelley the sin of Frankenstein (the doctor and not the monster) was not in bringing his creation to life but rather in abandoning it afterwards. However, the Universal movies always have Dr. Frankenstein, his son, or his surrogate, firmly in the Mad Scientist role. At that point we are talking about the fact that there are some things man is not meant to tamper with, an idea that we can trace back to the unsinkable "Titanic" and then all the way back to the Tower of Babel. So the Frankenstein legacy established by the two films Whales and Karloff made are of cultural significance.
Although I am in the camp that maintains "Bride" is the better of the two and the best Frankenstein movie ever made, the original is a close second and both are absolute classics. Each movie by itself is a five. Put both on the same DVD and it is a five-plus. Throw in the commentary tracks and it is a five-plus-plus. But in "The Legacy Collection" it seems "Bride" is but the first of four "bonus" movies. Side One of Disc Two offers up "The Son of Frankenstein" (1939) with its theatrical trailer and "The Ghost of Frankenstein" (1942). Side Two has "House of Frankenstein" (1944) and its trailer, Stephen Sommers the director of "Van Helsing" discussing on "Universal's Classic Monster: Frankenstein's Monster," "She's Alive! Creating the Bride of Frankenstein," "The Frankenstein Files: How Hollywood Made a Monster," the aforementioned original poster and photo gallery for "Frankenstein," and, a short film entitled "Boo!" (which makes more use of W.F. Muranau's "Nosferatu" than it does the Universal Frankenstein movies, so go figure why it is not part of "Dracula: The Legacy Collection"). Rather than commenting on each film individually just allow me to say that for ratings I would go with "Frankenstein" at 4.5 rounded up, "Bride" at a solid 5.0, "Son" at 4.0, "Ghost" at 3.5 rounded down, and "House" at 3.5 rounded up.
Boris Karloff is still playing the monster in the third one, and then Lon Chaney, Jr. plays the monster in the fourth one (but with Bela Lugosi's voice at the end). Then in the fifth one Karloff is back, but as the mad scientist this time around. Chaney is back too, but as the Wolfman, and Glen Strange plays the monster. Actually "House" is the sixth film, with "Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man," which has Lugosi as the monster and Chaney as the Wolfman. Just do not ask me why it is not also on Side Two of Disc Two, although to make room for it and preserve the continuity in the series to explain why the monster and Lawrence Talbot are found together that would mean getting rid of all of those featurettes. Anyhow, all of that is enough to justify having Boris Karloff's name above "FRANKENSTEIN" on the cover, with a photograph of him in Jack Pierce's famous makeup from the first film (you can tell because he does not have one of those metal bands on the top right side of his head) in a nice shade of dark green. The packaging for this series is great because the DVD folder goes in a slipcase with a plastic cutaway that has a flash of lightning over Castle Frankenstein to add to the effect. The presentation is the same for the Dracula and Wolfman Legacy Collections, but the Frankenstein set is the best of the bunch.