on 31 May 2014
The problem with the Blu-ray is that from a film to another it can be a significant improvement or no improvement, or it could still be worse.
Before buying the Dracula (Hammer 1958) in Blu-ray (Lions Gate Edition), hoping to get a better picture than my old DVD version (Warner Bros. edition), I compared The Curse Of Frankenstein (Hammer 1957) already purchesed in Blu-ray (from the same Lions Gate), with the same Frankenstein film I bought a few years ago in DVD Warner bros edition.
I was well inspired, because I found that the old DVD (Warner Bros.) has better image than the Blu- Ray (from Lions Gate). The Blu-ray image is grainy and overexposed. Furthermore, there is a "cyclic jerk" in the movements. The DVD (Warner Bros.) is presented in widescreen, so the image is slightly cut on the top and bottom. But aside from that, my old DVD from Warner is much better.
Tip : Be very careful before you buy your Blu-rays. In some cases it is really an improvement (for example The Blood Beast Terror [Blu-ray] , from Odeon). But in other cases, it is a useless waste of money.
So far I have been really pleased with the successful revival of the Hammer brand, especially the fact that the `new' Hammer has shown a welcome commitment to their legacy by investing in this restoration programme. The HD versions of Dracula Prince of Darkness, Plague of the Zombies, The Reptile (and Quatermass and the Pit and Paranoiac) have been excellent, as I'm sure the next suite of releases will be. And let us not forget that this is after all a commercial activity, and Hammer presumably want to appeal to older long-standing Hammer aficionados as well as entice a new generation to embrace the pleasures of British Gothic. Hence the enhancements that have been made to The Devil Rides Out, which I am in favour of as the dodgy (and unfinished) special effects have always marred the film for me and ultimately diminish its impact. (Having said that I do hope that this sort of interference is kept to a minimum and has only been applied judiciously in this instance to address a long standing and well known shortcoming - I would not be happy for this approach to be extended to other films with notoriously underwhelming special effects, say The Lost Continent for example where the papier-mache-and-string effects are part of the charm.)
However, in this instance, I don't think this Blu-Ray transfer of one of Hammer's crown jewels is going to satisfy either the old Hammer fan or the new devotee. Sadly, after a week of viewing and re-viewing this title, alongside a re-bought copy of the Warner DVD release - re-bought because I'd sold my original copy in anticipation of this Blu-Ray edition - my feeling is that this is the most disappointing of the official Hammer BR releases to date. I need to emphasise that the criticism here is not in the knee jerk `whatever they've done it's bound to be wrong' line. But comparing the image quality of the older Warner Bros DVD version with both the Academy and widescreen versions on the BR here, even though they are clearly derived from the same source (evident in the `young' Frankenstein scenes) , the image quality - the colour, the sharpness - is undoubtedly better on the older DVD. (I'm not going to talk about the version of the film on the DVDs in this new edition - as these simply replicate the image quality of the BR.)
I have absolutely no technical expertise or inside knowledge in these matters, but using just the evidence of my own eyeballs, there is no contest. The versions of the film on this BR are washed out, faded, blurry and lacklustre. The image on the WB DVD is cleaner and more crisp, the colour far more vivid, lush and just more `Hammer, than this muddy BR. In other ways the BR looks like a step backward. Look at the scene where Frankenstein and Krempe cut down the corpse from the gibbet. On the BR there is a continual flickering through the entire scene; on the WB DVD no such flickering is evident. (If other people could confirm this just to allay my fears that I might have a dodgy copy). This is even more dismaying because on the Universal Monster Box, the problem of flickering in the substantially older Universal movies has been highlighted and corrected. Annoyingly in Curse of Frankenstein, it seems to have been introduced where it did not before exist. So the bottom line as regards the film itself is that in future it'll be the WB DVD version that I'll be watching.
I've not even addressed the aspect ratio issue, which has been done to death on the official Hammer blog and elsewhere, but my reservations on this score are less pronounced than over the generally poor image quality. (Though I am persuaded that a widescreen presentation is the correct one, so the concerns expressed elsewhere as to how Hammer have dealt with this issue add to my wariness about ordering future offerings sight unseen, particularly in relation to the release of the Dracula Blu-Ray next year.)
Moving on to the rest of the package, there's the usual making of doc with archive of Michael Carreras and Jimmy Sangster plus the welcome irreverence of Melvyn Hayes, a short and moving tribute to Peter Cushing, and then in SD the earlier Terence Fisher Hammer feature Four Side Triangle, the lame duck (but fascinating historical artefact) TV pilot episode of Tales of Frankenstein and the World of Hammer `Frankenstein' segment. These are included as extras on the Blu-Ray and also included on the 2nd DVD. Exclusively on this 2nd Extras DVD is a pdf `booklet' (not provided as hard copy insert) on the genesis of Curse of Frankenstein. There is also the indispensable commentary by Jonathan Rigby and Marcus Hearn on both the BR and DVD versions of the film. All very worthwhile - it's just a shame that the jewel they are meant to offset is less than glittering.
on 23 October 2012
To put this aspect ratio into perspective I offer the following
I was a Projectionist showing this film at the ABC Cinemas In Dewsbury UK & it was shown in WideScreen
as all films after THE COMMAND with Guy Madison (First Warner CinemaScope film)to be shown on the ABC circuit.
All NON SCOPE films were shown in a ratio of 1,66 to 1.85,depending on what screen you visited.
The aspect ratio being dictated by the size of the proscenium.Plates were cut out to fit the screen,
though not done to exact measurements,as any Projectionist will tell you. The plates were cut to match the screen and masking installed.
So the aspect ratio varied from screen to screen.
When Curse Of Frankenstein came out all the ABC Cinemas in the UK had been converted for WideScreen.
I used to do relief work at various throughout the country and all showed Curse in WideScreen.
CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN was shown in WIDESCREEN.Whether that was the intention originally before it was filmed,well that's another story.
The 5 Stars are for the Film not the dodgy transfer to Blu-ray.
Hope this helps.
This is a film that will go down in history. The first on screen pairing of Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, script by Jimmy Sangster and direction by Terence Fisher, this is the film that put Hammer productions on the map. It pretty much singlehandedly defined the genre of technicolour Gothic Horror.
This really is a great film, the first in a whole series of Frankenstein features starring Cushing as the mad scientist. And on the basis of this it's easy to see why the series, like the various monsters, had so much life. Intelligently scripted (even if it does take very little from Mary Shelley's book), we are given a nice character study as scientific curiosity becomes an obsession for Frankestein, and his final descent into madness as he tries to realise his goals. In addition there are lots of shocks and plenty of tension. Finally there is the great ending, where, in a wonderful twist, the Baron is forced to face the consequences of the monster's crimes.
As well as a cracking script, there is superb direction from Terence Fisher, who manages to realise all the possibilities for shock and suspense. There is some wonderful set design, with a brilliant laboratory set, full of weird and wonderful gizmos. Finally, there are the central performances of Cushing and Lee as the Baron and monster respectively. Cushing gets lots to do, and carries the film with his depiction of a man driven by the best of motives into the darkest regions of science and to brutal acts to reach his aims. His performance is totally believable, and thoroughly chilling. Like Karloff before him, Lee is restricted by the monster's muteness, yet still manages to convey a strange pathos so you feel almost sorry for the poor brute. Classic performances from the Masters of Horror.
This release is pretty basic, the film is presented in the original 1.85:1 widescreen format. The sound is mono. There appears to have been little or no remastering, but the picture looks pretty good for its age, with the all important bright colours still shining through. The only extra is the theatrical trailer. A decent budget release.
A classic film that should be in the collection of any serious movie lover!
on 22 November 2012
Now that the fuss has died down a bit over Curse of Frankenstein, I've been viewing the disc and here's my own personal opinion without influence from either camps. I find the academy framed version generally pleasing but with an uncomfortable amount of dead space whereas the 1.66:1 is noticeably tight. Using the settings on my TV to fake a 1.66:1 from the academy version with higher framing ("common top") is somewhat better but still not without it's faults. Therefore my own conclusion would be that the Warner DVD version got it right in adjusting the matte on a shot by shot basis (though, that of course from cropped more tightly to 1.77:1). That would have created a far more pleasing to the eye 1.66:1 version, even if not 100% accurate. The academy version would be absolutely fine to be left as an option though I do believe calling it the OAR is erroneous. Neither aspect ratios as presented on the disc are completely satisfactory.
Regarding the picture quality, I have always reserved judgement on this due to the original negative being, to all intents and purposes, lost. Now that I've had a good look at the Blu-ray version, I think that many people are being unfairly harsh. It is soft, yes, but it's also quite naturally filmic without any objectionable digital tinkering. It may be true that going back to the best available colour separation elements (which were apparently made when it was discovered the film stock was degrading) and recombining them wholly in the digital domain could render superior results, but that would be costly and the ball is in Warner's court as they have the elements, not Hammer.
Overall, while not without it's faults, it's certainly not as terrible as some are making out. People, including myself, are now understandably wary of pre-ordering new Hammer discs due to some of the poorly worded PR and frankly bizarre decisions made of late (I refer you to the inexplicable lack of original effects on The Devil Rides Out). My advice is not to let it spoil the enjoyment that this disc can offer because it's very far from awful. Add to that a rather nice extras package which includes another full length film among the number, it's not a bad release if not perfect.
Anyone watching this for the first time will be a little gob smacked that this can be labelled a Blu Ray disk... it's not at all. Yes it may state that on the box and on the disk, but the picture and sound quality are of DVD standard. There is simply no picture detail in this film at all. The worst this film looks is in the beginning as actors faces look like someone turned the contrast all the way up. To sell this just as a DVD would have made more sense, with the explanation that due to source material Blu Ray quality wasn't achievable. Sadly they decided to sell this as a HD transfer, and as expected there's a fair bit of fan anger. I have read Hammer's explanation of the problems they had remastering the film, but it likely won't satisfy those who've spent their hard earned.
As for the film itself I've always loved it. It's one of Cushing's finest performances, and Christopher Lee's version of the monster is excellently portrayed. Along with Hammer's Dracula these were the cornerstones of Hammer's output, true horror classics (I don't include The Mummy in this as for me it was overlong in scenes and quite boring). The new added scenes to Frankenstein are nice to see.
It's real shame Icon/Lions Gate were only able to achieve this level of quality. I suspect many will be sending there's back. In contrast Icon's other release Dracula looks much much better, but then I'm guessing there was probably still good source material for that.
on 10 July 2015
I remember watching The Curse of Frankenstein many times over the years (the first time in the mid-seventies on TV) and the picture always struck me as a fine old oil painting; the colours were definitely paler than the other Hammer films that followed, before the budgets increased, and before the colour in the films improved.
Unquestionably this Blu-ray print is a poor one – one of the worst I’ve seen of this film or of any Blu-ray release, period. After much anticipation my heart sank only five minutes into viewing it. As mentioned before, the clips used in the extras section are clearer, as are the clips used in the BBC’s excellent A History of Horror documentary series, presented by Mark Gatiss. So it’s hard to comprehend exactly how this has happened!? Is this because it’s an old film (one of the first in colour) made on a small budget, thus making it very hard to remaster? Or is it because they want to maintain (what they call) the fidelity of the original film, by not doing much to it at all. I recently compared it to Ealing’s comedy classic The Ladykillers (1955), made a few years prior to The Curse of Frankenstein (1957), and this remaster from Studio Canal is far superior - the best picture quality of the Ladykillers I’ve seen!? So an old film can definitely be improved. I also have to agree with the other comments, to say that my old Warner copy DVD of The Curse of Frankenstein, is of better quality than this Blu-ray release.
Sometimes I feel hard done by when this sort of thing happens - when they call what looks like a DVD copied to Blu-ray, a remaster. But this is what it seems they’ve done here!
So, is it worth buying this Blu-ray release? Because of the superb array of extras…only just.
on 8 February 2013
What can I say? If you're planning to buy this Blu-ray simply because you're expecting a Blu-ray quality image, think twice. The transfer is almost enough to make you weep. There's absolutely no doubt that the Warner DVD of this film is a superior image. It is sharper and the colour is richer. By contrast, the Blu-ray image is extremely soft and and the colours muddy. The issue of the aspect ratio and the extras is outside the scope of this review; when I buy a Blu-ray, I expect superior image quality, full-stop. It's a tragic, missed opportunity by Hammer.
As a post script, I should also mention that the TALES OF FRANKENSTEIN TV pilot extra is also a disappointment in terms of image quality. My Arrow Films public-domain DVD copy is just as good, if not better. Subjectively, it appears fractionally sharper, in my opinion.
Three stars for the content, but only one for the actual image quality. If that's all you're interested in, you'll need to buy the Warner DVD, either as a back-up or as an alternative.
Doctor Victor Frankenstein tells the story from his jail cell of his obsession with creating life and how he came to create a creature using dead bodies. The one that started it all, The Curse Of Frankenstein is a slow build but tense film with an excellent performance from Peter Cushing in one of his most famous roles as the insane Doctor Frankenstein, the first of 6 films that he would play the role and Christopher Lee before being later cast as Dracula makes for a sympathetic monster. While the later sequels would get camp, this was played completely straight and is a faithful adaptation of the original novel and a good solid remake of Universal's classic horror film and a good start to Hammer horror. Picture quality considering the age of the film is excellent on bluray.
on 26 February 2016
Lionsgate U.K. have gained the rights to Curse of Frankenstien
and have given the film a new HD restored transfer in 2 screen ratios
the 1st is the original Theatrical ratio full screen 1:37:1
and the 2nd is new wider ratio of 1:66:1 which looks incredible, much better than the old full screen format
the picture looks very Good very nice sharp & clear restoration in both ratios
the version is Uncut runtime at 86mins so there's some extra scenes that have been inserted back in the film
that wasn't in the original dvd version, the extra scenes are more Gore scenes
that were to much to handle for the British censor board back in 1958 so they were cut out
these extra scenes are very Lame now compared today's Gory scenes
the new 1:66:1 ratio which is my preferred ratio looks much better than the old full screen format
i still get black bars on either side of my widescreen TV but they're only about 1 inch in width
so obviously the wider ratio is much better to watch
the sound quality is much better sounding in new Master audio stereo mix, the old dvd version was only Mono sound
so the sound quality has been boosted up for sure
Lots of new special features
a new retrospective featurette FRANKENSTIEN REBORN made just for this blu-ray release-35mins runtime
new interviews with writer Jimmy sangster, Hammer historians Marcus Hearn, Johnathan rigby
and others are interviewed talking about how curse of Frankenstein came to be filmed
LIFE WITH SIR Documentary
which is a Doco on actor Peter cushing, Peter cushing's secretary and eventually his carer Joyce broughton
is interviewed about his Peter's Life, emotional interview more about his personal life rather than the Hammer films he starred in
there's also TALES OF FRANKENSTEIN TV pilot which was broadcast to TV back in 1958
Digitally remastered in 1:33:1 ratio
there's also the world of Hammer featurette-curse of frankentein
plus a bonus film FOUR SIDED TRIANGLE
plus trailer and photos, all this on 1 Blu-ray Disc incredible
time to upgrade for sure, 5 stars for this blu-ray