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This review is from: Curse of Frankenstein (Blu-ray + DVD)  (Blu-ray)
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.
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Showing 1-7 of 7 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 25 Oct 2012 15:13:18 BDT
I've only purchased The Devil Rides Out and have not bothered with this one because of all the problems with both aspect ratio and picture quality What I find interesting is that IMDB Pro list it's aspect ratio as 1:66:1. I would have thought that would have been the first place to look for such information since none from the technical side of the film is still around.
In reply to an earlier post on 26 Oct 2012 13:01:45 BDT
Last edited by the author on 26 Oct 2012 13:02:25 BDT
Mr. Davies says:
Proved beyond doubt that COF was composed for Academy.Look at it through a 1.66 matte if you want,but that is not what the director and DP composed for.Anyone not seriously recognising this now,is merely cutting off their nose to spite their face.Dracula was composed as 1.66. All acknowledge this, and so does Hammer.
In reply to an earlier post on 26 Oct 2012 19:47:09 BDT
Well I won't be purchasing the Frankenstein one anyway because of the poor picture everyone is reporting.
Posted on 27 Oct 2012 09:07:45 BDT
Ka Thomas says:
This review is spot on. I foolishly purchased this BD and the picture quality is very, very poor indeed. I also compared it to my WB DVD and the DVD has a much sharper picture. Great extras on the BD but the picture quality (and it is in the wrong ratio) is a disgrace for a BD.
In reply to an earlier post on 27 Oct 2012 11:01:47 BDT
Even my laserdisc I suspect would be better and I consider it one of the poorer pressings of the day.
Posted on 1 Nov 2012 13:17:03 GMT
Tony. Spot on review. I have just had a quick look at this BD, and I have to say I'm not impressed. Anyone getting this as their first foray into HD would wonder what all the fuss is about! I have DVDs which are more High-Def looking than this, which is a shame. Last night I watched The Devil Rides Out, one of my favourites, didn't mind the finished off effects, thought they worked quite well, but again the colours look a little washed out. But Frankenstein, my god! I put on the Academy ratio one and then changed to the 1.66:1 and thought that it was in standard def till I checked out the output resolution! What a shame, I have films from the 1920s on blu-ray which trounce this one, all goes back to the source material I suppose, if you don't have the original camera negative then you're buggered!
And chaps, don't put 'booklet' on the bumbf if it is only a PDF file, very annoying and very misleading.
Posted on 3 Jan 2013 14:30:02 GMT
[Deleted by Amazon on 3 Jan 2013 14:31:18 GMT]
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