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Customer Review

17 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A mixed bag of a release, but enough there to justify a purchase, 3 Oct. 2012
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This review is from: The Curse of Frankenstein (Blu-ray + DVD) [1957] (Blu-ray)
I promised to update my review once I'd seen the HD transfer and accompanying extras, but I'll leave my original review below in the interests of not airbrushing history.

Two problems were highlighted in early reviews of this release; the quality of the HD transfer and the decision to favour a 1:37 aspect ratio rather than 1:66.

Firstly, on the HD transfer there is no doubt the final result is disappointing given what we have become used to with restorations of films of a similar or earlier vintage; colour is washed out & the image often lacks definition. In their defense (see the Hammer Restoration Blog website - a quick internet search will locate it) Hammer have stated that the best source materials available were of fairly low quality and they had to choose between preserving as much of the natural film grain as possible and applying DNR to sharpen up the image (they went for the former).

On the aspect ratio, the option to go for a 1:37 aspect ratio has aroused quite a lot of indignation amongst admirers of the film (some of it somewhat intemperate). Having seen it, I think it looks pretty good with only a few shots causing one to wonder whether there isn't a bit too much head room. The shot of the mausoleum, and of the opening matte shot of the horseback journey to the castle, do make very convincing cases for this OAR.

Still the alternative 1:66 presentation is available, but unfortunately the matting has not been given full care and attention, so several key scenes suffer "head-crop" (although to be fair it isn't anywhere near as bad as the previous WB DVD release which was severely matted at 1:85).

Finally, there are some excellent extras in this package; the commentary track (by Marcus Hearn and Johnathan Rigby) is excellent, being both entertaining and very informative. There's a good documentary on the making of the film, a wonderful short documentary on Peter Cushing and two further presentations - an early Hammer sci-fi film "Four Sided Triangle" and the rarely seen pilot for a US TV series "Tales of Frankenstein".

So overall there is enough here to make it an essential purchase for aficionados, although one hopes that one day better sources or better technology might render the presentation of the film more faithfully than this restoration was able to do.

***************************************************************************************************************
Original review follows here...

Alas after the misjudgments that have beset the new High Definition transfer of The Devil Rides Out, it seems unbelievable that one of Hammer's crown jewels has been the subject of similar inept handling. Unfortunately, initial reviews of the new Blu Ray have not been good - although it beggars belief, the DVD transfer appears better than the Blu Ray (possibly due to too many extras being squeezed onto the BD). In addition, the 1:66 presentation of the film (which many still believe is the correct aspect ratio, rather than the 1:37 favoured in this set) has been ineptly cropped so as to lose significant detail at the top of the frame.

It really gives me no pleasure to write this, as I had been looking forward to this series of remasters, but it seems to be stumbling from one disaster to another; they really do need to get a grip.
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Showing 1-10 of 12 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 5 Oct 2012 19:23:11 BDT
Last edited by the author on 5 Oct 2012 19:26:10 BDT
Andrew V says:
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

In reply to an earlier post on 8 Oct 2012 16:44:26 BDT
wabrit says:
I think you are getting confused; this is a review of the forthcoming Curse of Frankenstein HD transfer, which makes reference to the forthcoming HD release of The Devil Rides Out. No mention, intended or otherwise, of DPOD. Best to read at least twice before bandying terms like inept, as it can backfire.

In reply to an earlier post on 8 Oct 2012 20:21:35 BDT
[Deleted by the author on 8 Oct 2012 20:24:22 BDT]

In reply to an earlier post on 10 Oct 2012 22:17:01 BDT
Top Banana says:
Great review, I've read similar stories, and it looks like this won't be withdrawn and corrected either!! Yet Hammer have used the extremely useless release company Icon, who if everyone can recall totally ballsed up earlier Hammer DVD releases such as 'X The Unknown', 'Kronos' etc. One to avoid I think, and hang onto your Warner Bros DVDs from a few years back.

In reply to an earlier post on 11 Oct 2012 12:42:09 BDT
wabrit says:
I have to admit my heart sank when I heard that Icon would be handling this. It's like entrusting your most precious Spode china to the care of Frank Spencer.

Posted on 14 Oct 2012 18:12:40 BDT
wabrit says:
Highly respected Hammer historian Wayne Kinsey has just posted his mini-review (via facebook) and it's a solid thumbs down alas. "The Curse BR is Sooo soft - no fine detail - faces waxy with no detail (has DNR been applied?) and med shots look fuzzy. But remember Len Harris priding himself saying it was the sharpest film he'd seen at cinema for a while! Just put upscaled DVD on to compare and the facial detail is far superior."

In reply to an earlier post on 14 Oct 2012 20:49:10 BDT
Top Banana says:
Oh dear, I can see my copy winging it's way back to Amazon for a refund - and it hasn't even arrived yet! All very depressing, will Hammer ever get it right? What with this and the CGI tampered version of 'The Devil Rides Out', I dread to think what will happen should they release 'Dracula', and earlier films like the first 2 Quatermass films on BD.

In reply to an earlier post on 16 Oct 2012 08:50:35 BDT
Mr. K. Arts says:
http://blog.hammerfilms.com/

In reply to an earlier post on 16 Oct 2012 21:12:11 BDT
wabrit says:
Yes that's an interesting and very reasonably argued post on the aspect ratio issue, and a lot of interesting comments (mostly of the well reasoned rather than vituperative kind).

Sadly I've read many more reviews in the past 24 hours that have been highly critical of the picture quality on the Blu Ray (of which Wayne Kinsey's is one - see above). My copy is on its way, but too many people whose opinions I respect have pointed out the same issues regarding the HD restoration for me to feel anything other than unease. The aspect ratio thing I can live with, but I'll be very interested to see how Hammer argue their way out of this poor transfer quality.

Posted on 17 Oct 2012 21:05:08 BDT
wabrit says:
The Hammer restoration blog (http://blog.hammerfilms.com/) have posted today their approach to the HD transfer; again an interesting, detailed and carefully reasoned post as to why many people might be complaining that the transfer is underwhelming. In a nutshell their defense is based on (a) poor quality of source materials and (b) a decision to opt for a more filmic grain at the expense of sharpening the image.

It'll be interesting to see the reaction to the transfer now people (including me) have the chance to see it for themselves, and given Hammer's blog posting. With luck my copy will arrive in the next few days, and I'll update my review based on that. The way things are panning out, it seems like Hammer have mounted a solid defense regarding transfer quality and decision to include a 1:37 presentation, but have fumbled the 1:66 presentation by not paying attention to the framing during certain key scenes (such as the ones set in the woods in the aftermath of the creature's escape from the Baron).
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