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Frankenstein [DVD] [1931]

Release Date:08/17/1999
This DVD is actually superior to the film it contains, and considering that the movie in question is one of the greatest horror movies ever made, that's saying something. James Whale's Frankenstein never looked better than it does here, running circles around even the best laserdisc editions. A few scenes show more wear than one would like, but the image and the details are so sharp that it looks as though one could step inside of it. In this edition of the movie, viewers can truly appreciate the sheer eeriness and the full details of Boris Karloff's monster, right down to the texture of the skin, and get a good idea of what made the movie so extraordinary in its time. Additionally, it's fascinating to compare the assembly of the "restored" material here with the laserdisc version of the late-'80s; the laser looks like a crude and sloppy editing job, where the DVD is seamless in those previously "lost scenes" (the uncut creation sequence and the incident with the little girl). The audio is a little more problematic; while clean and very crisp, the dialogue is mastered too low in relation to the sound effects, making listening a choice between the dialogue too low or the sound effects too loud. The film by itself might well justify the high list price of this DVD, but the latter offers a lot more. The accompanying secondary audio narration by Rudy Behlmer is one of the best ever done for a classic film. Behlmer walks viewers through virtually every shot of the movie and the story as it unfolds, not just through the pre-production and production history but the entire tale of the Frankenstein story and its various theatrical and cinematic incarnations prior to the Universal film, right down to the details of the various screen tests (including that of Bela Lugosi). This principal part of the supplement is a great performance in and of itself -- vastly entertaining and as valuable as a detailed book about the film, the novel, and Universal. The film is also accompanied by a selection of stills and lobby cards, a re-release trailer, and a frame-by-frame look at the movie's production history and the background of its players. The menu is easy to access and maneuver, though the film starts up automatically, so one must punch it up out of the modern MCA-Universal logo.

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    Ratings & Reviews

    Overall Customer Rating:
    98% of customers would recommend this product to a friend (94 out of 96)

    Special Features

    • "The Frankenstein Files: How Hollywood Made a Monster" (original documentary)
    • Feature commentary by film historian Rudy Behlmer
    • The Frankenstein Archives
    • Short film "Boo!"
    • Production notes
    • Cast and filmmakers' bios and film highlights
    • Original theatrical trailer
    • Universal web links


    Still regarded as the definitive film version of Mary Shelley's classic tale of tragedy and horror, Frankenstein made unknown character actor Boris Karloff a star and created a new icon of terror. Along with the highly successful Dracula, released earlier the same year, it launched Universal Studio's golden age of 1930s horror movies. The film's greatness stems less from its script than from the stark but moody atmosphere created by director James Whale; Herman Rosse's memorable set designs, particularly the fantastic watchtower laboratory, featuring electrical equipment designed by Kenneth Strickfaden; the creature's trademark look from makeup artist Jack Pierce, who required Karloff to don pounds of makeup and heavy asphalt shoes to create the monster's unique lurching gait; and Karloff's nuanced performance as the tormented and bewildered creature. Frankenstein was greeted with screams, moans, and fainting spells upon its initial release, obliging Universal to add a disclaimer in which Edward Van Sloan advises the faint of heart to leave the theater immediately. If they don't: "Well...we've warned you." Director James Whale was memorably embodied by Ian McKellen in the Oscar-winning 1998 biopic Gods and Monsters. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

    Cast & Crew

    • Colin Clive
      Colin Clive - Henry Frankenstein
    • Boris Karloff
      Boris Karloff - The Monster
    • Image coming soon
      Mae Clarke - Elizabeth
    • John Boles
      John Boles - Victor Moritz
    • Dwight Frye
      Dwight Frye - Fritz, the Dwarf

    Product images, including color, may differ from actual product appearance.