- BD-50 Dual-Layer Disc
- Region Free
- 1080p/AVC MPEG-4
- English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono
- French Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono
- English SDH
- Audio Commentary
- Still Gallery
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Bride of Frankenstein (1935) (Blu-ray)
Universal Studios / 1935 / 75 Minutes / Unrated
Street Date: October 02, 2012
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Reviewed by M. Enois Duarte
Sunday, September 30, 2012
This review is part of our extensive coverage of 'Universal Classic Monsters: The Essential Collection.'
One aspect Universal Studios is best remembered and remains highly regarded for is their collection of monster features. Their immense impact and influence in the horror film genre is virtually irrefutable. More than any other movie production company, the studio has left an indelible mark in the cinema of horror, pretty much becoming synonymous with the genre and creating some of the most iconic figures in all the history of film. Who can deny the faces of Dracula, Frankenstein's monster or his Bride are not permanently etched into our collective memories when thinking of a scary movie or every year Halloween season rolls around. Even if you've never watched a single one of these films, you're already familiar with the names of the characters, their haunting images or the actors who portrayed them.
Universal's legacy dates are far back as the silent era when Carl Laemmle first founded the company, initially producing a variety of melodramas, westerns and serials. Thanks to the amazing work done by character actor Lon Chaney, the studio starting making a name for itself with horror hits 'The Hunchback of Notre Dame' (1923) and 'The Phantom of the Opera' (1925). Three years later, Carl passed the business down to his son Carl Laemmle Jr. on his 21st birthday, who quickly went to work on converting future production to include sound. He proved himself to nervous shareholders when the massively expensive war epic 'All Quiet on the Western Front' went on to become an Academy Award winner. It's during these years that company produced many prominent motion pictures which continue to be admired and are affectionately known as Universal Horror.
In many respects, 'The Bride of Frankenstein' marks the end of an important era in the history of horror cinema. The tension between Carl Laemmle Jr. and Universal Studios' stockholders was finally reaching its boiling point. Despite the several now-classics made during his short reign and the critical success of this sequel, the young, ambitious filmmaker was unceremoniously voted out of the company the following year. This is only one small part of the film's significance and its celebrated influence, which is near-unanimously considered that rare instance where the sequel is superior to the original.
The other part comes from James Whale's superb direction and approach to a material he originally believed wouldn't amount to much. Today, 'The Bride' is seen as his masterpiece and often remembered as arguably one of the greatest horror films ever made. With cinematographer John J. Mescall helming the camera, the script by William Hurlbut and John L. Balderston is brought to life with a weirdly comedic and satirical edge to it, often with a mocking tone of itself and of the legacy created by the first movie. Much of the humor comes from the wonderful character-actor Una O'Connor's hysterics and reactions, but the other bits are cleverly more subtle while also ironically and cunningly incisive.
The photography is along similar lines as its predecessor, yet darker and more atmospheric, a gothic sinister tone which contradicts the story's lighter aspects, like the aforementioned scenes with O'Connor. Picking up precisely where the first left off, the story itself, which is truer to the novel than the previous tale, is riddled with the macabre desires of Doctor Pretorius (Ernest Thesiger delightfully hamming it up) and of Frankenstein's creation for a mate. Boris Karloff returns to the role that made him famous and provides an even more memorable portrayal, showing a variety of emotional states beneath Jack Pierce's make-up, most notably during the monster's sadly short-lived friendship with the hermit (O.P. Heggie).
Possibly the most bizarre twist to this production is Whale imbuing the film with religious imagery and a subtext about the power of creation. Some scenes almost elevate the monster to a Christ-like figure, most famously when it's captured and bound to a pole. But there's also a sense of irony and mockery about these images because the monster was already resurrected from the dead. Moreover, the plot is deeply engaging and powerful, thanks greatly to Karloff's performance, as the monster's quest for friendship and understanding has the potential to bring viewers to tears. To this day, the final moments when the bride (Elsa Lanchester) is born and meets the monster remains one of the most famous and iconic sequences in motion picture history, rife with passionate thrills and emotion, which is why 'The Bride of Frankenstein' is the superior film.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Universal Studios Home Entertainment brings the 'Universal Classic Monsters: The Essential Collection' to Blu-ray in an attractive and elegantly sturdy eight-disc box set. The package is a familiar one which opens much like a book with each shiny page showing poster artwork, a brief entry on the film and disc contents. Those same pages also serve as sleeves for each disc which slide out by placing some slight pressure to the top and bottom, widening the mouth only a little. The inside is smooth and glossy to prevent the discs from scratching.
All eight films are contained on separate Region Free, BD50 discs and found inside one of the pages, respective of the order in which they were theatrically released. The package comes with a 46-page book that features a lengthy essay by Universal Horrors author Tom Weaver, entitled "A Legacy in Horror." The rest is a collection of photos and artwork with interesting blurbs and trivia on each film, the filmmakers, the actors, and on the special effects and make-up work. The side-sliding slipcover is made of a hard cardboard material with beautiful artwork and lightly embossed. At startup, each disc goes straight to a main menu screen with full-motion clips and music playing in the background.
Like its predecessor, 'The Bride' walks down the aisle with a stunningly gorgeous AVC MPEG-4 encode, thanks to a recent and extensive restoration process which brings this iconic classic back to life. Textures around the faces of actors are distinct and lifelike. Even beneath Jack Pierce's make-up, we can see Karloff's wrinkles and pores. The sets and costumes reveal sharply-defined lines while visibility in the shadows and far distant objects are never hampered by the endless darkness. Inside Frankenstein's tower laboratory, the smallest detail is discernible and evident, from the bizarre electrical instruments to the grimy stone walls. Contrast is pitch-perfect and bright with crisp, brilliant whites. Black levels are rich and luxurious, providing the image a great deal of dimensionality. The video displays a consistently fine layer of grain, giving the high-def transfer a beautiful cinematic appeal.
'The Bride' also makes her way to Blu-ray with a striking and magnificent DTS-HD MA mono soundtrack, making it the clear winner of the entire package. The original design has been meticulously and fabulously restored to its former glory, displaying crystal-clear clarity and a wonderfully warm, expansive imaging. Background effects are discrete and intelligible at all times, providing the film with appreciable presence and generating a broad, atmospheric soundstage. Dynamics are precisely defined with accurate separation between the mids and highs while a low-end packs a healthy, appropriate depth. We can enjoy every note and instrument in the music, hear every distinct noise and crackle in the electrical pulses, and feel every thunderous clap of lightning. The grand finale inside Frankenstein's lab is particularly admirable and breathtaking. With excellent dialogue reproduction, this lossless mix of another iconic classic is a bone-chilling shocker.
- Audio Commentary — Only one commentary track is available for this iconic film, which is actually rather unfortunate. Still, film historian Scott MacQueen does a fine job providing an academic approach with a wealth of information and history about the production. Of most interest are the comments on the Whale's direction and imagery as well as several behind-the-scenes tidbits.
- She's Alive! Creating The Bride of Frankenstein (SD, 39 min) — Another splendid doc by horror film historian David J. Skal and hosted by horror filmmaker Joe Dante. As with previous docs, the piece comes with several great comments and interviews about the film's importance and legacy while also sharing some thoughtful insights.
- The Bride of Frankenstein Archive (SD) — A collection of poster artwork, marketing stills and other photos from the set.
- Trailers (SD) — Theatrical previews for 'Frankenstein,' 'The Bride of Frankenstein,' 'The Ghost of Frankenstein,' and 'House of Frankenstein.'
This Blu-ray edition of 'The Bride of Frankenstein (1935)' arrives with one high-def exclusives.
- 100 Years of Universal: Restoring the Classics (HD, 9 min) — A short featurette discussing the studio's plans to restore several classic film in commemoration of the company's 100th anniversary.
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Universal Studios' impact and influence in the cinema of horror is virtually irrefutable, responsible for popularizing the genre and for creating some of the most iconic figures in film history. Their indelible mark is fairly obvious and most felt every year around the Halloween season, and the faces of these monsters are permanently etched into our collective cultural memories when thinking of horror. They are a part of our lives, yet many have probably never even seen these classics all the way through. Now, they can be enjoyed on Blu-ray for the first time in this elegant eight-disc box set, featuring the main creatures often associated with Universal Horror. Each comes with excellent audio and video presentations, bringing these icons of the genre as close as possible to their former glory. And they have never looked as beautiful as they do here. Many of the supplements from previous special edition DVDs are preserved here as well, making this an exhaustive must-own for horror fans and cinephiles everywhere.
You can read more about the complete set and order it here!
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