Mary Shelley's Frankenstein

Details At A Glance

Category Horror Theatrical Trailer(s) 1
Rating Other Trailer(s) None
Running Time 119 minutes Commentary Tracks None
RSDL/Flipper No/No Other Extras None
Region 4    
Distributor Columbia Tristar    
RRP $34.95    

Pan & Scan/Full Frame No MPEG None
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Dolby Digital 5.1
16x9 Enhancement Yes Soundtrack Languages English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
English (Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded)
French (Dolby Digital 5.1)
French (Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio 1.85:1    
Macrovision Yes    
Subtitles English 

Plot Synopsis

    Mary Shelley's Frankenstein is a motion picture along the lines of Bram Stoker's Dracula in that it purports to tell the story of Frankenstein as written by Mary Shelley rather than as interpreted by Hollywood.

    The movie commences with scenes of a ship in a storm, which becomes trapped in ice near the north pole. The ship's captain is Colonel Robert Walton (Aidan Quinn). We see a man approaching this boat from the north who identifies himself as Victor Frankenstein (Kenneth Branagh) and who speaks of the horror to the north.

    We next cut back to Victor's childhood, and his introduction to his sister Elizabeth, who is an orphan adopted by Victor's parents. Considerable time passes, and Victor's mother becomes pregnant again, but dies in childbirth despite the best efforts of his father (a doctor) to save her and the baby. The baby, William, survives. Victor vows to put a stop to death.

    Victor goes to medical school, but just prior to going, he proposes marriage to the now adult Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter) and she accepts. At medical school, Victor is obsessed with the idea of creating life, and meets Professor Waldman (John Cleese, cast here very much against type as an intellectual) who has previously undertaken experiments in this area but has abandoned them. Professor Waldman is killed, and Victor acquires his experimental notes, and continues with Professor Waldman's work.

    Victor creates a body out of various spare body parts that he has been able to gather, and manages to bring this body to life. He is horrified by what he has created, a deformed reanimant (Robert De Niro), and vows to destroy his work. However, the reanimant escapes. Victor concludes that the reanimant will likely be killed by cholera, and packs everything up and returns home to set up in his father's medical practice.

    The reanimant, however, is not killed, and quickly learns that he is feared and reviled by everyone that sees him. He discovers Victor's journal, and when he reads it, he is filled with rage at Victor for abandoning him. He vows revenge against Victor and sets off to find him.

    William is the unfortunate first person to encounter the reanimant, and he is killed. Justine, one of the family's servants is accused of the murder and lynched. The reanimant now desires a meeting with Victor, which takes place in the mountains. He pledges to leave for the North Pole if only Victor will create a female reanimant for him. Victor agrees to do this, but Elizabeth is extremely upset with Victor for taking up his work again, and threatens to leave him. They get married, but the reanimant kills Elizabeth.

    Victor finishes off the female reanimant using Elizabeth's head, and brings her to life. She is torn between Victor and the reanimant until she realizes how hideous she is, upon which she commits suicide. The reanimant heads North, with Victor in pursuit, and we return to the starting point of the picture. Victor dies, and the reanimant grieves. Both are consumed in the cremation fire.

Transfer Quality


    This is another superb Columbia Tristar DVD transfer. It is presented at an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, 16x9 enhanced.

    The movie was razor sharp at all times. Shadow detail was excellent at all times with clearly defined shadow detail and not a trace of noise.

    The colour is generally very well rendered, though I felt a number of scenes were a little oversaturated with red.

    No MPEG artefacts were seen. Film artefacts were few and far between.


    There are several audio tracks on this DVD. The default audio is English Dolby Digital 2.0 channel, surround encoded. I cannot understand why Columbia Tristar choose this as their default audio format rather than the superior 5.1 mix. Also present is a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack (which I listened to) and both 5.1 and 2.0 tracks in French. There are no MPEG tracks at all on this DVD.

    Dialogue was mostly clear and intelligible. There were several scenes which were difficult to understand, however. The one of most concern was the scene with Victor and the reanimant in the mountain cave, where dialogue was quite difficult to pick up because of the echo introduced into the mix. Given the critical nature of this scene, understanding the dialogue is very important to this scene, so this mix was unfortunate in this particular area.

    The music is lush and full and complements the screen action well. A significant proportion of the movie is underscored. Split surrounds are occasionally used for musical effects.

     The surround channels were used throughout most of the movie to create an encompassing sound field. Surround information was present during action sequences, during much of the musical underscoring, and often for ambient effect. Split surrounds were used effectively, once again helping to create an enveloping sound field.

    The .1 channel was used both to enhance the music, and to underscore the action sequences.


    There are no extras on this disc except for the theatrical trailer, presented in a 4x3 format with a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack which sounded mono.


    I enjoyed Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. The story is strong and the acting is excellent. This is not a 50's monster flick. The movie concentrates instead on developing the characters of Victor and the reanimant with the horror aspect of the movie de-emphasized. Indeed, you can truly feel the reanimant's emotional pain and turmoil, and you feel a tremendous amount of sympathy for him at times. Robert De Niro has done a superb job in creating this role. This character development is what makes this movie what it is. Rather than relying on special make-up effects, it relies on the characterizations to move the story along which it does superbly.

    A few of the visual effects were somewhat weak, such as an early scene of the ship in the midst of the storm and the clearly fake lightning cloud, but otherwise they were well executed.

    The video quality is very good except for a few scenes which were overly reddish.

    The audio quality is also very good. The only problem with the audio was occasional difficulty in understanding the dialogue over the ambient effects.

Ratings (out of 5)


Michael Demtschyna
3rd October 1998

Review Equipment
DVD Pioneer DV-505, using S-Video output
Display Loewe Art-95 95cm direct view CRT in 16:9 mode, via the S-Video input. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Audio Decoder Denon AVD-2000 Dolby Digital AddOn Decoder, used as a standalone processor. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Amplification 2 x EA Playmaster 100W per channel stereo amplifiers for Left, Right, Left Rear and Right Rear; Philips 360 50W per channel stereo amplifier for Centre and Subwoofer
Speakers Philips S2000 speakers for Left, Right; Polk Audio CS-100 Centre Speaker; Apex AS-123 speakers for Left Rear and Right Rear; Yamaha B100-115SE subwoofer