Frankenstein (2004) (Beyond Home Ent) (1973)
|Year Of Production||1973|
|Running Time||126:09 (Case: 169)|
|RSDL / Flipper||Dual Layered||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||1,2,3,4,5,6||Directed By||Glenn Jordan|
Beyond Home Entertainment
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||Full Frame||English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||None|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.33:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
"Life Without Soul"
This review of Frankenstein got off to a bad start when the promised 2004 Hallmark Entertainment TV production as promised on the DVD cover and face was actually the 1973 Dan Curtis made for TV production. No doubt an embarrassing stuff-up for the distributors Beyond Home Entertainment, but nevertheless this reviewer will press on and review what was presented. Potential buyers of the Beyond Home Entertainment distributed disc should therefore be cautioned that the contents might not match the artwork.
Frankenstein would rank with Dracula as the most filmed horror character in movie history. Images of the grey skinned and bolt necked monster are imprinted on every movie buff’s brain, and the older amongst us would remember the horror that the lumbering giant could bring to the screen. It was irrelevant that the character brought to life by legends such as Boris Karloff bore little resemblance to the creation depicted in Mary Shelley's novel - this classical depiction became the template for the Frankenstein legend.
Frankenstein, as the 1973 TV movie by Dan Curtis' macabre productions, reworks the Frankenstein legend to be more like the story that Shelley originally wrote. Ironically in the same year we also had Andy Warhol's production of Flesh For Frankenstein - a different beast altogether!
In the acting stakes we have the very ordinary looking Bo Svenson, referred to as the "giant", Robert Foxworth as Victor Frankenstein, with John Karlen as Otto the assistant and Susan Strasberg as Victor's fiancée Elizabeth. This adaptation is more of a gothic tragedy than a horror movie because, unlike the Karloff stereotype, Svenson's creature is sympathetic, with a child-like innocence enclosed in a super-strong body. Following the giant's creation both Victor and Otto are initially delighted and spend their time teaching the creature words and games. However, when the creature inadvertently kills Otto during a game Victor straps him down to prevent further incidents. The giant has no understanding that he has done wrong, and so the restrictions seem to him cruel and unfair. When he escapes and wanders into the forest his encounters with townspeople are misunderstood as being threatening, and lead to persecution. Taking shelter in a cottage shed the giant befriends a blind girl but, of course, this brief glimpse of happiness for the giant is doomed to failure. After being reunited with Victor the giant is promised a mate however the doctor cruelly reneges on this agreement. This leads to the giant beginning an outbreak of terror which, as we can guess, leads to a sad ending for Frankenstein and his creation.
Svenson is a revelation in this role by conveying the creature's hurt and sadness in a convincing manner despite his patched together and generally horrific body. Foxworth is effective as the doctor and displays a convincing affection for his creation, despite have a generally prickly demeanour with everyone else - including his fiancée. Victor comes across as a thoroughly unlikable person, but I suspect that is how Curtis intended to present the character. Overall the acting is quite hammy and over the top and is very much a product of the 1970s. There are also some plot inconsistencies with the interactions between Victor and Elizabeth a bit confusing. Certainly the highlight of this movie is the portrayal of the giant as a gentle but misunderstood creature who desperately seeks love and acceptance but instead is treated with fear and disdain.
This DVD is presented in the original aspect of 1.33:1 and is not 16x9 enhanced. I was a bit surprised when the opening disclaimer warned that "print degradation may be evident" appeared. I was even more surprised when the film started and began wondering whether I'd been given a copy taken from VHS tape! Surely a 2004 production couldn't look this bad? Flicking through to the end credits it became apparent however that this was a film made in the early 1970s, with absolutely no relation to the movie as promised on the DVD cover and disc face. From that point my expectations were lowered down to just above zero, and the quality of print as viewed did not change that opinion. It really does look like a VHS presentation with just about every artefact possible on view. From the opening shots we have colour bleeding, aliasing, microphony, and horizontal colour banding where the hues change in depth. Truly horrible. On the good side I did not see any film artefacts of dirt or flecks however the overall print quality was very soft and blurry. The colour matte was also very saturated with earthy brown and yellow in predominance. Foxworth, in particular, looks like he's spent a significant amount of time in a tanning salon - but then maybe he had. Lack of definition in blacks and dark greys made the night time scenes a bit hard to discern and the obviously cheap budget did not allow high production values with the laboratory looking distinctly dim and grotty. I was tempted to make allowances for the fact that this is an old made for TV film with probably a dodgy source, however it really does look shocking when coming from a DVD. It is however saved a very low rating due to those mitigating factors.
There are no subtitles.
This is a dual layer disc with the layer change undetectable on my player.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 track is encoded at 192Kb/s. In common with the video this audio track is extremely lacklustre with absolutely nothing natively emanating from surrounds and subwoofer. On the plus side the voices are always clear and are synchronised with the video. Gunshots and explosions are noticeably louder than the general soundscape so can startle you briefly. Other than that there is nothing more of note to mention other than the film score is only used to complement action scenes and is reminiscent of matinee serials from the 1950s.
|Surround Channel Use|
The menu is static with no audio.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
This version of Frankenstein appears in the US Region 1 with an audio commentary track and promotional video so would be the preferred version if you are keen.
Frankenstein in this 1973 production is a fairly faithful reproduction of the original novel written by Mary Shelley. It is however hampered by cheap production values, poor video, and a distinctly amateur soap opera feel to proceedings. The acting of Svenson as the giant is commendable, however Foxworth and the supporting cast are quite hammy. If you are a fan of Dan Curtis' other productions such as Dark Shadows then this might be a movie to pick up otherwise I can't recommend it.
The video quality is poor. The audio quality is acceptable. Extras are nonexistent.
|DVD||Denon DVD-3910 and Panasonic BD-35, using HDMI output|
|Display||Panasonic TH-58PZ850A. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL).|
|Amplification||denon AVR-4311 pre-out to Elektra Theatron 7 channel amp|
|Speakers||B&W LCR600 centre and 603s3 mains, Niles in ceiling surrounds, SVS PC-Ultra Sub, Definitive Technology Supercube II Sub|