Frankenstein: Complete Legacy Collection

  • Reviewed by: Bill Hunt
  • Review Date: Sep 19, 2016
  • Format: Blu-ray Disc
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Frankenstein: Complete Legacy Collection

Director

James Whale, Erie C. Kenton, Various

Release Date(s)

1931-1948 (September 13, 2016)

Studio(s)

Universal Pictures (Universal)
  • Film/Program Grade: See Below
  • Video Grade: See Below
  • Audio Grade: See Below
  • Extras Grade: B+
  • Overall Grade: A

Frankenstein: Complete Legacy Collection (Blu-ray Disc)

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Review

Universal first began releasing its Classic Monsters titles on DVD starting in 1999 with the original films, James Whale’s Frankenstein (1931) among them. Their Frankenstein: The Legacy Collection followed on DVD in 2004, featuring the original film with four of its most loved sequels. Then in 2014, the Frankenstein: Complete Legacy Collection was released on DVD, including – at long last – the original and all of its sequels and related films. Complete though it was, however, the set was still somewhat frustrating, as Universal had already begun to release the originals in HD in 2012, as part of the studio’s 100th Anniversary celebration, with the Universal Classic Monsters: The Essential Collection Blu-ray box set (see our review here). Fans made their feelings clear; they wanted all the films in that level of quality.

Frustrating or not, the DVD version of the Frankenstein: Complete Legacy Collection included Frankenstein (1931), The Bride of Frankenstein (1935), Son of Frankenstein (1939), The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942), Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943), House of Frankenstein (1944), House of Dracula (1945), and Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948), plus extras.

The good news is, following the success of Universal’s 2012 4K restorations of Dracula, Frankenstein, and The Bride of Frankenstein, the studio began restoring the sequels films in 2015 – an effort that is apparently continuing this year and next. The first fruits of this work have just been released in the form of new Blu-ray Disc upgrades of the Frankenstein: Complete Legacy Collection and The Wolf Man: Complete Legacy Collection (see our review of the latter set here).

Here’s what’s included in the new Frankenstein: Complete Legacy Collection Blu-ray set:

Disc One – Frankenstein (1931) – This is exactly the same disc that was released in 2012. It includes the film in HD, along with The Frankenstein Files (SD – 44:53), Karloff: The Gentle Monster (SD – 37:58), the Monster Tracks trivia track, Universal Horror (SD – 95:26), Frankenstein Archive (SD – 9:24), the Boo! short film (SD – 9:30), audio commentary with Rudy Behlmer, audio commentary with Sir Christopher Frayling, trailers for Frankenstein, The Bride of Frankenstein, The Ghost of Frankenstein, Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, and House of Frankenstein (SD – 8:23 in all), and 100 Years of Universal: Restoring the Classics (HD – 9:13)

Disc Two – The Bride of Frankenstein (1935) – includes the film in HD, along with She’s Alive! Creating The Bride of Frankenstein (SD – 38:54), The Bride of Frankenstein Archive (SD – 13:11), audio commentary with Scott MacQueen, trailers for Frankenstein, The Bride of Frankenstein, The Ghost of Frankenstein, and House of Frankenstein (SD – 6:46 in all), and 100 Years of Universal: Restoring the Classics (HD – 9:13)

Disc Three – Son of Frankenstein (1939) and The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942) – includes both films in HD, along with the trailer for Ghost in SD

Disc Four – Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943), House of Frankenstein (1944), and House of Dracula (1945) – includes all three films in HD, along with the trailer for each film in SD

Disc Five – Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948) – This is exactly the same disc that was released in 2012. It includes the film in HD, along with Abbott and Costello Meet the Monsters (SD – 33:18), audio commentary with Gregory W. Mank, 100 Years of Universal: The Lot (HD – 9:25), 100 Years of Universal: Unforgettable Characters (HD – 8:18), and the film’s trailer in SD

As you can see, virtually all of the previous DVD and Blu-ray features carry over here, so you lose nothing of note if you upgrade to this set. If you already own the Universal Classic Monsters: The Essential Collection Blu-ray box, there is obviously a bit of duplication in that Frankenstein and The Bride of Frankenstein are included in both sets. Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein has also been released separately on Blu-ray, as noted above. Otherwise, the rest of these films are new to the format in HD.

The new transfers are spectacular, especially considering the age of the films in question. All are presented in their original 1.37:1 theatrical aspect ratios. Frankenstein and Bride were both originally remastered from new 4K element scans (you can read our thoughts on their A/V quality here), and nearly all the rest of these films have been given new 4K restorations too. The actual scans and digital remastering work here are first rate; the A/V quality really just depends on the condition of the original elements. Son of Frankenstein is clean looking but never edgy, offering lovely grain and deep contrast, though fine detail is occasionally a bit lacking. Ghost is similar, but offers better detail and texturing. Thankfully, the restoration has fixed the title sequence to Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man; it’s no longer plagued by the damage seen on DVD. Contrast is nearly perfect, with lovely texturing. House of Frankenstein and House of Dracula are excellent as well. Quite simply, these films have never looked so good at home before and have probably seldom looked this good in theaters either. Though it may not feature a 4K transfer, Abbott and Costello is also very good in HD, though not quite up to the level of the others. Contrast and detail are solid, with nice black levels.

The sound on all of these films is English 2.0 mono in DTS-HD Master Audio format. The mixes are front-and-center, as they should be, though the uncompressed nature of the tracks offers a somewhat fuller sound than found on DVD, delivering good fidelity and every bit of the quality possible from the original audio elements. Dialogue is generally clean and clear. Optional subtitles are included in English SDH, French, and Spanish.

On the whole, this set represents an excellent Blu-ray upgrade of the previous DVD release. However, its value to you personally will depend on just how much you love these films, which you’ve purchased previously on either Blu-ray or DVD, and what kind of sale price you can get. At $30 on Amazon for 5 new films in HD, that’s not too bad, but if you wait the price may get sweeter with time. In any case, as a Universal Classic Monsters fan, it’s a thrill to finally have all of these films available in such high quality. Better still, it’s enormously reassuring to know that they’ve been newly restored and preserved for the future. If you can get it at a good price, this set is definitely recommended.

- Bill Hunt

 

QUALITY RATINGS (FILM/VIDEO/AUDIO/EXTRAS):

 

Frankenstein (1931): A/A/B/A

The Bride of Frankenstein (1935): A+/A/A-/B-

Son of Frankenstein (1939): B-/B+/A-/F

The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942): C+/A-/B+/D

Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943): B-/A/A-/D

House of Frankenstein (1944): B-/A-/B+/D

House of Dracula (1945): C/A-/B+/D

Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948): B+/B+/B/C+

 

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