MARY SHELLEY FRANKENSTEIN 4K Blu Ray review

Go back to 1994. Go on. Cast your mind back to the that year. I don’t know what it meant to you if anything. For me it was the year of great things. From the seminal Music for the Jilted Generation album from the Prodigy. To the release of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle from Haruki Murakami. Then PULP FICTION from Tarantino. FORREST GUMP from Zemeckis won best picture, SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION was hidden but would land at the videoshop I worked in a year later. Then in an ethereal sense, MARY SHELLEY FRANKENSTEIN. For the film was seen as both a statement of intent and heralded in the USA, the realisation of the blossoming of the, then young and dynamic Kenneth Branagh. After he came into focus with HENRY V and had succeeded in making Hollywood notice him, he had taken on another Shakespeare vehicle MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING, solidifying his skill behind and in front of the camera, alongside working with an American crew and cast.

We begin in the North Pole. A man is fleeing from a demon, in the snow. Whitewash and snow blind. Then we return to 19th century Geneva, Victor Frankenstein (Kenneth Branagh) is a scientist on the very edge of life and death. His experiments have pushed him to embarks on an obsessive quest to conquer death. When he builds a body for this modern Prometheus, this Lazarus vessel goes hideously wrong. His deformed monster (Robert De Niro) rises but to a world that doesn’t want him. First, Frankenstein tries to destroy his creation, but this fails. He leaves it to the elements. Now rejected by his creator, the deformed monster sets to avenge his deathly slumber disturbance and enacts his murderous revenge against Frankenstein family. Victor must face a terrible reckoning with the tragic consequences of attempting to play God.

MARY SHELLEY FRANKENSTEIN floundered under its expectant weight. It is many things. In frank speak it is the most consistent adaptation of the source material. It might not be stylistically. Branagh interpretation is bombastic, inflated, bilious and often brilliant. It lacks subtlety but is more substantive. More invested in the world that surrounded the creation of the monster and the state of mind of an obsessive creator. The assorted cast add to this with Tom Hulce replicating his AMADEUS turn, De Niro fizzes with a brutality and sexuality that I now see, sears with the repression of a person on the fringe. With desire at the fringe. The only real downsides are the female perspective, that is Helena Bonham Carter in a one dimensional turn and the now obvious, theatricality of some of the sets and set piece sequences (the waltz scene as an example).

DISC

The new 4K restoration was met with an uncertainty from me. I can see the need for it certainly but would it add an artifice that wasn’t there before? Well it does and for once it complements the film wholly. Finally the textures of the grimy laboratory and the Geneva house set look like rich, deep colours of brown, pastel blue, green and grey. It comes alive in the snow and seems to zip with the watery electricity. Branagh hair is deliciously silken. I guess he had Head and Shoulders on set at all times.

EXTRAS

I began with the Brookes and Main commentary, which is possibly the best place for many to start. Both are obviously, film school historians. They understand the adaptation, the catalyst, direction and why some of the excess is worth look at further. The question is, do we need the same people talking about, roughly the same topics? Could we maybe not have had a more dynamic couple? Though also it is fair to say that these two know enough to school the amateur and master, equally. The 1910 adaptation is a thing of oddity and interest to more than silent film fans. It has a deliriousness to it that I really enjoyed. Shame it hasn’t got a more fitting soundtrack. Something absurdist or experimental maybe. Finally, the best thing on the disc is Mary Shelley and The Creation of a Monster and Dissecting Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, very much a talking group, discussing the monster, its crerator, its adaptations and most interestingly of all, what each might mean. With Jonathan Rigby and Stephen Volk, it is always a joy.

 

  • New 4K restoration from the original camera negatives by Sony Pictures Entertainment
  • 4K (2160p) UHD Blu-ray presentation in Dolby Vision (HDR10 compatible)
  • Original uncompressed stereo audio and DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround audio
  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • Brand new audio commentary by film historians Michael Brooke and Johnny Mains
  • Brand new interview with composer Patrick Doyle
  • Brand new interview with costumer designer James Acheson
  • Brand new interview with make-up designer Daniel Parker
  • Mary Shelley and The Creation of a Monster, a brand new documentary featurette on the origins and evolution of the Frankenstein story, featuring Gothic specialists David Pirie, Jonathan Rigby and Stephen Volk
  • Dissecting Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, a brand new featurette with David Pirie, Jonathan Rigby and Stephen Volk on the differences between the novel and Kenneth Branagh’s screen adaptation
  • Frankenstein: A Liberal Adaptation from Mrs. Shelley’s Famous Story for Edison Production (1910): The first screen adaptation of Shelley’s story in a 2K restoration by the Library of Congress, with music by Donald Sosin
  • Original trailers
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Laz Marquez

First Pressing Only:

Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing by Jon Towlson and Amy C. Chambers

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