There have been so many adaptations now of Mary Shelley’s infamous classic. The story has the pop culture status where one does not need to read the book or see any of the films to know who Dr. Frankenstein is. There is a lengthy history, much of which many people are unaware of. Fortunately, the great people at Arrow Video have included a special feature entitled “Mary Shelley and the Creation of a Monster,” which dissects this history in their latest 4K version of Kenneth Branagh’s MARY SHELLEY’S FRANKENSTEIN. Branagh both stars and directs in the 1994 adaptation with mixed results.
MARY SHELLEY’S FRANKENSTEIN works as a beautiful period piece. There’s a proud technical achievement going on here with large set pieces and vibrant costumes. That focus pays off but leads to a decrease in interest when it comes to the narrative. The script by Frank Darabont (The Mist) remains largely faithful to the original book, but the film itself seems to translate into an unconvincing melodrama. There’s an inconsistent tone that makes the film drag at an ungodly pace, leaving little interest once the actual monsters arrive on screen. It’s questionable how much the movie holds up as it feels dry and takes itself entirely too seriously. However, there are fans of the film and the source material and this release is meant for them.
Arrow Video has unleashed two separate releases: 4K and Blu-ray. They sent me the 4K for review and it has an undeniable transfer worth checking out. Color palettes are vibrant in exterior shots along with some of the beautiful costume designs. Grain is noticeable with the dimmer scenery, but that’s almost to be expected now after watching so many transfers of older films. Two tracks are included which are DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and LPCM 2.0. While the 5.1 offers a more immersive experience, the dialogue-heavy film sounded more coherent on the 2.0.
There is a third track offered as a special feature which is a commentary by Michael Brooks and Johnny Mains. “Dissecting MARY SHELLEY’S FRANKENSTEIN” is a solid fifteen minutes delving into the changes made between the film and original novel. There are also interviews with costume designer James Acheson, composer Patrick Doyle, and make-up artist Daniel Parker. Two trailers and an image gallery are also included.
Mary Shelley is a much-revisited subject, both as a writer and her characters. There’s no doubt that the Boris Karloff version from 1931 is the most iconic version, but it does present a bit of a more sanitized take on it, probably due to the time of its release. Branagh’s take aims at the adult audience in a version that’s more dinner theater than anything else. I’m sure it works for some people, but this is not a film I’ll be revisiting often.
Despite what one might think of when it comes to the 1994 version, Arrow Video has put together an admirable transfer along with a handful of informative special features that make MARY SHELLEY’S FRANKENSTEIN worthy of a purchase for fans. To purchase your copy, go here!
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