Daniel Jolley | Shelby, North Carolina USA | 05/30/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Just as Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein are the most complex and impressive of all the classic Universal monster movies, Frankenstein The Legacy Collection is the most impressive of the three Legacy Collection DVD sets. Not only do you get five classic Frankenstein's monster films, you also are treated to more numerous and significant extra features here than in the Dracula and Wolf Man Legacy Collection releases. It is difficult to compare and contrast the different Universal monsters; my personal predilection draws me to Dracula, but I daresay Frankenstein's monster is the most successful, memorable, and influential of the Dracula - Frankenstein's monster -Wolf Man triad. The first two Frankenstein films are nothing short of brilliant (although I still regret that they did not truly recreate the monster of Mary Shelley's imaginative vision), with the sequel, Bride of Frankenstein, actually going one better than the original. When you think of Universal's Dracula, you think of Bela Lugosi; when you think of The Wolf Man, you think of Lon Chaney, Jr. When you think of Frankenstein, however, you think of Boris Karloff as the monster, Colin Clive as Dr. Frankenstein, Elsa Lanchester as the Bride of Frankenstein, James Whale as the ingenious director, Jack Pierce as the legendary horror make-up artist, etc. Virtually every last detail of the first two Frankenstein films is perfect, unforgettable, and remarkably complex - the vision, the style of presentation, the iconic performances, the make-up, the special effects, everything. Not even Dracula is as memorable in half as many ways as both Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein are.Little more need be said of the first two Frankenstein films; they are the best of the Universal classics, and their complexity and appeal make them more amazing and impressive with each day that passes. But what of the other three films included here? Well, Frankenstein isn't what he used to be under Whale's direction. A lot of people seem to like Son of Frankenstein, but I see this is as the beginning of the big, dumb Frankenstein's monster stereotype that has stripped the monster of popular culture of the innocence and great human pathos that defined him early on. The film is most significant for being Karloff's last performance in the role he made his own, as the great horror actor wisely wished to have no part in the now-inevitable dumbing-down of the monster. Featuring Basil Rathbone as Baron Wolf von Frankenstein, Bela Lugosi as Ygor, the broken-necked madman who befriends and to some degree controls the monster, and Lionel Atwill as the show-stealing Inspector Krogh, Son of Frankenstein robs the creature of his ability to speak and thus denies him the moving vestige of humanity bestowed upon him in the unsurpassed Bride of Frankenstein.The Ghost of Frankenstein continues the story begun in Son of Frankenstein, this time introducing yet another Frankenstein son in the form of Dr. Ludwig Frankenstein (played most engagingly by Sir Cedric Hardwick). Incredibly, both Ygor (Lugosi) and the monster (now played by Lon Chaney, Jr.) survived the end of the previous film, and the pair set out to find yet another son of Frankenstein in hopes of restoring the monster's strength (long baths in boiling sulphur followed by radical ice therapy can get a monster down). Not surprisingly, the monster stirs up a little trouble in town, and Ludwig's attempt to undo his father's crucial mistake by replacing the monster's brain with a solid, non-criminal brain ultimately goes awry, thanks to Ygor and Ludwig's traitorous assistant Dr. Bohmer (Lionel Atwill). I actually found Ghost of Frankenstein to be a major improvement on the Son of Frankenstein storyline, although most fans seem to prefer Son of Frankenstein over this film.House of Frankenstein boasts all three of the Universal monster heavyweights: Frankenstein's monster (now played by Glenn Strange), the Wolf Man (Lon Chaney, Jr.), and Count Dracula (played by John Carradine - the world's worst Dracula). It also features Boris Karloff in the role of the mad scientist who causes all sorts of trouble. A sequel of sorts to Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, House of Frankenstein is a major disappointment in my eyes; only the Wolf Man character gets a decent treatment in this fun but rather insignificant film.The extras in this collection are wonderful. For starters, you get theatrical trailers for all the films except Son of Frankenstein, poster and photo galleries for Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein, and a discussion by Van Helsing director Stephen Sommers of the pervading influence of Universal's Frankenstein's monster in the horror movie industry. Frankenstein comes with a commentary by film historian Rudy Behlmer, while Bride of Frankenstein features commentary by film historian Scott MacQueen (one of the best commentaries I've heard). Then there are two significant feature documentaries: The Frankenstein Files: How Hollywood Made a Monster looks back through the history of the Universal Frankenstein movies, while She's Alive! Creating the Bride of Frankenstein examines the making of Bride of Frankenstein. Both of these features include wonderful interviews with the daughter of Boris Karloff and the son of Dwight Frye. Finally, there is a short film called Boo! I was clueless as to what this could be, and I am still unsure of its origins, but it is basically a slightly comical little film featuring footage from Nosferatu, Frankenstein, and at least one other film. This collection is not perfect (beware in particular a dangerous little bump in the casing beneath each DVD, as each one is just dying for the chance to scratch a disc). Still, considering how much material is included here, the Frankenstein Legacy Collection DVD set is a bargain that all Frankenstein fans would do well to snatch up. Of course, if you are interested in Dracula and the Wolf Man as well as Frankenstein's monster, look into getting the all-inclusive Monster Legacy Collection."
"I've been posting my film reviews on IMDb (Internet Movie Database), so if you're curious of my opinions on the content, see what I have to say there. I just wanted to write this to give you a warning about buying the DVDs: There's a good chance that you'll have to exchange your purchase, even multiple times.
As others have noted, there are two discs. One single sided that tends not to have any problems (Frankenstein and Bride are on that one), and the other double sided that tends to come lose during shipping and become scratched (it contains Son, Ghost, House and the bulk of the extras).
So far, I've gone through five copies of the set and I have yet to get one that works for all of the films. And the problem doesn't seem to just be scratches. The fourth copy I received didn't have a scratch on it, but Ghost of Frankenstein still got stuck at about the 35 minute mark. There seems to be a manufacturing problem with the discs. So I'm not convinced that the scratches are causing the problem. After all, I've bought other titles as used DVDs from my local rental place that look like a truck drove over them on a gravel road, and they played fine.
I initially bought the box set containing the Frankenstein, Dracula and Wolf Man Legacy collections, and each one had at least one film that was marred. I've received the second copies of Dracula and the Wolf Man, but I haven't watched all of the films in them again yet; there's a good chance the second copies will have glitches there, too, since the packaging/manufacturing is identical, as it also is on Universal's Mummy, Creature from the Black Lagoon and Invisible Man Legacy Collections. I recently bought my first sets of those three, as well, but I haven't watched any of them yet. I'm almost afraid too. At this point, I tend to watch the films with a nervous anticipation akin to checking yourself for a tumor, and you keep finding one. Not exactly an enjoyable experience, even though I love the films.
You'd think by now I'd learn and wouldn't even be bothering--after at least 7 bad sets (the five Frankensteins and the one Dracula and Wolf Man) but I want these films on DVD! I just want a copy that works!
Last time Universal released them (the late 1990s or early 2000s) they were only on the market for 18 months before they pulled the plug. I didn't buy them then, and I regretted it. They pulled the plug to eventually release these more budget-priced but cheaply made replacements that won't work! I would have gladly spent twice the amount or more for these films if I could just have DVDs that don't get stuck.
I'm far from the only one experiencing this problem, and for some others who haven't noted the problem yet, I'm wondering if they tried watching all of the films--wait until a year down the road or so when they finally think, "Let's give House of Frankenstein a chance" and then discover that it gets stuck. With the amount of returns Universal must be getting, it seems like maybe they'd revamp the packaging/manufacturing as soon as possible. They must be losing money on these, or close to it. Maybe by my 50th time returning Frankenstein, I'll get one with new packaging that isn't flawed."
Steven Hellerstedt | 02/12/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"FRANKENSTEIN - Mad scientist creates the Monster, which escapes and wreaks havoc. Boris Karloff creates an unforgettable creature, and a career, in this classic directed by James Whale. Still manages a scare or two. BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN - The Monster demands that his creator make him a mate. The best Frankenstein story, best horror movie (ever) and a landmark in world cinema. Everything works in this profound work of gothic horror. SON OF FRANKENSTEIN - Demented villager cares for the Monster while creator's son moves into father's estate. Last appearance of Karloff as the monster, SON teams him with Bela Lugosi as the Ygor with the broken neck. Doesn't have the layered depth Whale brought to the material, but a great gothic horror nonetheless. Seems to be the movie Mel Brooks borrowed most heavily from for YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN. After the original and BRIDE OF the Frankenstein franchise take a steep drop in quality. GHOST OF FRANKENSTEIN - Ygor and the Monster find son of Frankenstein and convince him to switch their brains. Lugosi reprises his role as broken-necked Ygor and Lon Chaney, Jr. takes over as the mute Monster. Silly plot - transplanting Ygor's brain into the Monster's body indicates that the franchise was running out of gas fast. A good B-movie, but not much more than that. HOUSE OF FRANKENSTEIN - Karloff plays a mad scientist who stumbles across Dracula, the Wolfman and Frankenstein's monster. Veteran stuntman Glenn Strange plays the Monster in a decidedly minor role. Another goofy brains-playing-musical-skull plot doesn't get too much in the way of things, and we're given out last opportunity to watch tortured Lawrence Talbot (Lon Chaney, Jr.) gradually transform into the Wolfman. I watched these five movies in sequence and was struck at what a great actor Karloff was. Karloff's Monster was at once more frightening, and more sympathetic, than anyone who preceded or followed him. FRANKENSTEIN and BRIDE OF... both have commentary tracks by two different film historians that are thick with detail and information and a real asset and among the best I've ever heard. Beyond the five-movies, the extras make this two disk (three sided) dvd set a great value. Besides original trailers to most of the movies, The Frankenstein Files and She's Alive! provide a wealth of information about Universal's Frankenstein - focusing primarily, and rightly, on the first two films directed by James Whale. In all, this is a great collection. Strongly recommended.
The Frankenstein Legacy
LifeMi | 05/25/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"In celebration of VAN HELSING, Universal has pulled out the classic monster movies and given them the royal treatment that has been long overdue to them. This is the FRANKENSTEIN box set, containing five of the films telling the horrific, tragic tale of the Frankenstein Monster.
1. FRANKENSTEIN (1931) Under the protection of darkness, Dr. Henry Frankenstein (Colin Clive) and his hunchback assistant Fritz (Dwight Frye) steal bodies and organs to build the doctor's dream; a man-made being. On a stormy night, with Dr. Frankenstein's mentor, Dr. Waldman (Edward Van Sloan), Victor Moritz (John Boles), and his fiancee Elizabeth (Mae Clarke) watching him, Frankenstein brings his creation to life. Unknowingly, the brain Frankenstein used was a criminal's brain. Now, the doctor must do what he can to stop the Monster (Boris Karloff) A pure classic, none the less. The atmosphere is appropriately gothic, the makeup is ingenious, the script is almost flawless, and the direction is very unique (4 closeups in a row, followed by an establishing shot). Performance wise, Clive defines the accursed doctor, Boles does what he can in his thankless role, Clarke is breathtaking as Elizabeth, Frye sets the standard for crazed assistants, Van Sloan is in strong form, and of course, Boris Karloff is in his star-winning performance as the monster. JUDGEMENT: 100
2. THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935) Though apparently killed by the burning windmill, the monster (Boris Karloff) survives, as does the good doctor (Colin Clive). Unfortunately, Dr. Pretorious (Ernest Thesiger) coerces Henry back into the realm of gods and monsters, suggesting they give the monster, who has learned how to talk, what he wants; a bride (Elsa Lancaster) James Whale has done the unthinkable. He has created a sequel that has surpassed it's legendary original. The gothic scenery, the beautiful dialogue, and the narrative is brilliant, retaining the elements of the novel and being original at the same time. Karloff delivers his greatest performance ever, Clive delivers an intensity that was unrivaled during that time, Thesiger is simply brilliant as the Dr. Hyde version of Dr. Frankenstein, Lancaster is equally beautiful as Mary Shelley as she is terrifying as the bride, and they're supported by a well-rounded supporting cast. JUDGEMENT: 100
3. SON OF FRANKENSTEIN (1939) Many many years after the "destruction" of the monster, Dr. Frankenstein's son, Wolf Von Frankenstein (Basil Rathbone) and his family have moved in to Castle Frankenstein, despite the hatred the town has for their family. Their happiness is shattered when Wolf discovers that the monster (Boris Karloff) lives in his father's laboratory. The monster's friend, Ygor (Bela Lugosi) convinces the doctor to help the monster. However, Ygor lies behind ulterior motives. While it lacks a bit in atmosphere, it certainly lives up to the previous films, with a welcome sense of sarcasm and humor. Karloff is back for the final time as the monster, once more speechless, and he delivers another fine performance. Rathbone brings some youthfulness to the franchise and a daringness that Henry Frankenstein didn't have in the first two. Atwill shines in one of his many roles in the Frankenstein films, and Lugosi nearly steals the movie in the only role that surpasses DRACULA. JUDGEMENT: 97
4. THE GHOST OF FRANKENSTEIN (1942) A few years have passed now, and the people demand that Dr. Frankenstein's abandoned laboratory be destroyed. They destroy it, but fail to kill Ygor (Bela Lugosi), who miraculously survived the wounds Wolf Von Frankenstein inflicted upon him. When the building is blown up, the Monster (Lon Chaney, Jr.) is set free. However, he is sick and requires the help of Dr. Frankenstein's 2nd son, Ludwig Von Frankenstein (Sir Cedric Hardwicke). Ludwig reluctantly agrees to help the monster, but then chooses to give this monster a good brain, one that will rid it of evil. However, Ygor has other plans. Though good, it falls behind a bit. Erle C. Kenton, though a good director, clearly lacks the style and wit of James Whale and Rowland Lee. The screenplay is good, though, and the film overall is more tense than the previous films. Hardwicke is a nice contrast from the more energetic Rathbone, Lugosi is good as always, Atwill is back in a different role, and Chaney, Jr. is trying his best to play the monster. Worth a watch. JUDGEMENT: 88
5. HOUSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1944) Dr. Gustav Niemann (Boris Karloff) escapes from prison with his assistant, Daniel (J. Carrol Naish), with the intent to find the records of Dr. Frankenstein and make his own monster. Along the way, Dr. Niemann seeks revenge against those who sent him to prison, and they also run across a gypsy woman (Belle Mitchell) who Daniel falls in love for. They also meet Count Dracula (John Carradine), Larry Talbot AKA The Wolf Man (Lon Chaney, Jr.) and Frankenstein's monster himself (Glenn Strange) Though overly silly at times and not as effective as the rest of the bunch, HOUSE is a nice addition to the franchise. Karloff, though sadly missed from his trademark role, does good here, and it's nice to see him without all that makeup for once. Naish makes his hunchback sympathetic, and Mitchell is wonderfully full of life. Chaney, Jr. is great as Talbot/Wolfman, and it's nice for him to have a love interest this time out. Carradine takes the role of Dracula and makes it his own, but he feels like an afterthought and pretty much slows the narrative down. Strange is one of the better Frankenstein monsters. Not too bad. JUDGEMENT: 76
EXTRAS There are also some really nice and informative documentaries. THE FRANKENSTEIN FILES tells you all you ever wanted to know about these films, SHE'S ALIVE! is strictly about the creation of THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN, and there is a documentary featuring the cast and crew of VAN HELSING discussing these old films. Both FRANKENSTEIN and BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN have commentaries, but they are boring and dull. A couple of trailers, a short film, and a few extras scattered around as well. JUDGEMENT: 90
OVERALL Three flawless films, one really good film, and one good yet flawed film, combined with boring commentaries, interesting documentaries, a fun short film, and Stephen Sommer's VAN HELSING documentary make for a wonderful box set that is everything that these films deserved and then some
OVERALL JUDGEMENT: 90"
Who could ask for more!!!!
Johny Bottom | Jacksonville, NC | 05/16/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I can't believe it. For twenty dollars you get five of the classic Universal Frankenstein films! The original, the Bride sequel, the Son of, the Ghost of, and the House of. This is the Boris Karloff collection, but he does not appear in 'Ghost of Frankenstein', the monster is portrayed by The Wolfman himself, Lon Cheney. Also House of Frankenstein is awesome becouse Boris is the mad scientist that succumbs to the monster. As if you need anything else, Bela Lugosi plays Igor in Son and Ghost. These are the classics that we all searched for for years. Now they are all together in an awesome package.Great price, great movies, and awesome extras. Hear from Boris' Daughter, film historians, and even Clive."