Director: Kenneth Brannagh
Written by: Steph Lady,Frank Darabont
Starring: Kenneth Brannagh, Robert De Niro, Tom Hulce, Helena Bonham Carter, Aidan Quinn, Ian Holm
Country: United States / United Kingdom
Running Time: 123m
BBFC Certificate: 15
Releasing in 1994, two years after Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula, the Kenneth Brannagh directed Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein promised to do just what its predecessor did – present a more accurate cinematic adaptation of a classic gothic horror novel that had previously been tackled by studios such as Universal and Hammer, with a more period set feel and a story that hews closer to that of the original book. For better or worse, it achieves that goal.
Coppola’s Dracula was a curious beast on release; featuring an incredibly uneven cast including Keanu Reeves with an awkward British accent, it nevertheless proved to be a hit with audiences, and the Coppola produced Frankenstein generated a good buzz before it hit. Make no mistake, though; while Coppola’s name is on the list of producers, this is very much Brannagh’s film. Gone are the eccentricities of Dracula, replaced here with a curious blend of gothic horror and costume melodrama.
The mostly British cast is very much a parade of 90’s luvvies, with Brannagh taking on the titular role, supported by the likes of Helena Bonham Carter, Ian Holm and Celia Imrie. The main cast spend most of the first half of the film swooning around stately homes in posh dresses and suits while Brannagh’s hyperactive camera swoops around giving the audience motion sickness – yes, there are certainly echoes of this film in the directors 2011 Marvel movie, Thor and anyone who liked that films love for whooshy camera moves and dutch tilts will be at home here.
That’s not to say Frankenstein is a film without its charms, however; Brannagh is clearly coming at this from the angle of a director more suited to the stage, so its lavish sets and costume design give the film an air of theatrical authenticity, and the overall gothic feel sets it apart from the Hammer and Universal takes, while Patrick Doyle’s score evokes a grand 80’s/90’s horror vibe. It’s Robert De Niro as the creature who steals the show here, however, delivering a subtle and nuanced performance as the hulking brute that Frankenstein breathes life into.
Gorehound fans of Dracula will be somewhat disappointed here, however, as the film is largely free of the red stuff. A few Grand Guignol moments do make up for that, however, and the effects and makeup look fabulous.
Overall, revisiting Frankenstein nearly 30 years later, it is neither a hit nor a miss. It certainly looks the part with production values to show and an impressive cast, but the melodrama and rarely static cinematography make it a chaotic film to watch. It is a closer adaptation of the novel, however, and its run time of slightly over 2 hours is tight enough to keep viewers entertained.
This new transfer from Arrow brings the film to 4K for the first time, but the results are unfortunately mixed. While the HDR makes the colours in the sets and costumes pop, the image seems to miss details in some shots with a disappointingly soft image at times. This however seems to occur only early on in the film so it’s entirely possible that this was an artistic decision on the production.
- 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
Fans of the film will want to pick up this brand new release from Arrow for its bonus features. There’s a bevvy of new interviews and featurettes on both the making of the film and the origins of the novel. Of particular interest here is a 2K restoration of the 1910 silent film adaptation of the story, a curio but a brilliant addition to the set from Arrow.