Bride Of Frankenstein
The best horror movie in the entire history of Universal Pictures just got better. The Bride of Frankenstein remains one of the finest horror films (and also one of the best horror-comedies) ever made, and it has received a glorious new digital video transfer here. The sharpness of the picture and the crispness of the audio are all essential -- and alone would make this a perfect representation of the movie -- but the real value in this disc lies in its bonus materials. The disc features a 40-minute documentary about The Bride of Frankenstein and director James Whale, hosted by director Joe Dante and including the contributions of a half-dozen scholars and historians (and the progeny of Boris Karloff and Dwight Frye), which gives a surprising level of insight into Whale. There are a few annoying flaws -- one wishes they hadn't included the clip from Bride of Chucky to illustrate the influence of Elsa Lanchester's monster on popular culture, and also that the documentary didn't hook itself quite so often around Gods and Monsters, the fictionalized film account of Whale's career and later life. It is nicely put together overall, however, and also is highly informative when it avoids these lapses. The other major highlight of the bonus elements is the audio essay by Scott McQueen that accompanies the movie on one of the alternate soundtracks; McQueen regales viewers with information about earlier scripts for a proposed sequel, the backgrounds of various actors, cuts made in the script and in shots, elements of studio politics, and other material connected to the image on the screen. But he sometimes does it at the expense of what viewers are seeing; his narration slides right over the shot reintroducing Karloff's monster in this movie, and McQueen can talk a little too long and fast for the good of the movie. On the other hand, his depth of knowledge is astonishing -- including the names of the actors who portray Dr. Pretorius' miniature human creations in those tiny glass containers -- and one will come away from screening the narrated film completely immersed in the day-to-day history of the movie, and Universal Pictures, and Hollywood circa 1934-35. Good as the whole narration is, one must take issue with some elements of its structure; McQueen is silent for long stretches later in the movie, as though he runs out of steam, and one wishes that the audio accompaniment had been better structured, so viewers aren't quite so overwhelmed in the first part of the movie and served so intermittently in the second. The Bride of Frankenstein Archive shows stills, lobby cards, and other visuals associated with the movie to the accompaniment of Franz Waxman's score, and there are detailed onscreen production histories and cast biographies. There's enough on The Bride of Frankenstein here to keep even the casual viewer having fun for a week. The menu is easy to utilize, though one wishes that the DVD went to it first and not automatically to the movie.