I (finally) received the Australian region B Blu-ray/DVD combo of "Frankenstein And The Monster From Hell" today in the US. The Blu-ray is not region locked.
VERY surprised how decent this release looks compared to the numerous older dvd (and Japanese laserdisc!) releases I have. Previously, the German Anolis dvd release, soft though the image is compared to the better looking but edited US Paramount DVD was the best and certainly most complete cut of this movie to own, but I can happily say the new Blu-ray makes the Anolis dvd obsolete.
First off, this release is completely uncut. Even the scene of the asylum director getting his throat slashed by the monster is complete (the Anolis dvd was about a second shorter during the close-up of the director's bloody throat). Better yet, the overall quality of the source and transfer is a vast improvement over every previous home video release.
The opening credits scene are fairly grainy due to the day for night/film stock used but once the scene shifts to the daylight countryside as depicted via model work and glass matte painting, the rich colors and detail are really a revelation for anyone used to the older home video releases. The only time the movie looks perhaps excessively grainy is the darker scenes, which I attribute to the photography, not the encoding or the fact that this is a 1080i transfer. Otherwise, it looks very crisp, has accurate colors, digitally unmolested and film-like.
The framing is listed as 1.66:1 and compared to the Anolis dvd, there's more image info on the sides with just a sliver less off the top and bottom. The compositions look fine throughout.
The audio track is lossless 2 channel LPCM stereo. There are no subtitles.
There's four bonus features, a short about director Terence Fisher narrated by his daughter, a short about the making of the film, a stills gallery and a commentary track by two of the actors, Shane Briant and Madeline Smith as well as Hammer historian/author Marcus Hearn. All said, the supplementary material is brief but surprisingly thorough in painting a picture of the circumstances this film was made.
The movie itself is essentially Hammer Film's swan song to their classic, uniquely "Hammer-esque" gothic style they invented, nurtured and perhaps clung to far past it's shelf live from '57 to '74. Many of the people most associated with the best of Hammers gothics were brought back for this film, primarily director Terence Fisher, actor Peter Cushing, James Bernard for the score and numerous other actors in smaller parts who were in Hammer productions dating back to "Horror Of Dracula" (Charles Lloyd Pack). Watching the film knowing that this was Hammer's last decent gothic and knowing that the cast and crew probably knew this was the end of the road for the studio gives the film a added undercurrent of finality that compliments the downbeat film itself.
The story is simple - a doctor of surgery who is a devotee of Frankenstein's theories is caught and sentenced to an asylum. Also confined to that asylum if Baron Frankenstein himself who is basically running the place and procuring bodies, limbs and organs of dead inmates to make his latest creature, which turns out to be an ape-like, guttural creature (in a terrible costume) who through a series of events meets a tragic but predictable fate.
In my opinion, Frankenstein And The Monster From Hell is not the best in the Hammer Frankenstein series in any way. What elevates this admittedly cheap looking production is especially Fisher's direction and Peter Cushing's acting which add layer upon layer of subtext and irony in every scene. This is a film where the beauty is in the details. However, I think it's the most rewarding as far as repeated viewing to pick apart the delightful nuances woven through the film due both to the art and craft of those involved as well as the unique drama surrounding the personal lives of the principles, most in the twilight of their careers and the final chapter of Hammer studios gothic glory.