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  • The Skull (1965) Blu-ray Review

    The Skull (1965)

    Director: Freddie Francis

    Starring: Peter Cushing, Patrick Wymark, Nigel Green, Jill Bennett, Michael Gough, George Coulouris & Christopher Lee

    Released by: KL Studio Classics

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Based on a story by Robert Bloch (Psycho), The Skull centers on occult antiquities collector Dr. Christopher Maitland (Peter Cushing, Horror of Dracula) whose encounter with the skull of the Maquis de Sade proves frightening.  Forewarned of its effects by friend and former owner of the dreaded remains, Matthew Phillips (Christopher Lee, The Curse of Frankenstein), Maitland’s livelihood quickly becomes threatened by the skull’s evil forces.

    A supernatural mystery produced by noted Hammer competitor Amicus Productions, The Skull is a stylishly eerie effort from British genre titan Freddie Francis (The Evil of Frankenstein, Tales from the Crypt) that utilizes atmosphere and improvisational knowhow to its advantage.  Following a historically earlier pre-title sequence where a grave robber’s excavation of the Maquis de Sade’s cranium leaves him dead from an unknown presence, The Skull’s modern day London setting introduces occult collector Dr. Christopher Maitland whose pricy offering of the very same specimen by a shady dealer proves far too expensive albeit, very intriguing to the curious researcher.  Learning the item was stolen from a fellow colleague who was glad to be free of it, warnings of its evil capabilities fall on Maitland’s deaf ears, prompting him to retrieve it after the thieving dealer is unexplainably killed.  Casting a spell of madness and nightmarish hallucinations upon on its new owner, Maitland’s terrifying firsthand experience with the skull reveals its true potential to the previously skeptical scholar.  Headlining the feature with expected grace, Peter Cushing sells his descent into terror with a conviction memorably showcased during a particularly nail biting nightmare sequence of forced Russian roulette.  Appearing in a guest starring role, Christopher Lee’s small but welcome inclusion as a rare non-villain gives an added class to the film’s ghoulish festivities while, Francis’ resourceful direction, demonstrated in the film’s frantic and virtually dialogue-free final act, is overwhelmingly suspenseful regardless of the “floating” skull’s noticeably seen wires.  An early chapter in Amicus’ horror history, The Skull remains an effectively strong picture of its creepy caliber with its direction earning the most praise of all.

    KL Studio Classics presents The Skull with a 1080p transfer, preserving its 2.35:1 aspect ratio.  Bearing noticeable signs of scuffs and speckles throughout its runtime, colors also appear occasionally drab while, skin tones and delicate facial features revealing aging lines and acne scars are well-detailed.  Meanwhile, black levels are mediocre yet, costume textures and the many artifacts spotted in Maitland’s library are agreeable.  Although a fresh scan would have been appreciated, the results remain quite adequate.  Equipped with a rather flat but serviceable DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is handled sufficiently while an early encounter between Maitland and Marco, the sleazy dealer, registers slightly lower.  Scoring cues are decent but lacking oomph with a mild layer of hiss detected.  Special features include, an expertly researched Audio Commentary with Film Historian Tim Lucas, Jonathan Rigby on The Skull (24:14) and Kim Newman on The Skull (27:18), both of which offer encyclopedic insight into Amicus Productions, its founders, Freddie Francis and Robert Bloch’s original short story making each featurette invaluable compliments to the film.  Furthermore, The Skull: “Trailers from Hell” with Joe Dante (2:36) and additional Trailers for Tales of Terror (2:21), The Oblong Box (1:56), Madhouse (1:48), House of the Long Shadows (2:27) and The Crimson Cult (2:03) are also provided alongside Reversible Cover Art.

    A well recommended Amicus offering, The Skull brings some of gothic cinema’s finest faces together for chilling thrills and consummate direction from Freddie Francis making it a technical sight to appreciate given the film’s originally less than solid screenplay.  Possession, death and the black arts reign wildly in this nightmare come to life with a most fascinating selection of supplements making KL Studio Classics’ upgrade of the film an easy choice for fan’s unholy collections.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available now from KL Studio Classics, The Skull can be purchased via KinoLorber.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016) Blu-ray Review

    Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)

    Director: Gareth Edwards

    Starring: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn, Donnie Yen, Mads Mikkelsen, Alan Tudyk, Jiang Wen & Forest Whitaker

    Released by: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    During a time of ruthless Imperial rule, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story finds an unlikely band of heroes headed by the daring Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones, The Theory of Everything) and rebel spy Cassian Andor (Diego Luna, The Terminal) as they plot to steal the coveted plans to the Empire’s most destructive weapon, the Death Star.  Ben Mendelsohn (Una), Donnie Yen (Ip Man), Mads Mikkelsen (Doctor Strange), Alan Tudyk (Frozen), Jiang Wen (The Sun Also Rises) and Forest Whitaker (Arrival) costar.

    Marking the first of many planned stand-alone films in the popular sci-fi saga, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story delivers an action-packed and emotionally riveting tale based on a crucial footnote, often referred to but never explored in the film universe on such a profound scale.  Following the murder of her mother and capturing of her scientist father (Mikkelsen) fifteen years ago, Jyn Erso, resorting to petty theft and anything else to survive in the war-ravaged world the Empire has fashioned, is rescued from incarceration by rebels with an imperative message from her thought to be dead father, Galen Erso.  Using his brilliance to design the Empire’s most invaluable weapon for total domination, Galen alerts Jyn of the Death Star’s near completion and its sole vulnerability.  Aided by rebel officer Cassian Andor and the series’ most hilariously blunt droid to date, K-2SO (Tudyk), to retrieve the elder Erso in an effort to assist the Alliance, Jyn must scour distant and dangerous worlds, confront old foes and ensure the plans to the Death Star are captured in a mission built entirely on hope and outnumbered by the odds.  

    A far riskier endeavor than its previous Episode-connected installment, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story forges on with an adventure, visually and thematically, engrained in the spirit of Lucas’ franchise-starting wave of films.  Grittier and focusing on a new breed of unlikely and richly diverse heroes that come together to aid Jyn’s deathly mission, the prequel to A New Hope flourishes with stunning visual effects and a groundbreaking achievement that resurrects the deceased Peter Cushing’s likeness to reprise his role as Grand Moff Tarkin.  As strong and appealing as these new rebels including, the determined Jyn and blind Force believer Chirrut Îmwe (Yen) are individually, their chemistry as a unit lacks and is a far cry from the charming connections seen between the stars of George Lucas’ original trilogy.  While character development issues, also present in his 2014 Godzilla reboot are repeated here, Director Gareth Edwards handles the wealth of the narrative with a steady hand and an obvious appreciation for the detailed universe.  Complimented by a distinct yet familiar score by Michael Giacchino (Tomorrowland, Doctor Strange) that seamlessly taps into John Williams’ beloved themes and featuring the most viciously exciting appearance by Darth Vader on film yet, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, although leading to an unavoidably predictable finale, is a thrilling journey into the galaxy’s past that stands strongly on its own merits.

    Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment presents Rogue One: A Star Wars Story with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.39:1 aspect ratio.  Immaculately handled, the digital photography detailing the various planet landscapes and colder color textures seen early in the film make for a flawlessly crisp picture.  Furthermore, skin tones are naturally preserved with the deepest of black levels observed during high-flying space battles, death trooper armor and of course, Darth Vader’s iconic garb.  A picturesque high-definition experience on all fronts, the Force is triumphantly strong with this transfer.  Equipped with a fittingly perfect DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix that delivers dialogue with the swiftest of precision, Michael Giacchino’s swelling score boldly supports the spectacular visuals while, the whizzing sounds of TIE fighters, X-wings and explosive laser blasts all make reference-worthy statements on the track.

    Respectably stocked and presented on a separate disc, supplements found under The Stories banner include, A Rogue Idea (9:00) that finds ILM’s John Knoll discussing how he came up with the film’s concept that would ultimately launch the Star Wars stand-alone projects, Jyn: The Rebel (6:16) explores the lead character’s traits and backstory with insight from Actress Felicity Jones, Cassian: The Spy (4:14) hosts Actor Diego Luna as he discusses Cassian’s own complexities being a hero against immeasurable odds, K-2SO: The Droid (7:43) details the technical process bringing the droid to life through Alan Tudyk’s performance, Baze & Chirrut: Guardians of the Whills (6:20) digs deeper into the characters’ backstories and the Chinese superstars playing them, Bodhi & Saw: The Pilot & The Revolutionary (8:35) finds Academy Award winner Forest Whitaker and Riz Ahmed reflecting on their very unique roles as an extremist rebel leader and Imperial pilot gone rogue while, The Empire (8:18) gives a revealing look into the film’s antagonists, Visions of Hope: The Look of Rogue One (8:24) explores the production’s challenge with making a film that could visually fit into the realm of the original trilogy’s appearance, The Princess & The Governor (5:49) sheds light on the impressive movie magic that brought a younger Princess Leia and Governor Tarkin back to the big-screen and Epilogue: The Story Continues (4:15) finds the filmmakers and cast reflecting on the experience with footage from the film’s world premiere included.  In addition, Rogue Connections (4:31) points out all the Easter eggs and references to other films in the Star Wars universe found in the film with a DVD edition and Digital HD Code concluding the bonus feature offerings.

    Following up on the momentum of The Force Awakens, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story successfully charts a new course in a universe of stand-alone features that overwhelmingly soars on its first flight.  Minor character development hiccups aside, the prequel invites viewers back to a familiar world, this time told via strangers eyes, who win the affections of its audience through compelling performances and mesmerizing visual effects.  While its ultimate destination may be easily foreseen, the journey and near-impossible mission at hand is as exciting as one could hope for from a new chapter in the Star Wars universe.  Unsurprisingly, Disney’s high-definition presentation is a lavish-looking, reference worthy example of excellence with a serviceable amount of supplements bested only by its own Target exclusive release containing additional on-disc content and a 3D presentation.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available April 4th from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • The Vincent Price Collection II Blu-ray Review

    The Vincent Price Collection II

    Director(s): Various

    Starring: Various

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Returning from the grave once again, Scream Factory, the horror/cult offshoot of Shout! Factory, proudly presents seven more terrifying tales from the master of horror in one spine-tingling collection.  Rewarding viewers with chills and comedy like no other, Vincent Price guides fans on more gothic excursions into the unknown, complimented by a healthy assortment of bonus content just in time for the Halloween season.

    Spanning seven films across four Blu-rays, The Vincent Price Collection II continues to unearth more of Price’s esteemed classics, supplying viewers with essential content across three of the thespians most impressive decades.  Included are The Raven (1963), The Comedy of Terrors (1964), The Tomb of Ligeia (1964), The Last Man on Earth (1964), Dr. Phibes Rises Again! (1972), Return of the Fly (1959) and the William Castle classic, House on Haunted Hill (1959).

    MOVIE(s):

    • The Raven (1963): Deviating heavily from the source material, The Raven reunites Price with Producer/Director Roger Corman in yet another entry in their popular Edgar Allan Poe adaptations.  Joined by renowned performers, Peter Loree (Casablanca) and Boris Karloff (Frankenstein), The Raven takes a comedic turn as the three performers appear as competitive magicians in the 14th-century.  Price may be seen as the leading man but, it is Loree who steals the show with his endless improvisational skills and nonstop humor.  Even in his later years, Karloff shines here as the film’s antagonist, battling Price and Loree in his impressively gothic castle.  In addition, a young Jack Nicholson (As Good As It Gets) and horror icon Hazel Court (The Curse of Frankenstein) make appearances in this unusual yet, always entertaining tale of betrayal and magical dueling.  

    RATING: 4.5/5

    • The Comedy of Terrors (1963): Upping the comedic ante, Screenwriter Richard Matheson’s (The Pit and the Pendulum) story reunites Tales of Terror alumni Vincent Price, Peter Loree and Basil Rathbone in this fiendishly funny offering of a financially strapped funeral director (Price) who turns to homicide in order to generate business.  This time around, Price and Loree, serving as his lowly assistant, are on equal ground as their comedic chemistry and timing is impeccable.  Boris Karloff joins his The Raven co-stars as Price’s decrepit father-in-law supplying comic one liners.  In addition, Joyce Jameson (Death Race 2000) stuns as Price’s neglected wife who shatters household objects due to her shrieking singing voice.  While, the narrative tends to grow slightly redundant, it is Price and Loree’s efforts that keep the fun brewing.  Under the watchful eye of Director Jacques Tourneur (Cat People), The Comedy of Terrors substitutes genuine horror for hilarity in this underrated effort that allows Price to fully stretch his comedic bones.

    RATING: 4/5

    • The Tomb of Ligeia (1964): Marking the end of his long-running Poe adaptations, Producer/Director Roger Corman would ditch his tried and true gothic sets for real English countryside locations.  Although, The Tomb of Ligeia ultimately underperformed the most out of all the previous Poe films, Corman insists it is one of the best.  Re-teaming once again with Vincent Price, The Tomb of Ligeia centers on a mournful widower, Verden Fell (Price), haunted by the spirit of his former wife, Ligeia (Elizabeth Shepherd, Damien: Omen II).  As Fell finds the will to love another (also Shepherd), nightmarish visions and a sinister cat controlled by Ligeia threatens their very existence.  Filled with rich atmosphere and surreal imagery, The Tomb of Ligeia injects many abstract notions sometimes at the sake of coherent storytelling.  While, the narrative may be more complicated than necessary, The Tomb of Ligeia stands proudly as a fitting finale to Corman’s Poe films thanks to Price’s always reliable skills and Corman’s constantly moving camera, making the film a visually arresting watch.

    RATING: 4/5  

    • The Last Man on Earth (1964): Based on Richard Matheson’s classic tale, I Am Legend, The Last Man on Earth centers on Dr. Robert Morgan (Price), the lone survivor of a worldwide plague that has infected the population, morphing them into undead vampires.  Filmed on location in Rome with black and white photography, The Last Man on Earth is a simple story that rises to great heights courtesy of Price’s emotionally convincing performance.  Appearing in the rare role of the heroic protagonist, Price conjures up wonderful pathos as a man who has lost everything but, still yearns to live.  Acknowledged as one of Price’s finest performances and influential to countless filmmakers, The Last Man on Earth has spawned countless reinterpretations but, all have failed to achieve the original’s execution and unsettlingly dark mood.

    RATING: 5/5       

    • Dr. Phibes Rises Again! (1972): Awakening after three years, the dreadful Dr. Phibes (Price) lives once again for the sole purpose of resurrecting his late wife, Victoria (Caroline Munro).  Accompanied by his loyal aide, Vulnavia (the beautiful Valli Kemp replaces the equally gorgeous Virginia North), Phibes must recover his stolen papyrus scrolls needed to locate the River of Life.  As Phibes tracks the immortality obsessed thief, Biederbeck (Robert Quarry, Count Yorga, Vampire), to Egypt, the good doctor’s ingenious methods of murder follow.  Peter Jeffrey and John Cater reprise their roles as the Scotland Yard Inspectors tracking Phibes while, Peter Cushing (The Curse of Frankenstein) cameos as a ship captain.  Falling only slightly behind the original film’s uniqueness, Dr. Phibes Rises Again! manages to retain the iconic art deco appearance of its predecessor while, taking risks with its narrative.  This sequel, released only a year after the original, finds Phibes less vengeful and more determined to complete his mission of breathing life into his late wife.  Of course, Phibes has no issue ridding those who stand in his way with clever demises that incorporate scorpions and snakes.  Unsurprisingly, Price is delightful in the role as the eccentric doctor with a knack for organ playing while, Jeffrey and Cater’s dry humor inject several chuckles throughout the film.  Meanwhile, Robert Quarry makes a pleasing advisory for Phibes amidst onset hostility between the two thespians.    Ambitious and enjoyably outlandish, Dr. Phibes Rises Again! may not top the original but, throughly entertains in ways most sequels fail to.  

    RATING: 4/5

    • Return of the Fly (1959): Determined to revive his late father’s work, Phillipe Delambre (Brett Halsey), begins experimenting against the wishes of his uncle Francois (Vincent Price).  Recruiting the help of a friend and utilizing his own finances, Phillipe is successful in restoring his father’s transporter device.  When betrayal and greed arise, the past is doomed to repeat itself.  Although Price is top-billed, he is again regulated to the supporting role as the only returning cast member from the original film.  Literally lacking the color and originality of the 1958 classic, Edward L. Bernds’ (Queens of Outer Space) direction is fairly paint by numbers and does little to separate itself from its originator.  Price still charms in the capacity he’s given but, ultimately where Dr. Phibes Rises Again! succeeds in its risk-taking, Return of the Fly plummets in playing it too safe.  

    RATING: 2.5/5

    • House on Haunted Hill (1959): Considered by many to be the B-movie equivalent of Alfred Hitchcock, Producer/Director William Castle became a household name with his ingenious marketing campaigns and immersive gimmicks to draw audiences to his pictures.  Luckily, Castle not only succeeded in being a master salesman but also a competent storyteller who knew how to work a crowd.  A career milestone for Castle, 1959’s House on Haunted Hill centers on the eccentric millionaire Frederick Loren (Vincent Price), who along with his wife, Annabelle (Carol Ohmart, Spider Baby) invite five selected people to a haunted house where $10,000 will be awarded to who can survive the night of supernatural occurrences.  Littered with genuinely ghastly ghouls and nonstop jumpscares, the breezy 74-minute runtime ensures a fun time for all.  Written by longtime Castle collaborator, Robb White (Macabre, The Tingler), House on Haunted Hill presents a strong group of characters with mysterious backgrounds, keeping the audience uneasy about the guests as much as the ghosts.  An absolute riot from beginning to end, House on Haunted Hill transports viewers back to a more innocent time in moviemaking where spookhouse shenanigans were hosted by charismatic spirits such as Vincent Price.  

    RATING: 4.5/5

    VIDEO:

    All the films found in The Vincent Price Collection II arrive with 1080p transfers, sporting 2.35:1 aspect ratios with the exception of Dr. Phibes Rises Again! (1.85:1) and House on Haunted Hill (1.78:1).  Appearing with natural grain intact, all of the films relay nicely to varying degrees.  Skin tones look healthy with fine detail observed in facial features and the gothic, period wardrobe.  Colors, most appreciatively, pop best in Dr. Phibes Rises Again! with the art deco design and interesting color palette found in its costumes and during Phibes’ organ playing sequences.  For as old as the films are, instances of flakes and speckles are on sight, most noticeably in The Comedy of Terrors but, thankfully none ever overwhelm or deter the viewing experience.  Black levels are decent with respectable visibility and occasional haziness, most likely attributed to the films‘ low-budgets and underlit lighting.  Meanwhile, the black and white photography found in The Last Man on Earth, Return of the Fly and House on Haunted Hill are most impressive with inky black levels and crisp, nearly blemish-free, appearances.  Over half a century old, the films found in The Vincent Price Collection II look marvelous for their age and are unlikely to look better than this.

    RATING: 4/5

    AUDIO:

    Equipped with DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mixes, the films found in The Vincent Price Collection II always project audible dialogue but, aren’t meant to necessarily challenge the varying channels of your audio setup.  Simple in their execution, moments of suspense and screaming terror benefit from the added oomph in each mix while, the various scores and musical cues occasionally register too sharply but, generally please.  Each film sounds as rich as possible with no major hiccups to speak of.  

    RATING: 3.5/5

    EXTRAS:

    In addition to a comprehensive 32-page collector’s booklet that includes gorgeous production photos from each film and a must read essay by Film Historian David Del Valle,  the bonus features found in The Vincent Price Collection II are as follows:

    The Raven (1963):

    • Introduction and parting words by Vincent Price
    • Audio Commentary with Author/Film Historian Steve Haberman: newly recorded.
    • Richard Matheson Storyteller: The Raven (6:37)            
    • Corman’s Comedy of Poe (8:13)
    • Promotional Record (5:41)
    • Theatrical Trailer (2:26)
    • Still Gallery: 67 in total.

    The Comedy of Terrors (1963):

    • Introduction and parting words by Vincent Price
    • Richard Matheson Storyteller: The Comedy of Terrors (9:35) 
    • Theatrical Trailer (2:32)
    • Still Gallery: 38 in total.

    The Tomb of Ligeia (1964):

    • Introduction and parting words by Vincent Price
    • Audio Commentary with Producer/Director Roger Corman
    • Audio Commentary with Actress Elizabeth Shepard, moderated by Roy Frumkes: newly recorded.
    • Audio Commentary with Film Historian Constantine Nasr: newly recorded.
    • Theatrical Trailer (2:28)
    • Still Gallery: 28 in total.

    The Last Man on Earth (1964):

    • Audio Commentary with Film Historian David Del Valle and Author Derek Botelho: newly recorded.
    • Richard Matheson Storyteller: The Last Man on Earth (6:24)
    • Still Gallery: 66 in total.

    Dr. Phibes Rises Again! (1972):

    • Theatrical Trailer (2:08)
    • Still Gallery: 75 in total.

    Return of the Fly (1959):

    • Audio Commentary with Actor Brett Halsey & Film Historian David Del Valle: newly recorded.
    • Theatrical Trailer (2:39)
    • TV Spot (2:39)
    • Still Gallery: 18 in total.

    House on Haunted Hill (1959):

    • Audio Commentary with Author/Film Historian Steven Haberman: newly recorded.
    • Vincent Price: Renaissance Man (27:20)
    • The Art of Fear (12:13)
    • Working with Vincent Price (15:26)
    • Introductory Price (13:16)
    • Theatrical Trailer (1:40)
    • Still Gallery: 23 in total.
    • Vincent Price Trailer Collection (19:27): Includes House of Wax, The Conqueror Worm, The Abominable Dr. Phibes, House of Usher, Masque of the Red Death, The Pit and the Pendulum, The Tingler and The Fly.

    RATING: 4.5/5

    OVERALL:

    Continuing to carve out the illustrious legacy of Vincent Price’s body of work, Scream Factory has once again served fans with one of the best releases of the year.  The Vincent Price Collection II welcomes seven more of Price’s memorable films in gorgeous looking transfers, joined with a hefty amount of bonus content for fans to enjoy.  Undeniably, Vincent Price is one of horror’s most iconic talents and this remarkable collection is essential viewing, perfectly suited for the spookiest time of the year.

    RATING: 5/5

    The Vincent Price Collection II is available now can be purchased through Shout! Factory, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Frankenstein Created Woman (1967) Collector's Edition Blu-ray Review


    Frankenstein Created Woman (1967)
    Director: Terence Fisher
    Starring: Peter Cushing, Susan Denberg, Thorley Walters, & Robert Morris
    Released by: Millennium Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Continuing their successful Frankenstein franchise, Hammer debuted their fourth outing in 1967.  Peter Cushing returns to one of his most memorable roles as Baron Frankenstein with noted Hammer Director Terence Fisher (Horror of Dracula, The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll) conducting the show.  Drenched in gothic atmosphere and a rather unconventional plot, Frankenstein Created Woman dared to inject a fresh take into their already successful series.  Often criticized for not being on par with previous installments, Frankenstein Created Woman is the latest Hammer film to receive the collector’s edition treatment from Millennium Entertainment.  It lives again so let’s take a closer look at this execution in Hammer horror...

    Frankenstein Created Woman stars Peter Cushing (The Mummy, Twins of Evil) as Baron Frankenstein.  Amidst experimenting with the transferring of souls, a tormented girl, Christina (Susan Denberg in her final film appearance), drowns herself after learning her lover has been framed for murder and sentenced to death.  Using his unorthodox methods to bring Christina back from the grave, Frankenstein succeeds and simultaneously places her lover’s soul in her body.  Driven by rage and madness, Christina extracts revenge on those responsible for her lover’s death.  Anthony Hinds (The Phantom of the Opera) provides the screenplay while Thorley Walters (Vampire Circus) and Robert Morris (Five Millions Years to Earth) co-star.

    MOVIE:
    Following in the footsteps of their gothic atmosphere and sexy starlets, Hammer continued to bring new life to the monsters famously ushered into the mainstream courtesy of Universal Studios in the 1930s and 40s.  The Frankenstein franchise was one of Hammer’s strongest and most popular assets beginning in 1957 with their first color horror film,The Curse of Frankenstein.  As the series trekked on, it found itself Christopher Lee-less but still within the good company of Peter Cushing returning as Baron Frankenstein.  By 1967, Hammer debuted their fourth outing in the series with Frankenstein Created Woman, a highly debated film amongst Hammer aficionados.  While, the finely tuned gothic tone that Hammer had perfected is in touch, Frankenstein Created Woman is unquestionably unique compared to previous installments.  A pre-title sequence showcases a young boy witnessing the death of his father by guillotine.  Many years later, Hans Werner (Robert Morris), the young boy who witnessed the graphic ordeal, is assisting Baron Frankenstein (Cushing) and Dr. Hertz (Thorley Walters) in a soul trapping experiment.  In love with the disfigured Christina (Susan Denberg), Hans is engaged in a fight with three wealthier men who bring nothing but trouble to Christina’s fathers inn.  After drunkenly stumbling around, the three men find themselves breaking back into the inn until Christina’s father catches them.  The men panic and beat the elderly man to death before escaping in a rush.  As the son of a murderer, Hans is framed for the crime and sentenced to death.  Distraught with grief, Christina drowns herself only to have Frankenstein and Hertz recoup their bodies.  Instilling his soul theory, Frankenstein successfully transfers Hans‘ soul into Christina’s now undeformed body giving life to her.  Gorgeous as ever, Christina slowly begins to extract revenge on those responsible for both deaths.

    Frankenstein Created Woman takes a unique stance as it has no disfigured creature menacing the characters.  Furthermore, the film takes nearly an hour to showcase Frankenstein’s theories put to the test only to create horrific results.  Admittedly, these are not hopeful signs for a quality Frankenstein film but interestingly enough, the film casts a delightful spell on the audience.  The very core of the film is founded upon the tragic love story between Christina and Hans.  Christina’s deformity and partial paralyzation makes her the typical image of Frankenstein’s monster.  Sweet and soft-spoken, Christina is far from a monster but society treats her as such with bar patrons insulting her appearances.  Hans’ unquestionable love for Christina injects the two with a sense of ecstasy until the murder of Christina’s father is pinned on Hans.  Society’s wrongful sentencing and death of Hans along with Christina’s suicide are the true monsters of the film.  Resurrected by Frankenstein, Christina, looking as beautiful as the highest of societies members, is guided by Hans’ soul to take revenge against those who wronged them.  Flirtatious and desirable, Christina uses her looks to con her fathers’ actual murderers.  Swift and deadly, Christina savagely murders the men when they are least expecting it.  Appearing as an attractive woman, Christina is now just a grim reflection of the heinous society that ended her and Hans’ life.  Struggling to save her, Frankenstein is too late as Christina is far too aware of her acts and ends her life yet again.  Frankenstein Created Woman may not be the Frankenstein film you’d expect, but it’s far smarter than many give credit to.  Always reliable, Peter Cushing serves up another entertaining performance as Baron Frankenstein while the love story between Christina and Hans is the true bread and butter of this film.  Frankenstein Created Woman may not be the finest Frankenstein installment, but it’s certainly more underrated than deserved.  
    RATING: 4/5

    VIDEO:
    Millennium Entertainment presents Frankenstein Created Woman in a 1080p transfer (2.35:1).  Colors are nicely represented with fine detail seen in actors‘ clothing as well as the perspiration seen on Cushing’s face.  Minor instances of flakes and specks appear in the opening shots before stabilizing to a nice, clear picture.  The grain structure for this 47-year-old film is well maintained with only one minor hiccup in picture quality during one of Christina’s final murders.  Overall, Millennium Entertainment has done a fine job transferring this underrated gem for the HD generation.
    RATING: 4/5

    AUDIO:
    Equipped with a Dolby Digital 2.0 mix, Frankenstein Created Woman is quite sufficient with dialogue nicely projected and various background noises picked up clearly.  No noticeable hiss or pops intruded on the listening experience.  The mix gets the job done without overselling its role.
    RATING: 3.5/5

    EXTRAS:

    - Audio Commentary with Actors Derek Fowlds & Robert Morris moderated by Hammer Expert Jonathan Rigby

    - Frankenstein Created Woman Trailer

    - World of Hammer: The Curse of Frankenstein: This episode from the 1990s television show focuses on Hammer’s Frankenstein films with various clips included.

    - World of Hammer: Peter Cushing: A second episode is included focusing on one of Hammer’s most esteemed players and his career.

    - Hammer Glamour: This newly-produced 44 minute documentary shines a light on the sexy starlets that gave Hammer their iconic look.  Vera Day (Quatermass II: Enemy from Space), Caroline Munro (Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter), Jenny Hanley (Scars of Dracula) and more provide insightful interviews.

    - Animated Still Gallery

    - Exclusive Collectible Cards

    RATING: 4.5/5

    OVERALL:
    Frankenstein Created Woman is an incredibly unconventional take for Hammer’s Frankenstein franchise, but one that works quite well.  Deemed a lesser entry in the series, Frankenstein Created Woman is fearless in its execution and supplies a tragic love story at its root.  Peter Cushing, Susan Denberg and Robert Morris are wonderful in their roles and convey all the emotion needed to make this an underrated gothic gem.  Millennium Entertainment’s second HD Hammer release sports a terrific video presentation, an adequate audio mix and a superb assortment of extras, most notably the new Hammer Glamour documentary.  Frankenstein Created Woman is far from perfect but taps into the much beloved Hammer tropes while presenting something fresh.  Underrated for far too long, Millennium Entertainment’s release of Frankenstein Created Woman deserves to be resurrected and placed in your collection today.
    RATING: 4/5