In 1931, director James Whale created Frankenstein, a genre-preceding horror classic based on the horror novel by Mary Shelley. While the novel deals more with psychological issues, such as what makes a person human, Whale emphasizes the horror aspects of the story thanks to a brilliant set and the successful monster make-up by Jack P. Pierce.
Together with his assistant Fritz, physician Dr. Henry Frankenstein works in a remote laboratory to create a new human being. Composed of body parts he has stolen from graves and the brain of a demented murderer, Frankenstein finally brings the being to life on a stormy and thundery night. That night, Elisabeth, Frankenstein's fiancée, and their mutual acquaintance Victor arrive at his laboratory with Frankenstein's doctor father Waldman. Elisabeth was worried due to Frankenstein's long absence, then shows herself horrified by the monster Frankenstein has created. Waldman, who had been critical of Frankenstein's experiments, is fascinated by his creature. When Frankenstein collapses, exhausted from his work, and his assistant Fritz is killed by the creature, he recognizes the danger and leaves Waldman to kill the creature. But the monster manages to break free and causes an uproar among the population. Armed with torches and pitchforks, they manage to drive the monster to an old windmill....
The sequel, Bride of Frankenstein, picks up directly where the first part left off, but ignores its re-shot ending, in which Frankenstein survives the fall from the mill and is nursed back to health at his father's home.
One rainy evening, Lord Byron sits with Mary Shelley and her husband Percy. Byron is delighted by Mary's story about Frankenstein, who immediately confesses to him that it is not yet over. Frankenstein has survived the fall from the windmill badly injured. When the angry villagers have gone back, the parents of the killed Maria want to look for the monster's body to really make sure that it has been destroyed. To their tragic shock, the monster has survived. The villagers manage to capture the creature and put it in chains, but this safety is short-lived. The monster manages to free itself and meets the hut of a hermit in the forest. From him, it learns to speak a few words. Meanwhile, Frankenstein is visited by his former teacher Dr. Praetorius, who is obsessed with the idea of creating life. He has Elisabeth kidnapped in order to blackmail Frankenstein into helping him. Praetorius' goal is to create a female creature, which he succeeds in doing with Frankenstein's help, but when the female creature shows little interest in the monster, tragedy strikes.
James Whale, who did not want to make a sequel to Frankenstein, agreed to make a sequel after four years with the promise from Universal that he would be allowed various artistic freedoms. The result was a film that was remarkable in many respects, consistently pushing the plot forward with many ideas that were revolutionary for the time. In the third part, Son of Frankenstein, Baron Wolf follows in his father's footsteps and breathes new life into the still intact monster.
After the death of his father, Baron Wolf von Frankenstein returns to Germany with his wife Elsa and their son Peter to take up his inheritance. The villagers are critical of him, as they associate much misfortune with the name Frankenstein. Only the policeman Krogh is sympathetic to Wolf. In the ruins of the laboratory dwells Ygor, an outcast from the village community, Frankenstein's former assistant, who was convicted of grave desecration but survived execution on the gallows. Ygor eventually leads Wolf to a tomb containing the lifeless monster. Driven by the thought of clearing his father's name, Wolf brings the monster back to life, but the creature is under the control of Ygor, who seeks revenge against his former executioners. Startled by the new murders, the enraged populace makes its way to the Frankensteins' estate.
The third part has a little less depth than the predecessors, but with Basil Rathbone as Wolf Frankenstein, Bela Lugosi as Ygor and, for the last time, Boris Karloff as the monster, it offers an outstanding cast, who are visibly absorbed in their roles. With just under 100 minutes, it is also the longest Frankenstein film, which despite the runtime does not let boredom arise in any second.
On September 13, 2016, the Frankenstein Legacy Collection was released on Blu-ray in the US. It includes the complete Universal Frankenstein series including cross-overs and the Abbott and Costello film: Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein, Son of Frankenstein, Ghost of Frankenstein, Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, House of Frankenstein, House of Dracula, Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. Left completely unmentioned is the fact that there is a minimally adapted version of Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein on the Blu-rays. On the other hand, it is noteworthy that a longer version of the third part is included, which has not been released like this before. It is unusual that Universal has not advertised this more heavily. The differences can be summarized as follows.
At the beginning of Frankenstein, there is a scene in which Frankenstein, along with Fritz, push a wooden cart containing the stolen corpse up a hill before cutting the dead man from the gallows. On the DVD, there is a jump cut at this point. For the Blu-ray, the frame has been adjusted in that regard so that the rock in the foreground of the frame remains in the same place. Nevertheless, Frankenstein and Fritz suddenly find themselves a few meters further up the hill. The intention to conceal the jump cut did not succeed, so this admittedly small change may be considered unnecessary.
The situation is similar with Bride of Frankenstein. On the DVD, the scene in which the monster runs to the hermit's hut consists of two different shots, which for whatever reason have been inappropriately strung together, giving the impression of a jump cut. Again, on the Blu-ray, the picture has been zoomed in so that the monster is always in the same place. Ignored was a branch on the right edge of the picture, which is present in the first shot, but disappeared in the second. Another unnecessary adaptation.
Son of Frankenstein, the third part of the series, is available on the Blu-ray for the first time in a longer version. Included in it are two striking scene extensions. After the arrival of the Frankenstein family, Elsa runs to her son Peter during the thunderstorm. Later, there is a scene in which Ygor leads the monster into the crypt. In addition, there are some alternate shots with rather subtle differences. The extended scenes are from the British version of the film to which Universal apparently had access.
DVD: 74:44 min.
Comparison between the US DVD by Universal and the US Blu-ray by Universal.
The scene where the monster runs to the hermit's cabin was altered for the Blu-ray. On the DVD, this scene consists of two different shots that were somewhat awkwardly spliced together. A frame jump can be seen because the second shot was taken from a different angle. On the Blu-ray, this is why the picture was zoomed in to conceal this somewhat. However, this is only partially successful, because on the right edge of the picture, the branch of a tree suddenly disappears.
No time difference (8 sec. each)