Two Hammer classics get a deluxe Blu-ray treatment: RICHARD PHILLIPS-JONES looks at new, lavish editions of The Mummy 1959 and Frankenstein And The Monster From Hell 1974.
From opposite ends of Hammer’s golden age, Second Sight Films continue a very impressive run of archival releases with The Mummy and Frankenstein And The Monster From Hell getting the lavish treatment.
THE FILMS: The Mummy is nothing less than seminal, one of Hammer’s original big-hitters, and the natural next step after the roaring success of The Curse Of Frankenstein and Dracula. For the uninitiated, Adam Scovell reviewed the film for us HERE.
Meanwhile, I make no secret of the fact that Frankenstein And The Monster From Hell is my undisputed favourite of Hammer’s entire Frankenstein series. If you’d like to see me extol its virtues at some length, you can click HERE.
EXTRAS: The Mummy carries over the original commentary by Marcus Hearn and Jonathan Rigby, photo gallery, a promo reel (still without sound, sadly), a “Memories Of Bray Studios” extra, plus the making-of featurette, “Unwrapping The Mummy”.
New for this edition are a featurette on the film’s musical score and an overall appreciation of the film, both from Hammer scholar David Huckvale, new commentary from film academic Kelly Robinson and a book with new essays and production stills.
(Missing bonus feature from last time is the earlier Terence Fisher film Stolen Face, so it’s worth keeping hold of the earlier disc for that.)
Frankenstein And The Monster From Hell thankfully retains the fantastic commentary with Madeleine Smith and Shane Briant, the superb featurette on Terence Fisher’s (including fascinating insight from his daughter, Micky Harding) and making-of documentary Taking Over The Asylum.
Brand-new additions are a further commentary from Kat Ellinger, and David Huckvale makes another appearance with a look at the music and a general appreciation. As with the Mummy release, a book with essays and stills rounds thing off nicely, while both releases come with collectors’ art cards.
HOW DO THEY LOOK?: Both titles appear to have come from the same HD masters as the earlier issues, but these were very nice indeed so that’s no bad thing.
Worth noting: There has been much debate over how Hammer’s films should be presented on Blu-ray, since they were often shot full-frame on 35mm film (at 1.37:1 ratio), then cropped by the projectionist at cinemas which had wide screens installed (mostly at the standard European 1.66:1 ratio) – Personally, I favour the 1.66:1 ratio but the decision to include both variants should keep both sides of the argument happy.
The Mummy in particular appears to be encoded at a higher bitrate than its predecessor, and the difference is noticeable on a decent size screen – the image grain in particular seems somehow more natural and organic.
A tiny gripe: missing from the Frankenstein release is the original British Board Of Film Censors’ “Certificate X” front-card. It’s a small thing perhaps, but it was a lovely period detail, and a nice surprise on the first Blu-ray issue.
SHOULD I GET THIS?: The previous releases were nice issues in their own right but, for those who like to delve deeper into the background of these films, the additional supplementary materials must be worth serious consideration whilst the improved bitrate on The Mummy will also be an important factor for some. As a Hammer collector’s piece in themselves, the packages are well up to the expected Second Sight standards.
I imagine some will suspect me of getting back-handers from Second Sight, since I have been praising their releases so much, but the truth is the consistent quality of their output and clear loving attention paid to the presentation deserve all the plaudits. Long may they continue.
The limited editions of The Mummy and Frankenstein And The Monster From Hell are available on 29 August 2022 from Second Sight Films.