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Blu-ray Edition a Major Disappointment
on October 13, 2008
As much as I love this movie, I'm going to have to give this Blu-ray edition only two stars, due to the absurdly excessive grain. Before you jump to the conclusion that I'm clueless on the issue, let me tell you I'm well acquainted with the fact that grain is a feature of the medium itself, and that Blu-ray will reveal more of this grain than what we're used to. But natural grain is not what I'm talking about here, nor am I talking about any intentional stylized black & white effects. On this disc, some error in the transfer exaggerated the grain, burying the image beneath a layer of teeming dots.
As fans of this movie who saw it in theaters might recall, there are a few scenes in which the graininess of the picture abruptly changes, in instances in which the camera zooms in for a freeze-frame close-up (e.g., when Frederick and Igor first meet). The reason the grain changed is because the zoom is an optical effect achieved in editing. An image was magnified by some process, and the film grain in the original print becomes more apparent as it, too, is magnified. But in this Blu-ray edition, the film is so suffused with speckled noise, the effect of the shift in grain is completely lost. What it means is, this inserted level of grain is eclipsing the original textures. The close-ups are passable, because the size of the overall image offsets the relative size of the squiggling flecks. However, scenes shot from further away are like monochrome impressions in pointillism. Black and gray particles wriggled in the lighter areas in such bold relief that it completely undermined the picture sharpness and contrast.
Do NOT believe what you might be reading elsewhere, in some reviews by critics laboring under the impression that this graininess was an intentional effect. While the cinematographer certainly set out to mimic the style of the Frankenstein classics, excessive coarse grain was never a feature of those old films. This grain is a flaw. In transferring the film to the Blu-ray format, a sharpen-image feature similar to that found in common photo software was applied. You can apply this option only so far, and when overused, the edges become hard. If you apply it to, say, a grainy photograph, the grain of which in the original is a natural feature, all of the details are hardened to the point that the grain itself becomes a bespeckled layer. It becomes too pronounced, sitting in front of the image instead of comprising it. This transfer was degraded by the overzealous application of an image-sharpening tool. And while this next accusation can't be supported with proof, I don't think the original negative was used for this transfer. Nowhere on the packaging is it stated that it was digitally remastered. Instead, the studio upconverted the same digital material used in the previous SD edition. That's what the squiggling grain looks like to me, poor upconversion. The flecks are simply too large to be actual natural grain. The sharpening made it look different, and your BDP and HDTV will further account for a difference, but it won't be the difference resulting from a faithful transfer.
For some fans, the special features will be worth the price, but for me, the extras aren't enough to overlook this travesty. Nothing I've written here is an exaggeration. Take note that among the reviews here, mine is the first one written after having actually seen THIS edition. Let's see what others after me will have to say.