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Winner of the 1998 Academy Award for writing, director Bill Condon has created a film that can stand on its on two feet and highlights the brilliant acting talents of Ian McKellen, Brendan Fraser and Lynn Redgrave.

Gods and Monsters
This film begins in 1957, when the director of such films as Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein, James Whale (McKellen), returns home from the hospital after suffering a stroke. Because of the stroke, Whale is experiencing a flood of memories from his childhood and from his early days as an adult and is having a hard time dealing with them. Helping out with things is Whale’s loyal housekeeper, Hannah (Redgrave), who has hired a young man, Clayton Boone (Fraser), to help keep the garden and lawn in tip-top shape.

As Whale discovers the new employee, he is extremely interested in the young man, while Boone is also curious about Whale. The two men forge an unlikely friendship that will prove to test the boundaries and limits of any relationship.

McKellen is outstanding as the aging James Whale. His performance is nothing short of genius with an enormous amount of honesty. He shows us the loneliness Whale felt and his desire to share the end of his life with another human being, someone he can connect with. McKellen, who has had several roles in theatre and film

Fraser too delivers what I believe is his best performance in any of his films. Which in all honesty, when Fraser picks films such as Dudley Do Right or The Mummy Returns, it’s easy to see why this is his best role. He acts with strong conviction and curiosity about an older, wiser man who may be able to teach him about the finer things in life. His emotional range as an actor is put on display in this film, and he has certainly garnered a new respect from me in part because of this role. He needs to continue to choose roles such as this, which will enable him to use his talents as an actor. A fine performance!

Gods and Monsters is presented in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio, and looks simply spectacular. The picture quality is extremely sharp, while the colours are magnificently defined. Much of the black shadows in several frames of this film are extremely strong, yet not over bearing. The colours are well defined and rich.  Overall, this transfer is near perfect, I did not notice any specks or minor film flaws that would distract you from enjoying this film.

Gods and Monsters
Presented in Dolby Surround sound, the track is not exactly one that I would use as a demo disc for any of my friends. However, this film is very much driven by its dialogue. Some sequences, which involve flashback scenes, are somewhat powerful and do put the surrounds to use, which sound absolutely amazing. Overall, the audio on this disc is very clear and concise with very little distortion.

Universal has released this DVD edition as a “collector’s edition”, but it doesn’t really warrant that tag. I can think of a few extra things the studio could have tacked on to make it really stand out as a superior release. With that said, the only things included here are a documentary, theatrical trailer, a commentary and biographies of the actors involved.

First up, an extremely informative and invigorating commentary by director Bill Condon. Because I enjoyed this film so much, this commentary track was a definite must and thankfully it was there. Condon explains the film making process, how he likes to direct a picture and how this project was finally brought to the big screen. If you are a fan of commentaries, this one is a must listen!

Next, a documentary whose subject matter is none other than James Whale. It discusses his life and work. Interesting indeed, and worth a view,

Finally, Universal gives us DVD fiends a theatrical trailer of the film and biographies of the actors and director.

Gods and Monsters
Gods and Monsters is one of those films of which it received critical praise, yet not a lot of people ran out to see it. It’s unfortunate really because some of the garbage that is pumped out of Hollywood that becomes a huge hit don’t deserve to be, yet some glorious films don’t quite reach the audience one might have wished they did. Blame it on the title, marketing, or just bad timing, I strongly recommend this film. The story is tight, the acting superior and the experience fabulous.

Universal has presented a DVD that is outstanding in terms of video transfer and audio tracks, yet the extra features could have been pumped up a little more. Don’t be scared, Gods and Monsters doesn’t scare nor does it bite.