on 6 December 2013
This film was first released in 1958. It was the first of Hammer's Dracula series and the second Hammer film to feature Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee together, though Cushing gets top billing here. I have always loved this film, it is a true horror classic and one of the greatest Hammer Horrors, if not the greatest. This edition is in my mind the best version of this film released to date in this country and features two different versions of the film - the earlier BFI restored version of the film and the 2013 version. The BFI version features no extra footage, whereas the 2013 version includes extra footage in the seduction of Mina and the death of Dracula scenes, both of which are of reasonable quality. This footage was originally censored by the BBFC in 1958 and was thought to be lost forever, until it appeared in a fire-damaged Japanese print recently. Despite the damage to this footage, the restoration has eliminated most of this and so it is now quite watchable. However, I do disagree with some of the other reviews, who claim the 2013 version is inferior, because of the new blue-tinting that has been added to some of the darker scenes. This is not distracting too much to the film, though some of the detail and brightness is lost in these scenes, but I do not believe that the overall picture quality of the new version is any better or any worse than any other version of this film. I still think this is a pretty much definitive edition of the film and probably the best that we will ever see here and it is the most complete that it has ever been. So, if you love Hammer, or classic horror in general, then this is a must-buy. An almost perfect DVD/Blu-Ray set and no Hammer collection would be complete without it. A true, all-time classic. Buy it now!
on 13 March 2015
This is not a review for the actual film, if you don't know what this 1958 film is about already you wouldn't be on here.
No this is a review about Lionsgate 3 disc set of 2013.
I was uming and aring as to whether to invest in this or not as I already owned "Horror of Dracula" in Warner Brothers Hammer Horror Originals 3 box film set. But having read other reviews and the fact this promised some missing scenes I bit the bullet and bought it the other week.
WOW was I glad I did, firstly and this is a very minor BUT important thing the title IS Dracula and not the Americanised Horror of....
Then you get 2 versions (well 3 but more on that in a moment) theirs the 2007 Bfi Restoration (that Restoration NOT Remastering) for the purists out there this is as good as it gets the whole film has been cleaned up. So you get no scratches nor distortions in the picture or sound from age.
Then you get the 2012 Hammer restoration, this is the one we all wanted the one with the missing scenes in sourced from a Japanese release master copy. Now Hammer have mucked about with the colour palet a tad but IMO unlike some other reviewers I don't actually mind this it didn't upset my viewing pleasure at all. (they probably had to fiddle a bit to get as seamless insertion of the missing footage as possible)
That's the 3rd version I was on about earlier if you go on the bonus disc you will find the unrestored footage of the 4 remaining reels of the Japanese footage (its interesting to see just how bad a condition these were so as to fully appreciate the work done in the restoration) other than that its not really worth watching (unless your a film academic) as the first 5 reels are sadly missing, destroyed by fire, this does pose an interesting question however......Was there any other cut scenes available on those missing reels, tantalising if you look at the featurettes and interviews on the extras disc they do mention 3 cut scenes ( we have the seduction of Mina and the Dracula disintegration scene from the end ) but they also mention about the staking of the Vampire "bride" by Jonathan Harker now as no-one has ever seen this missing footage in living memory it is just a tantalising thought that it may have been there, sadly unless other original reels turn up from somewhere else in the world we will never definitively know the answer.
All in all this was so worth me getting (and at £8.99 new diect from amazon superb value) I may even consider upgrading some of my other DVD Hammer collection, something I had not previouslt even considered bothering with.
on 4 March 2013
I'm truly astounded to read reviews of a Blu-ray written BEFORE the film has even been released - especially the one which damns the film based purely on misleading screen-grabs and pre-emptive complaints from people with an obvious axe to grind posted on the net.
Of the reviewers here, with the exception of Matt and myself, I believe that no one else has actually watched the Blu-ray - so how they feel entitled to post a review is beyond me.
I was the person who found the extra footage in Japan and so, like Matt, I was sent a review copy which I have watched several times.
My verdict? Magnificent.
Well done Hammer.
on 22 June 2013
The moment I received my restored version of HORROR OF DRACULA in my home in Sao Paulo, Brazil, I called on the phone some special old friends of mine. They were High School companions who saw the movie with me in the 50's. They came to my place with their wives for a Reunion after so many years. It was also the occasion to screen this classic movie in the glorious original colours with all the splendour of a digital image. When we finally came to the last scene, there was a wonderful déjà-vu sensation among us. We have been watching one more time the disintegrating face of Dracula, just as it was shown at movie Theatres in Brazil 54 years ago. What happened with this movie, occurred with many other Hammer pictures which were shown originally in our Country without the usual censored cuts.
on 13 March 2013
...Four Brand-New Featurettes:
* "Dracula Reborn". New 30 min. featurette about the film's creation and history, featuring, among others: Jimmy Sangster, Kim Newman, Mark Gatiss, Jonathan Rigby and Janina Faye (Tania in the film).
* "Resurrecting Dracula". New 20 min. featurette about the film's restoration, from the BFI's 2007 restoration through to the integration of "lost" footage, featuring interviews with key staff at the BFI, Molinare and Deluxe142. Also covers the February 2012 world premiere of Hammer's interim restored version including "vox pop" interviews with fans after the event.
* "The Demon Lover: Christopher Frayling on Dracula". New 30 min. featurette.
* "Censoring Dracula". New 10 min. featurette on the original cuts to the film ordered by the British Board of Film Censors.
* New commentary by Hammer historian Marcus Hearn and author & critic Jonathan Rigby.
* All 4 surviving "Japanese reels" (6 - 9) unrestored (40 mins).
* The World Of Hammer episode: Dracula And The Undead.
* Janina Faye reading a chapter of Stoker's novel at the VAULT festival.
* Stills Gallery of over 100 fully-restored and rare images.
* Booklet by Hammer archivist Robert J. E. Simpson (PDF).
* Original shooting script (PDF).
on 2 March 2013
This is the one Hammer fans have been waiting for for years and what a package it is. Not only does the film look and sound amazing (ignore any nonsense you hear about the wrong colour)but it's uncut. Scenes that were though long lost have been found and are back in the movie. For a Hammer Lover like me this really is a dream come true.
The restoration has been done to perfection - I've never seen the film look or sound so good.The extras are top notch especially the commentary which is witty and educational. Even the fact that they used the original British Quad artwork as the cover just shows me how much care has gone into this.
I have an advanced copy that I wasn't expecting and I was like a kid at Christmas when it arrived. If you love Hammer Horror you will be too when this pops through you letterbox.
You know the movie, one of Hammer's finest (though to the true aficionado there's no such thing as truly bad Hammer movie), so there's no need to comment on that.
So this version of it then, the blu ray from Hammer/Lions Gate, how does it rate, especially after the slightly disappointing, but still essential, Curse of Frankenstein release? Well, I'm pleased to report it's trebles all round, because this edition of THE Hammer classic is a ungainsayable triumph.
There are two versions of the film itself - first, the 2007 BFI restoration, i.e. the buffed up original English cut that has played since its 1958 release. Then there is the re-vamped (sorry, couldn't resist) Hammer version which re-instates footage originally removed from the English release to mollify the censor.
The restored footage, comprising additional shots from two key sequences, was only relatively recently discovered and recovered from a badly damaged Japanese print. When you view the unenhanced footage from the Japanese print (one of the many worthwhile extras here) and then watch how the additional footage has almost seamlessly been woven into the new Hammer version, you can fully appreciate and salute the work of the restoration team. (I note that the discoverer of this footage has posted his own review here, castigating the ill-informed muppets who posted `reviews' of a blu-ray package before it had been released, without having seen the restoration but instead basing their comments on some screen shots. Well said sir, and thank you for unearthing this filmic treasure - any chance of locating a version of The Mummy with the tongue removal?).
Both versions of the film look wonderful in high def; not pin sharp, no, like some bloodless CGI effects fest, as that was not intended or needed to convey the fairy-tale steeped in dread atmosphere. They are easily the best version(s) of the film yet seen, and the only issue is whether you want to luxuriate in the familiar `censors cut' BFI version or treat yourself to the Hammer version which will allow that extra frisson of pleasure during the seduction of Mina and disintegration scenes.
The rest of the package is equally enjoyable. There is the expected making of documentary, using the now well established format of knowledgeable talking heads (Marcus Hearn, Mark Gatiss) alongside the one (or occasionally two if we're lucky) remaining members of the cast, in this case Janine Faye, who apart from Christopher Lee (sadly not involved) is now the only surviving member of the cast. The documentary also utilises footage of an interview with an elderly Jimmy Sangster in which he ruefully acknowledges that, even then, he was one of a few classic era Hammer people who are left. Another highlight is a fascinating half hour `chat' about the film by cultural historian Christopher Frayling. In it he pays due tribute to Jimmy Sangster's innovative, if budget motivated, approach to the material, and floats the deliberately provocative idea that the film is really about the Holmwood's marriage.
There are two additional featurettes, one on the censorship problems that the film encountered in England and the other about the discovery, restoration and integration of the Japanese footage. This presumably now clears up the perennial myth about Hammer having deliberately shot `stronger' versions of their movies, or at least certain scenes, for the Japanese market and milder ones for us. It appears that Hammer simply had their sole preferred version, from which the English censors then cut what they thought was unsuitable for English sensibilities, while Japan (and other overseas territories) simply got the original uncut version. (But there was that topless Hazel Court shot for the European cut of Man Who Cheated Death, wasn't there. I'm confused again now.)
Anyway, doesn't this suggest the possibility that the Japanese archive may hold full uncut versions of other Hammer movies.
Please investigate, O Hammer high ups.
In the meantime however, this glorious package will keep us going.
Hammer's groundbreaking 1958 version of Dracula (aka Horror of Dracula) is still one of the very best despite the many liberties Jimmy Sangster's concise and highly effective script takes with Bram Stoker's novel to whittle it down to an hour-and-a-half. It's not just the names that have been changed around and the cast of characters greatly reduced to Hammer's budget levels (admirably disguised here by Bernard Robinson's excellent production design). John Van Eyssen's Jonathan Harker is no longer a lawyer, but here is posing as a librarian to get into Dracula's castle with an ulterior motive - presumably on the grounds that the audience knows going in just what Dracula is so there's no point putting the hero through all that mystery when there's staking to be done. The budget doesn't stretch to the voyage and arrival of the ghost ship Demeter or even a Renfield for that matter, and this Dracula has no social interaction with his intended victims in Whitby or London - in fact, he never even leaves the continent. Nor is the vampire fascinated with Harker's intended - here he simply seeks her out as revenge. Yet the changes work surprisingly well, and even throws in a few good twists like the location of Dracula's hiding place.
Although he doesn't have much screen time, Christopher Lee is inspired casting, a feral, vicious creature rather than a Eurotrash smoothie while a very agile Peter Cushing makes a surprisingly physical Van Helsing, the final fight between the good doctor and the evil count surprisingly energetic and violent before the best of the studio's ashes to ashes, dust-to-dust finales. Although rather sedate by today's standards, this film still has a surprising degree of energy and it's easy to see why it made had such a profound impact on the horror genre for decades to come. The first colour version of the tale, it made a big selling point of being able to see the blood in all its vivid hues of red, although it also makes much play on the vampire's female victims being absolutely gagging for it (perhaps not so surprising with Peter Cushing and Michael Gough as the male leads), setting the groundwork for the tits'n'fangs formula that would become the studio's bread and butter over the next couple of decades. A surprisingly cheap picture, thanks to Bernard Robinson's elegant production design and fine direction from Terence Fisher before the drink got to him, it never looks cheap: if anything, it's rather seductively good looking.
Where Warners' widescreen DVD was overcropped at 1.85:1, Lionsgate's Region B-locked Blu-ray and DVD combo restores it to its original 1.66:1 ratio as well as restoring the original title Dracula (the previous release used the US title Horror of Dracula). But of more interest is that the disc includes two separate cuts of the film - .the 2007 BFI restoration and a 2012 restoration by Hammer that includes footage censored from the film everywhere but Japan. It's worth noting that its only a few seconds worth - Dracula's seduction of Mina is a bit longer and the long-rumoured shot of a decaying Dracula clawing at his own face as the skin peels off - but completists will be delighted. As for the restored picture quality, the first reel is a little disappointingly cold (in one of the accompanying documentaries they talk about not going all-out to reproduce the original Eastmancolor tones, which seems a little perverse in a film famous for its Eastmancolor tones), and the definition occasionally gives away just how much use the original negative has had over the years, but once it gets going it's a very pleasing job.
There's a fine extras package included on both formats: audio commentary by Marcus Hearn and Jonathan Rigby, making of documentary Dracula Reborn (though Christopher Lee is notable by his absence), featurettes Resurrecting Dracula, Censoring Dracula, The Demon Lover – Christopher Frayling on Dracula and Janina Faye Reads Stoker at the Vault Festival, very worn unrestored versions of Japanese reels 6-9 (complete with Japanese subtitles on the side of the screen), episode of clip show The World of Hammer – Dracula and the Undead, stills gallery and (on the DVD only) PDF script and booklet. The only conspicuous absence (apart from Mr. Lee) is the film's trailer, which was included on Warners' DVD but is curiously missing here.
on 25 March 2013
Difficult not to use superlatives on this one. This is probably the perfect horror movie, forever impossible to duplicate. I guess a lot of the success of the film owes to his director Terence Fisher, who creates a mood of death and desolation. The first twenty minutes of the movie in this respect are extremely successful, in a hieratic, almost silent environment where there is very little dialog. As spectators, we are discovering, like Harker, the lair of the vampire. To be fair to Fisher though, he is helped by the amazing production values of the film, and the work of the genius production designer Bernard Robinson. Then there is Jimmy Sangster's very efficient screenplay...and of course, there is an amazing cast: Cushing, possessed and determined as the relentless vampire hunter, Michael Gough (unfairly badmouthed by everyone on the Blu-Ray!) as his help in the vampire quest and the legendary performance of Christopher Lee in the title role, who became an overnight legend thanks to this part. This cascade of compliments wouldn't be fair if one forgot the very effective music of James Bernard, the ground-breaking special effects by Phil Leakey and Sydney Pearson, and these very sexy "Hammer babes" appearing in full force here for the first time. I'll single out my favorite, the very sexy (albeit not for long) Valerie Gaunt, who was already haunting "The Curse of Frankenstein". Overall this is a classic film, one of the best Hammer movies ever made, and a triumph for Terence Fisher and the whole crew.
The Blu-Ray almost brought tears to my eyes: I saw this movie first on the third channel in France more than 20 years ago, in the monthly TV show called "La Dernière Séance" where French rock singer Eddy Mitchell (not his real name!) presented two "popular" movies back to back (westerns, scifi, horror, thrillers) the bulk of them from the 1940s-1960s period. Seeing "Dracula" in 2012 is borderline unsettling, as Harker, Dracula, van Helsing, Minna have NEVER looked more "real": the restoration by Hammer is a real immersing experience and you will "live" this film the way you never thought you could before. Very moving as well to watch these legendary Japanese scenes, long believed to be lost, and who really emphasise the meaning of the film. A really great moment, the feeling of discovering a lost treasure.
The extras are overall fine but Rigby was a bit overwhelming in the commentary - and Hearns had problems muscling his way through. Please note that the commentary offers different entries depending on whether one watches the 2007 BFI restoration of the 2012 Hammer one. The documentary was very good and it was great of Hearns to invite the whole gang of Janina Faye, Meikle, Newman, Sangster and Kinsey. I know Chris Lee is missing but it does not matter much. Film buffs all over the UK will relish reading the shooting script - somewhat different from the final result on screen but fascinating. But for me THE massive gem in this list of extra is the towering analysis of the movie by Christopher Frayling, giving here a lecture which is at the same time fascinating and insightful.
Well, I guess that now that we have "Dracula" on B-Ray at that level of quality, we can safely die...
The Curse of Frankenstein was coining it in at the box office, so Hammer Films were quick to negotiate a deal to reinvent Dracula on the big screen. Certain agreements were made as per distribution rights for Universal, who owned the rights via a deal that was struck decades earlier with the Bram Stoker estate. Once all the dots were dotted and the t's were crossed, Dracula hit the screens in a whirl of sensual Technicolor bliss, where the trajectory of horror film history was shunted upwards to the point that the legacy still lives on today.
Directed by Terence Fisher and adapted to screenplay by Jimmy Sangster, Dracula (AKA: Horror of Dracula) is a compact piece of horror. The Hammer team condense Stoker's novel down to an 80 minute film, quickly placing Jonathan Harker (John Van Eyssen) at Castle Dracula and establishing the vampire legend courtesy of the slick and sexy Count Dracula himself (Christopher Lee). There's no changing into bats or scaling of walls here, in fact Dracula's dialogue is very minimalist, instead he permeates the film with sexual menace, horrific suggestion and an obvious disregard for humanity, with Lee in the role simply terrific.
Then it's time for Doctor Van Helsing to bring his cunning whiles to the party, which is the signal for Peter Cushing to enter the fray, who adds class and elegance to a classic role. James Bernard provides a dual score of erotic swirls and thunderous scares, while the cast play out the story in front of some impressively constructed Gothic sets, courtesy of Bernard Robinson, who like the rest of the team were working with a budget under six figures! Some nifty effects work cement the pic's status, other little touches - such as Dracula having no audible footsteps - also ensure that Hammer's Dracula remains a key vampire movie of note.
A number of interesting tid-bids sit in the film's back history. How it fell into the public domain, complaints about blood transfusion advertisements in theatre foyers during its first run! Censorship and the "X" Certification afforded it in the UK, and that some of the first wave of critic reviews were positively barbed and indignant. In truth Hammer would produce far better horror films post Dracula's release, in fact this is not even the best of the Hammer Dracula movies. Yet in the pantheon of Hammer film, and horror film in general, it's a 10/10 movie. Terence Fisher deserves the final word, he would say that the shoot and production for Dracula just clicked, it all worked and everyone was in sync. 8/10