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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fidelis et Mortem, 22 Mar 2013
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This review is from: Dracula (Blu-ray + DVD) [1958] (Blu-ray)
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.
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 23 Mar 2013 14:18:22 GMT
Good review, but, as of 23.03.2012, I would question your comment that Janina Faye is the only surviving cast member (apart from Christopher Lee) to still be with us. I think Geoffrey Bayldon (Porter) would definitely disagree and I can not find any details of the deaths of Valerie Gaunt (Vampire Woman) or Barbara Archer (Inga). Can anyone verify this?

In reply to an earlier post on 23 Mar 2013 18:14:18 GMT
Tony Floyd says:
Thanks Kevin. I'm pleased to be wrong about this particular point.

In reply to an earlier post on 29 Mar 2013 19:11:42 GMT
Last edited by the author on 29 Mar 2013 19:12:06 GMT
Someone on "The Peter Cushing Appreciation society" website mentioned that all the japanese end sequence footage hasn't been used and if you compare the two he's absolutely right.It's the part where Chris Lee appears to cry just before his hand hits the light.Just thought this was interesting.
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