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Customer Review

28 of 28 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Cropping of original ratio ruins Blu-ray release, 29 Sept. 2013
This review is from: The Brides Of Dracula (Blu-ray + DVD) [1960] (Blu-ray)
Brides of Dracula is among my favourite Hammer films and it also is one of their most beautiful looking, with Terence Fisher at the height of his powers, crafting stylish films on a small budget. Brides of Dracula has a unique fairy tale look with castles bathed in candy colour lighting and I'm certain that this film was the main inspiration of Polanski's stylish Hammer parody Dance of the Vampires/The Fearless Vampire Killers.

I have the R1 Universal DVD as part of the The Hammer Horror Series box set, which boasts a fantastic transfer. Therefore I was looking forward to upgrading this to a Blu-ray, hoping it would yield great results in HD. Unfortunately the PQ of the Blu-ray is a disappointment on almost every front. Sure, it features a little more detail but for some inexplicable reason Final Cut Entertainment decided to reformat the original 1.66:1 ratio to something like 2.10:1 by cutting off a considerable amount of the image at the bottom. This unbalances many of the careful compositions, even cutting off characters chins in closeups. Why they thought that would be a great idea is beyond me because it doesn't make any sense. Adding to that, the print used is considerably more grainy than the one used for the R1 DVD and the colours are far warmer, frequently giving characters a tanned face colour when they looked suitably pale in the DVD.

What a shame as this was one of my most anticipated releases this year.
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Showing 1-10 of 13 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 16 Oct 2013 12:08:43 BDT
paulboland says:
Are you aware the original master was destroyed in a universal fire a few years ago
That master was used for the DVD in the The Hammer Horror Series

The negative copy they had to use for the transfer to Blu-ray was a cropped version as in the negative
That's the reason
The original version is destroyed there was no other negative of the original master to use
There was lot of classic films negatives destroyed in the fire some had backup copies at another location
but with this film that was not the case only a cropped negative that was used for a UK DVD release was available

In reply to an earlier post on 16 Oct 2013 12:28:09 BDT
Last edited by the author on 16 Oct 2013 15:24:13 BDT
B. Kossmehl says:
From what I've read, prints and some digital transfers got destroyed as they were in the process of creating HD scans while the fire broke out. Original negatives were not kept there. I don't really understand how or why a negative would be cropped at the bottom. It would be good to hear what Final Cut Entertainment has to say about this and if reviews wouldn't simply gloss over the issue by telling us how great this reformatted version looks, when the compositions clearly look off. If there is nothing that can be done about it, then fine, but lets not pretend this is an acceptable presentation of the film.

In reply to an earlier post on 16 Oct 2013 13:11:14 BDT
Lee R says:
Universal could always create a new HD master from the negative. It was the older HD transfers like the one made for the R1 DVD that were destroyed. Final Cut are just the licencees and were stuck with what Universal provided them with. They're stuck between a rock and a hard place here, either release this or release nothing at all.

In reply to an earlier post on 26 Oct 2013 02:14:33 BDT
R. Shore says:
It's a myth that original negatives were destroyed in the Universal fire. Yes audio masters for song recordings were most certainly destroyed but all the material that was destroyed were mainly digital master tapes used for copying.
It's simply down to money what source is used and certainly money is the main factor on the different levels of restoration on the Hammer films. That's why some have been dire like "The Curse of Frankenstein" and others have been outstanding "The Mummy"
It really is hit and miss what comes out. For my money the only ones I've been happy with in terms of restoration are

The Mummy
Quatermass and the Pit
The Devil rides Out (if you ignore the sin of not allowing the original version on the blu-ray)

All the others have had the following problems 1/ audio problems 2/ colour problems 3/ restoration problems 4/ aspect ratio problems.

Roger Shore

Roger Shore

In reply to an earlier post on 26 Oct 2013 03:12:36 BDT
Last edited by the author on 26 Oct 2013 03:20:59 BDT
Lee R says:
The negatives were safely stored elsewhere, although some videotape masters were destroyed like the US TV version of Hands of the Ripper with specially shot footage which resided there.

What do you think is wrong with The Reptile? It's great. I have no issues with Dracula either. Grading is never an exact science if reference materials don't exist and has to rely on a judgement call. Dracula falls on the right side of the fence to me. Sure, it has a different grade to the old Warner DVD but it doesn't change the film. Grading only goes too far when they intentionally change the mood of a film which I don't agree that they have here, it's just graded towards the blue side. I'm not convinced the Warner version was perfect, that seemed too warm.

Other discs I think are fine are Paranoiac, Evil of Frankenstein and The Mummy's Shroud.

Curse of Frankenstein, for it's faults isn't an utter disaster. You have to take into account the original negative is unusable if they haven't junked it already. The sync issues in Plague of the Zombies are minor, and the reissued version of Dracula Prince of Darkness is far from awful. Sure, it has jump cut rather than crossfade after the credits and has a little DNR but I've seen considerably worse.

In an ideal world they'd all be perfect, but I'm not going to write off discs that have small issues. Life's too short, I enjoy the films as best I can. As we've seen with Brides, audio accidentally a frame or two out of sync on a couple of scenes would be very much preferable over intentionally cropping an entire movie (though I stress that was the fault of whoever at Universal incorrectly thought the OAR was 2.00:1, not Final Cut who are stuck with this licenced master).

In reply to an earlier post on 26 Oct 2013 12:09:49 BDT
R. Shore says:
Reptile I would have liked to have seen an academy version like The Mummy. I thought Dracula was a bit cold and not sharp enough. You're right about Paranoiac, I'd forgotten about that one. The Mummy's Shroud and Evil of Frankenstein I haven't seen. Prince of Darkness I thought was DNR'd to death. Where was all the grain?. Again for the slight widescreen films I would like an academy version as well.
I suspect work could be done on Curse of Frankenstein but they won't pay the money it would require.
But the Mummy is astonishing. Blows most of the others away. Everything is right. aspect ratio, colour, sharpness, restoration. To me it's the benchmark they should be aiming for......
But the main problem, Hammer not listening to what the fans want.....

Roger Shore

In reply to an earlier post on 26 Oct 2013 12:21:14 BDT
Last edited by the author on 26 Oct 2013 12:22:15 BDT
Lee R says:
But Reptile would never have been shown in Academy. Most cinemas probably showed it even wider than the 1.66:1 that's on the Blu-ray (1.75:1 and 1.85:1).

I wouldn't be too hard on Dracula either given that it's pieced together from 3 different sources whatever you think of the grading. The majority of it dates from a 2007 BFI restoration from the best existing negs and prints.

The reissued version of Prince of Darkness reigned in the DNR a bit. It's still there, but not awful. I'd still rather they hadn't.

I don't think they could have realistically afforded to do more with Curse of Frankenstein on Hammer's budget for the Blu-ray. To improve on the current version with today's technology, they would have to spend a considerable amount on scanning all three safety separation elements and recombine them digitally probably with a lot of manual tweaking to get them to match after shrinkage and other age related issues. There's a possibility it could give much superior results, but there's also a chance it would make little difference. There's no way to tell without doing the work.

I think The Mummy shows Hammer *are* listening and learning from past mistakes. Academy version listed properly as an extra rather than OAR, faultless restoration.

In reply to an earlier post on 26 Oct 2013 13:00:56 BDT
R. Shore says:
I just think that in the case of films that were done open matte, they should give viewers the option of a full frame version. Keeps everyone happy. For the record I preferred the academy ratio version of the Mummy and that would be my preferred viewing.
Spot on comment on the Mummy and hopefully that will become the norm for their releases.
I would like to see Academy versions of all 1:66 and 1:78 films on the blu-ray releases. I have the laserdiscs of Twins of Evil and Vampire Circus and the 4/3 aspect ratio doesn't do them any harm.

Roger

In reply to an earlier post on 26 Oct 2013 18:30:09 BDT
Last edited by the author on 26 Oct 2013 18:36:50 BDT
Lee R says:
I certainly have no issue with open matte version presented as extras for those who want to see, warts and all (some may have booms and stuff in shot) as long as they prioritise the main version for bitrate, etc. I personally want to see them in the original widescreen ratio, but can understand why open matte versions could be helpful for studying the sets and things along those lines.

We know Dracula was hard matted in camera though, and evidence points to Brides of Dracula being the same way, as the 4:3 version on the old DVD was cropped at the sides whereas Evil of Frankenstein was true open matte with more at the top and bottom.

Some people are probably reading this and think we're talking a load of gibberish and they just want to watch good quality Blu-rays. :-)

In reply to an earlier post on 26 Oct 2013 20:06:32 BDT
R. Shore says:
I do think the open matte version as an extra would please a lot of fans and more importantly please both camps.

Roger Shore
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