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Hammer's DRACULA Restored!


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#1 of 101 OFFLINE   Bob Furmanek

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Posted May 11 2007 - 07:21 PM

11 May 2007
Restored Hammer Classic 'Dracula' To Screen At Cannes

The BFI has announced that the Cannes Classics section of the forthcoming 60th anniversary edition of the world’s biggest film festival will feature the BFI National Archive’s new restoration of 'Dracula' (1958).

This screening on May 17 will mark the 50th anniversary of the Hammer Horror cycle which rapidly became a hugely influential and popular strand of British horror.

Amanda Nevill, BFI Director said: “We are delighted to be showcasing our latest restoration. Dracula is, for many, the film that has come to characterise the British Gothic horror genre and we are proud to be able to show it in the prestigious Cannes Classics strand.

“The BFI National Archive holds the most significant collection of film and television material in the world. Caring for such an enormous collection is a great challenge to our resources, particularly as the balance between investing in preservation and making the collection available to a wider audience is so precarious. We are immensely grateful to the sponsor of this restoration, Simon Hessel, for his generosity and support.”

Based on the novel by Bram Stoker first published in 1897, this was the first colour version of Dracula. It was a massive international success on its original release and established Christopher Lee for many as the definitive interpreter of the demonic count. Peter Cushing also gives a great performance as the vampire hunter Van Helsing. High production values and a host of character actors, aided by a cracking script by Jimmy Sangster, add up to a rich and satisfying horror classic.

BFI National Archive, Senior Preservation Manager Andrea Kalas added: "The restoration of what many fans call the best Hammer horror film required extensive research into reported censored scenes. Rumour and fact, not unlike the Dracula story itself, are intermingled.

"Our research into missing scenes led us to every conceivable resource from the vaults of Warner Bros to an archive in Japan. Scenes censored by the BBFC for the release of the UK version, but included in the US version, have been recovered. In addition, the US title, “Horror of Dracula”, had been attached to most theatrical and video releases. We have restored the original British release title with its distinctive illuminated “D.”

"Ben Thompson of the BFI National Archive film lab oversaw the restoration and it is due to his diligence and perfectionism that the film is restored. We owe special thanks to Richard Dayton and Eric Aijala of YCM Laboratories and Tim Everett, Ned Price and Bill Rush at Warner Bros."

The film was restored from the original negative, except for the original British title and the censored scenes, which were from dupe negatives found in Warner Bros’ vaults. The original prints were released on IB-Technicolor prints, and Richard Dayton at YCM Laboratories in Burbank worked with Ben to achieve this particular look.

The restoration will have a UK theatrical release later this year and Dracula will become one of the many thousands of films vital to British film history that are preserved at the BFI National Archive.

One of the world’s largest and busiest archives, the BFI National Archive contains more than 230,000 films (features, shorts and documentaries) and more than 675,000 television programmes.

The collection is made available through public screenings at festivals and cinemas throughout the UK including regular screenings at BFI Southbank, alongside video and DVD releases, and online through the BFI’s unique education resource, Screenonline www.screenonline.org.uk

Bob Furmanek

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#2 of 101 OFFLINE   Jeff_A

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Posted May 12 2007 - 02:02 AM

This is fantastic news for Hammer fans. Thanks! Posted Image

#3 of 101 OFFLINE   Jeffrey Nelson

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Posted May 12 2007 - 02:53 AM

So, still no confirmation of any additional footage besides that already seen in U.S. prints...although at least the original title card will be back in its proper place for the next U.S. video release, and it will be all spiffed up, and HOPEFULLY in its proper aspect ratio this time!

#4 of 101 OFFLINE   James Phillips

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Posted May 12 2007 - 10:20 AM

It doesn't sound like they found the Dracula disintegration footage in Japan, then.

Still, as long as it's 1.66:1, with the stakings intact, I'll be happy.

Of course, it'll be good to have this back again.

Posted Image

And (hopefully) this, too.

Posted Image

#5 of 101 OFFLINE   chas speed

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Posted May 12 2007 - 04:34 PM

I'll never buy the over matted mess version out on dvd. I love the way most film "purist" don't care if a film was made in a 1.66: 1 or even 1.33: 1 ratio as long as it fits on there widescreen tv. I think these people are as stupid as people who hate letterboxing. Not everything was shot with a 1.85: 1 ratio and the studios need to get this right. I hope they will get it right the 2nd (or 3rd) time around with this film.

#6 of 101 OFFLINE   Chuck Pennington

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Posted May 12 2007 - 05:46 PM

I have a widescreen TV, and I don't want to just matte anything to "make it fit", but I also don't think films intended to be matted should be left unmatted for people with 4:3 televisions while we widescreen TV owners (which, eventually, we will ALL have) are denied a 16x9 enhanced master. If DRACULA was shot with 1.66:1 ratio in mind, then present it that way - BUT in 16x9 format with bars on the sides (which overscan all but eliminates anyway).

I remember a huge debate over Disney's ROBIN HOOD being presented with a new 16x9 transfer in 1.75:1. People were arguing because more info was at the top and bottom on all previous video releases, but the fact is in 1973 it was not ever shown or shot to be projected in a theater in 1.33:1.

You'll notice that THE SEARCHERS is matted on its DVD releases. I saw the film as part of a Library of Congress tour of National Registry titles in 1996 or 1997 in Boise, Idaho, and it was shown without any mattes. There were many, many scenes with the boom mike clearly visible at the top of the frame, and one scene showed where the end of backdrop was at the top of the frame and some stage lights were visible! People in the audience actually laughed! I'm sure John Ford would've raised hell over seeing it that way.

#7 of 101 OFFLINE   pitchman

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Posted May 13 2007 - 01:03 AM

That's GREAT news, Bob!

Thanks for posting.
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#8 of 101 OFFLINE   Jim_K

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Posted May 13 2007 - 01:25 AM

Great news that the BFI recognizes the importance of this seminal film. I'd imagine this restoration will be the foundation of Warner's plans to redo it's Hammer films for HD.
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#9 of 101 OFFLINE   Richard--W

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Posted May 13 2007 - 02:42 AM

I envy the audience at Cannes more than ever now.

Let's hope the newly restored Dracula receives a theatrical re-release before it comes to home video. Even if the screenings are limited, WB should realize that people want to see this movie projected. I first saw it projected theatrically in 1969 on a double-bill with Curse of Frankenstein. A Halloween matinee. I've seen it projected at conventions off and on over the years. Most DVD viewers have no conception how good this Dracula looks and how well it plays on the big screen. I don't know if the correct aspect ratio is 1.66 or 1.85, but whichever it is, I've seen it projected both ways, and either way the film's impact is phenomenal on the big screen. SIZE matters. The film doesn't feel like it's fifty years old, in fact, it feels very contemporary.

Did it play in the UK as Dracula with the Universal International logo? I've always seen it with the Universal International logo as Horror of Dracula, but I always assumed it was a Rank or other studio release in the UK.

#10 of 101 OFFLINE   WadeM

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Posted May 13 2007 - 04:22 AM

Good news, but I'm still waiting for the retail release announcement.

#11 of 101 OFFLINE   Mark Anthony

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Posted May 13 2007 - 05:33 AM

When these gets re-issued, it would be a good time for MGM/Fox to re-release the Hammer "Hound of the Baskervilles" in anamorphic widescreen...

M

#12 of 101 OFFLINE   Richard--W

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Posted May 13 2007 - 11:32 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mark Anthony
When these gets re-issued, it would be a good time for MGM/Fox to re-release the Hammer "Hound of the Baskervilles" in anamorphic widescreen...M

Good idea.

Let's speculate about supplements for the DVD. I would like to hear a scene-specific commentary by Christopher Lee. Perhaps Jonathan Southcott or someone else to help Lee stay focused on the film and not digress. Someone wrote somewhere that as Lee's voice deepens with age it has the sound of the cello in it: I know exactly what that writer meant when I hear Christopher Lee speak at length. Anyhow I enjoy listening to him speak. An on-camera interview discussing related matters would also be welcome.

I would like to hear a second commentary by Ronald V. Borst, whose thorough research into this film began in the 1960s. He gathered interviews and documentation from participants who are no longer with us. No one can speak more knowledgeably about this film than Borst. He also has the most extensive collection of production stills, on-set-photos, and promotional art.

I would particularly like to see interior photographs of the Bray building in which Dracula was shot. Show a photo of each room as it appears in the film, and comparison photos of each room redressed as another set. Although I've never been there, I understand it's a small house containing small rooms that offer a limited number of angles. Fisher and other directors had to be inventive to make it work.

Didn't I see storyboards published somewhere? Why not include a scene-to-storyboard comparison.

Why not include a copy of the script, perhaps as a CD-Rom feature? I understand that Hammer could not afford to shoot the script that Jimmy Sangster wrote, so director Terence Fisher edited the script as he shot the pages. My copy comes from a photocopy of Christopher Lee's script which he gave to his fanclub president back in the 1970s. Fans would find the differences between the page and the film interesting.

#13 of 101 OFFLINE   Richard--W

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Posted May 13 2007 - 11:41 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mark Anthony
When these gets re-issued, it would be a good time for MGM/Fox to re-release the Hammer "Hound of the Baskervilles" in anamorphic widescreen...M

Good idea.

Let's speculate about supplements for the DVD. I would like to hear a scene-specific commentary by Christopher Lee. Perhaps Jonathan Southcott or someone else to help Lee stay focused on the film and not digress. Someone wrote somewhere that as Lee's voice deepens with age it has the sound of the cello in it: I know exactly what that writer meant when I hear Christopher Lee speak at length. Anyhow I enjoy listening to him speak. An on-camera interview discussing related matters would also be welcome.

I would like to hear a second commentary by Ronald V. Borst, whose thorough research into this film began in the 1960s. He gathered interviews and documentation from participants who are no longer with us. No one can speak more knowledgeably about this film than Borst. He also has the most extensive collection of production stills, on-set-photos, and promotional art.

I would particularly like to see interior photographs of the Bray building in which Dracula was shot. Show a photo of each room as it appears in the film, and comparison photos of each room redressed as another set. Although I've never been there, I understand it's a small house containing small rooms that offer a limited number of angles. Fisher and other directors had to be inventive to make it work.

Didn't I see storyboards published somewhere? Why not include a scene-to-storyboard comparison.

Why not include a copy of the script, perhaps as a CD-Rom feature? I understand that Hammer could not afford to shoot the script that Jimmy Sangster wrote, so director Terence Fisher edited the script as he shot the pages. My copy comes from a photocopy of Christopher Lee's script which he gave to his fanclub president back in the 1970s. Fans would find the differences between the page and the film interesting.

#14 of 101 OFFLINE   oscar_merkx

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Posted May 13 2007 - 11:16 PM

I second that idea about the audio commentary with Christopher Lee.

Not seen this Dracula yet ...
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#15 of 101 OFFLINE   Steve Christou

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Posted May 14 2007 - 03:48 AM

Great news one of my favorite Hammer horrors, hopefully more Hammer restorations will follow.

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#16 of 101 OFFLINE   Radioman970

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Posted May 14 2007 - 04:04 AM

I just bought the other version. Bar none, it's my fav Dracula. Awesome film. I'll have to see some comparison before I'll throw out more cash for a double dip. It won't take much for me to do it though. Posted Image

Yeah, more Hammer! When I get started on those I can't stop watching. Hell of a way to spend a Saturday afternoon, Hammer double or triple feature.

I'd really like Vampire Circus in any way shape or form. Like...now!
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#17 of 101 OFFLINE   James Phillips

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Posted May 14 2007 - 05:29 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Richard--W
Did it play in the UK as Dracula with the Universal International logo? I've always seen it with the Universal International logo as Horror of Dracula, but I always assumed it was a Rank or other studio release in the UK.

Yeah, it was released by Rank in Britain, but it was a Universal-International Picture, so the U-I logo was on it, as well. Posted Image

Quote:
Originally Posted by Radioman970
I'll have to see some comparison before I'll throw out more cash for a double dip. It won't take much for me to do it though. Posted Image

Well, the new transfer can't really be much worse. Posted Image The framing on the current disc is awful.

Warner DVD.

Posted Image

The same shot framed at 1.66:1 and 1.85:1.

Posted Image

Posted Image

As for commentaries, Michael Gough, Christopher Lee, Carol Marsh, and Geoffrey Bayldon, are all still around. So, it'd be good if they could get a couple of those involved.

Maybe another commentary track by somebody like Christopher Frayling, as well?

#18 of 101 OFFLINE   Bob Graham

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Posted May 14 2007 - 05:40 AM

Much as I'd love to have a Christopher Lee commentary, I don't think it's going to happen. According to his website, when making appearances he refuses to sign "Dracula" or "Space 1999" items.

Is screenwriter Jimmy Sangster still alive? He would be a good one for the commentary.

#19 of 101 OFFLINE   James Phillips

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Posted May 14 2007 - 09:10 AM

Yeah, Jimmy Sangster's still alive. It'd be great if they could get him and Anthony Hinds to take part in a commentary track. Posted Image

#20 of 101 OFFLINE   Radioman970

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Posted May 14 2007 - 10:48 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by James Phillips
Well, the new transfer can't really be much worse. Posted Image The framing on the current disc is awful.
Thanks James. Tells me what I need to know. Unless the transfer is God-awful I'll pick it up and give my old one to my dear mother. Posted Image
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