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Hammer's DRACULA: Explicit 'Japanese Version' Discovered!


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#1 of 7 OFFLINE   SWFF

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Posted September 14 2011 - 08:36 AM


HAMMER FILMS WEBSITE

September 14, 2011

Marcus Hearn reports on a remarkable discovery by an enterprising Hammer fan.

In 2007 Hammer and the BFI collaborated on a restoration of Dracula that resulted in the creation of a new HD master of the classic film. The version that was restored was the American print, which is slightly longer than the British version, but the re-master has the original title card added to the beginning (the US version of the film carried the title Horror Of Dracula).

However, for many years historians have pointed to the fact that an even longer, more explicit, version of the film played in Japanese cinemas in 1958. Up until now, efforts to locate the mythical ‘Japanese version’ of Dracula have been fruitless, but it seems that writer and cartoonist Simon Rowson has succeeded where everyone else failed.

Simon, who lives in Tokyo with his Japanese wife, was prompted to begin investigating on behalf of the British Horror Forum in early 2010. “My friend and fellow Hammer fan Stuart Hall suggested I should look for the missing footage,” says Simon. “That's when my wife Michiko started to help me in trying to find the most likely depository for foreign film stock in Japan. We were pointed towards the archive of the National Film Center just outside Tokyo, and quickly established (thanks to Michiko’s excellent interpreting skills) that the Center’s print of Dracula was partially destroyed in a fire in 1984. The first five reels were gone, but reels 6, 7, 8 and 9 – the last 36 minutes of the film – survived.”

After a year of negotiation, and some good luck, Simon was finally able to view reels 8 and 9 on the 9th March. They revealed something remarkable. “I was able to positively identify two extended scenes,” he says. “The first is Dracula’s attack on Mina while Van Helsing and Holmwood are standing guard outside the latter’s home. Having now re-run this scene many times on my British DVD, I think that the most obvious difference is the last shot of Dracula pushing Mina back onto the bed just prior to the sudden cut to the screeching owl outside.

“On the normal UK/US print we just glimpse Dracula’s shoulder moving downwards before the cut, but on the Japanese print there is a shot from a completely different angle which clearly shows Christopher Lee’s mouth wide open and his fangs fully exposed as he moves forward to bite Melissa Stribling’s neck – then it cuts to the owl as usual.”

Even more exciting was Simon’s discovery of a complete version of the film’s iconic disintegration scene. “As many people have speculated in the past, there is indeed an additional few seconds where, after Dracula is forced back into the sunlight by Van Helsing and raises his left hand to protect his face, we see the real actor – not a dummy – claw at his forehead and drag his hand down to his chin, peeling away his burnt skin in the process. There is also extra audio of Dracula groaning during this scene and an extra reaction shot from Peter Cushing.”

Sadly, Simon’s discovery was followed by the terrible earthquake and tsunami which hit Japan just 48 hours later. The National Film Center was relatively unaffected, but the situation remained serious for many.

Hammer began a conversation with the National Film Center, and in due course the four reels were transferred to tape and sent to London.

On the 14th September, Hammer reviewed an HD telecine transfer of all four reels; both of the scenes to which Simon Rowson refers are indeed present. Hammer hope to make these resurrected scenes available as part of a future UK release of Dracula.

Postscript from Hammer:
Hammer would like to express its warmest thanks to Simon Rowson, Marcus Hearn, the National Film Center at The National Museum Of Modern Art, Tokyo, and IMAGICA Corp, Tokyo for their roles in recovering this footage.



#2 of 7 OFFLINE   Simon Lewis

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Posted September 14 2011 - 08:45 AM

I've always wanted to see the uncut version of Dracula, so this is very good news. I'm hoping there will be a blu-ray release sometime over the next year or two,. It would be great to see Dracula in HD and uncut.

#3 of 7 OFFLINE   battlebeast

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Posted September 15 2011 - 05:49 AM

There may have been sceens lost in the fire on Reels 1-5, so, just wondering, would it truely be a complete, uncut version?


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#4 of 7 OFFLINE   Randy Korstick

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Posted September 15 2011 - 07:29 AM

There may have been sceens lost in the fire on Reels 1-5, so, just wondering, would it truely be a complete, uncut version?

I was thinking the same thing. I'm pretty sure I remember reading there is something missing from the Jonathon Harker segment.
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#5 of 7 OFFLINE   Richard--W

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Posted September 15 2011 - 02:21 PM

I hope the upgraded DVD / Blu-ray comes to fruition sooner rather than later. I really look forward to it.

#6 of 7 OFFLINE   battlebeast

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Posted September 16 2011 - 06:37 AM

The newly found footage may need to be restored, if it hasn't already; and it may take a bit of time reintegrating it back into the film.


This is an absolutly wonderful piece of news, at any rate; I love it when CUT films are found UNCUT (IE, Metropolis.)


I just wish more beloved treasures could be found... Legion of the Condemed, for one; it has some deleted scenes from Wings, most notabley the "attack on the train" scene.


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#7 of 7 OFFLINE   SWFF

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Posted September 18 2011 - 07:49 AM

WARNER ARCHIVES just made this post regarding the news of the explicit Japanese footage of Hammer's DRACULA being found: "There have been plans for some time to revisit the key Hammer titles for Blu-ray, especially DRACULA. It is likely our archivists will be investigating the issue of extended scenes for that purpose."