Hammer’s classic horror films have been a mixed bag on Blu ray, Titles such as Curse Of Frankenstein have been criticised for having a soft image and Devil Rides Out had new footage inserted into the film much to the anger (rightly) of the fans.
The original Hammer Dracula (1958) is a fan favourite (retitled Horror Of Dracula in the USA) but it was always rumoured to have been released in a longer version in Japan, and in 2012 a battered print of Dracula was found in Tokyo. Incredibly, this did include extra footage and this was painstakingly remastered and re-inserted into the BFI restoration which was done in 2007. Both versions are on this release.
While Curse of Frankenstein was there first attempt at horror in full colour, Dracula was the highlight with a tight script and a pace that never lets up and ends with what is still one of the most breathlessly exciting climatic battles ever seen in a horror movie. Stars Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee both have great on screen presence and are supported by an excellent cast. A classic in gothic horror and it still stands up beautifully today.
The Blu ray released by Lionsgate has both the 2007 restoration as well as the 2012 version with the extra censored footage re-instated. This has a truly fantastic image in the correct 1.66:1 aspect ratio for the first time on any home entertainment release. The colours are bold with a slightly blueish tint, this is certainly the best this has ever looked. Sound is the original mono and is crisp and clear.
Extra features are well worth a look. “Dracula Reborn”. A new 30 minute very interesting featurette about the film’s creation and history, featuring, among others: Jimmy Sangster, Kim Newman, Mark Gatiss and Jonathan Rigby. “Resurrecting Dracula“. A new 20 min. featurette about the film’s restoration, from the BFI’s 2007 restoration through to the integration of the censored footage, featuring interviews with key staff at the BFI. “The Demon Lover”: An ok 30 minute talk with Christopher Frayling on Dracula. “Censoring Dracula”. New fascinating 10 minute featurette on the original cuts to the film ordered by the British Board of Film Censors. Audio commentary by Hammer historian Marcus Hearn and author and critic Jonathan Rigby. This is a very good commentary full of facts about the actors, the making of the film etc, well worth a listen. Also included The World Of Hammer episode: Dracula And The Undead, All 4 surviving “Japanese reels” (6 – 9) un-restored (its remarkable seeing how bad these look that they managed to seamlessly put the extra footage back in), 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 for some reason), original shooting script (PDF also). The set includes DVD sets as well ( why they continue to do this baffles me, if you want the Blu ray why would you want it on dvd as well?).
Fans of Hammer horror will need no prompting to buy this disc, it is a superb restored print fans thought they would never see and with a host of extra’s this comes highly recommended.
FILM: 9 OUT OF 10
PICTURE: 9 OUT OF 10
SOUND: 8 OUT OF 10
EXTRAS: 8 OUT OF 10