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Dracula (1958 - Blu-ray)

Review by: 
Black Gloves
Release Date: 
1958
Studio: 
Lionsgate UK
Genre: 
Vampire
Format: 
Dual Format BD/DVD
Region: 
B
Aspect Ratio: 
1.66:1
Directed by: 
Terrence Fisher
Cast: 
Peter Cushing
Christopher Lee
Michael Gough
Melissa Stribling
Carol Marsh
Movie: 
5
Extras: 
5
Bottom Line: 
5
Video: 
Click to Play

Hammer’s first full-colour ‘experiment’ in horror, “The Curse of Frankenstein” (1957), had introduced Britain and the world to a florid new formula that quickly set the standard for what became a burgeoning industry in British-Gothic-by-the-Thames, with the company’s recently acquired Bray Film Studios complex placed conspicuously at the vanguard of it until the mid-sixties. No longer now would Hammer productions -- under the commanding stewardship of managing director James Carreras -- be content with churning out cheap little black-and-white programme fillers starring fast fading American stars; British audiences (but not yet the British critics and censors, as would soon become apparent), younger, newly invigorated and optimistic after having only recently escaped the austerities of wartime food rationing, had proved that they were ready to champion all-British casts starring in home-grown movies, luxuriantly shot with ravishing Eastman and Technicolour film. In the summer of 1957, as England continued to swelter through a sticky July heat wave, “The Curse of Frankenstein” was dominating the British box office take. Some sort of follow-up was of course mandatory, but as Hammer toyed with a Frankenstein sequel, Carreras fixed on the idea of adapting Bram Stoker’s 1997 novel “Dracula”. After all, Frankenstein/Dracula double bills had long been a sure-fire way of attracting audiences ever since the horror revival of the Depression era during the late 1930s. The rights to the Stoker novel were still owned by Universal though, and, after an intense bout of negotiation, the financial rewards Hammer had heaped on Universal's rival distributor Warner Bros as a result of their adaptation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (which Universal had originally threatened lawsuits over), persuaded the company to relent, with the proviso that Universal-International be awarded sole and world-wide distribution rights for the resultant picture. A canny decision by the then-ailing company as it turned out, for the British “Dracula” is now regarded as the film that single-handedly saved Universal Pictures from bankruptcy in the 1950s.

Hammer’s dynamic approach to the material turned out to be a marked contrast indeed to the sedate mix of Gothic decrepitude and starchy drawing-room pleasantries that constituted Tod Browning’s 1931 black-and-white adaption starring Bela Lugoisi, and Hammer’s effort had to be re-titled “The Horror of Dracula” in the US to avoid confusion with its creaky forbear. Sensibly unwilling to tamper in any way with a winning formula, producer Anthony Hinds reconvened exactly the same combination of crew that had proved itself so adept in piecing together the winning elements for Hammer’s all-new style of horror film-making on “The Curse of Frankenstein”, the audience-winning team of Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee also being placed top of the bill in front of the camera as the two leads once again. Cinematographer Jack Asher, production designer Bernard Robertson, editors James Needs and Bill Lenny, composer James Bernard and make-up man Phil Leakey, all returned to work their magic for Terrence Fisher, who was once again directing from a screenplay penned by Jimmy Sangster. This time the pieces of the Hammer Gothic formula had already been slotted into place beforehand and a real momentum and confidence of intent can now be felt coursing through every frame of “Dracula” ... as opposed to the previous film, which had retained traces still of many of its makers’ grounding in Gainsborough Pictures stateliness.

From the floridly ornate lettering of the single word title superimposed across the crest of the castle battlements in the opening moments (now gracing the home viewing format for the first time) to the splatters of bright crimson blood that next materialise, wetly pattering onto the Dracula name carved into the plinth of the vampire’s stone sarcophagus (to contrast with the rich velvet-black shadows that envelop this resting place in Castle Dracula’s mausoleum), the film directly and powerfully signals its intent: simultaneously to dazzle with sheer visual beauty, and to shock with a new willingness to depict frankly its visceral horrors without restraint. It’s a combination that also plays up to the theme of duality that pervades much of Fisher’s work and which identifies corrupting evil with an attractiveness and allure it had rarely been accommodated with on the screen before, and which had certainly never been so vividly depicted. The film is a precision-tooled powerhouse that succeeds in just about everything it tries to do, but the starting point for its triumphant success was Jimmy Sangster’s ninety page screenplay – a model of streamlined, linear economy which stripped away all excess detail in Stoker’s sprawling novel and allowed Terrence Fisher the clarity to focus the story’s remaining simple narrative elements on an interpretation of the vampire mythos that identified it exclusively with a battle between two rival patriarchal forces for control of female sexuality -- the one representing sexually liberating licentiousness, and the other staid but respectable Victorian-era domesticity.

Part of the logic for this simplification of a story that, in Stoker’s hands, had originally been a typically over-written 19th century potboiler was dictated by Hammer’s obvious budgetary constraints. There could be no trips across a stormy ocean between Transylvania and Whitby here (although Sangster originally retained this element of the tale until Keys had him jettison it) and certainly no Pan-European land flights with hordes of gypsies in tow. Although “Dracula” was made on £16,000 more than its predecessor, and the recent addition of a much larger sound stage at Bray (Stage One) had allowed production designer Bernard Robertson much more freedom in the implementation of his striking sets than he’d been furnished with in the cramped quarters available for “The Curse of Frankenstein”, this was still a very small production indeed. Sangster approaches the adaptation like it’s a puzzle that has to be solved by stripping away and reformulating key plot points ,and he first brilliantly arranges the entire story to take place in a fictional mittel-europe (often tartly termed Hammer’s Home Counties Transylvania) in which Dracula’s imposing baronial domicile seems to be located within a mere day’s coach ride of the Holmwoods’ very quaint English-Victorian looking household (skipping over the fact that it seems unlikely that no-one appears to have heard of Dracula outside the confines of the nearby village inn). Sangster was unafraid even to tamper with parts of vampire lore long established by the novel but which Hammer might have had difficulties successfully realising on screen convincingly, and at one point has Cushing’s Van Helsing glibly inform Arthur Holmwood that the idea that vampires can transform themselves into bats and wolves is ‘a common fallacy’!

Other elements of the story though were removed simply because they were considered by Sangster to add nothing of import to the main thrust of the narrative – at least in this modern sexualised retelling of it. Thus most of the novel’s huge cast list of characters either don’t appear at all or are combined in ways that allow the simple three act structure to move seamlessly between short but memorable bursts of activity. This also leads to a number of clever story innovations, one of which enables the action to get started straight away after Sangster has John Van Eyssen’s Jonathan Harker reconfigured as one of Van Helsing’s devoted vampire hunters rather than the unsuspecting newly qualified solicitor of the novel. In this telling he’s already come to dispatch the Count at the very start of the film by posing undercover as a librarian who’s been employed to catalogue Dracula’s folios, but all the while concealing a collection of pre-sharpened wooden stakelets and a hammer in his valise.

This opening twenty minute first act of the movie is also a suburb showcase for the classic combination of Fisher’s consummate direction, Christopher Lee’s magnetic and physically imposing portrayal of the Count, and Jack Asher’s gorgeous lighting techniques, which lend full expression to Bernard Robertson’s innovative set design for Castle Dracula. The construction of the latter was at once economical (the same layout gets re-used three times in the movie, slightly disguised with clever re-dressing and added partitions) but also radically unusual for this kind of material -- yet represented an incalculably important contribution to Hammer’s modern revision of what could be accommodated within the traditional Gothic style of presentation. We’ve become so accustomed to it since, that it is sometimes hard to recall just how mesmerising a setting Robertson’s Castle Dracula interior was at the time: forsaking the traditional cobwebby chambers and decaying ruins of old, Robertson instead -- counterintuitively but brilliantly -- chose to make Dracula’s home a clean, colourful, well-kept interior space; warm, attractive and welcoming, and replete with intricate architectural flourishes and details that, when lit with Asher’s characteristic red-green colour decor combinations, adds the fairy tale otherworldliness and baroque surreal qualities now inextricably associated with the Hammer brand in its Bray Studios heyday. This was such a radically different approach at the time though, that Hammer seriously considered paying Robertson off and getting someone else in to produce a set of more conventionally castle-like dungeon designs, until pecuniary concerns made them think again of course!

Lee meanwhile, fresh from having been made an overnight star by his turn as Victor Frankenstein’s stricken Creature in “The Curse of Frankenstein”, imbues his portrayal of Count Dracula with a combination of charm, urbanity and athleticism that proves to be merely the ancient vampire’s modern disguise for the ferocious, animalistic feral creature of the night that dwells beneath the sophisticated surface. Fisher accentuates the actor’s imposing height and agile grace in a deft introductory scene that elaborates (to both Harker and the viewer) a personification of Dracula that’s light years away from the oily pale-faced foreigner in the opera cape of Lugoisi’s making: clad in a simple high-collar suit, a mortician-black floor-length cloak and a silver-streaked wig, Christopher Lee bounds down a flight of stairs to exude his unmistakable aristocratic bearing in close-up, his crisp English diction merely emphasising a commanding charismatic presence which is almost immediately exploded when Lee later makes his second appearance after having bid his guest goodnight: this comes in Sangster’s reworking of a famous scene from the novel in which Harker, exploring Castle Dracula in his host’s absence, is attacked by the three vampire brides who also dwell among its many corridors and byways. The three brides become one for Sangster’s leaner re-tooling, set in the bosomy shape of Hammer’s most mysterious of starlets -- the Birmingham-born Valerie Gaunt, who only made two films for the Company (or anybody else for that matter) and has never agreed to be interviewed about either of these sinuous, erotically charged roles in the years since. She appeared first as the ill-fated Justine in “The Curse of Frankenstein” and secondly of course as the vampire ‘prisoner’ of Dracula in this film, a supernaturally graceful presence who is instrumental in the exposure of her master’s unearthly and monstrous nature after being herself subjected to his fury for taking an unauthorised bite out of the off-guard Harker.

Fisher’s desire to foreground with such starkness the sexual connotations and animalism of the Dracula character becomes apparent in the iconic cut to a close-up shot of Lee as he enters upon this scene with bloody fangs bared and eyes red with carnivorous fury – a frightening contrast with the same character’s winning charm earlier on and with his suave attractiveness when he begins to prey on the Holmwood women later in the film. The ensuing fight scene is shot with dynamic swashbuckling flair by Fisher, another exciting innovation in the handling of the Gothic fairy tale form that must have thrilled audiences of the day; Harker’s subsequent foray into the castle crypts for his fumbled attempt at destroying the undead monster is a masterpiece in eliciting suspense and dread, again amplified by Lee’s perfectly judged performance as his eyes flick open at the sound of the staking of his female accomplice and a sickly smile spreads across crimson stained lips as he notes the setting of the sun outside the crypt’s fanlight window, a scene that leads up to the close of this first act with the death of Jonathan Harker. Taken all together this is a bravura opening performance -- from Lee and Fisher in particular.

The second act of the film begins by establishing a brand new motive for Dracula’s subsequent actions, centred on his persecutory targeting of the Holmwood family. With the stormy overseas travel to England by ship no longer a plot requirement, and Harker’s Essex estate agent-conceived assignment of handing over in person the deeds to Carfax Abbey also no longer a feature of it, Dracula’s mission instead becomes a straightforward vengeful desire to wreak total destruction upon all those associated with Harker -- despite the fact that he’s already left the failed vampire hunter in a forlorn, undead state in his castle crypt. This is where Sangster and Fisher’s new sexed-up approach comes into its own and Peter Cushing makes his mark on the movie as the fanatical vampire hunter Doctor Van Helsing, ruthlessly defending the values of marriage and family as much for the moral education of the film’s late-fifties British audiences as for the benefit of the occupants of the troubled Holmwood domicile, for whom he ends up becoming, in Jonathan Rigby’s words on the disc’s accompanying audio commentary, ‘a sort of marriage guidance councillor’.

One of the other central characters of the book, Dr Seward, here becomes a merely conventional stuffy late-Victorian medic, played by Charles Lloyd Pack in just a single scene, who fails to come up with an adequate explanation for Harker’s fiancée Lucy Holmwood suddenly suffering a life-threatening anaemic malady while awaiting her beau’s return. This requires Harker’s former vampire hunting boss Van Helsing to be called in for a second opinion at the behest of the stricken bride-to-be’s prim sister-in-law Mina Holmwood, played by Melissa Stribling. The Holmwood family is headed by the fey, ineffectual, domesticized patriarch Arthur (played, with a melodramatic flourish of inappropriateness, by the scenery-chewing Michael Gough) who soon finds both his sister and his wife succumbing to the persuasive sexual charms of a monster who appears as (in the words of David Pirie from “A New Heritage of Horror: The English Gothic Cinema”) ‘a charming, intelligent and irresistible host who … [is intent on] turning the Victorian world upside down by transforming its women into ravening sexual animals!’ Fisher quite deliberately directed Lee’s imposing yet seductive Count and his two willing victims, Mina, played by Stribling, and Lucy Holmwood -- Dracula’s first virginal victim -- played by Carol Marsh, to play up Dracula’s inherent attractiveness to his victims -- cosseted as the latter are in a sterile world of late-Victorian propriety. Fisher emphasized in a later interview that in his conception of the story ‘Dracula preyed on the sexual frustrations of his victims’, and the director brings off some of his most accomplished work during Lucy’s expectant bedtime preparations for her latest rendezvous with what Hammer’s over-heated publicity department termed ‘the demon lover’: composer James Bernard’s shimmering musical accompaniment builds to tremulous orgasmic highs while leaves swirl in a supernatural eddy under a full moon, and Lucy’s eyes affix with longing on the flung open French Windows for the romantically enticing form that eventually appears framed between them. Fisher later cited such scenes in support of his contention that “Dracula” was: ‘just about the best thing I ever did for Hammer!’

If Lucy’s undoing comes as a result of Dracula playing on her naïve, virginal ideas of windswept romantic love, then Mina is entrapped for much more direct and practical reasons … basically, she ‘ain’t getting enough at home! While Van Helsing and his new recruit are out and about attempting to track down the Count’s current lair, leaving the ‘little woman’ to her needlepoint while they get on with the proper man’s business of pouring over maps and so forth, Dracula is already busy ensnaring Holmwood’s wife behind his back with necrophilic sexual magnetism, after arranging for an assignation over Dracula’s coffin at the village of Klausenberg’s local morticians and undertakers! Before shooting the scene in which Van Helsing and Arthur Holmwood return after their unsuccessful attempts to track down Dracula’s resting place, and find Mina missing, only for her turn up minutes later after her first encounter with Dracula, Melissa Stribling asked Terrence Fisher how she should be playing it. Fisher himself reported telling her to ‘imagine you’ve just had one whale of a sexual night … the best sexual experience you’ve ever had!’ Viewed with that knowledge in mind, Michael Gough’s campy enquiry, ‘are you feeling alright m’dear? … You look a bit pale!’ and Stribling’s glowing air and rosy grin in response become especially priceless to behold!

Just how upfront Fisher was intent on being with his sexual angle on the story only really becomes apparent in this latest restored Lionsgate Blu-ray edition. Although more attention has been directed on the recovery and reintegration for this release of Japanese footage featuring an extra few seconds of gore from Dracula’s disintegration at the end of the film, it is the recovery of the extended version of Mina’s seduction which is, in a way, far more significant, proving that the ‘Dracula as sexual predator and erotic emancipator’ reading of the film was not just Freudian subtext inflated by Hammer’s PR campaign or Fisher’s retrospective re-writing of history, but was always there from the start: the scene in Mina’s bedroom in which Dracula enters and forces her onto her bed always previously cut away to an owl squawking outside the house at that precise point, while Holmwood and Van Helsing patrol the grounds unaware that the Count was already inside the house, thus leaving the impression of the Count’s attack on Mina being a forced one, akin to a vampiric rape. In this version the scene goes on for several seconds longer and plays much more overtly like a love scene, with Dracula shown nuzzling Mina’s eyes, nose and mouth, then gently taking her down onto the bed, whereupon her face clearly indicates that she’s enjoying the experience, in spite herself.

Despite the loss (until now) of this part of the sequence, the BBFC still found the Hammer formula completely reprehensible, and did everything possible within its power to neuter the film. At the initial script stage (Hammer always submitted their scripts for approval before they began shooting, supposedly to minimise conflict with the censor board later on), the horror element was the thing that threatened the examiners the most, with their written notes bemoaning, for example, Jimmy Sangster’s ‘disgusting and vulgar style’ and the messiness that was sure to result from so much technicolour blood being splashed all over the screen. Craftily, Carreras and Hinds attempted to sneak more past the censors than might otherwise have been allowed by initially supplying the BBFC with a black-and-white print instead of a colour one!

Attempting at every stage to extract all blood-letting from the film seems to have distracted the Board completely from the sex question although they did express worry over diaphanous nightgowns, but this was soon to change once they actually saw the finished article and the emphasis Fisher had actually placed on it, which was much more apparent on the screen than it had been in Sangster’s original screenplay. It took all of James Carreras’ skill and diplomacy to special plead his way into the Board allowing even the trimmed down version of the sequence between Dracula and Mina Holmwood to make it into the film, so insistent to begin with was newly appointed Secretary John Trevelyan that any sexual connotations should be removed in their entirety from the film. The British critics were if anything even more hysterical in their unanimous condemnation of “Dracula” upon its release, although the U.S. press seem to have been considerably more tolerant of its Gothic excesses -- sexual or otherwise.

The portrayal of Count Dracula as ‘the other’ who invades the Victorian household (literally in this case, as Sangster has the influenced Mina hide Dracula’s coffin in the cellar of the Holmwood’s own dwelling) and then proceeds to disrupt it from within by liberating the sexuality of its repressed female housewives and daughters, does not necessarily mean that Fisher’s film is a late-fifties harbinger of the permissive society, though: the binding stays of straight-laced social convention being loosened and discarded can only lead to corruption spreading and destroying its own subjects like a festering plague in Fisher’s dual good-versus-evil moral formulation; and it must be dealt with harshly and unrelentingly by an unwavering upholder of Christian righteousness, such as Peter Cushing’s Doctor Van Helsing.

Lucy’s return from the grave as the child-stealing vampire woman who preys upon her little niece Tania (Janina Faye) and even attempts to seduce her brother (didn’t the BBFC note the incestuous tone to the scene in which Arthur confronts his sister in the graveyard?) is thus perhaps the creepiest part of the entire film; the image of the spectral grown-up leading a small child through an autumnal graveyard (‘I know somewhere nice and quiet where we can play’), eerily anticipates much of the societal anxiety that was to come out in response to several real life incidents during the following decade, when the role permissiveness might have played in The Moors murders or the Mary Bell case was often brought up in debates on child killers and murderers of children. The sequence articulates the frequently made suggestion that the abandonment of sexual norms brings a corruption that proceeds to spread from the innocent to the very young. But the way in which patriarchal normalcy and the conventional structure of the domestic Victorian household is reasserted in “Dracula”, of course, is in the end an uncompromising one -- involving the implementation of a phallic wooden stake being hammered violently into the bodies of the ‘corrupted’ individuals, magically ‘releasing’ them from the devilish taint of vampirism, with peace and beauty seen to be restored to their faces in death. The smouldering cruciform burn scar left by Van Helsing’s defensive crucifix after it was earlier applied to Mina’s palm, similarly fades with the Count’s demise, her wedding ring made prominent once more as it catches the light during the ensuing camera close-up, to be contrasted with Dracula’s own signet ring as it lies abandoned amid his mouldering remains and wind-strewn ashes.

Peter Cushing’s role in the complete overhaul performed on Stoker’s Van Helsing by the Hammer team is, next to Christopher Lee’s contribution, the most publicly noticeable of the innovations performed upon the original text, departing completely from the author’s rather eccentric Dutch vampire hunter, who speaks throughout the novel in reams of almost incomprehensible broken English dialogue and who was made an equally wooden and uninspiring hero by Edward Van Sloan in Tod Browning’s 1931 adaptation. Cushing’s Van Helsing on the other hand shares his dashing and athletic persona with Lee’s Dracula. The two preside over a film shot and edited as a crisp, fast-paced adventure story which ends with their brilliantly staged tussle at the end of the third act, although it is Peter Cushing’s stuntman who actually runs the length of the library table to tear down the curtains and expose Dracula to the shaft of dawn sunlight (an effect achieved by Jack Asher positioning a sheet of glass in front of the camera with a light angled so that a streak of fine white spray on it was the only part illuminated) which eventually destroys him. This scene was still Cushing’s original idea though, just as was the decision to use two candlestick holders from the table as a crucifix rather than have Van Helsing produce yet another in a seemingly endless supply of the things from about his person. And just as Lee’s performance during his final disintegration scene – now restored to its former glory – almost makes one feel a twinge of sympathy for the abject Count, so Cushing’s humanising touches throughout the film, allow Van Helsing to transcend his somewhat one dimensional construction in Sangster’s script. Although it may be a flagrant anachronism in a film that was supposed to be taking place in the nineteenth century, Cushing’s scene with Janina Faye as the little girl Tanya who has just been menaced by the vampirised Lucy, offers a classic piece of humanising improvised Cushing dialogue when he wraps the scared little girl, still in her flimsy nightdress, in his Astrakhan collared coat exclaiming, ‘there … now you look like a great big teddy bear!’

“Dracula” is the moment at which the Hammer product was finally perfected by the team originally responsible for “The Curse of Frankenstein”. Unlike the first film, which still has an old fashioned air of Gainsborough Pictures about it, this is sharp, lush-looking through out, and superbly acted by most of the cast. Only Michael Gough and John Van Eyssen appear to be indulging in melodramatic gestural stage acting, although this (probably accidentally) only ends up emphasising how their stuffy provincial characters Harker and Holmwood are not ultimately up to dealing with this insidious new threat to the certainties of their cosy domestic world, and how it takes a modern, ruthless agent of righteousness such as Cushing’s sprightly crucifix totting Van Helsing to restore order and bring final closure.

After the lukewarm reaction to the Blu-ray HD transfer used for the recent release of “The Curse of Frankenstein”, fans awaited the debut of “Dracula” in the format with trepidation and bated breath, but luckily no major issues plague this superb edition. Now restored with the bluish picture tint which seems more authentic than the previous ‘warm’ DVD Warner Bros. transfer released back in 2003, and with the correct 1.66:1 aspect ratio, this edition makes use of the print from the 2007 restoration of the film, overseen by the BFI before the discovery in 20011 of reels 6-9 of a Japanese print, containing previously missing seconds from Dracula’s bedroom seduction scene and the disintegration scene at the end, amounting to 58 seconds of previously lost material in all. These turned out to be housed at the National Film Centre at the National Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo, and were tracked down by Tokyo-based Hammer fan Simon Rowson. The film is presented here in two versions: the first consisting of the BFI restoration as it originally was before the discovery of the new material, and the second being Hammer’s 2012 restoration, which sought to re-integrate the missing frames into that 2007 version. All forty minutes of the un-restored reels of the Japanese print are also included for the benefit of completest, and it is the viewing of this material that enables one to develop some degree of insight into just what an awesome job the restoration teams responsible for making these 58 seconds sit comfortably within the rest of the film again have done, for in its original state, the Japanese spools are simply a riot of white scratches and faded colours. There is a 20 minute documentary included among the extras, “Resurrecting Dracula”, which examines the skills responsible for bringing this lost footage back from the dead and traces the process from its beginnings to the final unveiling of the finished work at the Vault Festival in 2011. Frankly the job the various restoration houses have done in combination with each other here is truly miraculous and one can barely detect the join in the finished product, with the sound being equally as seamlessly integrated with the rest of the movie for the previously unseen seconds in question.

As before, this Lionsgate edition is a dual-disc version featuring one Blu-ray disc with the film and all the extras included on it, and two DVD discs, the first featuring the film and audio commentary (as well as subtitles for the Hard of Hearing) and the second harbouring all the same extras included on the BD disc. Those extras are extensive and include a well-considered making of documentary, “Dracula Reborn”, produced by Marcus Hearn and featuring expert commentary from Jimmy Sangster, Jonathan Rigby, Marcus Hearn, Mark Gatiss, Kim Newman and Janina Faye -- who between them provide an excellent overview. Also, David Huckvale returns to examine in detail the thinking behind James Bernard’s score and Wayne Kinsey explains how Bernard Robertson re-vamped the same sets again and again to create the colourfully ornate interiors and crumbling exteriors of Castle Dracula.

“The Demon Lover: Christopher Frayling on Dracula” features the renowned cultural commentator in an intelligent discussion of Hammer’s charting of the changing mores of the 1950s through Stoker’s Dracula myth, pointing out that the academic identification of the novel with Freudian ideas of the return of the repressed didn’t come about until after Hammer’s film version, which was completely innovative in that regard.

“Censoring Dracula” features Hammer historian Denis Meikle discussing the film’s censorship history at the BBFC at script and screen stage, with lots of readings from the outraged comments of some of the BBFC examiners who viewed the film.

In addition, the set also includes another episode of the “World of Hammer” series featuring Oliver Reed’s plum bass tones meandering across clips from all of Hammer’s vampire-themed films; and a reading from the opening of Stoker’s novel by Janina Faye, given at the Vault Festival at which this new restoration was premiered. A stills gallery made up of hundreds of poster images, production stills, portraits and press book images (including behind-the-scenes shots) is extensive and fascinating, and the original shooting script (included as a PDF file) reveals the many differences between Sangster’s work and the film as it eventually wound up. Also in PDF form is a full-colour booklet by writer Robert JE Simpson which covers the making of the film and the differences between subsequent add campaigns in Britain and the U.S., as well as the back story to the 2012 restoration, all accompanied by colour production stills and poster images.

Finally the film comes with a wonderful audio commentary by Jonathan Rigby and Marcus Hearn, who, as expected, provide many fascinating details about the film and echo the reaction of all Hammer fans when expressing their sheer delight at the sight of the newly restored missing material.

Read more from Black Gloves at his blog, Nothing but the Night

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