Director: Terence Fisher
Screenplay: Jimmy Sangster
Starring: Peter Cushing, Michael Gough, Carol Marsh, Melissa Stribling, Christopher Lee
Running Time: 82 minutes
Release Date: 18 March 2013
If you don’t already know the story in this version of Dracula – and shame on you if you don’t – we’ll recap quickly.
When Dr Van Helsing (Cushing) discovers that his friend Jonathan Harker has been bitten by Count Dracula (Lee) and turned into a vampire, he resolves to tracking down the Count and killing him. Dracula goes after Harker’s fiancée, Lucy, and turns her into a mistress of the undead, only for Van Helsing to release her from her cursed existence. In revenge, Dracula targets her sister-in-law, Mina. Now it is down to Van Helsing and Mina’s husband, Arthur (Gough) to stop him from turning Mina and kill him.
Now that’s the story out of the way, you may ask why we’re reviewing such an old classic. Well, in its 55th anniversary year, Hammer is releasing Dracula for the first time in high definition and it’s a release well worth celebrating. Here we are getting as crisp a transfer as you’re ever likely to see of this timeless film, along with an absolute boatload of extras.
Sure, Hammer took certain liberties with their version of Bram Stoker’s novel, but this creates a new type of horror that would have bought an interesting slant on the character for the Technicolor age. Lee and Cushing appear in what would become known as career defining roles, and you can really appreciate the little things, such as Lee’s ever-imposing cloaked figure cutting a swathe across the screen every time he appears, exuding dread and fear as he dominates every frame. It’s interesting to note that like a cat, no matter how quickly he moves he never makes a sound, whereas everyone else around him gives themselves away either via their footsteps or other clumsy movements. It’s also interesting to see what was considered to be gruesome back in the 50s, with the film receiving an X rating on its original release.
There are a couple of scenes that have been restored from the infamous Japanese reels after being originally censored by the BBFC and this release provides two versions of the film which can now be described as definitive.
If you are a true horror fan, you owe it to yourself to add this to your collection.
- Dracula Reborn – A new 30 minute featurette about the film’s creation and history, featuring, among others: Jimmy Sangster, Kim Newman, Mark Gatiss, Jonathan Rigby and Janina Faye
- Resurrecting Dracula – A new 20 minute featurette about the film’s restoration, from the BFI’s 2007 restoration through to the integration of ‘lost’ footage, featuring interviews with key staff at the BFI, Molinare and Deluxe142. Also covers the February 2012 world premiere of Hammer’s interim restored version including ‘vox pop’ interviews with fans after the event.
- The Demon Lover: Christopher Frayling on Dracula – A new 30 minute featurette.
- Censoring Dracula – A new 10 minute featurette on the original cuts to the film ordered by the BBFC.
- New commentary by Hammer historian Marcus Hearn and author / critic Jonathan Rigby.
- All 4 surviving Japanese reels (6-9) unrestored (40 minutes)
- The World of Hammer episode – Dracula and the Undead.
- Janina Faye reading a chapter of Bram 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)
- Original shooting script (PDF)
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