A note on the grade of DRACULA (1958) restored

There is currently some online comment about the grade of our forthcoming release of DRACULA (1958), with some suggesting that the grade is too dark or too blue and that these choices are contrary to the “original” colour timing of the film. In fact the grade of both versions of the film on the forthcoming Double-Play release was determined by the BFI after very careful research when they restored the film in 2007.

The BFI’s grading decisions were made based on a close inspection of an original check print, which made it quite clear that the artistic choices of Terence Fisher and Jack Asher were for a somber, atmospheric and cold tone, but still retaining rich reds, greens and blues.

What we think of today as the Hammer Technicolor palette, is to some extent determined not by what the original films looked like when first exhibited, but by home entertainment releases, in the US in particular, which chose a far warmer palette than was originally intended for many of Hammer’s films.

Although DRACULA was shot on Eastman Colour film stock (the UK quad proudly states “In Eastman Colour processed by Technicolor”), the original prints would have been IB Technicolor prints. It is worth pointing-out that as a process, “imbibition” (or “IB”) dye-transfer printing tended to create prints that were less lush and warm than what is now considered the “Technicolor” palette.

Please rest assured that there has been no “tinting” or “darkening” of the DRACULA restoration. And there has certainly been no attempt to make the film look more contemporary. The 2007 grade is the best possible attempt (albeit with entirely different technology) to emulate the grade of an original print. Also, the grade of the release versions is identical to that of the BFI screenings in 2007 (and for that matter the VAULT screening in 2012, which played very well indeed to a screen full of fans).

Finally, we would at least ask that judgement be reserved till you have watched the film. Screengrabs never convey colour or contrast entirely accurately. Thank you.

P.S. There is much more detail on the restoration process, including interviews with key personnel, in the documentary “Resurrecting Dracula” on the Blu-ray and DVD of the forthcoming March 18th Double-Play release.

Pre-order here.

Here are some reviews:

TOTAL FILM magazine April 2013 issue pp.136-137 – review by Philip Kemp – (4/5 + 4/5; “The results? Nothing short of superb.”)

EMPIRE magazine April 2013 issue pp.140-141 – review by Owen Williams – (5/5 + 4/5; “A landmark event.”)

http://www.sfx.co.uk/2013/02/18/dracula-review/ (5/5 + 4/5)

http://www.scifinow.co.uk/reviews/36879/hammers-dracula-blu-ray-review/ (5/5)

http://www.starburstmagazine.com/reviews/dvd-and-blu-ray-home-entertainment-reviews/4616-blu-ray-review-dracula-1958 (10/10)

http://www.cathoderaytube.co.uk/2013/02/british-cult-classics-dracula-3-disc.html (discusses the grade at some length and also addresses such in comments below the in-depth review)

http://diaboliquemagazine.com/dracula-aka-horror-of-dracula-blu-ray-review/

http://www.seenit.co.uk/dracula-blu-ray-and-dvd-double-play/0225923/ (5/5)

http://www.strangethingsarehappening.com/dracula1958.html

“DRACULA DEFEATED” ASPECT RATIO COMPARISON

Van Helsing pursues Dracula in flashback...

We thought you’d be interested in the comparison we made last week between the BFI’s 2007 restoration of DRACULA (1958) and the opening flashback sequence of DRACULA PRINCE OF DARKNESS. The footage within the “diamond of smoke” optical effect of DRACULA PRINCE OF DARKNESS is top-and-bottom matted at 1.66:1 within the 2.35:1 Techniscope frame (using an identical 1.66:1 centre matte to the BFI’s 2007 restoration). This means that: a) DRACULA (1958) was neither shot nor originally intended to be exhibited at 1.85:1, as if this were the case the flashback footage would have been framed at this ratio, rendering more of the picture visible at left-and-right and requiring less smoke; b) 1.66:1 is definitely a Fisher-sanctioned aspect ratio for DRACULA (1958); c) this still does not except that Fisher originally composed DRACULA (1958) for Academy, as framing the flashback at 1.37:1 would have meant very little width to the insert and even more smoke around the picture as framed in Academy, which would have been extremely narrow within the 2.35:1 Techniscope frame. In any case, the controversy over THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN aspect ratios will be avoided with DRACULA (1958) as the BFI restoration is centre-matted at 1.66:1 and our 2012 restoration of censored footage from the so-called “Japanese reels” (due for UK release on 18th March 2013) integrates such into the BFI’s 2007 version.

From the 1.33:1 WB VHS. Side-matted down from 1.66:1 to fit a 4x3 frame.

From the 1.77:1 WB DVD. Matted top-and-bottom to fit a 16x9 frame.

From the unrestored HD transfer of the "Japanese reels". There is slightly more picture info top-and-bottom than the BFI 2007 restoration 1.66:1 matte, but less at the left (more) and right (less) due to a hard matte in the telecine.

From the 1.66:1 BFI restoration (16x9 frame).

NB: The BFI’s 2007 restoration at 1.66:1 has the same amount of picture information top-and-bottom as the 4×3 screengrab, and the same amount left-and-right as the 16×9 screengrab (allowing for a very small margin in each case).

UPDATE 15th November 2012: As some of you have already deduced, we can now confirm for definite that DRACULA (1958) was indeed shot with a 1.66:1 matte in camera. To the best of our knowledge, DRACULA (1958) remains the only Hammer film shot in this way (though in the 60s, prints of Hammer films were sometimes struck with a 1.66:1 hard matte). We know for certain, for example, that THE MUMMY (1959) was shot open aperture full frame 35mm, the same as THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN. (The slight extra picture information at the top-and-bottom of the screengrab from the “Japanese reels” is pre the fine matte applied by the BFI when they mastered their 2007 restoration.) As we’ve said before, because we’re basing our 2012 restoration of the censored footage on the BFI’s 2007 restoration, we have always been working on the film in 1.66:1, so there is no question of the film being presented in any ratio other than 1.66:1, in the case of DRACULA (1958) the definitive and sole UK OAR. There is of course still plenty of room for further speculation regarding Terence Fisher’s preferred composition aspect ratio and whether the return to shooting open aperture full frame was connected to Fisher’s preferences, or to an understanding that TV versions were better with more information top-and-bottom than with less information left-and-right.

A note on the restoration, mastering and authoring of THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN

The source material used for the October 15th UK Double Play release of the restored THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN was an InterPositive (I/P), which was scanned at 4k by Warner Motion Picture Imaging especially for our 2012 restoration. This is the exact same source material used by Warner Bros. for their 1.77:1 DVD release, though that transfer appears to have made use of sharpening filters.

Although this I/P (which was created from the original separation masters and is not an I/P from the film’s original lab process) is the best possible celluloid material available for the film (the original negative is so damaged it cannot be scanned) it is rather “faded”, which accounts for the softness visible in the final BD and DVD encodes.

After scanning, the film was restored and graded in 2k by Deluxe142. During restoration and grading, it became clear that we would have to choose between retaining the grain on the one hand, or, on the other, using sharpening filters to counter the visible softness of the image. We chose to retain the grain and not to use DVNR filters or sharpening filters as these would have moved the picture away from the filmic and organic look at which we were aiming.

After restoration was complete, the film was mastered to HDCamSR 444 at 1080p.

This HDCamSR master was then used to encode both the SD transfer for the DVD9 and the HD transfer for the BD50. There was no additional compression added at the encoding stage, nor were any filters added, nor was the contrast or colour balance altered. All the new extras on the BD were authored SD to ensure enough space for both features to be authored at an average bitrate (“Variable Bit Rate” or “VBR”) of 25Mbps. It has been reported in some reviews that each feature data size is 14.4Gb, which would be correct for an encode of 86 mins. at a VBR of 25Mbps (86 mins. at a consistent bitrate of 25Mbps would render a data size of 15.02Gb).

Some reviewers have commented that the DVD is “better quality” than the BD. As both have been transferred from the same source, this simply cannot be the case, however the DVD may in some circumstances appear to look better due to upscaling if watched on an HD screen, as this may be creating a sharpening effect. The BD clearly shows more grain and edge definition.

In addition, the HD encode, due to its higher resolution, shows more of the artefacts present in the source material, including softness, grain and high contrast. The SD encode may appear to look smoother as these artefacts are less visible. Finally, there are multiple user-defined and screen-specific settings that affect the way a picture displays on any given TV or computer screen.

Overall, the quality of the picture is dictated by the quality of the source material, and by the decisions taken to retain grain and not to apply filters. We are more than happy with the final result and feel that it properly reflects the work and care that went into the restoration process.

THE CURSE OF ASPECT RATIOS!

This blog post deals only with the subject of the original aspect ratio (OAR) of THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN in the context of aspect ratios across Hammer films of the 1950s. There will be a separate post following soon after on the subject of restoration source materials and Blu-ray & DVD transfers. Please only comment on this post regarding aspect ratio/s. Thank you!

In the discussion below the following will be assumed:

1.37:1 aka “Academy” ratio – an aspect ratio based on composition that uses almost the entire 4-perf 35mm frame, with minimal matting for camera gate edges. Has slightly less picture left-and-right than 1.66:1. (Uncontentious Hammer OAR e.g. THE MAN IN BLACK).

1.66:1 – a predominantly UK and European widescreen aspect ratio designed to be centre matted from a 4-perf 35mm frame. Has slightly more picture left-and-right than 1.37:1. (Uncontentious Hammer OAR e.g. THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES [1959]).

1.85:1 – a predominantly US widescreen aspect ratio that is usually centre matted from a 4-perf 35mm frame (though can be shot 3-perf to save film). Has slightly more picture left-and-right than 1.37:1. (Uncontentious Hammer OAR e.g. NONE. Although the 35mm spherical Hammer/Universal films were at the least shot to be exhibited at 1.66:1 in the UK and 1.85:1 in the US, THE CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF, THE KISS OF THE VAMPIRE, CAPTAIN CLEGG aka NIGHT CREATURES and THE EVIL OF FRANKENSTEIN all look tight at 1.85:1; even TO THE DEVIL A DAUGHTER [1976] was shot at 1.66:1, and NB: THE LADY VANISHES [1979] was shot in Panavision)

2.35:1 Techniscope – a spherical widescreen ratio that uses almost an entire 2-perf 35mm frame, with minimal matting for camera gate edges. (Uncontentious Hammer OAR e.g. DRACULA PRINCE OF DARKNESS).

2.35:1 Cinemascope – an anamorphic widescreen ratio that uses almost the entire 4-perf 35mm frame, with minimal matting top-and-bottom for camera gate edges, but varying degrees of matting left-and-right depending on the lenses used. (Uncontentious Hammer OAR e.g. RASPUTIN THE MAD MONK).

2.35:1 Hammerscope – a “budget” anamorphic widescreen ratio that, like Cinemascope, uses almost the entire 4-perf 35mm frame, with minimal matting top-and-bottom for camera gate edges, but varying degrees of matting left-and-right depending on the lenses used. (Uncontentious Hammer OAR e.g. THE ABOMINABLE SNOWMAN).

In order to be as clear as possible in this post, we have deliberately not delved into the issue of where and how sound is added to celluloid.

THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN was filmed between 19th November 1956 and 3rd January 1957 using 35mm film shot 4-perf spherical. Before we get into the aspect ratio of this film, some context:

Hammer’s standard aspect ratio across all of its films up until 1954 was 1.37:1. In that year, the Hammer/Lippert films, which were UK/US co-productions, switched from 1.37:1 (see examples below) to 1.66:1, though still protected for 1.37:1 (see THE UNHOLY FOUR below), in reaction to the fast-growing increase in US cinemas which could screen widescreen films.

MAN BAIT aka THE LAST PAGE (1952) 1.37:1

BAD BLONDE aka THE FLANAGAN BOY (1953) 1.37:1

HEAT WAVE aka THE HOUSE ACROSS THE LAKE (1954) 1.37:1

NB: The Kit Parker Films release of THE UNHOLY FOUR is zoomed to ~1.77:1 from 1.66:1 (NB: when a 1.66:1 ratio is re-framed at 1.77:1 16×9, it loses detail top-and-bottom; when a 1.85:1 ratio is re-framed at 1.77:1 16×9, it loses detail left-and-right).

THE UNHOLY FOUR aka THE STRANGER CAME HOME (1954) 1.66:1

Hammer’s first colour film, THE MEN OF SHERWOOD FOREST (1954), was composed and exhibited in 1.37:1:

THE MEN OF SHERWOOD FOREST (1954) BBFC card 1.37:1

THE MEN OF SHERWOOD FOREST (1954) main company card 1.37:1

The presence of American money in a Hammer production, or the promise of US distribution through one of the major Hollywood studios, didn’t necessarily mean that the film in question was composed for either 1.66:1 or 1.85:1, even if by the mid 50s many US cinemas were equipped to exhibit widescreen. X THE UNKNOWN (1956) for example (which though intended for Sol Lesser/RKO, was eventually distributed in the US by Warner Bros.) was composed and exhibited in the Academy ratio.

X THE UNKNOWN (1956) main title optical 1.37:1

X THE UNKNOWN (1956) end titles company card 1.37:1

X THE UNKNOWN (1956) WB end card 1.37:1

There has been some debate about the composition ratio of QUATERMASS 2 (1957). It is quite possible, even probable, that the film was exhibited in the US, and maybe even in the UK, at 1.66:1, but even cursory analysis of the composition as shot shows that the film was shot for a 1.37:1 aspect ratio.

QUATERMASS 2 (1957) first shot post main titles 1.37:1

QUATERMASS 2 (1957) end titles company card 1.37:1

QUATERMASS 2 was shot between 28th May and 13th July 1956. THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN was filmed between 19th November 1956 and 3rd January 1957. Peter Cushing barely had time to rest before he began shooting THE ABOMINABLE SNOWMAN between 28th January and 5ht March of the same year. THE ABOMINABLE SNOWMAN was shot in “HAMMERSCOPE”, a budget 4-perf 2.35:1 widescreen ratio. THE STEEL BAYONET was shot around the same time, also in “HAMMERSCOPE”.

So now we come to the subject of THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN and its original aspect ratio. Even though Hammer had partnered with Lippert in the early 1950s and produced films intended for exhibition at 1.66:1 toward the end of that partnership, between 1955 and 1957, the Hammer “house style” was still very much 1.37:1. As we have discussed on the blog previously, after watching the films from this period many times over and carefully considering the context in which the films were made and composed, we came to the conclusion that THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (TCOF) was composed at the Academy ratio, even though those who made it were fully aware that it would also be exhibited at 1.66:1 in the US and in UK cinemas which had already been converted to widescreen.

As we have hopefully shown above, one of the best ways to gauge the intended original aspect ratio of a film is carefully to analyse the main and end titles, as their design and positioning will very often give a very clear indication of a film’s aspect ratio. When it comes to TCOF, there is a main titles card which is particularly interesting:

TCOF (1957) main titles HOD card 1.37:1

TCOF (1957) main titles HOD card 1.66:1

TCOF (1957) main titles HOD card 1.77:1 windowboxed

Above can be seen the same main titles HOD (Heads Of Department) card at 1.37:1, 1.66:1 (both taken from our new Double Play release) and at 1.77:1 (taken from the WB DVD release). In the WB release, the entirety of the main titles is windowboxed. This is because at any ratio tighter than 1.66:1 the main titles would be cropped-off at the top-and-bottom of the screen. This is a very strong argument for TCOF not being composed for 1.85:1 (if any evidence were needed at all). Indeed, till we are shown cast-iron evidence to the contrary, we are sceptical that any Hammer film from the company’s entire history was ever composed at 1.85:1 (of course this is not to say that none of the company’s films were ever exhibited at this ratio, indeed we have talked at length about this in relation to THE REPTILE and THE PLAGUE OF THE ZOMBIES elsewhere on this blog; also worth mentioning here that THE DEVIL RIDES OUT original cut negative as scanned for our recent restoration came with a line-up chart that clearly shows 1.66:1 as the correct original aspect ratio).

Before we look at the film proper, there is the issue of the BBFC card. The card below has guide marks so that it can be photographed by a 35mm camera correctly centred (at a ratio of 1.37:1). However, this doesn’t prove what aspect ratio the card was intended to precede. It clearly doesn’t have the elaborate border style seen above in the BBFC card for THE MEN OF SHERWOOD FOREST (1954) which is incontrovertibly intended for an Academy ratio film, but neither does it have anything that conclusively proves it is intended only for a 1.66:1 ratio film, indeed when photographed at a 1.37:1 ratio, the card could be used for an Academy ratio film, or matted for a 1.66:1 ratio film.

TCOF (1957) BBFC card

The famous opening matte painting of TCOF, which shows the priest traversing a mountain pass on horseback, has already been used to support an examination of the film’s aspect ratio, so we’ll start by looking at the same scene:

TCOF (1957) opening matte painting 1.37:1

TCOF (1957) opening matte painting 1.66:1

TCOF (1957) opening matte painting 1.77:1

The 1.37:1 version looks perfectly composed to us. Even at 1.66:1 the priest gets somewhat lost in the composition. The mountains peaks in the background are only visible in the Academy version. More pertinently, the prison – which is the priest’s destination – is only fully visible in the 1.37:1 version. Now obviously one wouldn’t use a single shot to determine aspect ratio, but static shots, especially those containing matte paintings, are surely better indicators of what the cinematographer and director intended than shots with actors moving through the scene and multiple camera moves. To us, especially as it’s the very first shot of the film, this is already very strong evidence for a 1.37:1 composition.

The three examples above also highlight another key issue regarding the transfer of films to home entertainment mediums. When a film was “soft” matted from 35mm to the intended exhibition aspect ratio at the cinema (as most films were at the time, though a small number were “hard” matted at the lab), the projectionist would follow a set of notes that instructed him or her how to mask the film. This mask was almost always equal top-and-bottom, so that the matte is, in effect, centred. Once a 35mm frame is matted to either 1.66:1 or 1.85:1, the projectionist cannot then re-mask the film on a scene-by-scene or shot-by-shot basis in order to ensure that detail at the top or bottom of the screen isn’t chopped-off. The matte is set and the film runs all the way through at the same matte. The same applies to hard matting, which can occur anywhere between the camera and the printing process. Once a matte has been applied, it cannot then be moved in order to re-frame picture information that would otherwise be lost. Only an optical process could have enabled certain scenes or shots to be “re-centred” so that the subsequent application of a centre matte would show the best possible picture throughout a projected print of the film.

Home entertainment and telecine (and now digital) pan-and-scan & tilt-and-scan techniques enable a film to be re-matted on a scene-by-scene or even a shot-by-shot basis and this (specifically tilt-and-scan) is what was used to create the WB DVD of TCOF. Although the overriding 1.77:1 (not actually 1.85:1) matte is centred, at several points the picture is tilt-and-scanned so as to re-frame the picture and stop information being lost from the (usually) top of the picture. The 1.77:1 transfer of the opening matte painting has been tilted up, so the top looks almost identical to the top of the 1.66:1 version; however the bottom of the 1.66:1 version has additional picture information because it’s framed at a looser aspect ratio.

Below are three examples across all three versions that show the overriding centre matting of all three aspect ratios. First, the “Charnel House” sign:

TCOF (1957) Charnel House 1.37:1

TCOF (1957) Charnel House 1.66:1

TCOF (1957) Charnel House 1.77:1

As one would expect with a centre matt, the frame gradually “zooms” in, losing picture information from the top-and-bottom as the aspect ratio becomes tighter.

Here are two more examples (“magnifying glass” and “chapel”):

TCOF (1957) magnifying glass 1.37:1

TCOF (1957) magnifying glass 1.66:1

TCOF (1957) magnifying glass 1.77:1

TCOF (1957) chapel 1.37:1

As with the opening matte painting of the priest on horseback, this matte painting definitely looks its best at 1.37:1.

TCOF (1957) chapel 1.66:1

TCOF (1957) chapel 1.77:1

Here below are three more screen grabs from the funeral of the luckless Professor. The first looks perfect at 1.37:1; the second shows one of the few times that the centre matt looks a little tight at 1.66:1. Again, the 1.77:1 version has tilted up to allow extra headroom, a technique that only became possible with the advent of telecine and then with digital workflow, neither of which were available at the time of the film’s original release:

TCOF (1957) outside funeral 1.37:1

TCOF (1957) outside funeral 1.66:1

TCOF (1957) outside funeral 1.77:1

Next we’ll look at some examples where there is detail at the top AND the bottom of the screen. First the infamous “eyeball”, restored to its rightful place in today’s release:

TCOF (1957) eyeball 1.37:1

This looks perfectly framed in the Academy ratio.

TCOF (1957) 1.66:1

Even at 1.66:1 this looks tight. There is no 1.77:1 version as the eyeball is not in the 1.77:1 WB release.

Now the scene in the woods just after Krempe has shot The Creature in the eye:

TCOF (1957) creature shot in eye 1.37:1

At 1.37:1, we see The Creature’s bloody eye and outstretched left arm at the bottom of the frame and enough of Krempe’s head (including his whole face) at the top.

TCOF (1957) creature shot in eye 1.66:1

At 1.66:1, the detail at the bottom of the frame is just retained, but Krempe’s head is now arguably a little tight.

TCOF (1957) creature shot in eye 1.77:1

Again, the 1.77:1 version has tilted up to allow maximum picture at the top of the frame, though at the expense of detail at the bottom of the frame (though at least The Creature’s bloody hand is still visible).

Now here’s our favourite: three versions of the mausoleum at night. We’re particularly proud of the grade in this scene also! First the 1.37:1, showing the stone vulture (the Frankenstein family crest, the vulture also being an animal interested in the viscera of deceased animals) at the top of the frame and the carved skull on the headstone at the bottom left:

TCOF (1957) mausoleum 1.37:1

Now the 1.66:1 version with a centre matte, which crops both the vulture and the skull:

TCOF (1957) mausoleum 1.66:1

And finally the 1.77:1 version, which yet again tilts up to retain the vulture at the top, but in so doing completely crops the skull at the bottom.

TCOF (1957) mausoleum 1.77:1

It is also telling that an illustration of the vulture was reproduced on the back of the tickets to the TCOF premiere. This would seem to point to both the importance of the vulture, and an original composition of 1.37:1.

Back of TCOF (1957) premiere ticket

The end titles are also revealing (all three versions ending on the overriding centre matte, so each ratio looks “zoomed in” from the looser ratio before it):

TCOF (1957) end titles company card 1.37:1

At 1.37:1 (above) the card looks perfectly composed. At 1.66:1 (below) the card already looks a bit tight, especially at the bottom:

TCOF (1957) end titles company card 1.66:1

At 1.77:1, the card definitely looks tight:

TCOF (1957) end titles company card 1.77:1

Finally, here are some screen grabs from the 1.37:1 TCOF theatrical trailer, which, in this version at least (and it’s the only version we have) the Academy ratio looks unambiguously spot-on:

TCOF Theatrical Trailer (1957) key title style 1.37:1

TCOF Theatrical Trailer (1957) key strapline 1.37:1

TCOF Theatrical Trailer (1957) end title-credit card 1.37:1

Borrowing a couple of terms used regarding aspect ratios in comments on this blog, matting an open gate 35mm film is something between an art and a science, depending on one’s intention. The WB 1.77:1 version of TCOF, which most of us have lived with for several years now, is a very good balance between science and art, combining the technique of tilt-and-scan with an excellent eye for the film’s composition, maintaining an overriding centre matte for most of the film, but sometimes tilting up when picture information would be lost to the centre matte.

With our new restored versions, the 1.37:1 could be called the “art” version. We lived with the film for many months and gradually came to the conclusion that the film was composed at 1.37:1. We didn’t jump to this decision, and we thought long and hard before committing to it, but once we saw how the restored film looked at the Academy ratio, we became convinced, and so have others since seeing it. There is also significant anecdotal evidence: Michael Carreras’ own collection of 16mm prints were always screened at full frame 1.37:1; we talked to people who vividly remember seeing the films projected at 1.37:1 on their first release.

You could also say that the 1.66:1 version is the “science” version. It uses a consistent centre matte for the entire film, providing a record of how the film would have looked when exhibited at 1.66:1 (using consistent soft matting) in cinemas in the UK and the US which had already been converted to widescreen projection.

Postscript: In 1958, Hammer filmed and released THE REVENGE OF FRANKENSTEIN, a direct sequel to THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN. The following four cards would appear to show that the film was shot at 1.66:1:

TROF (1958) main title style card 1.66:1

TROF (1958) main titles company card 1.66:1

TROF (1958) end titles company card 1.66:1

TROF (1958) end titles studio card 1.66:1

And finally, as a reward to anyone who got to the end, here is a screeching owl from the Japanese reels of DRACULA (1958) composed at 1.37:1:

DRACULA (1958) damaged Japanese print screeching owl 1.37:1

Got ya! ^..^

 

HEY GALS! HEY GUYS!

So here, finally, is a mini-update, specifically about the extras on the forthcoming StudioCanal UK release of THE MUMMY’S SHROUD.

Along with StudioCanal (and, in part, driven by clear passion for trailers from the fans!) we’ve assembled a great 15 min. trailer reel as an extra for this release, comprising:

THE MUMMY’S SHROUD US theatrical trailer unrestored
THE MUMMY’S SHROUD US theatrical trailer fully restored
RASPUTIN THE MAD MONK / THE REPTILE double-bill US theatrical trailer unrestored
THE DEVIL’S BRIDE US TV spot (b&w) unrestored
THE DEVIL’S BRIDE US theatrical trailer unrestored
THE DEVIL’S BRIDE US theatrical trailer fully restored

The October 22nd release also features:

Remembering David Buck (an original short documentary about one of the stars of THE MUMMY’S SHROUD)

The Beat Goes On: The Making of THE MUMMY’S SHROUD (an original 22 min. documentary)

and a 6 min. photo gallery!

THE MUMMY’S SHROUD Double-Play is released in the UK on October 22nd. Pre-order it now at Amazon.co.uk, HMV.com or Play.com!

Call for THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN script for Blu-ray release

We’d love to put THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN script as a PDF on the forthcoming Blu-ray/DVD release as mentioned, but sadly we haven’t managed to track it down. The one we thought we had a line on has gone (like so much of Hammer’s history over the years) to a private collector. If anyone can let us scan their copy of THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN shooting script (or any of Jimmy Sangster’s drafts) we’ll be exceptionally grateful. Please email us at restoration@hammerfilms.com Thanks.

THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN — Re-engineered!!!

The world premiere of our restored THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN will take place at the CATH/DMU Hammer event in Leicester on Saturday 14th July, preceded by Mark Gatiss in conversation with Jonathan Rigby. Click here to book tickets. For the first time in many years, the film will be screened in its original aspect ratio of 1.37:1 aka “Academy”. The film will also include the “eyeball” scene — restored from a reel of a print housed at the BFI then integrated into the main restoration, which was scanned from a Warner Bros. I/P — though not the “head in acid bath” scene, which despite our best efforts appears no longer to exist. Our warmest thanks to Deluxe 142, Soho for their superb work on restoring and grading this film — we hope you’ll all be as pleased with it as we are! For those of you who can’t make it, we hope to announce the UK Blu-ray release date at the event (we’ll tweet it immediately after announcing).

RASPUTIN cannot be killed!

It’s been a while since we posted! We’ve been busy finalising the StudioCanal UK releases of THE PLAGUE OF THE ZOMBIES and THE REPTILE. Marcus Hearn has worked his magic yet again and the new documentaries for these titles are truly excellent! Also, as many of you have pointed-out in various posts here and elsewhere, these two films, unlike DRACULA PRINCE OF DARKNESS, were shot 35mm 4-perf, so the film grain has proven much easier to work with in digital space than the much larger grain of a 2-perf Techniscope negative. We’re very pleased with how they turned-out and we sincerely hope you like them!

This week we reviewed the raw 4k scan of THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN, in addition to a D3 tape from the BBC of their legacy broadcast version of the title. As we tweeted yesterday, sadly the raw 4k scan does not include either the Close-Up of the eyeball or any additional footage from the acid bath scene, however the D3 does contain the CU of the eyeball. Although the results may not prove successful, we are going to perform a test on upscaling the D3 footage to HD in order to see how it integrates into the 2k restoration from the 4k scan. We’ll let you know how we get on!

And now on to the most exciting news! On Monday we reviewed the final grade of the RAPSUTIN restoration at illuminate Hollywood (they grade first and restore second). They’ve done a terrific job with the raw 4k scan which they created in January (from the 35mm 4-perf CinemaScope Interpositive or I/P). Firstly they attended to some printer flashes (from the printer that created the I/P from the cut Original Camera Negative) and sprocket jumps (caused by the edit joins in the cut neg). Then, based on conversations two weeks ago during which we established the colour palette and contrast parameters, the colourist created a truly gorgeous grade, with rich, earthy peasant browns, Imperial whites, golds, blues & greens and the classic Hammer Technicolor reds of costumes, stained-glass and blood. We also made the decision to wield a very soft touch over a key day-for-night sequence (which appears to have been shot in full daylight) leaving all the detail visible and very deliberately not “crushing” the blacks in a vain attempt to fake these into appearing as night-time scenes. And to any fans worried about grain, you’ll be pleased to hear that we have retained the original grain throughout, only applying very light reduction at a couple of moments to dimly-lit frame elements which were distractingly noisy (and neither of these feature cast).

Again, as we tweeted, one of the most remarkable aspects of watching the film without audio (apart, of course, from Lee’s mesmerising Rasputin) is the extraordinary power of Barbara Shelly’s performance. In story terms, and just as in DRACULA PRINCE OF DARKNESS (as noted in Rev. Peter Laws’ perceptive review of the film in this month’s issue of “Fortean Times”) it is Shelley’s character, Sonia, who travels the farthest, enabling the actress to showcase the extraordinary range of her emotional authenticity. Both Helen and Sonia are genuinely tragic characters, but the supernatural, archetypal mythology that underpins the DRACULA narrative at least allows Helen some form of redemption. Sonia gains no such peace in life or death, rendering her arc tragic in the original Greek sense. This makes it even more frustrating that we are close to accepting that the footage of her suicide, if indeed it was ever filmed, is lost forever (although we are still pursuing a couple of avenues).

The other element that stood out in terms of the “lost” footage is a smouldering log, which suddenly appears on the stone floor toward the end of the mortal struggle between Rasputin and Ivan (Francis Matthews) – a clear indication that there is definitely footage missing from this final fight (again, we think lost forever, though the same avenues apply).

Finally, as mentioned in our original post below, we are planning – bandwidth and release-partner permitting – two full versions of the entire film: one in 2.35:1 as originally intended, and one in the full-width aspect ratio of 2.55:1, to enable fans to see, for the very first time, the entire frame, as shot, throughout the entire film (call it the ultimate extra!).

We’ll post again soon in more detail regarding our hunt for “lost” footage across all the titles listed below in our original post regarding…

DRACULA PRINCE OF DARKNESS — smoke & horrors

As we discussed on this blog previously, DRACULA PRINCE OF DARKNESS was filmed in Techniscope aka 2-perf, which utilises only half the frame of a standard 35mm film cell in order to create a 2.35:1 image without the expense of anamorphic lenses and by using half the amount of film stock one would use shooting full-frame 35mm.

The center sequence in the opening flashback scene of the film is from the 4-perf negative of DRACULA aka HORROR OF DRACULA. That film was shot on the full 35mm frame and intended to be screened at 1.66:1. To make it all fit together, the filmmakers reduced the size of the flashback scene from DRACULA and added a diamond-shaped smoke-effect mask. The result is that there’s a real issue with the grain: it is very tight and crowded due to the shrinking of the 1.66:1 image. In addition, the overlay of the larger and more exaggerated grain of the 2-perf smoke effect creates all sorts of problems once the image is digitised and compressed. The problem we faced when encoding is that the overall composited picture in this scene had marked white noise and very distracting movement where the MPEG-4 (Blu-ray/HD) encode struggles to keep up with the grain in the film. The DVNR used on this scene (definitely not a blanket filter across the entire film as previously posted) resolved this issue, albeit with some “posterization”. On balance it was felt that this was the lesser of two evils.

However, so many of you have commented about this scene, that we, along with StudioCanal, decided to see if there was another way to filter and encode the picture. We did some research and have found an alternate encoding software package that will enable us better to tweak the opening sequence and create an improved encode. We have already completed several tests, and although it’s not perfect (it never could be, due to the workflow from 2-perf OCN to encoded Blu-ray) we feel that we have obtained a better result with less posterization. StudioCanal will replace this scene on the revised discs (with sound synch corrections) which will be available in April. We hope you like it!

Call for “lost” / censored footage as viable film materials

We’ll post at length next week (we’re busy with the final week of our little film festival presented by the flicker club at the VAULT festival) but here’s a list of “lost” scenes that we’d love to restore if we are able to source materials. Anyone who knows the whereabouts of such, please email us.

1. An extended “knife in neck/snake bite” scene from THE REPTILE (this is thought to exist, but no known evidence).

2. The “eyeball” scene from THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (this footage definitely exists somewhere).

3. The “head in acid bath” scene from THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (this scene may not have been filmed, though stills exist).

4. The “under-dressed maidens” in the flashback procession from THE MUMMY (this scene may not have been filmed, though stills exist).

5. The “tongue-cutting” and/or the “tongue wriggling” from THE MUMMY (these are thought to exist, but no known evidence).

6. An extended “glass-in-throat” from FRANKENSTEIN AND THE MONSTER FROM HELL (apparently exists on a Dutch laser disc).

7. An extended “body falling into grave” from FRANKENSTEIN AND THE MONSTER FROM HELL (apparently exists on a Dutch laser disc).

8. An extended fight scene from RASPUTIN THE MAD MONK (definitely filmed, but no known surviving materials).

9. An extended more explicit version of THE VIKING QUEEN (some evidence, but nothing definite).

Please also email us if there’s anything not on the list above from any of the Phase 2 Hammer restoration titles (list below).

List of Phase 2 titles:

THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN
THE MUMMY
FRANKENSTEIN AND THE MONSTER FROM HELL
CAPTAIN KRONOS VAMPIRE HUNTER (no missing footage known)
RASPUTIN THE MAD MONK
THE DEVIL RIDES OUT (no missing footage known)
THE MUMMY’S SHROUD (no missing footage known)
THE VIKING QUEEN
THE VENGEANCE OF SHE (no missing footage known)
SLAVE GIRLS (no missing footage known)
THE WITCHES (no missing footage known)