This post will deal with UK vs. US main/end titles, update you all on the “lost” DRACULA footage restoration and talk about the seemingly contentious topic of Digital Vision Noise Reducer (DVNR) aka Digital Noise Reduction (DNR).
First, the subject of main and end titles. Both our restoration partners and ourselves are doing everything we can to ensure that Hammer films are restored from the very best available materials. Often these materials are of the US rather than the UK version, which leads to a search for viable first and last reels so that the UK titles can be restored. DRACULA PRINCE OF DARKNESS (released March 5th by StudioCanal; pre-order here) was restored from an OCN featuring US main titles but UK end titles. Using the first reel of a badly-damaged print as a source, Pinewood Studios have done a fantastic job restoring the original UK main titles, meaning that the final restored film has UK titles at the beginning (Associated British Productions Limited Presents // A Hammer Film Production) and the end (A Hammer Film Production produced at Bray Studios, England // Released through Warner-Pathe Distributors Limited). Watch Marcus Hearn’s all-new documentary on Blu-ray for more on this.
Again using the first reel from a UK print in each case, Pinewood Studios have also restored the original UK main titles to both THE REPTILE and THE PLAGUE OF THE ZOMBIES, meaning that TPOTZ’s opening title sequence (featuring the voodoo ritual) will play in the correct order (sadly not the case on recent DVD releases of the film, which play the title cards in the middle of the ritual rather than at the end). The end titles of both films are from a US-version OCN, as no viable materials were available featuring the UK end titles. Pre-order the May 7th releases here and here.
On Monday we reviewed the restoration of the Japanese footage to DRACULA (warmest thanks to Simon & Michiko Rowson and The National Film Center at The Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo). It was incredibly exciting to see the two long-lost moments in the context of the BFI’s restoration. Molinare have done a superb job restoring this footage, considering the state of the reels (you’ll be able to compare and contrast on the eventual Blu-ray; we’re going to release all four surviving Japanese reels unrestored as a single extra). The moment where the Count leans-in over Mina is full of transgressive threat and erotic charge (one can easily see how this moment had to be cut in 1958) though the footage does not actually include a bite (contrary to wishful thinking in some quarters). The “face-clawing” scene is truly magnificent and sits perfectly within the last few seconds of the film. There are still tickets available for the world premiere screening of the “definitive” restored DRACULA on 18th February. Click here for details.
Finally, there have been several posts here and elsewhere regarding screen grabs from DRACULA PRINCE OF DARKNESS suggesting over-use of DNR and lack of grain. We can assure you all that when you see the film in motion you will definitely see plenty of grain! It isn’t really possible to draw conclusions from low-res JPEG screen grabs, however we can state that the DNR used on the restoration was very light indeed, only on a handful of scenes, and only when absolutely necessary. We can also state that there were no blanket noise-reduction filters used at any point during restoration. Any loss of focus and fading on the picture as presented on the Blu-ray is due to the age of the scanned materials rather than DVNR or the use of filters.
As a postscript, you’ll all be pleased to hear that scanning has now commenced on THE DEVIL RIDES OUT, RASPUTIN THE MAD MONK and THE MUMMY’S SHROUD at illuminate in Hollywood; film material courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox.
NB: We originally posted that DRACULA PRINCE OF DARKNESS was scanned at 4k. This was a mistake. The film was in fact scanned at 2k. This has now been corrected on the original post.
P.S. We just added the aspect ratios to both our original post cataloguing classic Hammer Blu-rays, and to our comment cataloguing Blu-rays of third-millennium Hammer!