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.
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.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)