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! ^..^

 

81 thoughts on “THE CURSE OF ASPECT RATIOS!

  1. It was the matte paintings that convinced me that the film must have been composed in academy ratio back when I first compared the WB DVD and the earlier WB VHS (and my own off-air recordings).

    Irrespective of how this was exhibited (and goodness knows I still see films being incorrectly presented today), the compositional elements strongly support the idea that an academy presentation is most appropriate. In the widescreen ratios you have a decent yarn, but in the academy framing, so many of the shots come alive as beautiful images in their own right.

    This debate will no doubt go on and on, but I do believe this is the most authentic presentation so far delivered on disc.

  2. Whew! Now that’s a read-through! The way I see it, TCOF looks better at 1.37:1 as the way it was originally shot. The pictures don’t lie. I would say the same about Dracula ’58 and The Mummy ’59, but it’s best to wait and see. Also, thanks for that surprise at the end. I have a feeling we’re going to talk a little more about it very soon.

  3. This is really very sad; Hammer is in the hands of people who may have the best intentions, but are not only not aware of cinema history, but cannot believe the evidence of their own eyes.

    I was hoping for so much from these Blu-ray releases, but frankly you’ve left many long time fans of Hammer films quite disappointed. So much misinformation – so very, very sad.

    • John, you say that Hammer “cannot believe the evidence of their own eyes”, but surely the point raised in this blog is that apart from other considerations, the folk at Hammer have sat down and repeatedly viewed the film and according to the very evidence of their own eyes that you suggest is lacking, have come to the conclusion that the academy ratio is the best for the film?

      It is also worth noting that Hammer have repeatedly said that they are open to any solid evidence (rather than conjecture, or implied evidence) regarding the aspect ratios. For some of the films we have that, but for The Curse of Frankenstein we do not.

      • Robert, not only do I refer the hard evidence produced at various fora, which I believe Hammer are well aware of, but I’m absolutely gobsmacked that they consider films such as X The Unknown and Quatermass II as Academy films.

        It’s all very well to opine that this film or that film is Academy, but in the face of written fact? I’ve said it elsewhere so I might as well say it here too: so it does boil down to this; either Hammer back-tracked on several years of filming in widescreen and reverted to a format that was dead, or dying, that was certainly not box office. Or Jack Asher – an experienced and most meticulous cinematographer – didn’t know what the hell he was doing. Dear me…

        Hammer has I’m sure read the counter-arguments and the hard evidence offered in some cases by experienced industry professionals on various fora. They have they chosen not to refer to any of these in their latest blog post, which is their prerogative, but rarely have I seen such a string of one-sided opinions flung together and presented as facts.

        • Two observations.

          1) I’ve never actually seen a ‘widescreen’ presentation/print of either X The Unknown or Quatermass 2. In the UK at least, they’ve only been available as academy prints (possibly since the mid 1950s).

          2) Hammer did back-track on widescreen, more than once. Their use of proper scope widescreen was intermittent. Michael Carreras was in love with the format, and shot most of his films (both shorts and features) in the ratio. No doubt it was he who elected to shoot The Lady Vanishes in the format too.
          But Hammer would shoot the odd film in scope, and then revert to less wide ratios. Quite why is really a matter of conjecture, eg. director/producer preference, appropriateness to subject etc.

          As the blog discusses, the scope films are less prone to debate, but why alternate between 1.66/1.85 and 2.35? (I genuinely don’t know…).

          • There are various artistic (and sometimes financial) reasons to vary width which you’ve listed yourself; there isn’t a single example of a commercial (as opposed to arthouse) studio reverting to Academy as their primary AR. I was actually looking forward to this; quite intrigued to see ‘Curse’ full frame. But Hammer’s misframing of the 1.66:1 version – they have another opinion on that, I’m aware – and their plain rewriting of known cinema history is breathtaking beyond belief. Can’t support it; won’t support it.

  4. Hello HAMMER: many have said “why didn’t they take the advice of all the experts afforded to them”… Sure, about 1,000 of them with; different opinions!!! As far as the aspect ratio issue ( looking at the Academy version) the “eyes” have it PERIOD!!!!! Forget the 1:66 version. I’m sorry Hammer was “forced to please” the idiots who can’t see the obvious, and I don’t care who it angers!!!

  5. Having looked through this thorough investigation I’m convinced Hammer have made the right decision to present the film in academy ratio. I can’t wait to get a copy now and see the infamous ‘Eyeball’ scene.
    Keep us posted on all future releases

    • What did WB’s materials about COF have to say? Were their vaults accessed for research purposes? Also, what will happen if more solid evidence is eventually provided that COF was intended for 1.66? I’m looking at many of those supposed over-matted 1.66 shots above, and asthetically speaking, they are most definitely NOT too tight (that’s not just a simple casual fan talking, that’s me with an artist’s eye experienced with composition, drawing, and photography). I get it, that the matte paintings were done 4:3, but that alone does not mean they were meant to be shown theatrically at 4:3 — wouldn’t it make sense that the artist(s) did them in that format to match the full negative and would allow for Asher & Fisher to determine the composition they wanted shown?

    • hello Ben, Hammer has stated in a previous blog that DRACULA was definately shot for a 1.66 aspect ratio so these discussions won’t apply. I can remember going to the movies as a kid (we had a real small town theatre) and would sit up front most times. One thing I always noticed was film information underneath a black cloth material that surrounded the screen so as to make a “perfect” fit of the picture. Now I’m sure this probably “stole” some of picture and if it did affect the aspect ratio we kids certainly didn’t much care. Now when it comes to aspect ratios for ME, give me as much picture info as possible. I even own a DVD of the Great Escape which was not protected and you can see set hands shoes standing at the end of the concrete wall when McQueen is in the cooler playing with a baseball but I don’t hear any of that films fans jumping about and cancelling orders… Mind you, picture quality is a WHOLE DIFFERENT story. Thats why I’m content with the Academy version of this film.. more image. It may or may not be what the film makers intended (certainly cropping off heads WOULD piss em off) so that’s fine for me….

      • To play at devil’s advocate for a minute…

        Is worth pointing out that Exclusive was a distributor not just of their own product (via Hammer and other subsidiary labels) but also of other people’s work, and imported films.

        You simply cannot accept this blindly. Those 15/20 films may or may not have been released in widescreen as planned. And they may or may not have included some/all of the Hammer/Exclusive produced titles.

        These may have included widescreen presentations of back-catalogue titles, or newly shot material for the widescreen ratio.

        During 1954 Exclusive received BBFC certificates for no less than 46 titles. A combination of features and shorts (Hammer titles indicated):
        Seven In Heaven
        Law Of The Six-Gun
        The Glass Cage (Hammer)
        Roaring Challenge
        Setting The Pace
        Marshall of Heldorado
        Neath Arizona Skies (reissue)
        The Stranger Came Home (Hammer)
        Robot Monster
        Cat Women Of The Moon
        Sportshort: A Body Like Mine (Hammer catalogue)
        The Amazing Monsieur Fabre
        Archery
        The Murango Story
        The Cowboy
        Sins Of Jezebel
        The Lucky Texan (reissue)
        Sportshort: Dennis Compton
        Polo
        The Lawless Frontier (reissue)
        The Man From Utah (reissue)
        Blue Steel (reissue)
        Double Profile
        The Star Packer (reissue)
        Fury of Red Gulch
        Fast On The Draw
        The Teton Tornado
        Range Masters
        Third Party Risk (Hammer)
        Five Days (Hammer)
        Colorado Ranger
        The Great Jesse James Raid
        Mask Of Dust (Hammer)
        Ticket To Mexico
        The Dawn Rider (reissue)
        The Return of Trigger Dawson
        Man From Cairo
        West Of The Divide (reissue)
        Perils Of The Jungle
        Doorway To Suspicion
        Crooked River
        Fine One
        Bad Men Of Marysville
        Men Of Sherwood Forest (Hammer)
        West Of The Brazos
        Thunder Over Inyo

    • Althouh I respect the thoroughness of your research on the Hometheatre Forum,it does fail to address one particular human peculiarity.
      Forget the papers,the policies,wishes of producers and the trade journals.What were the actual fim makers doing.They are an artistic creative and fiercely independant bunch.Your argument simply cannot rule out the possibility that directors and lighting cameramen carried on composing for the academy .Initially it was plain to everyone that academy was to be protected,and having read the most recent posts on HTF,your opinion on the common top has all the signs of simply an argument to support your irresitible urge not to give in on the individual case of COF.
      But of course you can’t do this,because it’s the thin end of the wedge.What next Dracula in 4 x 3 !
      For me however ,I just cannot see an argument for COF not having been composed for academy.

  6. Hard evidence comes in many guises.

    There are many reasons why what is written in trade papers may be inaccurate. It may not appear likely, but everyone must concede that it is possible.

    But the evidence provided here is incontrovertible. For example, the ‘Charnel House’ shot is clearly supposed to be centred. Clearly. 100% definite. No doubt about it. Even the WB version, where the mask is usually lowered to show more of the top, has it centred.

    No cinematographer would ever shoot something like that and have it off-centre.

    And yet, as we have seen, the WB 1.85:1 version only works for many shots if it’s off-centre, towards the top. For example, if you centre to 1.85:1 the opening shot of the priest approaching the prison MISSES OFF THE PRISON!

    So some shots are definitely wrong at 1.85:1 centred, whilst others are definitely off with 1.85:1 moved to the top.

    If (as appears to be the case) this was shown cropped to 1.85:1 in the US, then that isn’t a case for releasing a 1.85:1 version. It’s a case for feeling sorry for the poor, ripped-off American cinemagoer of 1957.

    As for 1.66:1, similar points apply. Shots like the eyeball scene and ‘Charnel House’ shot (as well as the titles, etc.) show that this was clearly supposed to be centrally masked. And yet 1.66:1 looks too tight. Is anyone arguing for a decapitated vulture in the mausoleum shot? If not, then you’re agreeing it’s wrong centred in either 1.66:1 or 1.85:1.

    To be honest, this looks best in 1.37:1, okay in 1.66:1 and ‘passable’ in 1.85, but with problems if it’s centrally cropped, and other problems if you move the image up.

    Those who disagree need to say why they think a decapitated eagle is okay, or why a non-centred eyeball/magnifying glass and ‘Charnel House’ is okay, because it’s either one or the other.

    • It does appear nobody actaully takes notice of what the film maker intended.It is likely what the film ccompanies stated was simply a means to re-assure their American distributors.It seems so obvious that I feel embarassed mentioning it.A whole discourse on the Home Theatre Forum ignores common sense and just uses a catalogue of nonsense tio justify the “it is now our policy” argument.
      In the beginning such trite did not filter down to those actually making the films,until of course the academy stadards were more generally acknowledged,and one copuld appreciate that more and more films were composed for widescreen.

  7. It would be of interest to get Hammer’s response on the latest documentation from Bob Furmanek. He’s been busily looking for evidence that CoF was definitely composed/shot for widescreen and he’s turned up some fascinating trade reports about the UK industry’s switch to widescreen presentation and Exclusive’s role in that.

    He’s posted his latest documentation here:
    http://www.hometheaterforum.com/t/319469/aspect-ratio-research/1140#post_3989270

  8. The Digital Fix is reporting a very meager data size for each feature – 14.4gb. Is that accurate? If so, why so small for what started as a 4k scan?

  9. It should be noted that there’s been a lot of talk here that ‘all the evidence’ was that Curse of Frankenstein was intended for 1.66:1 projection. ‘All the evidence’ is a reference to the fact that archived trade papers of the day listed CoF as 1.66:1. Fair enough.

    I notice that the company card for The Men of Sherwood Forest is unambiguously and unarguably 1.37:1. It should be noted that the same trade papers which listed CoF as 1.66:1 also listed TMOSF as 1.66:1. In short, ‘all the evidence’ (the trade papes) were not an accurate source of information as to the correct aspect ratio for Exclusive Films.

    The other ‘evidence’ that CoF was 1.66:1 was the fact that Hammer had previously switched from 1.37:1 to 1.66:1. However, the only evidence for this is, you guessed it, the now discredited trade papers.

    The entire evidence in favour of 1.66:1 appears to have disappeared.

    • I must have missed where all these documents were discredited Steve? Are you citing your posts over at HTF, because there is nothing you’ve posted that discredits anything, outside of your own conjecture.

    • I agree.Why don’t some just acknowledge that after 1953,particularly in the UK,some at the coal face continued to compose for academy,possibly knowing they might be projected in a widescreen ratio.
      It is also quite likley that projectionists again particulary in the UK continued to use the academy gate.
      The official trade view may have been that this or that film was intended to be shown in 1.66,but that was a formal and corporate view,which does not always filter down throughout the industry.It must not be forgotten that widescreen was not a welcome introduction to some of the studios, even in the US,so why should we assume that everyone simply towed the line.This is more the case in the UK.For example two directors for HAMMER John Gilling and Don Sharpe made widescreen films as late as 1960 using older camera gates.In fact Don Sharpe did it twice.Once for Curse of the Fly and secondly for Rasputin the Mad Monk.
      Gilling used the old Academy gate for The Flesh and the Fiends.

    • “The entire evidence in favour of 1.66:1 appears to have disappeared.”

      Only in your head.

      If you prefer to think that it has been “discredited”, feel free to be completely wrong.

      The only thing that has disappeared is Hammer, who have not responded to any of the evidence posted. Probably because they don’t want to admit to being wrong.

  10. I think many films after the introduction of widescreen in the US,particularly here in the UK were either shot or protected for academy,until it was pretty clear that 1.66 was adopted as the standard for widescreen in the UK.
    I mean who in their right mind would casually accept reducing the use of half of the films emulsion simply to placate the American desire to embrace the widescreen revolution on that particular continent.
    At least in the UK we used 1.66 as an accetable compromise,and did’nt go for the idiotic 1.85 ratio.This was the VistaVision ratio,but at least VistaVision doubled the frame size.

  11. o.k. folks,we all know the way a film is SHOT can differ from its presentation. If you have the Abomniable Snowman DVD, Val Guest states in the commentary that he did not like widescreen.. so its an educated guess that he may have shot “snowman” in academy and Hammer “HAMMERSCOPED” it for for release… Now, whose to say Fisher and company didn’t prefer Academy.. now you have 2 arguments… the directors vision and the companys vision!. Now to another matter, and thats the films focus. Is the DVD sharper and is it recomended over the BD. Thanks..

    • A possibility,but highly unlikley.
      For one Hammer have stated unequivocally that AS was shot 2perf.
      If it was shot academy,and then printed scope,the Directors composition would be ruined,not something many would have missed,Val Guest least of all.
      I fancy the decision to shoot Techniscope 2 perf was made by Hammer because it is a cheaper process.Black and White suffers less when emulsion area is reduced.

      • Just to correct my own post.AS was shot with an anamorphic lens.So is certain that no re-composition would have taken place,for exactly the same reasons.DPOD was shot 2perf techniscope.

        • Now this is confusing because above Hammer have stated above that AS was shot 4 perf and 2 perf in the same post.Could you please clarify exactly how it was shot 2 perf or 4 perf anamorphic ?

          • Well spotted, Mark! Our mistake! Was a typo, now corrected. SNOWMAN was definitely shot 4-perf anamorphic “Hammerscope”.

  12. I think this is beyond depressing, not only the errors made, but this clinging on to patent falsehoods. It’s time for Hammer to ‘man up’, come out and admit they have made a basic error.

    They should do all they can to undo the damage they are wreaking not only to their legacy, but to British film history in general. I would not be alone in applauding them heartily for it.

    • Of course they have’nt made an error.
      Your resistance to the evidence is a sure and patent sign of anxiety.
      Because if COF was composed for academy as late as 1956,then it open’s up the flood gates.How many other films,particularly in Britain may also actually be re-appraised as likely to have been composed in academy,or even protected for academy to the point where the film is acceptable and possbly even preferred in that ratio.

      That’s what this argument is really about.

      • It has stayed in my memory because even then it was unusual to my eyes. Another film I recall being shown that way was ON THE WATERFRONT at a cinema in Old Swan, Liverpool – as soon as the title card came on I was struck by the ratio, though I didn’t then know the technical term for it. That was probably the same year, when I was fifteen. By the same token, when I saw THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER that year at the Majestic in Liverpool I could see it was squeezed (probably to 1.85:1), but again, I didn’t realise what the technical reason was. Believe me, I was already interested in the cinema!

        • ? how could u see that the image was squeezed on screen if the projectionist was using the right lens & plate ???

          Buy the way I used to read all the trade mags. & papers I could get, & the ads & lists showing
          what AR & Sound would be in theatres were
          sometimes off. Also I am listed in 1967 as the Projectionist @ the West Way theatre & was Dead.(Boxoffice 1967). The owner did it as a joke.

  13. Compelling arguments, gentlemen, but I would ask – simply in the spirit of humouring somebody as passionate about preserving Hammer’s cinematic legacy – how would the screencaps used as illustration above look masked down to 1.66:1 Common Top as opposed to the centre extraction you’ve imposed?

  14. I must admit that I’m swung by Hammer’s argument over this, seeing the evidence. To this effect, I will be watching CoF in 1.37:1 and hope that all future releases are released in the correct ratio.

    As an aside, Hammer have included both 1.37:1 and 1.66:1 on the disc anyway, so I suppose it comes down to a matter of taste.

    • A badly framed 1.66:1 version, yes. Against all the evidence presented in other places, Hammer are going to hold to their position that this film was intended to be shown in Academy, when it was clearly shot to be Academy safe, but to be shown in 1.66:1 with a common top, not simply centrally matted/cropped.

      It is clear Hammer will not budge from their position, so I’ll stick to my Warner DVD and hope they release a properly framed and focused 1.66:1 disc in the near future.

    • It would indeed come down to a matter of taste to some degree if the 1.66 AR version had been framed correctly, but it hasn’t leaving the viewer with what is commonly known as Hobson’s choice

  15. I didn’t see TCOF in the cinema. I’ve only ever seen it on DVD at 1.85:1 and it didn’t look right at that. To be fair I think everyone above has agreed on that point.

    Looking at the evidence posted above for my own personal opinion I’m satisfied it’ll look better in 1.37:1 than any other ratio irrespective as to how it was shown back in the day.

    To be fair I’ve yet to see any 100% concrete evidence on either side about how they reached their decisions about correct AR but Hammer’s is by far the most convincing.

    Since they’re providing both versions I don’t see what the problem is either. It seems more like people arguing with them simply as they have the nerve to believe something different. Again just my opinion.

      • People are “arguing” because the 1.66 option is still not presented correctly. If it had been, the only remaining concerns would be the image quality ?perhaps).

        • Precisely. A properly framed 1.66:1 version as the main feature on the disc, with the Academy version as a bonus and everyone is happy. So long as the finished scan is focused properly…

          It’s the attitude of Hammer that is concerning me more than anything, both wth this and the hopeless CGi used on TDRO. I don’t believe they are the best people to be handling their own catalogue!

          • Well I don’t agree with that.I think common sense would dictate that they are the only one’s who should be handling their back catalogue.Who else would have clearly recognised that COF was composed for 1:37.I think it is now indisputable that it was.What would be interesting to know is the the size of one of the negative frames.Although I think it unlikley,we might have another surprise and find out that the pre 1953 full frame was used.
            It’s has happened.
            Hammer made a decision that only they could have ,and it is their authority in my view that carries more weight than any.
            As for the enhancement of special effects in TDRO it is a minimal light touch and will not interrupt the pleasure of a new audience to appreciate what is a very unique and atmospheric film. I think Hammer deserve credit for this.

  16. Oh please, get a life people!

    The hours spent on all this discussion of TCOF aspect ratio is unbelievable.

    It seems the world is full of so called “experts” who know so much more than the Hammer team about their own films, and won’t shut up going on about it .
    The fact that Hammer are the only company that has forums such as this and bothers to engage with the fans over details of their releases should be applauded, not endlessly criticised.

    I’m more than happy that the Hammer team are bothering to go through their back catalogue and remaster these classic films in their British versions for a change, rather than the US ones we’ve had to endure, with different titles and editing etc. Why can’t people be grateful?

    A few years back, nobody cared a fig about aspect ratios, and films were panned and scanned dreadfully and obviously. This isn’t the case here as we have two versions to show the film as full frame and a slightly masked version to duplicate a cinema presentation.

    Why has this got fans frothing at the mouth over what amounts to a few centimetres of picture missing from the left/right/top/bottom. Really, who cares?

    To all the incredibly fussy and anal people out there who really can’t stand the thought of owning this new release, then don’t buy it?
    Nobody will lose any sleep over it, and I’m sure that all six of you will moan to your hearts content about how outrageous and unfair it all is, and sit sulking whilst you watch your old Warner dvd’s.

    Meanwhile,the rest of us can just sit back and appreciate the huge amount of hard work and effort that Hammer have clearly made to get this remastered classic out on Blu-ray, and look forward to all the other titles waiting in the wings.

    Hammer, thank you so much for your dedication to these wonderful films, and please don’t be put off by a handful of purists who are content to bore the pants off of everyone else because they demand a perfection that is not always possible.
    T

    • Well said. These films haven’t had this type of attention for as long as I can remember and I think Hammer should be applauded for the time & effort going into each release. It would have been very easy for them to just re-release the same bog standard DVDs we’ve had for years but they’ve chosen to do the harder option.
      If anyone prefers the bog standard already existing DVDs then no one is forcing them to upgrade.

    • Chris.I think it is the general view on the HTF is that your post is a depressing one.Given the emotional attachment to one view or the other,perhaps this is understandable.
      This argument is not about a few millimetres on an HD TV.
      If as seems certain COF (as late as 1956) was composed for academy,it changes Film history dramatically,and open’s up the possibility that things were not as staraightforward as first thought.The idea that the UK simply adopted the US insistence on widescreen is cast into major doubt.There is a lot at stake here in terms of the development of Cinema.

  17. Maybe the complainers CARE about movies – and specifically Hammer’s cinematic legacy. They want to see the movies presented in the best quality possible. Maybe they can be a bit reactionary, maybe their language can be a little intemperate, but it’s only because they’re as passionate about these movies as Hammer is.

    If it wasn’t for passionate fans and passionate industry figures, we’d still be in the dark days of VHS and “stick any old crap on a tape and they’ll buy it”

  18. Pingback: The Curse of Frankenstein - Page 6 - Cult Labs

  19. I’m very grateful for your efforts to get the work done in the best possible way. I understand this isn’t always an easy task, because the materials you work with are very old, and that sometimes leads to difficults decissions to make.

    What’s more, when some mistakes where made in Dracula, Prince of Darkness, you were willing to correct them and replace the old discs with new ones.

    But even more admirable is the fact that you make your work public and accept comments from everyone and on every direction: from high praises to very harsh disapprovals, and you answer all of them in the same respectful manner. It is rare and lovely to see the Internet used for such good purpose.

    I’m very grateful for your working with such integrity, and I will be buying many BRs from your catalogue sooner or later. Thanks indeed!

  20. Well stated’ Chris. It’s what I have been saying all along. Yet it is still happening! Personally I’m enjoying these releases. Laughed out loud with the comment about “fussy and anal.” Have to agree it is all getting more sillier. Talk about biting the hand that feeds! These releases are the definite versions’ beautifully restored to the original presentations, a host of supporting features to enhance the viewing pleasure. Just wonderful. Others must get fed-up with the armchair experts’ harking on about aspect ratios, colour grain, lip-sync’ blah, blah, blah. Wonder if they ever considered’ watching the said movies and just immersing themselves in the stories. If something really is that bad about the restorations’ all of us would be harping on.
    Really wouldn’t blame Hammer if they simply ended this forum. Negativity isn’t attractive.
    Why can’t we talk about the merits of this restoration project? All the hard work undertook. The fantastic supporting material specially produced for the range.
    So I’m adding my voice to the praise. Well done’ Hammer, keep them titles coming. In the meantime’ 4 titles to watch!!!

    • I guess you stuck with your original out-of-sync copy of Dracula Prince of Darkness then. I mean, who cares if it looks like a Shaw Brothers martial arts release?

  21. hello fans: there’s been much discussion about apect ratios and directors and cinematographers “visions”, but I’d like to point out that the film industry has done much to alter an authors” vision “of many films. Just look at The Shinning…King went on to remake it, his vision, but we’ll always be attached to the Jack Nicholson one. My point is, as another gentlman has stated that there is no definitive version of a film, but an ongoing process to improve in an attempt to please those who love a particular film. Take Casablanca, the first blu ray recieved 5 star reviews across the board, but Warner Bros. went the extra mile and produced a more ” as originally shown” version.. now, they both exist. And so, all films will get more facelifts before we’re through..so for now, lets enjoy Hammers work and get on with it.

  22. bravo Steve… nice researching here.. if this isn’t the smoking gun then I don’t know what is… the one thing all the experts missed… STYLE!! CASE CLOSED.

    • hello Ben.. I’m posting my reply again as my first didn’t register. IMHO, COF and FST are linked together by the very nature of having the same director and cinematographer (T.F.& J.A.).COF was a low budget film so I feel they used the same compositional formula of FST for COF, A compositional “style” if you will, and I believe Steve’s film grabs from both films bears this out… As to theatrical AR, who knows….

  23. hello Ben: IMHO it has to do with partnerships.. if you’ve had one then you know you choose a mode of operation on a project between the two of you and go with it. With COF, Fisher and Asher were working together again and to my eyes composed COF the same way.. very straight ahead and time saving. Not that this is truth, but logical enough for me to accept as there are too many other variables in the other AR opinions…Again, thats my feeling and the one I’m going to live with..enjoy the movie..Bill

  24. hi Ben, this will be my 3rd and last time I try to post his.. The connection b etween the two films is IMHO obvious, both having the same director and cinematographer and based on Steve’s screen grabs, they do appear to have the same compositional “style” for academy. For COF, being a limited budget movie, this would have saved a lot of time preparing shots. As for AR for the road show, I don’t know, but I’ll stick with Academy for the basic shooting procedure…..

    • Over on the HTF the argument about whether COF was composed for Academy or Artifical Widescreen seems to have run it’s course.
      With,as I see it Accountants on one side and artists on the other.
      The very strong obvious evidence about Steve’s comparison with FST being only limply and vaguely addressed.Apparently 1.37 and 1.66 being composed to such a similar degreee that the comparison is meaningless.In which case it is arguable that 1.37 is as good a ratio to put on to a DVD or Blu-ray than any.
      Labouriously Mr F quotes the corporate view that all feature will be in 1.66,never forgetting the fact of course that a spurious AR of 1.85 was inposed on UK films in the US.
      There is also an apparently convincing argument that film production companies would need to convert ground glass screens and aperture plates to accompany this corporate view ,whilst at the same time acknowledging that most films would have been protected for Academy anyway.This along with the rather other self defeating view that 1.37 and 1.66 will be composed in much the same way seems to negate any arguemnt along the lines that things might just get screwed up.
      It is worth noting that films shot flat were not meant to be matted.It was simple manipulation of the standard frame to cater for the introduction of cinemascope,with a corresponding reduction of the area of film by up to 36%. This meant expanding the projected image and degrading the quality of the picture.And yet this is the legacy for those that cling to the desire to see what was exhibited theatrically.Ironic that the call for quality should come from those that support something that is deraded and artifical.
      There are two things that are true in all of this.Firstly Mr F and his supporters are quite right when they say that there does not appear to be any obvious evidence that directors and DP’s carried on composing for 1.37,when the industry had decided that it must go widescreen.However those that had leanrt their trade by doing just that were still seeing the 1.37 frame through their ground glass screens.Is it any wonder that they may just have carried on doing exactly that,after all it has already been pointed out that 1.66 is not all that different to 1.37.Yet we still see very tight compositions at 1.66,.You can’t have it both ways.That smacks of an invented argument to avoid the evidence presented by Hammer themselves who were rather amused at the evidence Steve highlighted very succinctly with his comparison screen shots of FST.
      It rather makes one wonder whether Mr Fisher,Mr Asher and Mr Harris and their quiet distain for the degraded image did’nt stop at COF.

  25. Hi, my first time seeing this webpage/blog.

    My question is regarding this pages intro saying 1.66 & 1.85 were wider than 1.37 in regards to “less picture L-R”. It was always my understanding from everything I have/read that all academy formats were based on a common width of .825″ so isn’t the difference top and bottom and not left/right?

  26. Does this mean that if/when Hammer release the first two Quatermass films and X The Unknown, that they will be presented in 1.37:1?

  27. Hello Hammer! I have enjoyed all of the Hammer Blu-ray releases. I bought them all. I did not have a problem with The Devil Rides Out. I thought the new effects were tastfully done and actually improved the film overall. I was disappointed with the sound quality for the Rasputin: The Mad Monk. (The 20th Century Fox fanfare has never sounded that bad.) but I can live with it. Overall, the Hammer Blu-ray releases have been outstanding.

    I didn’t mind the 1:37.1 aspect ratio on The Curse Of Frankenstein Blu-ray. But boy the quality of the transfer is horrible. Colors are bland when compared to the US Warner DVD. So much so that if I had friends over and they want to see COF, I would show them the Warner DVD. Can this be corrected? The transfer needs some serious TLC.

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