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.

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

  1. Very disappointed by the new version of Curse of Frankenstein. I know the material they were working from was far from ideal, but it now looks very washed out and the contrast is harsh. The old DVD copy looked better!!

  2. I understand it now. I bet it must’ve been difficult to find complete negatives nowadays especially when they’re stored or misplaced. Back in the day, nobody ever thought film preservation or film-to-digital collecting. So whatever you tried to do to preserve your horror history, I congratulate you. Just one question, if you’ll ever release this and other Blu-Ray releases in the US and around the world, will the results be similar?

  3. Would just like to say a big thank you for the release, and a big thank you for the excellent explanation regarding the ratio issue.

  4. Thanks also for a full and frank explanation of the problems faced with this restoration.

    I think everyone is naturally disappointed that better source materials couldn’t be found, but I’ve purchased a copy anyway since it seems to me to be an honourable best attempt (even though I still have reservations about the quality of the framing on the 1:66 version) and I want to support the HD restoration of Hammer films going forward.

  5. it makes me wonder how some of the critics would have handled all the pressure this film is having on HAMMER. It can be very hard when you have to make decisions that will not please everyone, AND STICK BY THEM!! I congradulate HAMMER for their effort and on the information they’ve made available to us. They did the best with what they had. Can anyone name another studio so forthcoming? And to those unreansonable critics, can you tell us the last 50 year old film you had to restore?

  6. You cannot strike an IP from separation masters. If you have a faded OCN, it is dealt with in other ways. Should someone from Hammer wish to discuss, I’m available to you.

    Let’s get a quality product out there.

    RAH

    • [UPDATE: To clarify off the back of another comment, this explanation is obviously meant for those reading/following this blog, not for Mr. Harris personally] Hi Robert, suspect you are thinking of standard Eastmancolor printing in which three separation positives were made from the OCN, which were then combined to make a colour Internegative and subsequent colour prints. For THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN in 1957, although the OCN was an Eastmancolor negative, the release copies were almost certainly Technicolor prints, which involved first making separation negatives from the separation positives. These separation negatives would have been used to make what were called positive image “imbibition matrices” which absorbed differing amounts of cyan, yellow and magenta. These matrices were soaked in the required colour and then used to make the positive Technicolor prints by adding the three colours, one on top of the other. It is therefore likely that these separation negatives were recombined to make the colour Interpositive scanned by Warner Bros.

  7. I agree with all the positive comments here about Hammer’s excellent decision to release COF in academy.I also congratulate them on giving everyone the opportunity to have a window on the the restoration process,and to respond so directly to lovers of Hammer Films with every BD/DVD release.

  8. I’m just thankful that the film is available on BD. The same applies to the Studio Canal releases. I think the point re the DVD being upscaled and sharpened is valid. I have my copy…I admit I haven’t watched it yet…but I’m looking forward to it this weekend. Thanks to all at Hammer for their sterling work in preserving and restoring these films for us. Keep it up!

  9. You can’t please everybody all of the time, can you? I also congratulate Hammer on an amazing job. I just wish the naysayers understood the time and effort it takes to produce these Blu Rays/DVD’s. I echo what was written above in that I can’t think of any other company that works with the fans so closely. Keep up the good work!

  10. I think the 1.37:1 academy versions looks great & I’m really happy with the release myself.I’ve kept the old Warner dvd as it’s in a boxset with Dracula & The Mummy but prefer the less ‘cramped’ academy version.Can’t comment on the Blu Ray as I have a machine but not a HD tv yet !.

  11. Hammer, many thanks for your efforts. I can’t remember another company who have done so much work to keep the punters informed as to exactly what went on with the transfer process.

    There is something more you could do.

    If it is at all possible, could you post any unadulterated 4k scans, and their equivalent frame from the final 1.37:1 Blu-ray Disc? It would then become obvious how much detail information was available on the original source, and how much (or little) has been lost.

    It would also show (in relation to the aspect ratio debate) how much/little you found it necessary to zoom what Warner had.

    Once again, many thanks, and keep up the good work.

  12. I think it all very peculiar that only months ago critics were up in arms over the slight digital enhancement on DPOD. “where’s the grain?’ they screamed. So HAMMER listens and decides not to digitally enhance COF and now we hear “where’s the sharpness?”… sorry folks, you can’t have it both ways!!!

    • The problem is, DPOD and COF presented different issues, requiring different solutions for a successful HD home video presentation and those issues weren’t correctly addressed in the final product. Clearly, in the case of CoF, it would have cost a significant amount of money to do a full restoration including detailed color correction based on the available source. Leaving the grain intact was actually a good move and one I really don’t see people complaining about.

      DPOD simply suffered from heavy handed digital scrubbing and color/contrast boosting on what appeared to be a decent quality print. Not to mention the audio was out of sync on the initial release.

      Then there’s the odd decision to remove and replace the (admittedly poor) effects scenes with new effects in The Devil Rides Out blu-ray but not include the original shots as a viewing option as the film was originally presented. Will a future blu-ray release of Kiss Of The Vampire feature new CGI bats in the climax?

  13. In the past few years I’ve fallen head over heels in love with Hammer movies. I’ve just worked out I’ve seen 76 Hammer films in the past 3-4 years, many re-viewings but a lot those I’ve watched for the first time. The figure keeps going up as I remember more. Thank heavens for free TV repeats and good value DVD box sets! I’m now finding it increasingly difficult to find new Hammer films. The only part of the catalogue still left in any number are the older noirs, and I have my eye on the region 1 DVD box sets of those. After that, I’ll just have to hope for the remainder of the unseen for many years or lost movies to turn up somewhere, and rewatch everything again of course. :-D

    This is why we complain when things aren’t quite right, Hammer. We *really* do adore these films and want the new Blu-Ray editions to be the best possible presentations of the original films we know and love. There’s something about the Hammer films catalogue as a whole that just isn’t repeated elsewhere. I haven’t worked out what it is about them, but I want to see every Hammer film regardless of genre.

  14. Would it not make sense on future releases not to duplicate the sd extras on blu ray as well as the dvd? Anyone who has blu ray can play dvd and this way the bit rate can be maximised on the blu ray for hd content.

  15. The so called ‘critics’ and ‘naysayers’ also play their part in this whole process, without whom the DPOD would probably still be suffering from DNR overkill. Surely noboby could argue that it was improved upon as a result of critical feedback from genuine fans. Who knows, perhaps we would still have sound sync problems on the disc if everyone had just blithely applauded the release,as seems to be suggested by some. If someone would just care to listen to the ‘critics’ and the ‘naysayers’ then we would have a COF BluRay with a correctly framed 1.66:1 alternative and we would have a Devil Rides Out BluRay with the new CGI tinkering as an ALTERNATIVE to the restored original. As a result both would sell MANY more copies. Now would that be such a terrible thing? Now congratulations in advance, Hammer for listening to completely valid criticism…I hope

  16. I only hope that all this negativity stops soon regarding Hammer and their restorations.
    So many on here complaining about imperfections, it must be soul- destroying to restore a film after months of painstaking work, and then have to face a ton of abuse and criticism from so called “experts” who all know better, telling you that you got it wrong.
    Perhaps these “experts” should all get work as film restorers and show Hammer how it should be done then!

    This new release has loads of extras including a whole movie as well, plus two versions of the film with different ratios. What’s not to like?
    It is a 55 year old film made for peanuts by a small company. It is never going to look like “Gone with the Wind”, so people please deal with it.

    My worry is that having these forums seems to have back-fired on Hammer, and they may decide in future that it isn’t worth engaging with the fans, because whatever they eventually decide on releasing will be wrong in somebody’s opinion. I hope it doesn’t come to that, and I look forward to all the future releases from the company.

  17. Lets hope all this AR talk on COF is dying down so we can move on to what I feel is HAMMERS greatest achievement, and the best vampire film of all time, DRACULA. You know as soon as James Bernards great score opens up against the eagle monument you’re in for a treat! It’s Lee and Cushing at their best,so to our friends at HAMMER, “have at it” because this is the one!!! Thanks again HAMMER….Good Show

  18. Hammer – and to others here – I thought I’d paste my comments I put on your FB wall here re: COF. Feel free to delete this, Hammer, if you prefer. Ball’s in your court:

    “Full disclosure – my love for COF ended up overriding my disappointment in early reviews of the bd release – don’t hate me, everyone! : P I received it today and have taken a gander at it. These are my impressions at first glance of the bd (20 mins looking over each version plus the extras).

    The image quality is pretty good, better than what I expected, but probably not as good as it could be (or as good as I/we want it to be). There is most definitely better detail than the versions I’ve seen previously at home, no sign of DNR (lots of lovely grain! thank you!!!). The colors are faded, and additional color correction would benefit the movie — flesh tones are the obvious area that would’ve gained most. The 4:3 version is satisfactory, but there is clearly too much headroom. The 1.66 version would benefit from following the common top matte process; the current 1.66 sometimes looks passable at times but is too tight in general. I get it, this was a problematic release for Hammer to tackle and I assume they knew there would be some backlash when they were working on it. The effort is appreciated, but I suspect more research and a lot more money would’ve benefitted in the end. I still feel that getting a fixed disc for a proper matte job would be a good idea.

    I suspect that money was the greatest issue that kept a full restoration from taking place at this point. Am I wrong?

    Overall, it’s a good release, just perhaps not definitive. So, yes – thank you for trying, Hammer; I just wish it could’ve been tweaked more.”

  19. One add’l comment re: the information offered below:

    “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.”

    Fade does not equate with “softness.” Sharpness, partially equates with contrast, which can be lost in a faded element, as “perceived” sharpness, but the image is no more or less sharp because of fade.

    The IP was either produced from a dupe printing negative, a CRI, or the original negative. I can believe no other viable options.

    RAH

  20. There’s a whole lot of hard evidence in the Aspect Ratio Research thread at the HTF that ‘Curse’ was shot in widescreen; Exclusive switching to widescreen in ’53, the same year Hollywood did, hard, written evidence of numerous UK studios making their switch (Ealing went 1.66:1 in ’53; I previously didn’t know that), clear instructions to camera operators, etc., etc. This is hard won and thorough research.

    If you love being bored to tears, and wish to see *lots* of screenshots, manipulated every which way, seek it out.

    But it all boils down to this. While the film world in the USA and Europe, including Hammer, are going widescreen crazy, suddenly in November, 1956, as they prepare to roll the cameras on ‘Curse’, the current iteration of Hammer would have up believe that the old Hammer had a brainwave pertaining to their new up and coming and very important Horror film.

    They were going to splash the cash on this one, full colour, American money helping to smooth the way; so, why not, current Hammer claim old Hammer thought (still with me?), film it in Academy? A film format that had been dumped by most three years previously, a format that, if not entirely dead in the biggest market in the world, was certainly twitching it’s last. Brilliant.

    Further, current Hammer say:

    “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.”

    Read that again. They knew it would premiere in the West End in widescreen, but when it was screened at The Roxy in, say, Tintagel, which had yet to cough up the necessary to convert, it would look absolutely *perfect* in the screen ratio they ordered Jack Asher – an experienced and very meticulous cinematographer – to frame it in. The ‘original screen aspect ratio’.

    Asher’s work would look less than professional in the 1.66:1 the current transfer is (mis)framed in, but, hey, them’s the breaks…

    Now that don’t make a lick o’sense.

    Hammer have ignored hard evidence, they have ignored logic. They crippled the widescreen presentation with poor framing, and purely on a hunch, a subjective viewpoint, which they present as ‘fact’, have announced Academy as the ‘original screen aspect ratio’. And at a stroke they change film history and guarantee that this falsehood will be repeated again and again (as here), and will be used to excuse the poor framing of other British films of the period.

    It is this, more than any issue here, which makes my blood boil.

    This is dangerous, this willful altering of British cinema history.

    • John, see my article “Debating Hammer Aspect Ratios” for why this is a complicated subject – http://www.hammerfilms.com/news/article/newsid/433/debating-hammer-aspect-ratios

      There’s a few different voices here which makes things seem more complicated.

      From our own research (including discussion with the BFI), British cinemas of the period centrally masked their films, which is what has been used on the new DVD for the 1.66:1 transfer. Examination of the film throughout would tend to support the decision. My article explains why a constant matt has been used rather than reframing per scene.

      Further, there is evidence that Hammer was shooting with the academy ratio in mind through to the early 1960s, and again in the early 70s (when television sales were once again deemed important). Hammer’s own cinema at Hammer House continued to exhibit in 1.33:1 as well as widescreen in 1960 (http://www.hammerfilms.com/uploads/00001/00001952.jpg?v=1), which to my mind supports the notion that not everyone had shifted to widescreen exclusively by the late 1950s.

      Ultimately both a centrall matted 1.66:1 widescreen and a 1.37:1 fullscreen transfer have been provided on the disc, allowing viewers the option to view as would have been screened in the UK in 1957 – depending on your venue of choice, in wide or full screen.

    • As I think I’ve already pointed out, this isn’t re-writing British cinema history. If the new transfer was at 1.85:1, that would be re-writing.

      There’s enough evidence now assembled to confirm that CoF was exhibited in standard widescreen in the UK (so 1.66:1). There is reason to believe that it was also screened in academy ratio.

      On a purely personal level, I don’t understand how we can say it was shot in widescreen, when the prints are in academy, and would need matting by the individual exhibitor. The compositions are such that an academy ratio seems evident.

      But everyone who has weighed in on this has made a completely subjective statement regarding what they feel works best.

      There are not, as you intimate, clear memos from executives to the camera crew and directors regarding ratios with regards CoF, and as I’ve indicated in my article “Debating Hammer Aspect Ratios”, the company was still exhibiting in their own theatre in academy ratio in 1960, alongside widescreen formats. If they’re happy to exhibit in academy there must be a market for it, and they must well be at least considerate of shooting material for the ratio.

      • The prints are not in Academy; the prints are open-matte to be matted to Academy or a widescreen format. Robert, I do *not* intimate that there are clear memos specifically relating to ‘Curse’, rather there is clear guidance to British camera operators as a whole; you have looked at those papers haven’t you?

        And whilst there is a deal of evidence that clearly points to the British film industry following Hollywood’s widescreen lead, and thus maximising profit, there is not one scrap of evidence, written or reported, to suggest that either (a) ‘Curse’ was composed principally for Academy or (b) that any British film made as late as 1957 was shot principally for Academy. It simply didn’t happen.

        There is documentary evidence, confirmation from those working in the film industry during the period, evidence from those who projected the films in the ’50s, and there is also plain common sense.

        There is no evidence whatsoever ‘Curse’ was shot for Academy, but more than that, there is no rational reason that Fisher wouldn’t have shot it wide and protected for Academy. You may think ‘Curse’ looks very nice in Academy; it looks okay – you can see more of those pretty sets. But it’s a widescreen film first and foremost.

        As for 1.85:1, Hammer recently uploaded the HD version of The Quatermass Xperiment to Youtube (UK only; they’ve taken it down now) – it was the MGM restoration and looks lovely. There’s far more information on screen than the cropped DDHE DVD, probably about 5% more on every side.

        Using, ah, 21st century jiggery-pokery I watched the whole thing, every frame, via my Oppo Blu-ray player, zoomed to as near an approximation of 1.85:1 as matters.

        I wanted to see it at near 1.66:1, the Oppo can usually do that, but not this time for some reason. I was convinced 1.66:1 was as much cropping as it would take, despite what the US trade papers claim. Just as I was once convinced it was Academy framed. Still – give it a go at around 1.85:1 and…

        …it’s nigh on perfectly framed. In fact, it looks *much* better at 1.85:1 than ‘Curse’ looks at 1.66:1 on the Lionsgate BD.

        I’m astonished; even that ‘problem’ scene in the zoo works. Given the whole neg to work on, it can look even better.

        It’s just beautiful, like seeing the film anew. Hammer insist it’s Academy… well, they can hardly not do can they? Still, never too late to recant, never too old to learn…

        • 1) Fair enough. Prints open-matte, to be cropped during projection.

          2) Yes I’ve looked at lots of papers. And I’m continuing to do so. Would be specifically interested in anything internal between Hammer/Exclusive and their technicians. If/when we find this (whether it supports an academy presentation OR a widescreen one) we will be sure to publish.

          3) We’re clearly going to continue to differ in our opinions regarding Hammer’s use of non-widescreen ratios.
          My purely subjective and personal opinion is that many of the films including but not limited to Curse of Frankenstein, actually appear better composed in the non-widescreen ratio. Hammer/Lionsgate have given fans the opportunity to make their own mind up. I don’t think that’s a bad thing, do you?
          I also think Visa To Canton looks better in black and white than colour, but that’s a personal viewpoint also.

          4) Again, your opinion regarding the framing of TQX is just that – a personal opinion. And one which I wouldn’t begrudge you or anyone else. And thanks to modern technology, you have that option to crop yourself.
          It isn’t as if I or anyone else is standing over folk at home saying “your set-up is all wrong…. You can’t use that display”.

          5) “Never too late to recant, never too old to learn…” – I’m certainly open to learning new things. Every week we come across something new that informs and educates us with regards the history of classic Hammer (including exhibition). Hammer have been getting things “wrong” since 1934, and are constantly learning and relearning from their mistakes.

          6) For what its worth, if you actually look at the packaging for the CoF Blu-ray, nowhere does it suggest that the academy ratio is the Original Aspect Ratio (which seems to be the particular bee in the bonnet for most folk). It does refer to the “original Academy ratio” and as “Never before released Academy ratio (1.37:1)”.
          If it is a never before released ratio, then it can’t be making a claim as the original aspect ratio, can it?

          • Regarding 4) I want to see the films as they were composed by a group of professionals for theatrical exhibition. They were shot for widescreen; anything else is just…protection. I urge you, or anyone else, to view QX as I recently viewed it and you will see that my view is not subjective and that the evidence is clear that Hammer were – as all the evidence thus far shows – well into producing films for the widescreen era. And the proof is mounting:

            http://www.hometheaterforum.com/t/319469/aspect-ratio-research/1560#post_3994408

            Regarding 6) We both know what the views of Hammer are; they’ve expressed them enough times via this blog.

            Robert, I’m not being obdurate; I held beliefs not unlike yours until quite recently – but the evidence is piling up and assumptions are just that, quite worthless. I was truly shocked that QX – as the US trades revealed – not only fit into a 1.85:1 frame but was shockingly perfect within it. The proof that the UK was not that far behind the US, but that the 1.85:1 format was more widely used than previously thought is also building. It would be easy to dismiss ‘Paul Scott’ as fake:

            http://www.amazon.co.uk/product-reviews/B008LU8MME/ref=cm_cr_dp_synop?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints=0&sortBy=bySubmissionDateDescending#R2H4MDP865V0BW

            ..but it has a ring of truth, as does his following comment:

            http://www.amazon.co.uk/review/R2H4MDP865V0BW/ref=cm_cr_rev_detmd_pl?ie=UTF8&asin=B008LU8MME&cdForum=Fx10Q7YGYXI7LJ1&cdMsgID=Mx4L8VPK8YJRTT&cdMsgNo=4&cdPage=1&cdSort=oldest&cdThread=Tx2P4WG3VAIM9JB&store=dvd#Mx4L8VPK8YJRTT

            These films deserve to be shown to home cinema audiences as authentically as possible and that means not only the dominant theatrical aspect ratio, but the the one which the cinematographer chiefly framed it in. There’s nothing wrong with watching them in Academy – hell, I saw my first Hammer film projected in that ratio, and no doubt folks of a certain age were brought up with them on TV.

            But if we want to see them as intended, post 1953, it’s widescreen. With, I believe Deluxe currently transferring seven Hammer films to Blu-ray, every effort should made, all research taken into consideration, to get this right. Please, no more subjective views; this is film history – it matters.

            BTW, Frankenstein and The Monster From Hell recently uploaded to Youtube? My view is it should be 1.85:1…

          • John… have run out of space to reply directly to your last post…

            1) “Proof is mounting” – as I’ve indicated before, I’ve been reading the forums etc. and examining the evidence as presented, plus doing my own research. I appreciate the evangelical zeal, but it isn’t necessary, and it won’t make me shout “I’m a believer” any quicker. I understand the importance of the issue, I read the updates on various boards, and personally scour records. My personal interpretation of the evidence so far is that the situation is complicated. If/when I have enough to comment on, I’ll post another article. Believe me, I wish to be transparent in the research, and if for example, I find a document from Hammer that confirms that, for example, X The Unknown should be screened at 1.85:1 from a common top, then Hammer would support that information being made public.

            2) TQX – 1.85:1 simply wasn’t the dominant ratio in the UK at the time, and any UK release would be aiming to replicate the UK theatrical screenings/country of production origin. There’s a number of reasons (including commercial) why a widescreen release wouldn’t be a bad idea, but I’d only be happy with that IF a full-frame version was also available on the BD. Any commercial decision would be taken by Hammer and their distribution partners.

            3) “Ring of truth” is sadly not proof. In that particular example, we have a possible primary source which has potential. He does note that the aspect ratio varied on the ABC circuit between 1.66 and 1.85. And I have no reason to disbelieve that. One does still have to evaluate the source properly and take that into consideration too. A couple of postings on Amazon is a) no proof of identity or credentials, b) no guarantee that his memory is correct. Please understand, I’m not saying he is wrong, but all historians have to consider their source material carefully.

            And none of this confirms the director’s/cinematographer’s intentions.

            I’m already on record as saying my preference is for releases to contain both widescreen and full-frame transfers where possible. That should please most of us. I also think that any restoration work should be done on the full-frame and any matte applied after restoration is complete.

          • Robert, it seems, I can’t reply directly to your last post, so I’ll do it here.

            1) Yes, there is mounting evidence to support the widescreen case and it is mounting – if you’ve examined said evidence then how is that not the case? Conversely, there is *no* evidence to support Academy as an ‘original aspect ratio’. None; you can see that, surely? It’s complex, of course it is, but dismissing evidence and balancing it against, well, nothing but a hunch, defies logic.

            2) There is evidence to support the plain fact that, by the time QX was exhibited in the UK widescreen had indeed become the dominant format. For example:

            http://www.hometheaterforum.com/t/319469/aspect-ratio-research/1380#post_3992662

            3) I take your point. And yes, ‘all historians have to consider their source material’ carefully. I could not agree more. And should you have no source material to support a subjective view, then that becomes an assumption. And assumptions are A Very Bad Thing.

            Your last point, I have no argument whatsoever with; however, there is another canard that needs laying to rest – that 1.66:1 was the chosen and dominent widescreen AR for the UK during the mid to late 1950s. Again, research proves otherwise. Whether 1.66:1 is *better* in another argument entirely and quite subjective.

  21. It would be really great if some industry-respected professional like Robert A Harris, who supervised the restorations of MY FAIR LADY and LAWRENCE OF ARABIA to name but two, got involved in all of this. I’m sure he’d put everybody straight about bringing these great movies back to day-one condition.

    • We are more than happy with the experts we have, thanks. Expertise is not the only factor. Also critical is the nature of the elements and resources (money and time) available. To bring a film back to anything resembling “day-one condition” as you put it is only possible if either a) a single, viable, high-quality film element exists (almost never the case when it comes to classic Hammer films) or b) there is almost limitless resource available (also, sadly, not the case when it comes to these titles). We continue to do our very best with questionable elements and finite resources. Hope you find something to like amongst it all!

      • Apparently the fact that Robert Harris took his time to reach out to Hammer doesn’t really matter. Huh… Hammer knows who he is…right?

        • Yes, thanks, we know of him. It’s just that one doesn’t generally assemble a restoration team over a blog or forum. There are myriad factors to consider (cost, geography, timescales, availability) all of which were considered when we chose our restoration partners. We’re happy to email Mr. Harris to see if he can provide any additional insights, gratis, but that would be the extent of it.

      • Fair enough. We are all on the same side, ultimately – we fans want to see the Hammer Films legacy released in the best possible condition. We’re as passionate about these movies as you, and all the talk about transfers and aspect ratios has been offered in a spirit of helping. Hammer Films has one of the most significant legacies in the British Film Industry of the 1950s to the 1970s. We all want to see that legacy preserved, restored where needed and available to enjoy

  22. i don’t know why this is mentioned by Hammer but according to the amazon.co.uk listing for this Bluray/DVD release that both aspect rations are on the both discs.

    Bluray contents:

    - HD Main Feature – Never before released “Academy” ratio” 1.37:1 83 mins – DTS MA 2.0
    - HD “The Curse of Frankenstein (1.66:1 version)” – Alternate Aspect Ratio 83mins – DTS MA 2.0

    DVD contents:
    - Main Feature – Never seen before “Academy” ratio” 1.37:1 83 mins – DD 2.0 – English HOH subtitles
    - “The Curse of Frankenstein (1.66:1 version)” – Alternative Aspect Ratio 83mins – DD 2.0

    so they literally are making both people sides happy.

    • They literally would if they would just literally frame the 1.66 properly instead of centre cropping it, oh what’s the use..?

  23. If the original negative is so damaged it cannot be scanned, why is not possible to repair the original negative? If you look at the wonderful restoration Universal has done to JAWS it seems to me that this would be possible. Even an IP that has faded colours could be restored. After all I think it is all a matter of money, isn’t it?

    • I’m thinking it’s cost prohibitive to Hammer at the moment. Perhaps it’s a project that will require multiple resources for the cash — WB, Hammer, BFI, etc.?

    • It would require a restoration effort closer to THE WIZARD OF OZ or GONE WITH THE WIND than JAWS. Starting with a digital recompositing of the YCMs (serious money) and lots of tweaking beyond that. The negative on JAWS had suffered the typical wear of a very popular film, but was still workable.

  24. I just received my copy of Curse in the mail yesterday.I think it looks better than any previous release of this title. And the full programme of bonus materials finally give this classic the special treatment it deserves. I have zero complaints. Thanks Hammer. Now I can barely wait to see what you’ve done with Dracula.

  25. Dear Hammer
    The Internet is a giant sounding board for people’s anonymous opinions which, like bumholes, everybody has and are mostly full of crap. You were doomed no matter what you did with this release – someone was always going to complain. I’d rather you just made these films look “good” (undamaged, clear and colourful) and included any documentary you make for the release rather than try to please all aspect ratio pernicks and sacrifice disc space.

    And please – no more special effects updates. That wasn’t a good idea.

    So, Aspect ratios, effects updates with no off-switch = bad.
    But Plague of the Zombies, Rasputin, Mummy’s Shroud = good!
    Well done.

  26. The correct ratio issue is always going to be a tricky subject – after all they had to release Touch Of Evil on blu-ray not only in three versions but with each version in two ratios. Why? because no-one has any idea what the correct intended ratio was. I suspect a lot of films were made to be screened both ways (and everything between) depending on what happened to the print. I can remember often seeing films on TV where they showed too much of the top of the frame and soundmikes would be sighted poping into frame. For good measure, I can also remember being taken to see Gone With The Wind in London in the 1960s and seeing the film in widescreen – they just cropped the top and bottom off and stuck it on 70mm for good measure. Is this a problem with old films only? Well visit your local multiplex to see how they miss-screen fiilms even now. Anyway with the available funds (and remember some restorations can cost quite a bit to do) they have done a good job with COF – plus you get an impressive selections of extras including a complete support film to add to the experience. PS – I defy anyone not to be moved by the interview with Pter Cushing’s PA.

  27. This is all very interesting but the fact of the matter is that the Blu Ray transfer of Curse of Frankenstein just IS pretty poor. The DVD looks better in comparison! I don’t know if this is because of space issues (why not move all extras to a second BD) or the general condition of the print, but the poor transfer remains.

    Add to that the addition of pointless CGI to “The Devil Rides Out” and the lackluster LPCM Mono track on “Rasputin” and we got ourselves a disappointing month from Hammer. Which is such a shame because pretty much everything else (aside from the issues noted) about these releases are fantastic!

  28. Ai yi yi.. Please don’t be discouraged by some of the more rabid and obsessive nay-sayers here Hammer. I’m enjoying every release and appreciate that you’re making them happen in a world where you deal with real constraints, both financial and film-print wise, yet are soldering on regardless. Thank you for your hard work with these lovely releases.

  29. First I want to thank Hammer for this release and have been extremely pleased with the previous Blu-ray transfers (Quatemass/Reptile/Plague). This said, after a special viewing party for TCOF Blu-ray we were surprised at the dull image and blown out whites on facial shots. Upon comparing the WARNER R1 DVD reference we determined the original DVD release is superior in detail. To quote (below) a reviewer’s online post who’s obsersvation is very accurate…

    “The versions of the film on this BR are washed out, faded, blurry and lacklustre. The image on the WB DVD is cleaner and more crisp, the colour far more vivid, lush and just more `Hammer, than this muddy BR. In other ways the BR looks like a step backward. Look at the scene where Frankenstein and Krempe cut down the corpse from the gibbet. On the BR there is a continual flickering through the entire scene; on the WB DVD no such flickering is evident. (If other people could confirm this just to allay my fears that I might have a dodgy copy). This is even more dismaying because on the Universal Monster Box, the problem of flickering in the substantially older Universal movies has been highlighted and corrected. Annoyingly in Curse of Frankenstein, it seems to have been introduced where it did not before exist. So the bottom line as regards the film itself is that in future it’ll be the WB DVD version that I’ll be watching”

    In closing clearly there is something off on this release to myself and others. I do understand there is talk of “sharpening filters” on the WARNER DVD but looking at Cushing in the cell you can see the dew/dampness on his forhead which is all one needs to see the BD informs me something is off.

    Is it in the realm of possibilty that the WARNER HD transfer provided to HAMMER was not what WARNER used for the R! DVD?

  30. I too am very grateful to Hammer for such amazing releases in the HD format, however, the COF BD is not measuring up with the R1 COF DVD from Warner Bros. I’m sorry but detail is lacking, I did a back to back AB on an OPP0 BD95/Plasma monitor. As far a the ratio issue I see no reason to complain, both are provided, so in this case I think people should move on. Hammer made smart choice inlcuding both. Bravo!

    But again, the dullness and lack of detail is clearly evident in the new BD release. The R1 SD DVD trumps the BD, we are not talking sublte either. I do not get the feeling that the Warner SD DVD was artifically enhanced or sweetened with a “sharpening filter”. The SD DVD simply looks like more detailed element information was on hand compared to the BD. Here is hoping Warner has BD product of this when they release in the USA. Yes, I know they said they provided Hammer the same HD transfer but it does not appear so.

    To r HAMMER keep these Blu-rays comming. We all get one get out of jail free card!

  31. Does anyone who goes on about a full restoration of CoF have any idea how much such a thing would cost? Both the Monsters set and Jaws – both of which have been quoted here – had the full weight and deep pockets of Universal behind their restoration. Let’s be honest here, CoF is not going to sell one one-hundreth as many copies on blu-ray as either of the other titles I’ve mentioned. Neither are Hammer a multi-national corporation with an unlimited budget for what are still small-selling niche releases. What we have here is the best available restoration using the best available materials at a relatively sane production cost. Is it perfect? Of course not! Yes, it’s soft on occasion. Yes, the colours are not as vivid as I would have liked to see. Yes, the frame edge flickering can be distracting sometimes. But short of waiting on Warner’s own release for their rights market (if and when that ever might occur and providing they do the full restoration that Hammer and market forces couldn’t possibly have justified here) it is undoubtedly the best the film will ever look.

  32. hello: amidst all this AR and Focus discussion, I’ve always felt COF was mastered too bright for video. Look at Hammers trailer.. everything is “dank”, just what this movie needs…notice the leaking prison walls in the films opening for example…if its too light there’s no mold… also, colors take on a more atmospheric look.. Just my opinion, mostly pertaining to the early Hammer GOTHICS, especially their masterpiece, DRACULA. I like to hear how other fans feel…

  33. I find the Hammer blu ray release programme utterly baffling.

    What the vast majority of Hammer fans want from Blu Ray/DVD combo releases is the most faithful reproduction possible of the original cinema release. Agreed, some of this is subjective (the act of projection itself being prone to extreme variation in image quality), and I think many of the comments re. aspect ratio are ill-informed — the COF release being bang on the money. But ultimately what customers want is the best quality release and I think with certain titles, such as The Reptile, Studio Canal have achieved this. But there are too many Hammer titles on which the distributors have fumbled the ball in clumsily obvious ways.

    Quatermass and the Pit – no original mono audio
    Dracula Prince of Darkness – audio sync issues
    Devil Rides Out – new CGI with no opt out
    Rasputin – audio inferior to previous releases

    It doesn’t matter how many times Gatiss, Hearn, Newsome and co. appear on how many extras if the audio/picture is demonstrably poorer than earlier DVD titles or if original content (mono audio/original SFX) are not available.

    Which brings me to the baffling nature of this site. The webhosts are doing a wonderful job of explaining mastering choices and problems. To read their comments, they are fans who know what fans want. And yet the Hammer schedule has, by and large, been one foul-up after another. The discs are poorly planned (“Hey, I’ve got a great idea for The Devil Rides Out!”), poorly benchmarked (“Don’t need to see old Anchor Bay discs to know this new one is way better!”) and are poorly quality controlled, (“Dracula Prince of Darkness is just fine!”).

    All of which suggests that whoever the project coordinators are on these discs should either be trained up or fired. The problems also suggest that Hammer, while helping Studio Canal, Warner etc. actually have no control over what happens and that the purpose of this site is effectively an articulate PR exercise.

    As a lifelong Hammer fan, I’m now having to wait for decent reviews to come out before tiptoeing through the minefield of good releases and bad releases.

    Just to end on a positive note, what Hammer are doing on Youtube is excellent. Finally, I’ve got to see The Man In Black and River Patrol. There’s quite a few more titles I’m hoping they’ll post. Thanks for that.

  34. Addressing Chris Ellis:

    “Does anyone who goes on about a full restoration of CoF have any idea how much such a thing would cost?”

    No I don not. How much roughly? Ball Park cost? However IIRC this was a resotoration so why the poorer iamge than the R1 SD DVD?

    “Let’s be honest here, CoF is not going to sell one one-hundreth as many copies on blu-ray as either of the other titles I’ve mentioned”

    I think it will, and is selling more than we may think, but yes, JAWS will sell more. But considering how important this film is in the context of Fantasy/Horror, and how many people actually know this film (not to mention the main actors are arguably household names in the 30 and up crowd) I am again very surprised to see the R1 Warner DVD trumping this Blu-ray with a film that is arguably a national treasure, a film that was highly popular film internationally, a film that was a game changer in Fanasy/Horror, a film that made internaitonal stars out of the leads and a film that has continued to play on TV & video since it’s release. This is not some obscure relic from a bygone era.

    I just would like a thoughtful detailed explanation for my own education as to the reason for the washed out, blown out, flickering transfer to blu-ray. It would appear judging from the many on-line reviews (commercial or otherwise) that there is something lacking with this image compared to a 10yr old R1 DVD. Note I am not speaking to the AR issue, just the image.
    And again to the HAMMER folks. Thank you for all of the great blu-ray and titles to come. Hat’s off to you! Please just help us understand why this particular title has issue. Is it simply a lack of restoration funding issue or just poor elements provided by Warner Bros? Is this the absolute best “restoration” anyone could do?

  35. Addressing Roy’s comments:

    As I understand it, Universal paid between $250,000 and $600,000 per title for each of their 100 restorations. Given that CoF could need some pretty major overhauling, I would presume toward the top of that. So a ball park figure of half a million dollars?

    As far as sales go, with the disc being region B only due to rights issues – thereby locking out the States and, in fact, pretty much everywhere but Europe – I have absolutely no doubt that my original comment on the quantity they will sell is correct. Jaws and the Monsters box set are both available through-out the world in some form or another, thereby providing the kind of sales figures that I suspect Hammer could only dream of.

    CoF was a low budget film produced over 50 years ago by a small, independant company that sometimes produced works of near-genius, but did so more often than not thanks to the committment of their casts and crew. I very much doubt that, at the time, concern for archiving their prints within the company was high on their business agenda. So I would hazard a guess that the original camera negative is long gone. Therefore the best that we could hope for was an inter-positive. Not ideal but the closest to an original available. Back in the early days of CD’s you would often find written on the back of the case something like – and here I am paraphrasing – “Digital mastering may reveal flaws inherant in the original analogue recording”. Without having the resources to frame-by-frame restore, I suspect it is something along those lines that has happened. More detail – and with a 4k scan there can be little doubt that it has more detail – has revealed print damage, flickering, inserts, etc that had not been properly visable before. This is not unknown and is to do with scanning a less than perfect print without also doing a full restoration. Speaking personally I find the Warner print sometimes more pleasing to the eye – if you ignore the cropping – but I do not believe it to be technically better.

    While there is no doubt that CoF is important in terms of genre and, it could be argued, cinema itself, it is really only in the last couple of decades that the films have been elevated from their positions of Friday Night ITV filler to cineaste heaven. So while I might argue with the idea of “national treasure” I do agree with you that the film should find a place within the collections of more people than I suspect it will – many horror fans these days will be somewhat happier watching Eli Roth’s new one than this I fear.

    As I have said, I am aware it is not perfect and am far from a Hammer apologist, but genuinely do believe that this is the best that could be done given market forces and the resources of Hammer Films.

  36. Chris – I appreciate the detailed response. I can see we do have some common ground on the Warner release looking aesthetically more pleasing than this version. I think anybody who takes the time to compare the two disc (R1 Warner – R2 Hammer) on a quality Blu-ray player like a OPPO95 and a good Plasma display will see the difference. It is quite percievable and obvious.

    I am getting the feeling from what you say that Warner performed a 4k Scan, it was sent to Hammer, but that is where it stops, there was no “restoration”. Essentially they (Warner provided the HD transfer) have archived the film then released it on blu-ray. If this is the case then I look forward to Warner performing a proper and well deserved restoration.

    From the original (blog) article I understood the negative does exist but it is in poor shape. IIRC someone suggested this can be restored and used but therein lies your excellent point, Hammer has no capitol for such an ambitious project.

    As matter of comparison the analog tape format (which I use in my recording studio) after time has to be “baked”. This is a particular issue with some runs of Ampex tape where the reel to reel has to baked (literally)
    to dry out the backing material, after a time tape turns to a tacky sticky mess that will need to be addressed before making another pass for archiving. So perhaps some sort of similar process may be in order with the negative. A cleaning in some chemical bath and re-lubrication of the celluloid material. Then a new 4k transfer and digital cleanup of artifacts.

    I pray this happens one day and I believe it will in time.

  37. On a similar note (albeit a slight digression), the film “Heavens Gate” is being released on Blu-ray by Criterian this month. The original negative like COF was in poor shape As I understand they had to scan each negative and then re-merge them together digitally. Historically this is a very maligned film (Heavons Gate) and a financial disaster that essentially ended the new hollywood era, but in spite of this it is very interesting to see such a pricey restoration taking place by Criterian. I wonder how they can re-coup their cost, as I dont see large sales coming from this release.

    Very pleased to see such a process is available for capturing images from a negative that is too far gone to load or transfer. I feel even more confident now that COF has a chance to be coaxed into it’s fullest expression visually.

  38. Roy,

    It seems we are not so far apart as at first appeared. I would, of course, love for Hammer to have done a full restoration and also look forward to the day Warner might decide to do so. Of course, that release would be a region A only blu-ray which would present its own set of problems for us Brits.

    As far as Criterion and Heaven’s Gate go, the fact is that Criterion have the best part of twenty years history, experience, back catalogue (and, I would imagine, by this point a fair degree of clout with film companies) to call on. In time, I hope and believe that Hammer may have the same. And when they do, I look forward to CoF and their entire back catalogue available on fully restored, pristine HD releases. In the meantime, and for all its flaws, this version will do for me.

  39. for what it’s worth, looking at the COF trailer it is obvious the film was not that sharp even back then. And as far as a Warner Bro. BD release, remember Hammer owns the rights for COF and I don’t think they’re about to be upstaged by some Warner restoration.. and who’s to say Warners would do any better…

    • In Kinsey’s book on Hammer at Bray, Len Harris, Jack Asher’s camera operator, is quoted as saying that the projectionist at the Warner premiere reckoned it was the ‘sharpest focussed movie he’d ever run’.

      • No one has ever suggested that the film wasn’t in focus as shot. Sadly, the source elements have degraded to the extent that a softness is visible once those elements have been transferred to a digital medium. As we’ve already stated, the options were to apply sharpening filters (which have their own drawbacks as previously discussed) or not to release the film at all.

  40. Please! Enough with ‘Correct Aspect Ratios’ and ‘Acceptable Grain Levels’.The whining is ridiculous. I fail to understand how vandalising a film’s framing is ‘acceptable’ nor how the retention of grain in a technically advanced digital realm for that matter makes for a ‘more realistic’ viewing experience. Perhaps us olde folk have no idea! My once cherished love for Hammer Horror has fast been eroded by the abomination that comprises imaginary internet opinion. In fact, just about every single Hammer Horror released to DVD or Bluray aside from COF in this fan’s eyes has been a travesty. Down with OAR’s and give us the FULL frame.

    • I have to admit as a 50 year old I loved the new updated The Devil Rides Out. It was great to watch the film and not be throw out by the bad optical effects. Yes maybe in hindsight they should have had two blu-rays in this set instead of one for the purists the way way the Dr Who DVD’s have been done on a few occasions but it’s all a learning curve.
      Hopefully no more problems. On thing I will say I’ve never been impressed with The Curse of Frankenstein in any home format so maybe it’s the source material pure and simple

  41. I think that since The Curse of Frankenstein is the oldest of Hammer’s colour horrors, it stands to reason it has aged more than the rest, and the original negative is not in a condition suitable as a source for mastering new digital copies without an enormous amount of money being spent on it. Money that Hammer simply do not have.
    As Warner’s in the US have the only other film source it seems, ( unless there is another one out there unknown), then I can understand that if it was used 10 years ago to master the dvd they released in 2002, with added sharpening filters applied, it would have been in a less faded condition than it is in 2012. And since Hammer did not want to alter the film grain look by adding artificial enhancements, then of course it will look very soft when converted to a HD digital format now.

    I still think this is a nice release of the film, and the extras make it preferable to the old Warner DVD.
    With todays home technology, viewers can alter the picture and composition to reflect their own tastes anyway, so if they want a richer look, then simply adjust the colour or contrast settings on their tv. Simple!

  42. Just recently received my copy of Dracula prince of darkness (blu ray) and all. I can say is OUTSTANDING!!!!!, thank you Hammer for the gifts that you have given us

  43. Blimey, what a load of old bollocks. As Hammer fans, & customers, we want our favourite Hammer titles on bluray to look the part, but that was just not the case in Curse Of Frankenstein. Hammer, read the reviews & take serious note. Don’t blind us with grade this, grade that. Aspect this, aspect that. The truth is that Lionsgate are just not up to it. I have The Reptile, Plague Of The Zombies, Quatermass & The Pit & Dracula Prince Of Darkness – These look beautiful. The colours are fantastic, vibrant & bright. The difference between these titles & The Curse Of Frankenstein was that Studiocanal gave them the Hi-Def Bluray treatment & not Lionsgate. Its not just these classic Hammer titles. Lionsgate was in charge of giving us the bluray treatment to Hamburger Hill, but again, Lousy. An absolutely awful looking transfer. Lionsgate just doesn’t care. They are just after the quick buck. Hammer films, there is no excuse. As Hammer fans, we demand the best our (hard earned) money can buy. I will seriously have to read the reviews on the forthcoming Dracula (1958) before I part with cash, or give it a year & buy it from the Bargain bucket!

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