A note on the grade of DRACULA (1958) restored

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pre-order here.

Here are some reviews:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

59 thoughts on “A note on the grade of DRACULA (1958) restored

  1. Hello.
    Are you gonna release some Hammer masterpieces that aren’t owned by Hammer but other companies like Sony or Universal? I mean, specially Terence Fisher titles like The Gorgon, The Brides of Dracula or Curse of the Werewolf, or the remaining titles in the Frankenstein saga.
    Thank You.

    • Hi, because we have no rights in the Universal and Columbia titles, we cannot commit resource to restore them, however it’s worth mentioning that although they are currently unavailable on Blu-ray, Sony’s recent releases of THE GORGON and THE TWO FACES OF DR. JEKYLL (which looks stunning, even in Standard Def) are both taken from restored HD transfers.

      • The Gorgon has been shown on the Sony HD channel a few times the past couple of years and aside from the compression limitations of cable/satellite, the print and transfer looks very, very nice with well-balanced colors and detail.

  2. I think a rather valid concern of longtime fans is how can the new image be correct and everything for the last 50+ years be wrong?

    • For the same reason films like SEVEN weren’t framed or touched up by the director until the Blu Ray came out – no opportunity. You have to remember a majority of the Hammer catalog was released with masters taken without the participation of any kind of experts on the films themselves so if the person taking the print and mastering it felt it was “too cold”, they could have changed it. Especially considering that it is the more natural look to a film to have it be more warm than blueish since let’s face it – the world doesn’t turn blue when the sun goes down. But I digress. The simple fact is it sounds like there was nothing but care and attention to detail put into this transfer and I don’t think they’d risk botching it up by giving it any other tint or hue than what was originally intended as per the negative. It doesn’t make any sense to put the kind of effort forth to do a full restoration then go tinker with it to make it match a more “modern” feel, especially when darkening and tinting something blue – you risk losing a ton of detail. Just my two cents.

      • Hammer *did* feel it was ok to add digital fx to THE DEVIL RIDES OUT, though, altering the movie and not letting fans have it in its original form. It’s things like that which make fans cautious and critical. I am very excited for this bd, btw – but I am concerned how the Mage quality can be so different than what’s been known for so many decades. My initial reaction to the dark blue caps were of the gravest concern; since more reviews have been released and Frank Collins posted his review, I feel more relieved. I just find it hard to believe that we’ve been seeing incorrectly produced prints for over 50 years is all. Stranger things have happened though (like the lost footage showing up…).

      • Firstly, I have to stress that I agree with your point, but having said that Se7en was actually ‘touched up’ for the DVD release. The whole film was graded to be closer to Fincher’s original intention and the framing was altered (there’s a lengthy featurette on the DVD). With the BD they went back to it again and altered it to closer emulate the intended look even more accurately (green filter gone, framing has changed, gamma altered). The difference between the Dutch BD – which is based on the old master – and the new BD is quite something.

  3. Pingback: DRACULA (1958) BD/DVD - Page 4 - Cult Labs

  4. The Digital Fix review of this release is very promising (see below). They’re not usually very forgiving when it comes to things that don’t live up to their expectations.

    “…this is a lovely transfer yielding formidable detail, colours that bring the cinematography to life, and excellent contrast. Very film-like and natural looking, this, along with the Quatermass BD, shows what high definition can do for these beautiful films.”

    I can’t wait to see it myself now.

  5. Thanks for the comments but it’s a shame you had to respond to such negative critique. The people who are complaining have not seen the end result and really have little to no knowledge on the matter. I’ve seen the result of the restoration and It’s stunning. Well done to all involved for preserving this classic movie in such a manner.

  6. Pingback: Le Cauchemar de Dracula : quelques secondes inédites en Blu-Ray | Forgotten Silver

  7. I’d just like to plug our review as well:

    http://www.dvdactive.com/reviews/dvd/dracula.html

    I’m by no means a Hammer aficionado, but I was was quite happy with what I saw/heard given the age of the film. Watching the accompanying documentary demonstrates that a lot of work went into it, and those involved certainly appeared respectful of the material. It’s a great set of extras for someone like me who didn’t really know a lot about the film going into it.

    So, Lawrence of Arabia it isn’t, but it’s a very respectable release and to deny yourself the chance to watch this version of the film on account of some colour alterations (which are largely confined to the night-time sequences) seems like a case of cutting off one’s nose to spite your face.

  8. First of all, I saw HORROR OF DRACULA first run in its original U.S. release in 1958. Over the years I have seen American IB Technicolor prints in both 35mm & 16mm many times. Let me urge everyone who is actually interested in film restoration to visit this site:

    http://www.widescreenmuseum.com.

    It will give you technical information on aspect ratios and color printing.

    Now as to the new Blu-Ray remastering of DRACULA: It sounds like the BFI referenced an original check print, or “answer print”. Such a print would have had correct exposures for every shot, following Jack Asher’s original printing instructions to the laboratory. It would probably be an IB Technicolor print for Technicolor London facility. Seperation matrices would have made from the original camera negative. Referencing such a print was absolutely the right thing to do! The different Technicolor labs in Hollywood, New York, London, & Rome could yield strikingly different results when printing the same photographic material. Dye transfer Technicolor printing involved bathing the celluloid in a solution. The mineral content of the water could affect the result, because the minerals were “imbibed” into the celluloid along with the petroleum based pigments.

    HORROR OF DRACULA was released by Universal-International in the U.S. American Technicolor would have made the dye transfer prints for U.S. release with a much “hotter” color balance, the way U-I typically wanted their pictures to look. Call it a house style. However, British Technicolor was known for having a more delicate, subtle color balance. I can easily believe that this was what Terence Fisher & Jack Asher would have wanted!

    Bear in mind that motion picture film is a chemical process, subject to variations all down the line. Digital mastering is an electronic process, subject to a different set of characteristics altogether. Reproduction in any medium is problematical, with many possible variations. The final result depends on the aethetic choices that are made, as well as unpredictable chemical reactions. I applaud the Blu-Ray digital mastering team for following the BFI’s lead. After seeing online screen captures, I can’t wait to see the difference in the color balance from the American IB Technicolor prints that I have seen over the years. The way DRACULA was processed in its country of origin was certainly the best model for digital remastering.

    What matters most is that Hammer has cooperated in making a restored version of DRACULA before there coud be any additional deterioration of the original elements. BRAVO!

    • The problem is that the BFI didn’t use any “original” check print from the 50′s. Such a print doesn’t exist. They used a *new* check print that was basically (newly) color graded without any solid reference produced by Warner Bros USA from their master in 2007 for the new theatrical release. This is confirmed by at least one interview with a BFI tech who worked on the new print.

      Let’s be honest – no other late 50′s to early 60′s Hammer Film, especially those photographed by Jack Asher ever had this sort of across the board “cool” color timing. The new color timing was noticed when the film was shown in theaters in the UK in ’07 and many viewers where fine with it just as many (re)viewers seem to be fine or at least accepting of the revison on this Blu-ray release.

      • There would be no reason for WB to produce a “check” print at any time other than either original exhibition or a re-release on 35mm. Likewise, there would be no point creating a “check” print without extensive research, and then using that as the basis for a grade. Would make far more sense to use the available colour reference to strike a new IP, or simply to use the colour reference when grading in digital space. Indeed, the modern restoration workflow has no use at all for an “answer” or “check” print. Scans are made from either OCN or IP and everything subsequent is in digital space. We feel that the reaction to the 2007 and 2012 screenings are partly due to the shock of seeing the film restored with a colour palette much closer to the original intention, after having lived with much warmer/lusher grades for the past 30-or-so years.

        • Hi Rick, we can’t comment on any non-Hammer Lionsgate releases, but FYI, the Hammer Restoration Programme is run quite separately from who releases the films once restored. The same team (and the same handful of facilities) has worked across ALL the Hammer restoration titles, so any comment that praises StudioCanal while damning Lionsgate/Icon is based on a false premise.

  9. Hello Hammer..good to see you back online. I am glad about the positive reviews for DRACULA ..never bought into that “blue filter” nonsense..I said ages ago (and on this site) the film was “colder” and the BFI evidence bears witness to this..and, coupled with a comparison to my 35MM print, I knew the grading would be very close..(some even questioned my honesty on another site). Looking forward to 3/18.

  10. Hammer films are certainly famous because of their visual impact,colour and all that.However the very best of these films -like DRACULA 1958 for example- offer psychological depth as well.
    The ” Staking of Lucy ” shows that very well: A dead relative physically returns from the grave,she then tries to seduce an innocent child,afterwords she attempts to victimize her own brother as well,not to mention the staking when Arthur Holmwood obviously suffers as if being driven a stake through his heart himself.
    I think moments like this give evidence to the fact that Hammer’s first
    DRACULA is one of THE masterpieces of gothic horror without a doubt.
    This cinematic version of Bram Stoker’s novel is really unsurpassable in my opinion.

  11. Just pre-ordered DRACULA. I’ve tried to get this full-version issued for 20 years (online petitions, etc.) but WB just never would do it. THANK YOU for issuing this as it was meant to be shown. This is the release of the decade for Hammer.

  12. Hi Hammer

    Having read the forums tonight, I’m confused by one of your posts

    “Re. StudioCanal: No plans for any Blu-ray releases beyond the seven titles already released.”

    What’s going to happen after FATMFH, Kronos and Mummy? Studiocanal as far as I can see holds a great deal of the titles, what’s going to happen? Are Studiocanal going to let you relase other of their tiles with other company? Are they going to now release them as dvd only (7 titles already out). Let us now.

    Are they any hammer unreleased titles coming out this year (apart from Network’s excellcent Man at the top release).

  13. Hello Hammer,

    Today I read, at DVD Drive-In, that Millenium Entertainment will release Hammer Films on Blu-Ray in the U.S (DVD’s start 4/2).! I am thrilled and look forward to finally getting the Blu-Ray editions here. Keep up the great work!

    Jim M.

  14. hello Hammer..enjoyed the Stills Gallery for COF but cannot find any acknowedgment to those who have contributed material. Surely with over 100 photos being slated for Dracula there will be credit somewhere ,Yes?

  15. Hello Hammer..still awaiting a response to my question concerning ackowledgement of contributors to the photo gallery on the Dracula Blu Ray release..I submitted a very rare photo of the Count (from Dracula 58) to which you seemed by your e-mails back to me very excited about. I’m curious if it made the gallery, and if it did, where to find the ackowledgement…Thanks

  16. It’s finally here and i’ve just watched it.
    Congratulations to everyone involved, it is truly a remarkable achievement. Although i’m looking forward to your other forthcoming releases I’ll be very surprised if you ever surpass this.
    This truly is the Blu-Ray release of the year.

  17. This really is a fabulous release of Dracula.
    I got my Blu-ray -dvd combo yesterday and all I can say is that I was completely blown away by the beautiful picture and sound quality of this 55 year old film. The red carpet treatment indeed with all the extras included in the package, and some great documentaries to show the incredible amount of work that went into putting the Japanese found footage into the full feature, and bringing it up to the required quality.

    I was very chuffed that some of the interviews from the people who attended The Vault special screening in February 2012 of the restored film were included in the Resurrecting Dracula feature, as I was one of the lucky few who have made it to the DVD. Now I really am a Hammer geek!

    Well done to Hammer for bringing this film into the twenty -first century in it’s fullest ever version, and in such magnificent condition.
    And to all the nay-sayers and nit-pickers out there – the film isn’t too dark, and it isn’t too blue. It is just how the makers intended it to be – perfect.

    This really is the best Hammer release so far, and a tough act to follow.

  18. Hello Stuart Hall and thank you for informing me about my rare Sir Christopher Lee photo portrait as the Count making it into the Dracula photo gallery. Also, thank you Hammer for choosing it as part of the collection, as, since this is my favorite film, I feel even closer to it now..I am so glad everyone is thrilled about this release, and can’t wait till I recieve mine from Amazon.uk as I live across the pond here in the U.S.A.

  19. I’m very happy to report that the new U.K. Blu-ray of Hammer’s 1958 DRACULA has finally arrived in my “crypt” in the USA today.

    My fears of a “too blue” color timing have now been alleviated. I think that most fans of this classic film will be satisfied with the transfer. IMHO, it’s the best the film has ever looked on home video.

  20. Sincere Congratulations to all involved with this latest Blu Ray release. To date I have sat in the ‘shadows’ watching the many posts connected with this, and indeed other releases but now it is time to acknowledge and appreciate just how enormous a task it must be to bring these films to this HD format.
    I too have lived (and appreciated) the 1:85 WB DVD release but there is no doubt this 1:66 version together with grading makes this release by far the definitive version.
    A major plus for me has to be just how underrated the performance of Melissa Stribling has (previously) been:with this version she really does deserve maximum credit.
    Again my sincere congratulations to all concerned. I so hope “The Mummy” and “Frankenstein Created Woman” deliver equal entertainment!

    p.s Bill : Your rare still was worth waiting for!

    • hello Steven..I’m so glad you like the rare still and thank you for telling me so…This is an exciting time for us Dracula 58 fans, and I’m honored that I could make a small contribution to this effort…

  21. Just got my copy of “Dracula” and all I can say is OUTSTANDING!!!! A first rate job all around, thank you 1,000,000 X for taking the time and effort and love into this ultimate version.

  22. Got this set about 1.5 weeks ago and just want to say it is FANTASTIC. But where is the movie trailer? Am I just not seeing it? Also, any “Easter eggs” on the set?

    Congratulations on a great release and hard work.

  23. Just out of curiosity are there any other Dracula films on the drawing board for restoration in the near future?

  24. Finally watched it…… its OK….
    Perhaps I was expecting too much.
    I think blu ray is OTT for the quality of the print. The DVD is not much different with up scaling. I put my old DVD on and wasn’t WOW different.
    Compared to POTZ and Reptile, which both blew me away and look fab,
    Dracula was a disappointment. The source print must be pretty slandered.
    Watching on a 50″ Panasonic Plazma,
    Under whelmed…….sorry.

  25. hello Stephen Alexander..sorry it took so longm to post. I’m so glad you liked the rare Dracula portrait of C.L. I found that picture at a flea market (huge indoor sale with many booths and tables) amongst other movie stills and it was the only Hammer related picture from about 100 or so stills. Hammer was very gracious to use it and credit me…..small contribution when compared to what many others have done here, but still a great thrill for me….glad your enjoying the blu ray……I am too!!!!

  26. Guys, I’ve been critical of your choices and previous DVD/Blu releases but huge credit is due here. This is a stunning piece of work and I love it to bits. When you get it right, you knock it out of the ground. I had my doubts about the grade but that was based on screen caps – the actual film looks superb.

    Fantastic restoration, the Japanese footage is amazing, the extras superb. My favourite release since Koch’s DVD of Brides of Dracula.

    A great, great release. Thank you.

  27. The film looks just stunning – it’s a great release! One thing seems unmentioned however – whilst the still missing shot of the vampire woman biting Harker is talked about in the extra docs, there seems to be no mention of the shot of the staked Harker and whether this ever appeared in any version, although the still of it does appear in the photo gallery. Great effort was taken to do a make-up effect, so presumably it was filmed for intention of cutting into the film? Was it cut before release in any territory?

  28. I can only echo what many others have said about the excellence of this release. A great job on the transfer and some truly worthwhile extras with re-watch value.
    It was also nice to see myself and the wife (albeit only the backs of our heads) in the audience shots from the Vault festival used during the Janina Faye reading and in the restoration doc.

  29. It’s pretty obvious that some footage couldn’t be reintegrated because of issues over soundtrack continuity – NOT because of stupid oversights as some people are suggesting.

    “Too blue!”, “Those idiots forgot some of the footage!”
    Honestly, this Blu ray seems to have more conspiracy theorists than JFK and Princess Diana!

  30. I noticed that the Frankenstein Created Woman blu-ray entry has disappeared from Amazon. Both The Brides of Dracula and The Evil of Frankenstein have made an appearance for June and July respectively though. Does anyone have a definite schedule for forthcoming releases from Hammer please?

  31. I just noticed that Terror of the Tongs going through BBFC – another imminent Hammer title to look forward to?

    • It’s sadly DVD only but it nevertheless a welcome release in the UK. It’s exclusive to Moviemail, they must have a deal with Sony who own a chunk of Hammer films. http://www.moviemail.com/film/dvd/Terror-of-the-Tongs/ They’re also releasing Creatures the World Forgot which is doubly welcome because I don’t think that got a region 1 release like Tongs did (and I own, the Hammer Icons of Adventure box set).

  32. If by ” the shot of the staked Harker ” is meant the still showing an extremely dried-out Harker, then the corpse isn’t staked. No stake is seen in this still. Van helsing finds Harker’s corpse in this state. I see this as Dracula’s revenge for Harker’s killing of the vampire woman:Dracula drained Harker of every last drop of blood!

  33. Hi Hammer – honest question, no negativity in it. If and when THE QUATERMASS XPERIMENT gets released, will a widescreen version be included as well as the 4:3 version? It’d be very appreciated. If you’re willing to include a 4:3 version of THE MUMMY, a matted version of TQX seems like a fair option too. Thanks!!

  34. Hi guys!

    I think it’s awesome that you are re-releasing these gems on blu-ray.
    However, I’d like to have a full list of your releases present and future all gathered into one list as I only just discovered that you’re doing this and it’s not that easy to get an overview of what’s already out and not.

    Thanks!

  35. Is there any chance at all that, eventually, you will release all the Lee Dracula films in a DVD/Blu-Ray box set (and the Cushing Frankenstein films, and the Quatermass films, and the Mummy films)? I have been hoping for such for a very long time now.

    ~Jennifer

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