DRACULA PRINCE OF DARKNESS — smoke & horrors

As we discussed on this blog previously, DRACULA PRINCE OF DARKNESS was filmed in Techniscope aka 2-perf, which utilises only half the frame of a standard 35mm film cell in order to create a 2.35:1 image without the expense of anamorphic lenses and by using half the amount of film stock one would use shooting full-frame 35mm.

The center sequence in the opening flashback scene of the film is from the 4-perf negative of DRACULA aka HORROR OF DRACULA. That film was shot on the full 35mm frame and intended to be screened at 1.66:1. To make it all fit together, the filmmakers reduced the size of the flashback scene from DRACULA and added a diamond-shaped smoke-effect mask. The result is that there’s a real issue with the grain: it is very tight and crowded due to the shrinking of the 1.66:1 image. In addition, the overlay of the larger and more exaggerated grain of the 2-perf smoke effect creates all sorts of problems once the image is digitised and compressed. The problem we faced when encoding is that the overall composited picture in this scene had marked white noise and very distracting movement where the MPEG-4 (Blu-ray/HD) encode struggles to keep up with the grain in the film. The DVNR used on this scene (definitely not a blanket filter across the entire film as previously posted) resolved this issue, albeit with some “posterization”. On balance it was felt that this was the lesser of two evils.

However, so many of you have commented about this scene, that we, along with StudioCanal, decided to see if there was another way to filter and encode the picture. We did some research and have found an alternate encoding software package that will enable us better to tweak the opening sequence and create an improved encode. We have already completed several tests, and although it’s not perfect (it never could be, due to the workflow from 2-perf OCN to encoded Blu-ray) we feel that we have obtained a better result with less posterization. StudioCanal will replace this scene on the revised discs (with sound synch corrections) which will be available in April. We hope you like it!

108 thoughts on “DRACULA PRINCE OF DARKNESS — smoke & horrors

  1. looking forward to the revised disc – thanks for all your work on this film. can’t wait for the next wave of restored HAMMER films on blu-ray!

  2. Thanks for the update concerning the blu ray copy of Dracula, Prince of Darkness. It sounds like wonderful news. I’m eager to see the results of StudioCanal’s hard work. And I’m looking forward to the future release of other Hammer films…..especially ” Dracula 1958″. Thanks again!

    • You’re welcome, Michael! When DRACULA (1958) is finally released, you will hopefully like what you see! We’re assembling a really great collection of extras!

  3. Sounds great! I know I’ve already mentioned this on another post but if I was in your position and I have to find a way to make the prologue look more presentable, I would’ve tried starting over from scratch. I’m not saying by DNRing the hell out of it since we already saw the end result. But I’m just saying by doing what the filmmakers did as you mentioned in 1965, but this time do something a little different.

    My idea would’ve been just to take the last scene from Dracula in its definitive form (with the face clawing shot) and also cover it with the same type of smoke used originally. There would probably be some digital artists involved in making it work. The only real conflict I would see is what color smoke should help match the new look of the print for the Blu-Ray. I gave the Blu-Ray version a watch (don’t ask me how), and I’ve come to the conclusion that new print feels like a combination of the international print used on the Blu-Ray and the American print as seen on the US Anchor Bay DVD. Bright at times, but darker at other times. With that in mind, should I use the yellow smoke (like in the international print) or the grey smoke (like in the American print)?

    I know the idea of that you might say would be too much time consuming. You don’t have to reply to this but I’m just saying that no matter what you guys do, I’m behind you 100%. That is all!

    • Very interesting idea, Lucas (we did something based on a similar ethos in restoring the UK titles to DPOD) but I think the time/resource issue is the main factor here. Also we would be bound to get complaints from fans saying that we were messing with the original… In any case, many thanks for your 100% support!

    • Not wrong, Andrew! Things are taking a bit longer than we’d hoped on the US front, but we’re trying to move things along. We’ll let you all know as soon as there’s any news…

  4. Issues or not, I would like to say thanks for being one of the most interactive and willing to listen companies out there. Even when you believed that you has done the best you could , you have listened to “the fans” and have looked for an alternate route to please them..

    Makes a refreshing change and makes me believe my decision to support New Hammer is the right one! Peoples frustration is only bourne out of the fact that they love these films so much! Thanks!

  5. This is really welcome news. It’s so refreshing to see a company reacting so thoughtfully to feedback recieved. This bodes well for future releases (which I am REALLY) looking forward to.
    It would have been nice to have had some kind of acknowledgement e-mail from Studio Canal though for the proof of purchases submitted recently though. So far we have heard nothing

  6. Thanks for the update on this set. I’m very impressed that you’re going to the trouble of tweaking the visuals. Can’t wait to see the results.

    Having now watched the extras on the (first-issue) Blu-ray, I wanted to take this opportunity to flag up a problem with the 8mm footage – the audio seems to lag behind the picture. The commentators react to people on screen before they appear. I hope that this can be fixed for the new release, too.

    I’m very much looking forward to the next batch of releases in May. I hope they don’t prove as problematic for you as this one. Good luck and all the best.

    • All three films in the first tranche of Hammer/StudioCanal restoration titles (DRACULA PRINCE OF DARKNESS, THE REPTILE, THE PLAGUE OF THE ZOMBIES) were scanned at Pinewood in 2k at the end of last year.

  7. Cheers, folks. I really appreciate the responsiveness from the new Hammer. Are we able to know who it is answering and posting on the blog? Look forward to the fixes.

  8. Having already purchased Dracula Prince of Darkness is there a way to secure this improved disc without buying it again??
    I also just wanted to say how much I love the time and effort spent in resoring these films and am ridiculously excited for Plague of the Zombies and The Reptile

    • Of course! You don’t need to purchase the discs again! Please follow this link for information on exchanging the faulty DRACULA PRINCE OF DARKNESS discs for replacements: http://bit.ly/yI0b6R You are quite right to be excited about the next two releases. Rest assured that all the lessons both us and StudioCanal have learned with DRACULA PRINCE OF DARKNESS will be reflected in the quality of THE REPTILE and THE PLAGUE OF THE ZOMBIES.

  9. So are these fixes going to be on the discs being sent out to customers waiting for replacement Dracula Prince of Darkness blu-rays?

    I’m still looking forwards to the future releases!

  10. Thanks for all the updates. So refreshing for this kind of dialogue to be encouraged. And I can’t wait for my new improved DPOD Blu-Ray plus of course all the other upcoming releases (already pre-ordered).

    Is it possible at some point to provide a comprehensive list of all Hammer movies and who owns the releasing rights to them. Just so we can see what is and isn’t likely to be seen on DVD or Blu-Ray and adjust our expectations accordingly.

    Hammer Rules!

    • Thanks, Tony! We may post a more detailed list of titles/rights in the future (you’re certainly not the only fan to request such!). In the meantime, did you see our list of Blu-ray titles in an earlier post?

      • Yes, I did see the list, thanks. Essentially a shopping list which I’m working my way through. I’ve got the Aussie Vampire Lovers Blu-Ray which looks good but as noted elsewhere the sound is pretty erratic – the score is the main problem to my ears, the American Legend Films double disc Blu-Ray of The Man Who Could Cheat Death/The Skull (which as you say is Region Free despite being labelled as Region A on the cover – or at least it plays on my Region B only Blu Ray player) and Paranoiac which looks fabulous (and makes me greedy for more b & w goodies to be given the Blu-Ray upgrade treatment). I haven’t bothered with Vampire Circus because I understand that it really is Region A only. Even so, for completeness sake I may yet take the plunge.

        • Vampire Circus is also available in Germany on region B Blu-Ray. I haven’t seen it myself but have read that the film itself is English friendly (ie. English audio with removable German subtitles). Apparently, it is also an improvement over the US release, though I have read good things about that as well.

          • I have the US Blu-ray of VAMPIRE CIRCUS, and although the extras are quite well done, the film itself is VERY dark. It’s a poorly judged transfer, in my opinion. There are a couple of scenes in which it’s very difficult to see much of ANYTHING.

            Had I known at the time that a better Region B (German) release was forthcoming, I’d have given the Synapse disc a wide berth.

            Hopefully Synapse will do better with their imminent TWINS OF EVIL release.

          • I am glad to hear someone else comment on this ‘dark’ transfer issue re the Synapse Bluray of Vampire Circus. When I noted this very fact on other forums I was shouted down. The German Bluray is a vast improvement.

  11. Thanks for being so responsive to all these posts. You lot really are a role model for other film distributors.
    I was just wondering if there will be any way of distinguishing between the original and reissued D:POD Blu-Rays in stores, or will retailers be instructed to send their unsold stock back for replacement discs?

  12. Dear Hammer: I can understand wating on COF because of possible new footage to be added, and I’m also glad DRACULA 58 wasn’t released on
    blu ray prematurely, but really, DPOD before the great DRACULA? Thats like releasing the sub par Godfather 3 before the original with Brando. All that said, I am looking foward to DRACULA 58 and the cool extras you say are forthcoming.. Thanks again, Bill Lettang

  13. When the redone disc streets in April it’d be nice if possible to have confirmation that the copies available through e-tailers like Amazon.co.uk are the corrected versions, so overseas folk (like myself and other Aussies, USA residents etc etc) can purchase without misgivings. Everything else you’ve mentioned in the previous and current blog post sounds great and I’m especially looking forward to the John Gilling Blu-Rays. Thank you for the updates!

  14. Have I messed something? Is there already Hammer blu-ray releases out there of the old movies? Some has already been relesed right?
    Can´t wait for these upcoming ones though.
    Thanks for all the nice work you do with these discs.

  15. Thanks Hammer for D-POD and the forthcoming Reptile & Plague of the zombies.Do you know if there will be blu-ray releases of Hammer titles in Germany ? Especially D-POD and the forthcoming R & POTZ .I already have the Vampire Circus Blu from Koch Media.Thanks again and can’t wait to order the other Hammer titles on Blu.

  16. It’s nice to know the replacement discs will be available in April as I too was wondering what was going on. I must express my happiness that there are at least some people out there who still listen to the Hammer fans and respond in a positive manner. What a service! I’m really looking forward to The Reptile and Plague of the Zombies, doubly so now!!!

  17. Hihi

    Hi did you see the spelling mistake on the opening titles of DPOD (preseats instead of presents) hope that this could be sorted as well as the audio problems Cheers.

    • If you look closely, you’ll see that this is actually correct. It’s the heavily-styalised Gothic lettering deceiving you! Thanks for caring enough to notice, though!

      • Hi, you are right of course its my poor eyes I think I need new glasses, sorry.
        I do love this film that,s why I care so much about how it looks and sounds.
        Can you tell me is there a slight problem with the music score just before Barbara Shelley is staked?
        Thanks for caring about these problems and sorting them if you can.
        Do you know when in April the new discs will be available?
        Really looking forward to The Reptile and Plague of the Zombies, keep up the good work. Cheers

        • I noticed that the funeral scene seems to start quicker on the blu ray than the original prints of the film. After the titles have faded it should slowly dissolve into the funeral sequence could that be the reason that there is problems with the audio sync? You should look at the other prints of the film from the start in order to retain the feel and speed of the film and avoid jumping in and out of scenes. Sorry to be so fussy about these things as you are doing a fantastic job with these old films.

  18. Hi guys, great to see you being so interactive with the fans. A couple of questions – will the replacement Dracula discs be shipped to US buyers as well? Also, any plans for The Nanny, The Snorkel or These are the Damned? Finally, do you plan on commissioning any new commentaries? I would love to hear from Kim Newman. Thanks for your time.

    • Glad you appreciate our efforts! Everyone who bought DPOD and emailed the address advised will receive replacement discs. No current plans for any of those three titles as THE NANNY as owned by StudioCanal/Fox and the other two by Sony. We may indeed commission a new commentary for DRACULA. Watch this space!

  19. Could you tell me if in addition to the blu-ray/dvd combine sets, if you are going to release the dvds by themselves. This would give us fans the choose of the blu-ray case or the dvd case. I would personally like to have them in a dvd case so it would match the rest of the Hammer dvds releases.

    Is Studiocanal’s excellent Quatermass and the Pit going to be re-released so it matchs in the new blu-ray/dvd set. As I think the artwork on Dracula Prince of Darkness, Plague of the Zombies and The Reptile, are wonderfully, hopefully the rest of them will have similar artwork so they all match, it would be nice is Quatermass and the Pit could match in.

    I know that you cannot tell us which films you are remastering, but can I ask if The Satanic Rites of Dracula will get uk release, your webiste promised in 2010 that it would be released in 2011 and it never was, it would be wonderfully if it was finally released in the uk.

    The new remastering sets, what will happen with Mummy Shroud, Studiocanal currently do not have it in print, will they re-released it onto dvd before the blu/dvd set, or will they do release it straight onto the com set.

    Is there any plans to release the remaning Hammer films that are unreleased? The Steel Baynot for example?

    Will Captain Kronos and Frankenstein and the Monster from hell carry over the booklets from the DDHE dvd releases?

    Could you ask Sony to release the remaning titles they have not released yet, or remind them that they are still sitting on a lot.

    In regards to Sony could you ask them to re-release, Revenge of Frankenstein, Sword of Sherwood Forest, Die, die my darling and Curse of the mummy’s tomb with booklets like The Gorgon. Although Curse Mummy Tomb has gone out of print.

    And lastly please carry on the good work, thank you for all those wonderfully films, and all the hours that I get from watching them.

  20. The only thing that I don’t like with your present and future Blu-ray releases, is the fact that there is no french dub or subtitles. I guess it will be the same when released in North America or in France?

  21. Glad to hear about the improvements planned for the DPOD BD, but there’s been a lot of overall complaints in many reviews and BD websites about the general DNR across the film being pretty noticeable and over-done. Is there going to be anything done to fix this as well?
    Thanks very much :)

  22. I have been looking for this film for so long, that I almost gave up hope of ever finding it. But luckily I discovered this web site and the blog and I am extremely excited to know you have restored it. This film was and is one of the best Christopher Lee series Dracula’s that I’ve seen. And believe me I have seen them all.

  23. Got my replacement discs. Maybe I should have more faith. Right’ back on track. Let’s hope no-more quality-control issues. Thank you’ STUDIOCANAL/Hammer.

  24. I have got my replacement discs today as well. I have had a quick look and the synch issues are gone. The picture during the pre credit sequence is much better and a vast improvement. While I am not 100% happy with the de-graining for the rest of the film, this is the best that I have seen DPOD so thank you Hammer for listening to us.
    Rob

    • Glad you like! Hope you like the next two also (which were scanned from standard 4-perf 35mm negs so their aren’t the same issues with grain…)

  25. Replacement discs received today – pleased to report the opening flashback scene is much improved over the waxy dnr disaster of the original, and the sync issues have also been corrected. I still think the overall grain reduction is still a tad heavy-handed, but as has already been said it’s certainly the best the film has ever looked on a home ‘video’ format. Like watching it or the first time! Many thanks to Hammer/Studio Canal for caring enough to instigate these replacements. Really looking forward to seeing Plague of Zombies in a few weeks too.

  26. Dear Hammer, I posted on this site in regards to a very rare studio portrait of Sir Christopher Lee from l958′s DRACULA and offered to send it to you for possible blu ray extras.. so far no reply.. I can’t believe you wouldn’t be interested in this.. so I’ll try once more.. Would you like it and where would you like it sent

  27. Looks like we’re rolling again. Here’s to “The Reptile” & “The Plague of the Zombies.” Delayed’ but never mind. Once released we can celebrate this series being well and truly back on track.
    Thank you to STUDIOCANAL/Hammer for caring.

    • Believe us, it’ll be worth the (extended) wait. After the issues with DRACULA PRINCE OF DARKNESS we’ve been sure to get THE REPTILE and THE PLAGUE OF THE ZOMBIES right first time!

  28. Delayed yet again’ just seen the promo on Youtube, it ends with the release date now being 18th June?! Is that correct?

    • Yes, that’s correct. They’ve been delayed again, but this time it’s to enable something cool (hopefully!). StudioCanal will make an annoucement soon…

  29. Hi, received the new discs, very good they too! Looking forward to the next releases. Just a quick question, when are Dracula, Curse of Frankenstein and the Mummy being released?

  30. Finally watched the DRACULA PRINCE OF DARKNESS blu-ray last night, and have to say that I was mightily impressed with it. The picture quality is certainly better than we’ve ever seen before with this film, and I was pleased to see both detail AND grain within the image. Given the technical limitations of 2-perf Techniscope, I think it’s a really well-balanced encode. Colour timing and saturation is also nice and rich: I’ve noticed a couple of online comments that the picture has a somewhat ‘greenish’ emphasis, but sorry, I just don’t see this it all – to me, it just looks like typical 1960s Technicolor (which is exactly how it’s supposed to look!)

    The comprehensive set of extras are the icing on the cake. The commentary (ported over from the old Anchor Bay laserdisc and R1 Dvd release) is somewhat dominated by Sir Lee, but it’s all good natured, lively stuff. The principals certainly seem to have enjoyed making the film – and working for Hammer in general. Marcus Hearn’s informative BACK TO BLACK documentary is another highlight.

    Despite the unfortunate ‘teething troubles’ suffered by this release, I’m sure that most people will be very happy with the way it’s finally turned out. It certainly bodes well for future blu-rays.

  31. Yes’ Matthew. Surely you have seen the outstanding documentary. Well’ Ted Newsom, has re-visited and expanded on the original. I think I read somewhere at least another 40 minutes of material. The original is brilliant. Track it down’ Region 2. However I also I think I heard that Ted was in negotiations to see a Region 1 release. Just wondered if this might be the supposed announcement from STUDIOCANAL. As yet we haven’t heard a peep.

  32. @ Franny – Matthew’s only joking with you. He knows all about the FLESH & BLOOD documentary, given the fact that he worked on it as a sound recordist!

  33. hey franny

    you are going to love the new extended version of ted’s documentary! all new re-mastered film clips and new photos and posters and new sound mix! I’ve been working with ted on his new version on and off for a few years now.

  34. I have been a fan of hammer films since the 1970s but being very deaf have been disappointed that only a few available dvds of hammer horrors have optional english subtitles (those released by sony and warner). Some reviews that I have seen online of the Dracula Prince of Darkness Blu-ray seem to suggest that this release has english subtitles. Can you confirm that this is the case and if so will the policy continue with future hammer restoration blu-rays?

  35. If we’re gonna get to see it’ Matthew. Unless, this is the cool announcement that might happen? Do you know something and you’re not letting on? Double D’oh!

  36. not sure what is happening with FLESH & BLOOD – will let you know as soon as I know! would love to see this new version released!

  37. Okay’ Hammer’ what’s this cool news, as still haven’t heard a thing to explained yet another delay with the next two double-play releases.

  38. … still awaiting delivery of a replacement DPOD Blu-Ray from VDC. The relevant details were e-mailed to them on 13 March 2012.

    I have been burned more times than I care to admit by Studio Canal; specifically, incorrect aspect ratios for SEVEN DAYS TO NOON (requiring a second purchase for the correct 1:33 :1 remaster), SHE presented in 1:66:1 rather than 2:35:1, the same error with RUN FOR THE SUN, and incomplete, edited “digitally restored” editions of THE HIGH COMMAND and THE GOOSE STEPS OUT.

    Unfortunately, digital, here, means the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing at “Studio Can-always Blunder.”

    Hurrah, for those who received a replacement. I doubt I ever will — unless I purchase it again. Hiss and Boo!

  39. Well’ that’s the cool news and why the releases are delayed yet again!? pfft! Can’t believe it! That’s gonna generate excitement well worthwhile’ yet another delay…..not!
    One thing I have learnt now’ is not to get excited about any announcements or planned announcements on this forum.

  40. Well’ would had liked the announcement from you’ but Play.com have “The Mummy’s Shroud” & “Rasputin; the Mad Monk” available for pre-order. Date of release’ 10th Sept apparently

  41. It seems a part of the delay for Americans could be that the people at SC that are in charge of sending these out aren’t including the zip codes. Duh.

  42. I got my Dracula Prince of Darkness Blu ray on Monday 18th June from Sendit.com but it was the faulty version so I sent an email to VDC in the afternoon and the replacement disks arrived the next day. Great customer service !

  43. CONCERNING DRACULA PRINCE OF DARKNESS,ALTHOUGH HAMMER OWNS HOME ENTERTAINMENT RIGHTS FOR THE FILM,I BELIEVE THERE IS SOME LOST FOOTAGE THATS NEVER BEEN RELEASE ON DVD BUT SHOWN ON CINEMAX IN THE STATES.IS THERE A POSSIBILITY YOU FOLKS COULD RELEASE THAT COPYRIGHT OR IS IT RESTRICTED FOR CABLE TELEVISION ONLY?THANKS FOR YOUR TIME BRIAN

  44. I just received my copy of DPOD via Amazon UK. How can I know if my copy is the new one or the old one? Any kind of code on the DVD?

    Greetings from Spain

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