A professor and his students perform experiments on a young subject, trying to prove that the paranormal experiences she claims to undergo are actually psychologically motivated. But the more they delve into the case, the more it seems that what’s going on is driven by powers not even the subconscious mind could imagine. What could these strange forces be? Sorry, can’t tell you, even if I wanted to — I unfortunately wasn’t able to see THE QUIET ONES, the newest entry out of the revived Hammer Studios, starring Jared Harris as the morally compromised scientist and Olivia Cooke as his unfortunate subject. But Cinefantastique Online’s Steve Biodrowski and Lawrence French got a look, and in this episode they’re able to clue me in on how effectively director John Pogue manages the scary stuff, whether the payoff is commensurate with build-up, and how this latest entry slots into the legacy of the legendary British horror house. Click on the player to hear the show.
IRON MAN 3: Done it. STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS: Done it. FAST AND FURIOUS 6: Not really genre (‘though we wish). THE HANGOVER PART III: Uh, no. Genre or not, no thank you. That leaves… oh shoot, EPIC, a CG animated fantasy that’s about as oh shoot as they come. This is doubly disappointing since it represents another cinematic betrayal of master children’s storyteller and illustrator William Joyce, but this time with visuals that, while lush, don’t do much to carry Joyce’s distinctive style to the screen. Cinefantastique managing editor Steve Biodrowski and Dan Persons weigh the relative value of those sumptuous visuals and the film as a whole, and then San Francisco bureau chief Lawrence French joins the discussion to commemorate Peter Cushing’s 100th birthday and explore the actor’s contribution to the world of fantastic film. Plus: What’s coming to theaters next week.
It was only yesterday that I was waxing enthusiastic about the restored conclusion of HORROR OF DRACULA, available on a Region 2 Blu-ray disc that incorporates previously missing footage rediscovered on an old Japanese print in an archival vault in Tokyo. Now, I am starting to have reservations, thanks to a YouTube post showing the last reel of the film as it appears in the Japanese print – revealing that the Blu-ray restoration is not complete. One or two of the effects shots seems slightly longer, but that is not the tragic omission. That would be the alternate take of Christopher Lee (as the Count) with tears of defeat welling in his eyes as Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) forces him inexorably into the sunlight that will disintegrate him.
Why was this shot omitted? I cannot say. It was certainly well known that the restoration would not use the complete reels from the Japanese print, which was heavily damaged (as you can see from the video). Instead, the restoration used a previously available print and inserted only a few seconds of missing footage from the Japanese version, the image of which had to be carefully tweaked. This led to timing issues: the sequence had to remain the exact same length so that the picture would stay in synch with the musical cue on the soundtrack.
Still, this hardly explains the omission. The sequence of cuts remains the same; there is a reaction shot of Lee in the place where the missing footage could have been inserted as a replacement. Something similar happened with Cushing: one of his reaction shots from the censored version (which, strangely, was a repeat of a shot seen a few seconds before) was replaced with a restored reaction shot that better displayed Van Helsing’s revulsion at the sight of Dracula’s destruction. Why a similar service was not performed to restore Lee’s performance is a mystery.
And a sad one, too. Lee has always been vocal about trying to retain a faithful concept of the character as written by Bram Stoker in his 1897 novel, which ends with Dracula displaying an expression of peace on his face just before his body dissolves into dust. The condensed story-telling of HORROR OF DRACULA allows little leeway for subtle characterization, but in this one shot we see Lee inject a startling moment of humanity into the Count. The grizzly special effects lose their “ain’t-it-cool” visual abstraction as Lee turns the scene into a credible depiction of a sentient being’s horrifying death.
And it hurts! Not just Dracula – it hurts the viewer as well. For a brief moment, Lee (an actor too often dismissed one-dimensional) engenders a little sympathy for the devil. Update: The YouTube video referenced in this article appears to have been deleted, presumably for copyright reasons.
At last, fright fans – here it: the restored ending of HORROR OF DRACULA! The sequence was eviscerated by the British film censor back in 1958, when the film came out, but the recent Region 2 Blu-ray disc has finally restored the missing footage. No word yet on when a Region 1 Blu-ray will come out in America (hey, Warner Brothers – get on the ball!), but you can see the scene courtesy of this YouTube post.
The footage looks a bit blue-ish (a complaint among some who have seen the disc) and also a bit dark (which I assume is a matter of YouTube compression and/or whatever process was used to rip the footage from the Blu-ray disc). I’m sure the photography will look much better when (if?) WB gets around to release a disc for U.S. consumption.
Tim Lucas discusses the Region 2 Blu-ray disc in the CFQ Laserblast podcast here. You can read about the history of the censored footage and its rediscovery here. And check out a sequence of frame grabs here.
The Holy Grail of horror cinema – the censored shot of the Count’s destruction from HORROR OF DRACULA – will soon be in the hands of faithful fans when the British Blu-ray of the restored version arrives on March 13. U.S. fans without a region-free player are not so lucky (no mention of a Region 1 release yet), but at least you can enjoy this glimpse of the previously missing footage, thanks to a still posted by David J. Skal on his Facebook page.
The censored shot is similar to but nonetheless radically different from the publicity still of the missing scene, which has been reproduced endlessly since HORROR OF DRACULA was released back in 1958. The version in the publicity still – possibly an early makeup test – suggests burns or scars, and although it is difficult to see clearly, I get the impression that you can see Christopher Lee’s unblemished skin showing through around the edges. The version as seen in the newly reinstated footage suggests melting flesh, which completely covers Lee’s face.*
I gave a rundown of the history of the missing footage and its rediscovery last November, so I will not reopen that coffin. Instead, I will provide a sequence of images portraying the disintegration of Dracula (Christopher Lee), as he is forced back into the sunlight by Professor Van Helsing (Peter Cushing). The sequence ranks as one of the great climaxes in horror cinema, and it’s exciting to think that the scene will soon be augmented, making it even more gruesomely delightful than ever before. FOOTNOTE:
In fact, the restored makeup reminds me of Herbert Lom’s visage in Hammer Films’ version of THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (1962). At first, this seems to make sense, since both HORROR OF DRACULA and THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA were produced at Hammer Films. However, they featured the work of different makeup men: Phil Leaky provided Dracula’s destruction; Roy Ashton had taken over the department by the time that Herbert Lom played the Phantom. (UPDATE: Ted Newsom suggests that Roy Ashton may have provided uncredited assistance to Phil Leaky on HORROR OF DRACULA before becoming head of the makeup department around the time of THE MUMMY in 1959.)
The Hammer Films Facebook page made an announcement this morning that should excite fans of of the studios’ classic Gothic horror films: the restored version of HORROR OF DRACULA (known simply as DRACULA in its native England) has been scheduled for U.K. release on March 13, 2013. The restoration includes snippets of footage that were removed by censors when the film was originally released, way back in 1958 – in particular, a shot from the climactic disintegration scene, long known to fans only through a publicity still.
The full story behind the restoration is much longer than the actual footage, which lasts only a few seconds. When HORROR OF DRACULA came out, film censorship was prevalent around the globe, particularly in England, where films had to submitted before being approved for release. Hammer Films was pushing the envelope with their new color horror films, first CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN in 1957, then HORROR OF DRACULA a year later. The company typically submitted scripts for prior approval but then would test the limits, shooting unapproved shots in the hope that the censorship board could be persuaded to change its mind.
This occasionally resulted in footage being shot that was scrapped for U.K. release, although it might sometimes survive in prints intended for export. This is what happened in the case of HORROR OF DRACULA: a complete print was sent to Japan, containing footage never seen in English-speaking countries (or most of the rest of the world). However, publicity stills of the missing footage were available, making appearances in fan magazines such as Famous Monsters of Filmland. However, these stills did not necessarily prove the existence of a complete version of the film, nor even that the footage in question had actually been shot; there was always the chance that these were posed publicity stills or images of scenes that had been tested or shot and deleted by the filmmakers without interference from the censor. This seems to be the case regarding another “missing scene” from HORROR OF DRACULA, the decomposed body of Jonathan Harker after being staked by Van Helsing (Peter Cushing). The problem here is that, in the film’s storyline, Harker has only very recently become a vampire, so that advanced state of decay seems inappropriate. The shot never made it into the final cut.
Whether any additional footage did indeed make it into a surviving print of HORROR OF DRACULA was long a subject of debate among fans and scholars. The issue was not much helped by Hammer Films themselves, which drummed up publicity by suggesting that they frequently shot multiple versions of their horror films: a tame one for the U.K., a slightly stronger one for Europe and possibly the U.S., and a really bloody one for Asian territories. In reality, alternate footage was shot in only a few cases for so-called “Continental” versions; most often, alternate version were the de facto result of the different censorship standards in territories around the world.
Was Dracula’s disintegration another piece of ephemera – simply a publicity still or an abandoned makeup test? Film editor and former Cinefantastique writer Ted Newsom pursued the missing footage like Van Helsing tracking down the Count’s hidden coffins, finding compelling evidence that the footage did exist, even while being ultimately unable to lay his hands on it:
“I’ve never seen the destruction scene in the climax, but it did clearly exist. Over on Latarnia, on the Hammer thread, I posted a frame blow-up of the scene, showing the same make-up from the standard 8×10 still, but from a camera angle which matches the rest of the shots [in the film]. It was published in some Japanese magazine in the ’90s, reprinted in a Hammer book in 1995 or 96. Seeing the proof of the existence of the scene in the Asian version sent me off on a 2 year back and forth thing with the Tokyo Archive. On the verge of getting the material telecine’d for posterity, they hired a new archivist, who went back to the party line and said ‘We don;t have it.’ It was bullshit, but I’d had enough.”
Fortunately, the story did not end there. Simon Rowson, a Hammer horror fan, discovered the footage early in 2011, as he described in this thread on the Christopher Lee Official Website:
My wife and I live permanently in Japan and, following a year long process of painstaking negotiation, we were actually able to view the final two reels of the sole remaining Japanese copy of DRACULA at the Japanese National Film Center on March the 9th – only two days before the earthquake that destroyed most of the North East coast of Japan.
In a nutshell, the long debated extra footage DOES exist – including the extended disintegration scene at the film’s climax – and I am liasing with Hammer about how to proceed at the moment.
Posting under the pseudonym Richard LeStrange, Rowson gave a fuller account of the discovery process on a thread in the Classic Horror Film Board, in which he noted that any attempt to use the Japanese print as a basis for a restoration project would have to take a back seat in the wake of the devastating earthquake that rocked Japan shortly after his discovery. He also provided more details regarding what he had seen while watching the final two reels of the Japanese print:
Not only is the much-debated complete facial disintegration – where Dracula claws at his face with his left hand, pulling away lumps of facial skin – present (complete with extra groaning from him and extra grimacing by Van Helsing) but Dracula’s attack on Mina – while Van Helsing and Holmwood stand guard outside – is also longer and more explicit than any other extant version. When Dracula enters the bedroom we see an additional close-up of Mina where she appears to be mouthing something to Dracula (I couldn’t hear exactly what on the small monitor) and, after he virtually kisses her full on the lips, the scene ends on a completely new, open-mouthed/ bared fang shot as he closes in on the left side of Mina’s neck before cutting to the screeching owl.
From there, Rowson goes on to speculate that even more missing footage may be available in some of the other surviving reels,* including a scene of Arthur Holmwood (Michael Gough) throwing up while seeing his sister staked by Van Helsing. However, this scene appears not to have survived (we have only the actor’s account to suggest that it ever existed).
Since Hammer Films was still the official copyright holder, Rowson got the company interested in his discovery, which was acknowledged on the official website back in September, in an article penned by Marcus Hearn (author of several fine books on the Hammer horror legacy). Eventually, a restoration was completed, and a world premiere took place earlier this year at the Vault Cinema underneath London’s Waterloo Station. Not all of the footage described by Rowson made it into the final cut; only two additions were described by one fan lucky enough to see the result:
When Dracula attacks Mina Holmwood, there is an alternate take of the vampire nuzzling her face and kissing her lip. This is not the shot of Dracula exposing his fangs that Rowson had described, and there is no extra close-up of Mina at the beginning of the scene mouthing something to the Count.
When Van Helsing forces Dracula into the sunlight, you now see the shot of actor Christopher Lee in disintegration makeup, his face peeling away. (The censored version showed only shots of a prop skull with glass eyes, covered in dust to represent flesh that had dried and flaked away.)
No official reason has been given for the discrepancy between Rowson’s description and the restoration that eventually emerged, although Rowson has since noted that he was mistaken about the shot of Mina mouthing something to Dracula. Presumably, the footage from the Japanese print of Dracula baring his fangs was too far deteriorated to be restored. Also, it appears that the restored footage was substituted, rather than added, in order to maintain the running time and synchronization with the existing English-language soundtrack; in other words, for every new frame that was included, an old frame had to be deleted. Holding on the shot of Dracula nuzzling Mina until he bared his fangs might have over-extended the shot and required the deletion of the subsequent shot, a screeching owl, which has already been shorted in the current restoration. Advance word is that the U.K. Blu-ray release will include the final four surviving reels of the Japanese print of HORROR OF DRACULA, so that fans may compare and contrast with the restoration.
In any case, the essential bit is the famous disintegration scene, which always felt a bet truncated in existing prints. The transition – from Dracula screaming in pain while being pushed in the sunlight, to a reaction shot of Van Helsing, to the lifeless skull covered in dust – clearly omitted a transitional state of some sort, which has now been reinstated. Hopefully, this addition enhances one of the great moments in the history of horror films. As nice as it would be to have a fully restored HORROR OF DRACULA, this one moment makes the current restoration worthwhile.
No word yet on when or whether this version may be available on U.S. shores. Warner Bothers, which holds U.S. home video rights for the title, had only this to say when informed of the discovery of the missing footage over a year ago:
“There have been plans for some time to revisit the key Hammer titles for Blu-ray, especially DRACULA. It is likely our archivists will be investigating the issue of extended scenes for that purpose.”
HORROR OF DRACULA remains one of the high-water marks in the horror genre. It deserves at least a restored Blu-ray release in America – or, better year, an art house re-release. Time to get on the case, WB. FOOTNOTE:
Unfortunately, reels 1-5 of the Japanese print were damaged beyond repair.
Tuesday, July 10 offers little in the way of new horror, fantasy, and science fiction on DVD, Blu-ray, and VOD; however, if you are looking to fill some empty slots in your collection, you will find a pod bay full of older titles returning in new editions.
LOCKOUT, the action-packed science fiction thriller starring Guy Pearce, is the one newbie arriving this week, making its Video on Demand debut a week ahead of its arrival on DVD and Blu-ray next Tuesday. The movie is not bad, but viewers will need a high tolerance for familiar formula film-making (ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK comes to mind, without much mental grasping). Two versions are available, the theatrical and unrated; both are currently available only for sale.
If vampires get your blood pumping, you’re in luck, thanks to the arrival of three titles of various vintage: BLADE II, TWINS OF EVIL, and DARK SHADOWS: THE COMPLETE ORIGINAL SERIES (DELUXE EDITION). The first two are new Blu-ray releases; the latter is a mammoth box set, enclosed appropriately enough in a collector’s edition coffin. BLADE II (2002) is the second in the series starring Wesley Snipes as the epynomous vampire-hunter striking fear into the hearts of the undead. The film is generally regarded as the best of the bunch, thanks to the presence of Guilllermo Del Toro in the director’s chair. The Blu-ray disc includes numerous bonus features that will be familiar to anyone who has perused the old DVD: audio commentary, deleted scenes, trailers, galleries, and featurettes. (The one I remember best “Epilogue: Dirty Version,” which Del Toro informally names “Come Removal” – because, apparently, the scene, set in a peep show, had to be trimmed because someone though semen stains were visible somewhere in the dark grungy setting.) TWINS OF EVIL (1971) is the third in the Karnstein trilogy – three bloody, sexy shockers produced by Hammer Films in the early 1970s, inspired by J. Sheridan LeFanu’s classic novella, Carmilla. TWINS OF EVIL is no match for the original THE VAMPIRE LOVERS (1970), but it far exceeds the lackluster LUST FOR A VAMPIRE (also 1971). The lesbian element of its predecessors is severely diminished, the the predatory vampire countess Mircalla Karnstein reduced to a mere cameo in order to get the blood boiling early on. After that, the film focuses on the conflict between hedonistic vampires and holier-than-thou vampire hunters, with the battle lines drawn in such a way that it is hard to root for either side. The innovation here lies in the titular characters, played by identical twin playmates, Mary and Madeleine Collinson (only one of whom is actually evil). For such an old title, the Blu-ray DVD Combo pack offers some impressive bonus features : a deleted scene; isolated music and effects track; motion still gallery; theatrical trailer and TV spots; a featurette titled THE PROPS THAT HAMMER BUILD and a full-length documentary feature detailing the behind-the-scenes production details, THE FLESH AND THE FURY: X-POSING TWINS OF EVIL. The final nail in the vampire’s coffin this week is the DARK SHADOWS Deluxe Edition, which includes all 1,225 episodes of the show on 131 DVDs. This old Gothic soap opera is very much an artifact of its time (late ’60s, early ’70s), but the crude production values of the shot-live approach (including blown lines, visible boom microphones, and rubber bats bouncing around on wires) become part of the charm. For all its many faults, there is something raw about the series – it’s like watching a first draft being written before your eyes, and it’s easy to imagine someone coming along later and refining this raw material into cinematic gold (alas, if only that had actually happened!). Bonus features include bloopers, behind-the-scenes material, and over 120 cast and crew interviews. The commemorative coffin contains a booklet with episode summaries and photographs, plus nickle hinges, white ribbon to hold the lid open, and matte and foil coating. The remainder of the weekly offerings consist mostly of oldies resurrected on Blu-ray.
ALTERED STATES (1980) is director Ken Russell’s mind-blowing special effects freak-out adaptation of the novel by Paddy Chayevsky. It’s overblown and over-the-top in the usual Russell fashion, but that’s all part of the fun, and Chayevsky (who removed his name from the screenplay credit) grounds the bombast in serious drama.
OUTLAND is Peter Hyams’ attempt to create a gritty vision of outer space as the new version of the old frontier: think “HIGH NOON in Space.” Thanks to performances by Sean Connery and Peter Boyle, the result is entertaining viewing.
COMA is writer-director Michael Crichton’s adaptation of Robin Cook’s medical thriller about black market body parts; there is some queasy suspense, but the film falls short of Crichton’s best work.
BRAINSTORM represents one of special effects guru Douglas Trumbull’s few directorial efforts; although tarnished by the death of star Natalie Wood, the film is not a complete bust, offering some splendid visual riches in its depiction of a device that allows the recording and experiencing of other people’s mental stats.
Also on the menu this week: FREQUENCY, SPAWN, and on DVD, WAREHOUSE 13: SEASON THREE.
You can find all of these titles in the Cinefantastique Online Store.
Steve Biodrowski, Lawrence French, and Dan Persons continue the conversation following the record session for DON’T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK. Covered: A discussion of the late Jimmy Sangster’s contribution to Hammer Films; Dan’s take on TUCKER & DALE VS. EVIL; plus some thoughts on the Bradbury Building, remake fatigue, and Samsung’s assertion that the video tablets in 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY nullify Apple’s iPad design patent. Listen to the show, ‘cuz it’s good for you.
Jimmy Sangster (James Henry Kimmel Sangster), one of the major creative shapers of Hammer Studios’ horror output and the 1950’s-60’s British horror boom, passed away August 19th. He was 83.
Starting as a teenager in WWII England the Welsh-born Sangster worked on the production end of the film business before becoming a screenwriter.
At Hammer Studios he moved from Producer’s Assistant to Assistant Director before taking up screenwriting. Challenged to create a “Quatermass-style” sci-fi horror script after Nigel Kneale declined, James Sangster came up with X: THE UNKNOWN, which proved quite effective.
He was also given the screenwriting assignment on a script by Milton Subotsky (later to co-found Hammer competitor Amicus Productions) for a new version of Frankenstein. Jettisoning much of the rough screenplay, Sangster delivered a sly and decadent take on the old story, which director Terrence Fisher turned into a full-color tour-de-force, starring television star Peter Cushing and a little-known actor named Christopher Lee. THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1958) changed the little studio into a major player in the field of home-grown UK productions, and helped kick off a second life for horror films as main features world-wide.
Soon to follow for Hammer and other independents were HORROR OF DRACULA (1958), THE CRAWLING EYE (1958) ,adapted from the television serial THE TROLLENBERG TERROR, JACK THE RIPPER, THE MUMMY (1959), BRIDES OF DRACULA (1960), DRACULA: PRINCE OF DARKNESS (1966), and the Bulldog Drummond spy mystery DEADLIER THAN THE MALE (1967).
Jimmy Sangster also took a few turns in the directors’ chair, helming THE HORROR OF FRANKENSTEIN (1970), a misguided attempt to re-make CURSE as a sexy horror-comedy (with future Darth Vader David Prowse as a bald, semi-traditional flat-headed version of the monster). Sangster fared better as a director with LUST FOR A VAMPIRE (1971) and the thriller FEAR IN THE NIGHT.
Jimmy Sangster also directed a few American television shows, after leaving for a stint in Hollywood.
Genre shows he wrote for included CIRCLE OF FEAR / GHOST STORY (1972-73), THE MAGICIAN, THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN, and THE NEW ADVENTURES OF WONDER WOMAN.
The episode of KOLCHAK: THE NIGHT STALKER that he penned, Horror In The Heights, is perhaps the best episode of that short-lived but beloved series.
Sangster wrote the TV movie GOOD AGAINST EVIL (1977), feature film THE LEGACY (1978), and the story for the Bill Cosby and Elliot Gould starring Disney comedy, THE DEVIL AND MAX DEVLIN (1981).
Jimmy Sangster essentially retired from the movie/TV industry in the 1980’s. His autobiography “Do You Want It Good or Tuesday?” was published in 1997.
Take a trip past the event horizon and dive into the Black Hole – the Black Hole Ultra-Lounge Podcast, that is. Join Cinefantastique correspondents Dan Persons, Lawrence French and Steve Biodrowski as they embark on the debut episode of this new podcast, spun off from the Cinefantastique Round Table Podcast. This week’s prime topic is the Most Epic Failures in the History of Horror, Fantasy, and Science Fiction Films. We’re not talking about box office failure; we mean the best laid plans of mice and men that go horribly awry on screen. Was stopping the train really such a good idea in TOMBS OF THE BLIND DEAD (ask the passengers – if you can find any alive!)? Was opening the Ark of the Covenant really such a good idea in RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (ask the Nazis!)? And was creating an artificial being really such a good idea in THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN and its sequels (ask the Baron!).
Also this week, chit-chat about various topics, ranging from HANNA TO HYENAS. So sit back with a glass of Romulan ale and enjoy the smooth swinging sounds of Outer Space in the Black Hole Ultra-Lounge.