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.
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.)