Friday, March 29, 2013

First Thoughts On The U.K. Dracula Blu-ray

I just watched the new Canal Studio/Lionsgate blu-ray of Terence Fisher's DRACULA (1958 aka HORROR OF DRACULA) last night and wanted to share some of my raw first impressions.  Generally, the transfer is breath-taking for any film of that era.  There is a proper amount of fine film grain present and a lot of the photography is slightly soft but you can clearly see where the plane of focus is set and when the subject is in perfect focus you feel like your on the set at Bray Studios.  The most obvious thing I noticed new with the image is the color shift and black levels.  Blacks are deeper and richer than you've ever seen for this title and all other prints and editions seem faded or washed out in comparison.  The deeper blacks really pop the low key lighting, adding an almost 3D effect to the characters, sets and props.  While the color shift leans to blue, it appears closer to the few 35mm technicolor prints I've seen.  This really pops the reds, especially Christopher Lee's blood shot contact lenses.  The increased vividness of the red in the count's eyes really pump up the sheer viciousness of Lee's portrayl and gave me a better sense of the film's impact on audiences at the time.  When Lee bursts into the library in bloody close-up, the only thing I can compare it to is Chaney Sr.'s unmasking in the 1925 PHANTOM OF THE OPERA.  Both are iconic savage, horrific images that must be seen on a cinema or HD screen to fully appreciate.

The additional restored shots of the Mina and Dracula kiss and the count's disintegration add a huge emotional impact for the  mere seconds they add to the overall running time.  They are nicely restored compared to the Japanese positive print that was sourced but noticably inferior to the pristine camera negative for the balance of the transfer.  As already pointed out on some blogs, there is an additional snippet of Dracula in agony in the Japanese print that didn't make it into the restored composite version (see the above frame grabs).  The audio is the crispest I 've ever heard it with the dialog and classic James Bernard score sounding sharp and clean, not at all muffled.

The discs extras are abundant and uniformly excellent, especially Sir Christopher Frayling's interesting intepretation and re-assessment of the film.  Sadly, the only  noticiable missing presence is the absence of another Sir Christopher who's participated and provided commentaries for much lesser films.

I haven't had a chance to check out the CURSE OF FRAKENSTEIN BD yet but will do so soon!

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