Extra footage and a painstaking restoration breath fresh life into Hammer's best vampire movie
Having cleaned up at the box office with 1957's The Curse of Frankenstein, it's hardly surprising that the following year found horror studio Hammer doing it all over again with Dracula. And while Bram Stoker's tale offered a similarly gory full-colour tale of terror, it added a new and even more scandalous element to the mix – sex!
Unlike Bela Lugosi in Universal's 1931 adaptation, Christopher Lee's Dracula was a smouldering mix of sexuality and animalistic rage. It was enough to make his female victims gasp with delight, the censors balk at what they were seeing and guarantee the film's position as the very best Dracula of all time.
Picture: Lionsgate's Blu-ray release works wonders with Hammer's first vampiric outing. While some questions have been asked about the framing and clarity of the distributor's previous Curse of Frankenstein hi-def platter, rest assured that there are no such issues here.
Presented in the original 1.66:1 aspect ratio, the film's AVC 1080p encode is, well, fang-tastic. Colours are pleasingly saturated (if not quite pushed to the levels you might expect from an Eastmancolor print – but this is explained in one of the extras), detailing is stable and blacks are deep and foreboding.
The only exception is the cut footage restored to the 2012 Hammer edit of the film. These brief scenes are a little more muted and much less detailed – a symptom of the extremely poor-quality elements the restoration team had to work with.
Picture rating: 4/5
Audio: As is made clear in the disc's extra features, significant effort went in to cleaning up and recreating the soundtrack elements for the newly-restored material to make it blend better with the existing audio. All of which has resulted in an extremely accurate – if not exactly acoustically spectacular – LPCM dual-mono rendering of the film's original soundtrack, with James Bernard's terrific score being the biggest beneficiary.
Audio rating: 3.5/5
Extras: The major extra on Lionsgate's Blu-ray is the inclusion of both the 2007 BFI restoration and the 2012 Hammer restoration. The latter version is particularly exciting for fans as it includes footage cut by the censors but recently rediscovered in Japan. This takes the form of a saucier version of the seduction of Mina and additional shots of Dracula's disintegration.
Other goodies for fans to take a bite out of include an insightful chat-track by Hammer experts Jonathan Rigby and Marcus Hearn; a retrospective 31-minute Making of… documentary; an account of the film's restoration; an appraisal of the film by Sir Christopher Frayling; a piece on the film's censorship history; the four unrestored Japanese film reels in their 35-minute entirety; a vampire-centric episode of World of Hammer; footage of former child actress Janina Faye reading from Stoker's novel at the first screening of the Hammer cut; and a photo gallery.
All of the content found on the Blu-ray is also replicated across a pair of DVDs in the set.
Extras rating: 4/5
We say: The best of all the bigscreen Draculas gets a fresh injection of blood thanks to this stunning HD restoration
Lionsgate, Region B BD/R2 DVD, £25 Approx, On sale now
HCC VERDICT: 4.5/5
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