The British Film Institute has announced that the classic Hammer horror film Dracula (released in the USA as Horror of Dracula) has undergone an extensive and painstaking restoration. The 1958 film was instrumental in making Hammer the legendary studio it is now regarded as. It also immortalized Christopher Lee's interpretation as Bram Stoker's infamous Count as a seminal point in horror film history. The film starred Peter Cushing as Van Helsing. He and Christopher Lee had made screen appearances together previously, but it was with Dracula that their names would be inextricably linked as both friends and frequent co-stars. The restored version includes sequences that had been deleted in the UK for censorship reasons. The print was recently premiered at the Cannes Film Festival and other theatrical showings in the UK are planned. Read on for more details from the BFI's recent press release.
EXCERPTS FROM THE BRITISH FILM INSTITUTE'S RECENT PRESS RELEASE CONCERN THE RESTORATION OF DRACULA (AKA: HORROR OF DRACULA)
Amanda Nevill, BFI Director said: “We are delighted to be showcasing our latest restoration. Dracula is, for many, the film that has come to characterise the British Gothic horror genre and we are proud to be able to show it in the prestigious Cannes Classics strand.
“The BFI National Archive holds the most significant collection of film and television material in the world. Caring for such an enormous collection is a great challenge to our resources, particularly as the balance between investing in preservation and making the collection available to a wider audience is so precarious. We are immensely grateful to the sponsor of this restoration, Simon Hessel, for his generosity and support.”
Based on the novel by Bram Stoker first published in 1897, this was the first colour version of Dracula. It was a massive international success on its original release and established Christopher Lee for many as the definitive interpreter of the demonic count. Peter Cushing also gives a great performance as the vampire hunter Van Helsing. High production values and a host of character actors, aided by a cracking script by Jimmy Sangster, add up to a rich and satisfying horror classic.
BFI National Archive, Senior Preservation Manager Andrea Kalas added: "The restoration of what many fans call the best Hammer horror film required extensive research into reported censored scenes. Rumour and fact, not unlike the Dracula story itself, are intermingled.
"Our research into missing scenes led us to every conceivable resource from the vaults of Warner Bros to an archive in Japan. Scenes censored by the BBFC for the release of the UK version, but included in the US version, have been recovered. In addition, the US title, “Horror of Dracula”, had been attached to most theatrical and video releases. We have restored the original British release title with its distinctive illuminated “D.”
"Ben Thompson of the BFI National Archive film lab oversaw the restoration and it is due to his diligence and perfectionism that the film is restored. We owe special thanks to Richard Dayton and Eric Aijala of YCM Laboratories and Tim Everett, Ned Price and Bill Rush at Warner Bros."
The film was restored from the original negative, except for the original British title and the censored scenes, which were from dupe negatives found in Warner Bros’ vaults. The original prints were released on IB-Technicolor prints, and Richard Dayton at YCM Laboratories in Burbank worked with Ben to achieve this particular look.
The restoration will have a UK theatrical release later this year and Dracula will become one of the many thousands of films vital to British film history that are preserved at the BFI National Archive.
One of the world’s largest and busiest archives, the BFI National Archive contains more than 230,000 films (features, shorts and documentaries) and more than 675,000 television programmes.
The collection is made available through public screenings at festivals and cinemas throughout the UK including regular screenings at BFI Southbank, alongside video and DVD releases, and online through the BFI’s unique education resource, Screenonline www.screenonline.org.uk