Horror of Dracula (Dracula) (1958)

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Released 22-Oct-2002

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Horror Main Menu Audio
Listing-Cast & Crew
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1958
Running Time 78:11
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Terence Fisher
Studio
Distributor

Warner Home Video
Starring Peter Cushing
Christopher Lee
Michael Gough
Melissa Stribling
Carol Marsh
Case Gatefold
RPI Box Music James Bernard


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.75:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
French
German
Swedish
Danish
Norwegian
Greek
Turkish
Arabic
English for the Hearing Impaired
German for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Horror of Dracula is the second disc in the Hammer Horror Collection box set. I think the story is much better than the Curse of Frankenstein but unfortunately the film master is not as well preserved. Nor is the transfer of the same standard.

    In 1897 Bram Stoker finished a novel that brought to the public attention the legend of the vampire. He chose Vlad Dracula as the central character for his novel. Dracula was a 15th century prince in Wallachia, a province of Romania bordered to the north by Transylvania and Moldavia. While Vlad was a brutal ruler also known as the Impaler, he had not previously been associated with the vampire legend. This novel was to change that forever. The name Dracula is now inextricably intertwined with the legend of the vampire. Apparently we have no idea why Stoker moved the home of Dracula north to Transylvania.

    The legend of the vampire comes from far far back in the earliest memories of man. Many cultures have a version of this legend. It has also become part of the modern myth, inspiring many movies, both horror and comedy, and even a musical. Recent series such as Buffy have taken the original legends in slightly different directions despite guest appearances by Dracula.

    In my opinion, this movie is one of the best versions of the legend on the silver screen. When I picture Dracula in my mind he has the face of Christopher Lee and the man trying to drive the stake into his heart will always be Peter Cushing. This is a wonderfully compact story with all the correct elements in the right places; wonderful acting, and a truly creepy feeling at the right moments. A little bit of gore and a gradual building of the tension lead to a galloping ending that is very satisfying. We begin with a friend of Doctor Van Helsing (Peter Cushing), Jonathan Harker, travelling to Transylvania to take on the evil vampire in his own home. While he fails to nail, or stake Dracula, he does manage to kill Dracula's female companion. Driven by revenge, Dracula comes to England to find Jonathan's fiancée. When mysterious things start happening, Doctor Van Helsing is called in to help. The two antagonists play a game of cat and mouse as Helsing tries to track down the daytime lair of Dracula.

    The sets are particularly good in this film - Dracula's main entrance and hall is a wonderfully gothic creation. I particularly like the tall obelisk at the bottom of the stairs. The costumes are also great which, considering that Hammer Studios worked on a tight budget, is proof that you don't need a big budget to make a great film.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     Unfortunately the film master used for this transfer is not in as good a condition as the one used for Curse Of Frankenstein. It has fairly heavy grain and a number of film artefacts. This has led to further problems with the MPEG compression.

    Presented at 1.78:1 and 16x9 enhanced, IMDB reports this film as having a theatrical aspect ratio of 1.75:1 so this is close.

    Unfortunately, the image is quite soft throughout the film, both in the foreground and more so in the background. Movement causes a further loss of resolution such as the overcoat at 2:47. Another example is the scarf at 59:43 which almost becomes transparent. Black levels are good as is the shadow detail, but there is a large amount of low level noise generated by the grain. There are a couple of funny artefacts where part of a scene suddenly becomes brighter for a single frame and then returns to normal which gives the appearance of a blue flash bulb illuminating part of a scene. This can be seen at 22:11 and again at 22:17.

    The colours are somewhat affected by the low level noise and grain but do have good levels of saturation. Flesh tones move from the warm to the cold, and not just for Dracula.

    MPEG artefacts are restricted mostly to the background and appear as constant slight pixelization and posterization. An example can be seen at 7:38. There is also some posterization in the foreground such as in the face at 59:44 and 59:48. There is some aliasing present. An example can be seen in the window shutters at 60:46. There are a number of white flecks and other film artefacts and of course the previously mentioned grain.

    There are a number of subtitles including English and English for the Hearing Impaired. Both are easy to read and accurate to the on-screen dialogue.

    This is a single layered disc.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    Like the audio on the first disc in this set, the audio here is a little thin. Other than that there are no problems.

    There are two audio soundtracks on this disc, both Dolby Digital 1.0. The first is English and the second German.

    The music is described at one point in the English for the Hearing Impaired subtitles as 'Ominous Instrumental music', and so it is. This is a wonderful soundtrack that works with the on-screen action to create a perfect atmosphere for watching this film.

    Of course, being a mono soundtrack, there is no surround activity nor subwoofer activity.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Menu

    A static menu presented at 1.78:1 with a Dolby Digital 1.0 sound track accompanying a collage of images including Dracula himself and some drawings probably from a poster for the film. It is interesting to note the bats in the image even though they point out in the film that in this rendition of the story Dracula cannot transform into anything.

Theatrical Trailer (2:14)

    Presented at 1.78:1 and accompanied by a Dolby Digital 1.0 soundtrack, the trailer is in worse condition than the main feature. The grain is worse as are the other film artefacts. The audio is also recorded at a higher level than the main feature.

Cast and Crew

    A single static page with the cast and crew listed.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    While this box set has been released in the US, information on this release is extremely hard to come by. The movie has also been released by itself. The content is identical although reports on the transfer give it a better rating than I have. The box set appears to be available in England under the title of "Hammer Horror Originals" and again the transfer is reportedly slightly better, although it is likely that they are identical transfers to the R4 ones.

Summary

    While mild by today's standards, there is a small amount of gore in this film - (SPOILER ALERT: highlight with mouse to read) some red blood welling up around the stake as it is driven home - rendered in wonderful rich Technicolor. Dracula's taste in necks and the attached women leans to the voluptuous and the costumes show this to best advantage.

    The video is a bit disappointing.

    The audio lacks depth but is good for its era.

    The extras are also disappointing.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Terry McCracken (read my bio)
Wednesday, October 30, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDSkyworth 1050p progressive scan, using RGB output
DisplaySony 1252q CRT Projector, Screen Technics matte white screen 16:9 (223cm). Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre.
AmplificationSony STR-DB1070
SpeakersB&W DM305 (mains); CC3 (centre); S100 (surrounds); custom Adire Audio Tempest with Redgum plate amp (subwoofer)

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