HORROR OF DRACULA (1958) – Long lost version finally restored!
You can imagine my excitement when I learned that the uncut ending to HORROR OF DRACULA (1958), Hammer Films’ classic Dracula movie and one of the best horror movies of all time, had been restored.
Just how excited was I? Enough to watch the sequence repeatedly on YouTube over a celebratory glass of wine. Hmm. What was that? Yes, just one glass!
Thank heavens for YouTube, that’s all I can say!
Where was I? Oh yes, I was about to tell you that Hammer Films—finally— has released its restored version of HORROR OF DRACULA, recovered from the long lost Japanese print.
In case you missed the story, in the late 1950s, Hammer Films routinely shot different versions of its films in order to satisfy different markets. The most violent and graphic versions of their movies were made for the Far East and sent to countries like Japan. At least that’s one explanation of the tale. The other account I’ve read is that the graphic scenes were simply cut by censors in England and the United States, while the versions sent to Japan were allowed to be uncensored. Either way, a separate version of the film had long been rumored to exist in Japan.
For decades, fans were tantalized by the possibility that a more graphic version of the film’s exciting finale existed in a vault somewhere in Japan, unseen by English speaking audiences. Fans continually asked, does this footage really exist? Or is it just a rumor? The mystery remained unsolved.
Thanks to the efforts of a Hammer Film fan— no, not me— living Japan, the footage was discovered. This fan, Simon Rowson, watched the footage and wrote about it, announcing once and for all that this long rumored footage actually existed. Eventually, he contacted Hammer and got them interested.
Hammer released a restored version on Blu-Ray to British audiences back on March 13, 2013. This restored version has not yet made its way to the United States. That’s where the YouTube clips come in.
Thanks to YouTube, we can see this footage now without waiting.
So, yes, I was absolutely ecstatic to finally see this restored ending, and I was not disappointed. I’ve posted this restored sequence on my FaceBook page, as well as right here on this blog.
I also went ahead and posted another video, the original uncut reel from the Japanese version, which is heavily damaged. It’s interesting to note that there are differences between this original Japanese reel and the restored edition reissued by Hammer Films. I’m not sure why they didn’t restore the entire sequence. The sequence in the damaged version is more extensive than the Hammer restoration print. Does this mean some day there will be more restorations?
This also raises another question, which is, are there still more versions out there? For instance, neither the Hammer restored version nor the original Japanese print include the famous image of Christopher Lee’s Dracula in the early stages of decomposition, a photo probably first revealed within the pages of the magazine Famous Monsters of Filmland. Did this scene ever exist? Or perhaps this image was just a publicity still?
The mystery deepens.
The restored version and the Japanese prints also include other restored scenes in addition to the finale, most notably an added shot to the scene where Dracula (Christopher Lee) bites Mina (Melissa Stribling). More on this sequence in a future post.
For Hammer Film fans, this is an exciting time, to finally be able to see absent footage that had never been viewed by English speaking audiences before. That’s pretty cool, I must say!
Now I can only hope that someone discovers an uncut print of the original KING KONG (1933) including the famous cut spiders in the pit sequence. I can dream, can’t I?