With The Woman in Black recently taking fright in UK cinemas, the rebirth of Hammer horror seems assured – but what about the iconic British studios classic film legacy? Never fear as StudioCanal has formed an unholy alliance with the studio to undertake a major restoration of the Hammer film library, with some 30 titles currently set for a HD makeover.
This year’s releases – in the UK only – will include The Reptile, The Plague of the Zombies, The Devil Rides Out, Rasputin the Mad Monk and The Mummy’s Shroud. Hammer will also release definitive versions of its three biggies: The Curse of Frankenstein, Dracula (featuring the much-touted lost scenes) and The Mummy.
But first up is Dracula, Prince of Darkness – the gory, blood-soaked 1965 sequel to the film that ushered in Hammer’s classic horror period. On their way to Carlsbad (which features in many of these old gothic chillers) two couples unwittingly end up staying at Castle Dracula after finding themselves without a coach ride.
And it’s not long before their dead host’s servant (a deathly-looking Philip Latham) revives his master by draining the blood of one of their number (played by the late, great Aussie actor Charles Tingwell) over the tomb containing Dracula’s ashes. Gruesome for its day, the scene has since become legend amongst Hammer fans.
Christopher Lee, back in the cape after a seven year absence, is portrayed here as a mute blood-gorged ghoul whose only purpose is to get the girl – and he does. Andrew Keir steps into the Van Helsing role, playing a gruff and grisled vampire-hunting monk called Father Sandor.
Meanwhile, Hammer favourite Barbara Shelley gives the performance of her career as the prim and proper Helen who is brutally staked by Sandor’s monks after she is transformed into one of Dracula’s vampire brides. The dreaded Count’s reign of terror is short-lived, however, when he falls through ice and freezes over – until the next sequel, of course (that being Dracula, Has Risen From the Grave).
The bonus features on the new Double Play release includes the World of Hammer episode about Lee’s Hammer output; a really interesting behind-the-scenes home movie footage; a mute restoration comparison; and a collection of trailers.
The Blu-ray release, however, has been found to contain an audio synch problem which only affects a couple of scenes. If you have a faulty Blu-ray, StudioCanal UK is requesting that you e-mail your proof of purchase and mailing address to email@example.com. A working replacement will then be sent out.
Released on Double Play (Blu-ray and DVD) on 5 March through StudioCanal
WIN! THE HAMMER VAULT
Courtesy of Titan Books we have one copy of Marcus Hearn’s The Hammer Vault for you to win. This book tells the story of Hammer Films through previously unseen treasures from the company’s archive. Highlights include pages from Peter Cushing’s scrapbook and poster artwork from films that were never made. It’s a must-have for true cinema fans.
HOW TO ENTER Just leave a comment recalling the first (scary or not) horror film you saw and we will draw a winner (at random) after the competition closes (5pm Tuesday 13 March). Click here if you can’t see the comments box.