Thursday, December 8, 2016

DRACULA RESTORED


For years, rumors circulated around monster cognoscenti that Hammer's first vampire flick, DRACULA (HORROR OF DRACULA in the U.S.) was missing some footage. Marcus Hearne, Hammerphile, went so far as to say that the two scenes are "crucial to the film".

The missing scenes in question were tracked down in Japan, where it was the only country that played the movie uncut. They were restored and added to the extant footage. The most recent version released to viewers was a 2013 Region 2 Blu-ray/DVD.


So why haven't we seen a U.S release yet? The rationale escapes me.

Shown here is an article from SCI-FI NOW's HAMMER HORROR Special Edition (2014) that discusses the find. Also included is a Q&A from IMDB.




 

I've seen stills from scenes that don't appear in the film. How come?

There are at least two scenes for which stills exist, but which did not make it to the final edit of the film. The first is the decayed corpse of Jonathan Harker. The second is Dracula's prolonged disintegration sequence at the end. For a long time the latter was rumoured to have been included in the Japanese release, and in 2012, it was confirmed. Several seconds of extra disintegration footage, including some of Dracula tearing his flesh from his face, were restored and integrated into the 2007 BFI restoration, then released in March 2013 on Region 2 Blu-ray and DVD. The recovered Japanese reels also included an alternate version of Dracula's seduction of Mina, with erotically charged shots of Mina from Dracula's point of view and more explicit shots of Dracula kissing Mina and her very clearly enjoying it. These, too, were restored and included in the 2013 Blu-ray/DVD release. The photograph of a decomposed Jonathan Harker is thought to be a test shot or studio still, and it's unlikely the full scene was ever filmed, not least because it wouldn't make sense for Harker, who is young, to age like the other vampires on being destroyed.
 

What's new about the BFI's 2007 restored version?

Although the colours are certainly beautifully and vibrantly restored in the new print, all the footage has been seen before--just never together in one version. The 2007 restoration includes the original British title card, which reads simply Dracula, in ornate, gothic script. A few seconds of extra blood are seen in Lucy's staking scene. These were in the original US release but not in the UK version. Contrary to rumour, this restored version does NOT contain any of the supposed Japanese footage of Dracula's disintegration or of Jonathan Harker's decayed corpse. Photographic stills exist of both, but until the 2011 discovery of a partial print in Japan, no actual film had been found.
 

What are the differences between the Restored Version from 2007 and the 2012 Restored Uncut Version?

The BBFC demanded some cuts for the theatrical release of the movie in 1958. This version, known as Horror of Dracula in the USA, was for many years thought to be the longest version and was restored in 2007. So it was a real surprise when in September 2011, some old film reels containing previously unknown scenes were found in Tokyo. They didn't include the whole movie (just the last 36 minutes). Nevertheless, the buzz among the fans was huge and they naturally wanted to see these scenes. And the impossible happened at the beginning of 2013, when Lions Gate and the British Hammer Films announced the release of a new longer version of the movie on DVD and Blu-ray. Although the picture quality of the new scenes is a little bit worse than the rest and the movie's also only a few seconds longer, it is nevertheless the ultimate version for fans of this classic.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

SMOKIN' MONSTERS: LAURA GEMSER


Here we have not only one, but two shots of Euro-Cine hottie Laura Gemser enjoying a smoke. Pardon the unabashed poses, but Ms. Gemser seems to have an aversion to clothing whenever she is photographed.




 
 

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

TOPSTONE TUESDAY: MASKED KILLERS!

 
Of all places for a Topstone mask to show up ...

True crime magazines had a firm foothold on magazine racks from the 1940s through the 1980s (that's over 40 years!), when their television counterparts made visual what the magazines could only show in crappy-quality photos.

Along the way, one of the titles, DETECTIVE CASES, included a story in the March 1965 issue that was titled "Masked Killers of the Farmer's Wife". The photo under the heading showed a shot of a mask worn by one of the suspected killers during the nefarious deed. If that's not a Topstone mask, I'll eat my Don Post calendar!

This photo has been previously seen in a MMW post HERE. It was referring to the title of a different story than the one seen here, and, unless it was used again in another magazine for another story, I'll be dag nabbed if I can remember why.

Anyway, DETECTIVE CASES in my estimation, is typical of what passed for sensationalized true crime reporting in the mid-1960s. The cover is a complete WTF -- yes, I can see the cheap Bardot look-alike and the gratuitous cleavage (certainly meant to titillate the reader into buying a copy of the magazine), but usually one would see the same image used in the cover spread photo of a crime in progress, replete with threatening male included. The story itself tells the tale of a murder on November 10, 1964 in Asheville, North Carolina. The case is told in straight, procedural style, and, if you can bear to read it, is far from the trappings that promise a more thrilling story. Two of the accompanying photos show an official fingerprinting a suspect. The official is seen with a cigarette dangling from his mouth, illustrating the casual manner of evidence procurement of the day. I can only wonder how many people were sent to prison -- or worse -- the "chair" or the "chamber", as a result of careless casework. The photo that shows the Topstone mask is obviously meant to depict the evidence gathered at the crime scene. Note the .38 revolver, the derringer and the shotgun leaning against the table. At least they've got the "devil by the horns"!








 
 

Monday, December 5, 2016

DR. VAN HELSING'S VAMPIRE SPECS


Just to prove to you that MONSTER MAGAZINE WORLD leaves no tombstone unturned in its relentless search for monster minutiae and memorabilia, submitted today is a pair of spectacles worn by Edward Van Sloan in his role as Dr. Van Helsing in DRACULA. To be more accurate, the specs are from the stage version. Nonetheless, the prop added to the professorial comportment of the vampire hunter.

As lot# 23241, the spectacles were sold at auction in 2005 for $2,987.50.





Saturday, December 3, 2016

VALERIE GAUNT: HAMMER'S FIRST VAMPIRE


While not entirely overlooked, Valerie Gaunt's contribution to the "Hammer Glamour" canon, and Hammer films in general, is overshadowed by -- if it can be said -- "more glamorous" female stars.

Ms. Gaunt, who died peacefully last Sunday, November 27th, at the age of 84, has the distinction in some instances of being more historically notable than many of them. For example, she was the first Hammer vampire to be seen on the screen in HORROR OF DRACULA (her scene was before Christopher Lee's). She was also the first on-screen female vampire in a Hammer film. Moreover, she has the distinction of being the first vampire in any film to be staked in color, as well as the first to bare fangs in an English-speaking film. And lastly, in order of appearance, she was the second (to Hazel Court) Hammer Glamour actress.

Billed in the credits simply as "Vampire Woman", Gaunt plays the unnamed concubine of Count Dracula, who first meets Jonathan Harker (John Van Eyssen) upon his arrival at Castle Dracula. She pleads for Harker to "help me, please!", and, being the Good English Gentleman that he is, offers her the comfort of his shoulder. Then, in a shot behind Harker, we see the sequence that has since been played over countless times in vampire cinema: Gaunt casts her suddenly hungry eyes on the vein pulsating in Harker's neck, then lifts her head to reveal an open mouthful of razor-sharp fangs. She then lustfully plunges said fangs into the hapless Harker's neck.

At that moment, Dracula enters the room and, in a hideous screech of displeasure at her insolence, grabs her and cruelly throws her to the ground. She hisses like a feral cat who has been deprived of its prey, but the King of the Vampires rules this roost, and unceremoniously scoops her up with an unnatural strength. He bears her in his arms and retreats behind the opening of a hidden bookcase. Harker is left to ponder his fate.

Born Valerie Sheila Gaunt at Stratford-upon-Avon on 9 July 1932, any substantive biographical information of her years before her movie roles is sparse. Before being cast as Justine in Hammer's CURSE OF FRANKENTSTEIN, the first of her only two films, she played on the stage and appeared on two UK 50s TV shows. She is survived by her husband of 58 years, Gerald Reddington.

Although Gaunt's onscreen performance in just two scenes in HORROR OF DRACULA is mere minutes, she nevertheless left a remarkable, historic and indelible mark (two, if you count both fangs) in the annals of the horror film. Long live "The 'First' Lady" of Hammer vampires!








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