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Thursday, February 10, 2011

Horror Of Dracula Goes Evergreen

From late fifties and well through sixties, Horror Of Dracula would be a workhorse pulling many a shock show's plow. Sample ads here are among dozens I've come across. Book a spook and there HoD invariably would be, at rentals within reason and prints taken however exhibs found them. This Drac had a reputation that got round, among playgrounds if not work place coolers. As a late show filler or unit wedged between two/three others at all-night drive-ins, Horror Of Dracula was ubiquitous as cherry smash off concession counters. Too bad Dick Bennick's no longer with us to recall night after nights he spent with HoD at theatres and eventually TV (he seemed to be forever hosting it). Universal's familiar fang-art sat uneasily with ad imagery going back to Glenn Strange Frankenstein days ... oft- times it was anyone's guess what they'd put on screens. Statesville's Playhouse Theatre promised 1,000 Free Copies of Famous Monsters Mag for their late hours blowout --- assuming that was for real, would Jim Warren still remember such an extraordinary order, or driven it down to NC himself?

There would be a sequel, Dracula --- Prince Of Darkness, which in Summer 1966 began with Horror's block-busting finish and disappointed somewhat from there. Some of us sat wishing they'd forget following-up and just run the original we'd missed. During interim, there was a reissue of Horror Of Dracula with Curse Of Frankenstein, that courtesy  Seven Arts, recently heir to negatives from Universal and Warner Bros. respectively, latter's distribution rights having expired (7A was producing partner on both). The Canadian concern had dipped toes into US distribution before, without success. Now they were going full-bore with eleven features for late '64/65 release, the monster duo offered among odd assortment of British and Euro pics. Shunning sub-distributors and states rights dealing, Seven Arts put their own salesmen in the field, not an inconsiderable expense, and hoped bookings would permit expansion later. A Providence, RI try-out got mild returns for Curse/Horror, according to Variety, worse was St. Louis' sad total of only $5,000 for the bill's week (make that weak) stay in a 3,600 seat house. Seven Arts wangled a showcase break in twenty-five NYC Loews and Century Theatres for mid-December, backed by trade luncheon-ing at Sardi's (with Frank and Drac in attendance) and radio jingle placement the likes of "... in full color thrills/Dracula drinks what Frankenstein spills."

Trade tallies told the tale ... light, OK, dull, fair, and lean were wicket descriptives used more than once. The combo wasn't clicking ... but why? Part of trouble was fact these pics had worn play-roads smooth just about everywhere, Universal and WB having gotten most out of distributing spans for Curse/Horror. I found NC bookings for both through 1964 and virtually up to 7A's packaging. Obtuse was latter's failure to key their reissue with Warren Publications' Curse Of Frankenstein/Horror Of Dracula photo-mag, the latter going out March 1965, well after the double feature crashed in large city engagements. Coordinating the two might have spiked attendance, but where was chance of Seven Arts recognizing 1964's junior army of monster boomers? You could argue they dumped Horror Of Dracula into TV syndication afterward. Was it unrealistic to hope for a network sale? The package of forty-five made available 3-20-66 bunched HoD with odd Fox titles 7A controlled --- Shirley Temple's The Blue Bird, Call Me Madam, Lydia Bailey, etc. The only other chillers were The Fly and two-years-old independent Devil Doll. Seeing HoD vid-wise in 1967 inspired my own comic adaptation, blood color by way of felt markers I'd gotten a previous Christmas. As the above sample will attest, Frank Frazetta and Wally Wood's continued jobs were safe.

Castle Of Frankenstein among others kept torches burning. Their Issue 8 published in 1966 (above) utilized a 35mm frame blown up from Horror Of Dracula's trailer, blood-soaked Christopher Lee fast becoming the vampire king's embodiment for my generation. Canadian 8mm supplier Americom drew from countryman Seven Arts' inventory when it released a home-use Horror Of Dracula on narrow gauge. Sound for this eight-minute reel was by way of a record included with purchase, trick for consumers being to synchronize the two, this achieved, according to anecdotal evidence, about once in a hundred tries. My own efforts to harness HoD for anytime enjoyment meant buying in 16mm, and fortunately here, Seven-Arts made up their prints for television on IB Technicolor stock. Still, there was challenge finding one with proper registration throughout ... color had a tendency to vary from one ten-minute section to the next, some distinctly better than others. I found conditions much the same with 35mm got later out of storage at a Hickory, NC poolroom (that story recounted here), latter being one 7A generated for its 1964 round. I wonder if any Horror Of Dracula prints made after 1958 maintained full integrity of what Hammer shot. Certainly none coming my way would.

Burning question common to versions acquired was stakings and how much we'd see of them. Each drop of blood was essential to proper consumption, frustrating all the while for our knowing more existed elsewhere, most legendarily in Japanese versions said to have thrown all caution, and censorship, to winds. Still, HoD's subtle effects pleased best ... Peter Cushing unfurling hammer and wood spike as though serving refreshment, wiping blood off a pinky after deeds are done. What was had in Japan beyond this? Dracula's decomposition in last reel's sunlight was rougher ... stills indicate that ... but what of expanded mayhem elsewhere? Efforts have been made to scour Nippon archives --- to little avail so far. Sometimes we dedicated fans forget how (much) less important all this is to ones born too early (or late) to have felt full impact of Hammer's Dracula. Wouldn't Warners have otherwise rushed to get out a Blu-Ray per our fervent wish? (they own HoD by dint of absorbing Seven Arts years back).
Thanks to Scott MacGillivray for info on Americom and Mike Cline for the Hwy 601 Drive-In Theatre ad.


Blogger Unknown said...

So that is why Universal lost those titles. 7Arts got them. That is the motion picture industry: penny wise and pound foolish.

Did not 7Arts own Warner at one point?

THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN and THE HORROR OD DRACULA were the first motion pictures produced in England that people the world over ACTUALLY wanted to see.

Before those titles the public at large were not interested in Brit films.

Their success led to the revitalization of British film making.

Too bad Hammer did not have better direction from the top. They knew enough to diversify but the qualities that made these films stand out were soon lost when they descended to formula films with the accent on tits and ass.

By pandering they turned away more people than they had previously pulled in.

By the way, I was going over your archive while waiting (breathlessly) for this post.

Discovered you did not care for THE CONQUEROR WORM/WITCHFUNDER GENERAL on first release.

I first saw it on a double bill with Mario Bava's KILL, BABY. KILL. The Bava film shocked the audience as have seen few films do but CONQUEROR WORM topped it. A wave of horror literally passed through the packed theatre at the climax. People ran in horror for the exits. I later took a friend to see it on an All night AIP horror fest in a 5,000 seat venue. "This film is going to shock the bejeezus out of the audience," I told him. It did. The other one that worked really well was the Lovecraft film with Vincent Price, THE HAUNTED PALACE. Seeing all those films in a row was a downer as the fire from HOUSE OF USHER was used over and over as well as other bits.

A real treat is Michael Reeve's THE SORCERERS with Karloff which I once saw in a theater back in the late 60's. Superb film. Finally found it on dvd two years back in South America as "LOS BRUJOS." That is one worth getting.That and TARGETS were fine films for Boris to go out on.

Again, thanks for this magnificent HORROR OF DRACULA 3 day spread

4:39 PM  
Blogger Christopher said...

We lived overseas from late 1964-70,Australia and Indonesia..I remember passing often one of the main movie theatres on the way back and fourth to the American Club,that at one time for awhile displayed a gigantic almost Mayfair size banner overhead for Dracula; Prince of Darkness..with this king kong size image of a group of men holding down a terrified woman while another drives a stake thru her heart..I remember being disturbed by it altho I did want to see the movie ,knowing something about it..
I always wanted to get that HOD Super 8 film with Record they advertised in Famous Monsters Of Filmland..

5:02 PM  
Blogger Reg Hartt said...

Keinosuke is actually Reg Hartt. I let Keinosuke use my computer. I did not realize his gmail account was the one I used.--Best, Reg

5:14 PM  
Anonymous mido505 said...

On page 118 of Barrie Pattison's essential THE SEAL OF DRACULA, also shown (more closely cropped) on pages 38-39 of Alan Frank's delightful MONSTERS AND VAMPIRES, is an extremely graphic photo of Peter Cushing staking Carol Marsh that does not appear in either the British or American prints of HORROR. In the picture, Cushing and Marsh are in medium long shot; Marsh is in the coffin; Cushing is poised for a second or third strike; great quantities of blood have already spurted out of the wound and have stained Marsh's dress. I believe this shot comes from the so-called "third" version of Marsh's staking shot for Asian markets. According to focus-puller Harry Oakes "They shot three different versions of the staking for overseas markets...we used to have a close up of the stake with the mallet hitting it, then a bit more for the American...penetrating the flesh...but there was to be blood for the Japanese market".

As far as I can tell, only the Marsh/Lucy staking and the disintegration/finale would have been more explicit in the legendary Japanese version. Harker's staking of Valerie Gaunt is not mentioned in the censor correspondence published in Wayne Kinsey's magnificent HAMMER FILMS THE BRAY STUDIO YEARS, and the shriveled Harker dummy that you show in part one never made it to film; originally created to conform to the description in Sangster's script, the dummy was ditched on the floor when Terence Fisher decided it was too much, and switched to the shot of Harker with fangs shown in the film. Never a company to waste a dime, Hammer took photos of the dummy for publicity purposes.

2:23 PM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Thanks mido --- This is great info ... I do have Wayne Kinsey's book and it is indeed magnificent.

2:38 PM  
Anonymous Michael said...

Does this oft-mentioned "third version" of HORROR OF DRACULA, filmed for Asian markets, still exist anywhere? A friend in Japan tells me that the cut of the film he has seen over there is identical to what we have in America.

9:27 PM  
Anonymous mido505 said...

There are no known copies of the so-called "Japanese Version" of HORROR OF DRACULA currently available. The British Film Institute recently restored HORROR, scouring archives around the world, including those in Japan, and came up empty handed in this regard. The "restored" HORROR only includes scenes cut from the British print but included in the American version; so for us, the BFI restoration is not really a restoration at all, beyond improved picture quality. There is an interesting discussion about the issue at the Classic Horror Film Board: Supposedly, the Japanese Film Archive has a longer print that they refuse to release. Believe what you may.

Interestingly, director Terence Fisher denied filming alternate "Japanese" versions of his Hammer horrors, while others, ranging from producer Anthony Hinds to focus-puller Harry Oakes, affirmed their existence. This conflict is fairly easy to resolve: Fisher shot and oversaw the assembly of one fairly explicit cut that was then submitted to various censor boards world-wide with whom Hammer negotiated the release cuts in those territories. On the plus side, this assumption encourages the hope that a longer cut will be found some day; unfortunately, if correct, despite all the hype and hope over the years, we are really only talking about a few seconds difference between the English, American, and Asian versions of HORROR. Oh, well. As much as I would love to see an extended staking and Christopher Lee clawing the flesh off his face, at least we are not talking a METROPOLIS level find here, where one's entire conception of the film changes dramatically.

12:19 AM  
Blogger Richard said...

I saw DRACULA PRINCE OF DARKNESS at an All-Night Halloween Horror-Rama on 10.31.68, 69 or 70 - and the flashback sequence at the very beginning with DRACULA's ending conflagration inset within the scope frame INCLUDED THE CRUMBLING MELTING FACE shot we've all heard about. The film was in English (I saw it at the California Theater in San Diego), so no Japanese subtitles or anything. It was just ... mind blowing. I jabbered on about it for weeks. But I seem to be the only person I know who's seen it cut into the film. Anyone else?

4:14 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Regarding the various questions on this site as to whether a Japanese cut of "Dracula" actually exists or not, may I politely redirect you to the comment I made today on the Classic Horror Film Board forum:
I post under the name Richard LeStrange - and I feel that you may well be surprised.

8:40 AM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Simon, this is fantastic info. You've done a fine job unearthing this footage and summing up your discoveries at the CHFB. Thanks for alerting us to this remarkable, ongoing development, and best of luck with work toward "Horror Of Dracula"'s full restoration.

12:33 PM  
Anonymous Simon said...

Hi John,

Just thought you'd want to know that Hammer Film's have now made an official announcement on their website and that they have confirmed at least the two extra scenes I saw back in March.

All the best,


9:08 PM  
Anonymous jim said...

I know what you mean about the sync on the Americom film/record sets. I had Snow White And The Three Stooges from that series. My projector was fully controllable in speed, my record player played properly, but it always seemed that the audio was slower than the speed it should have been, and all the adjusting I tried never made it work out well.

3:08 AM  
Blogger Tbone Mankini said...

Bought the issue of CoF in the midst of Batmania...remember the Lugosi that must have been the first time I read Everson! CLASSICS OF THE SILENT SCREEN would have been next.....

5:43 PM  

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