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Friday, January 18, 2019

Which Is The Digital Way To Go?


Can We Really Recapture Horror Of Dracula?


It is time for me to face up to Horror of Dracula as the dream from youth that cannot be realized again. Several lifelong favorites sit in that drawer. Horror is more acute because again there is effort to render a perfect one, via Warners’ Blu-Ray, and to be expected, fans are taking the knee. They want Horror of Dracula to be the experience it was when all of life was discovery, and Technicolor bled like from neck punctures. HoD is a great movie, but it can take us but so far back in time. I chased the unicorn from beginnings at collecting, this to salve hard truth of not having seen the 1958 chiller in a theatre. There were playdates missed thanks to theatres too far away, a reissue with The Curse of Frankenstein in 1965 that every house but the Liberty ran. Seeing Horror of Dracula for a first time on snowy TV is no fit way to see Horror of Dracula. Detail of this made part of three Greenbriar posts (2011) where I tried getting the monkey off my back, game again afoot what with a latest disc to parse over. When is enough enough?






Science says my eyes aren’t so acute to color values as they were forty-three years ago when I saw Horror of Dracula first in IB Tech. That was a 16mm print vibrant beyond nature or dreams. Quiver I felt on threading it won’t be surpassed by anything now or to come. Mere possession of movies was then nine-tenths of violating copyrights. My Horror of Dracula had been pinched from someplace, but I never asked where. Law abide was among first forfeit by collectors. The hot box my postman brought cost $350. The Blu-Ray is today had for $17.99. No wonder it shrinks by comparison. A thing hard got is always better appreciated. To watch the disc alongside my old print would sober me quick, but who wants rose-tint so cruelly bleached off memories? Let me tell increasingly few who will listen how much better my long-gone 16mm looked than upstart digital. So little of Tech is left for many, if not most, to believe me.






A British distributor put out Horror of Dracula in 2013, loaded with extras and a cooler palette that I associate more with British Technicolor. Of HoD prints passed through Greenbriar portals (each fully digested), there were two 16’s in IB, and later a “brand new” low-fade liberated from a lab which had a longer staking scene for Lucy Holmwood (Carol Marsh), then 35mm bought out of a pool room from an old man who’d as soon cut you as stick a nickel in a juke box. Latter print was made up for the 1965 reissue that Seven Arts handled, had registration problems, so scratch prevailing myth of theatrical being what Horror of Dracula was/is supposed to look like (who truly knows as to that?). Some write that American prints were more saturated than British ones, which I suspect is true. IB color I’ve seen from UK labs does play cooler, less bloody reds or cobalt blues. Horror of Dracula works either way for me. Heating up hues can mean loss of contrast, plus penalty of softer detail, which I understand happened with parts of the Warner Blu-Ray. Instead of taking the yet again buying plunge, I got out the Brit Blu-Ray, watched again, and found it lovely. Lesson learned? Possibly that fault lies not in Horror of Dracula, dear Brutus, but in myself. Reflection on this makes watching an evermore rich experience I hope to repeat lots before sunlight or stakes or loose crucifixes release my restless soul.

11 Comments:

Blogger DBenson said...

For boomers who knew the classics mainly from the tube, the lower the quality, the greater the nostalgia. I love my MPI Sherlock Holmes set, but a brief pre-restoration clip was a powerful blast from the past. Likewise color Loony Tunes and Disney shorts viewed in B&W, and vintage Paramount comedies strained through weak UHF signals.

My amplifier has many functions I still don't understand. One I experimented with is called "Sound Field". One of the options is "Arena", which for me perfectly mimics the ambiance of the college and revival house screenings of my youth.

2:05 PM  
Blogger Chrisk said...

Horror of Dracula is the finest of the lot. Seeing it on the big screen on a cold evening and in an airconditioned cinema, you bet, it was very scary and chilling.

7:38 PM  
Blogger radiotelefonia said...

Earlier in 2018, Fernando Martín Peña showed in his show the sequel, DRACULA: PRINCE OF DARKNESS, which I saw streaming live in YouTube. I don't know if the transfer of the movie was done in Argentina or not, but the visual quality of the film as well it was impressive to see the way they used the color.

10:03 PM  
Blogger Tommie Hicks said...

One of my goals as a 16mm collector was to acquire at least one IB Tech Foghorn Leghorn cartoon. About a decade ago I scored one on ebay. I was a bit disappointed, the cartoon was indeed IB Tech but someone had switched out the intro and replaced it with red Eastman.

9:26 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

"Horror of Dracula" was the first horror film I saw in a movie theater, on a double-bill with "Brides of Dracula". This was, if I remember correctly, in the spring of 1963. I had been fascinated by horror movies, especially after finding my first issue of "Famous Monsters of Filmland" magazine, but had only seen them in black and white on TV. "Horror..." absolutely blew me away, as did its co-feature, and my fate was sealed. I saw it once or twice again in rerelease. Needless to say my fate was sealed and I became a steadfast horror fan.

1:07 PM  
Blogger Reg Hartt said...

I read you loud and clear. We placed a value on those 16mm prints that people paying only a few dollars today for Blu-rays (and often complaining that they are too expensive) can never know. I got a 16mm print of HORROR OF DRACULA for a friend that was gorgeous. Then I bought one for myself that was supposed to be IB Tech but really was a composite with some IB Tech, some dupe, some I don't know what. Meanwhile my friend found "God" and threw away his film collection.

I bought that Brit Blu-ray of HORROR OF DRACULA with all the bells and whistles. I was tempted to go for the Warner Blu-ray and may still get it despite your piece. What I am pleased with is the deluxe collector's limited edition of CURSE/NIGHT OF THE DEMON (1957). Wow!

I always make my projector darker as it's too bright as it is. That enriches both B&W and color.

For me Dracula will always Be Bela Lugosi. I love the Chris Lee film, though and his performance is great.

Yeah, those fuzzy images from hard to reach TV stations was the way many of us saw these films the first time. Good post.

11:07 PM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Dan Mercer considers the sharper vision of youth:


There is a lovely metaphor in this play of color and light, as between IB prints prepared for various locales or their digital transcriptions. One seems to see things differently when young, not so much because the retinas of the eyes are fresher as that one’s sensibility is. The interest is more acute, upon first acquaintance, the focus sharper. These things cannot quite be recaptured later on. Something is new only once. Yet the experiences of the boy are the memories of the man. Ever after, the boy walks hand in hand with the man, and what the man sees is a reflection of what he saw. In this, there is something ever changing, ever new.

10:23 AM  
Blogger Barry Rivadue said...

Mercer's words could not be more true. I look back at my childhood, movies or otherwise, as supreme memories because everything seemed fresh and new. I saw MGM's Tom Thumb at a circa 1960 matinee, and to this day its Technicolor green (of all things) still stands out in memory. The longer the distance I am from those years, the more I try to keep the remaining reflection of early observations as retrievable as possible.

4:53 PM  
Blogger brickadoodle said...

Before I ever had the opportunity to watch HORROR OF DRACULA, it had already become one of my favorite movies, though I’d only become acquainted with its vampiric images of bared fangs and makeshift crucifixes through the pages of Famous Monsters and Castle of Frankenstein magazine, yet I relished the idea that one day, one wonderful day, I would finally see Chris Lee in his role as the Count. A few years later, that day came on a Saturday night, on SHOCK THEATER, on WGHP Channel 8, a broadcast being transmitted from High Point, NC, some 80 miles away. My awe of HoH was not tempered by poor reception on a snowy, staticky b&w TV screen, its signal diffused by a steel water tower that loomed in the sky near my house. Despite the monochrome presentation, Lee’s and Cushing’s performance still shined through all the snowflakes and sleet...

12:20 AM  
Blogger MikeD said...

To Barry Rivadue
Any idea what the co-feature was with Tom Thumb? I cannot remember all those years ago what I went to see at the theater and wound up at double features with Tarzan's Greatest Adventure and Edge of Eternity, both of which I had no idea were even playing (who was Tarzan?). I'm thinking that one of those played with Tom Thumb but I have no idea.

8:34 AM  
Blogger Lionel Braithwaite said...

I want to get the British Blu-Ray set now, so great is the description of it.

6:25 AM  

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