Curse Of Frankenstein / The Mummy
Maybe we should be thanking Martin Scorsese for making Hugo a two-hour public service announcement for film preservation because 2012 is already looking to be a major year for film restorations. Universal has already announced a major initiative to restore some of its classic films for its 100th anniversary, as will Paramount (which recently debuted a new restoration of Wings, the first film to win the Oscar for Best Picture, in Hollywood) for its 100th anniversary. While British Hammer Film Productions isn’t celebrating any particular anniversary, the studio joins the list with its announcement that over 30 of its classic films will be restored for Blu-ray release.
For those who don’t know, Hammer Films produced some of the best horror films of the 1950s and 1960s, many of which feature Christopher Lee (The Lord of the Rings) and Peter Cushing (Star Wars) in major roles. The towering Lee played the Frankenstein Monster opposite Cushing’s Baron Frankenstein in 1957′s Curse of Frankenstein. Though Lee would bow out of the Frankenstein role (paving the way for other actors, including future Darth Vader David Prowse, to play the creature), Cushing would play the Baron in five of the six sequels. Instead, Lee would stick with his iconic portrayal of Count Dracula, first appearing as the vampire in 1958′s Dracula (again opposite Cushing as Van Helsing) and appearing as the Count in six of the film’s eight sequels. The duo also appeared together in 1959′s The Mummy, again with Cushing as the protagonist and Lee as the monster.
Though the cast and crew didn’t change much, the films remain favorites today for pioneering horror special effects on low budgets. Unfortunately, the films haven’t aged well in terms of picture quality — I’ve seen low-priced Hammer DVDs which the blood is almost orange because of color deterioration. The studio, which laid dormant for many years, is looking to make a major comeback with not only these restorations but with its most high-profile release in decades, 2012′s The Woman in Black, starring Daniel Radcliffe.
Oddly the first release is set to be Dracula: Prince of Darkness, the third Dracula movie, in March, and other movies (some not very representative of Hammer’s best) from the Hammer catalog are set to follow in 2012: The Reptile, The Plague of The Zombies, The Devil Rides Out, Rasputin the Mad Monk and The Mummy’s Shroud. The press release says we have to wait a bit for “definite versions” of The Curse of Frankenstein, Dracula and The Mummy. I’m guessing those older films need a lot more restoration work (not to mention more extras!) I’d love to hear Christopher Lee (who turns 90 in May!) provide commentaries or interviews for those releases.
Check out the press release below. You can also check out the sure-to-be ultra-cool restoration blog at http://blog.hammerfilms.com.
19 January 2012: In a landmark collaboration, Hammer today announced that STUDIOCANAL, Anolis Entertainment (Germany), Pinewood, illuminate Hollywood fka HTV and others are coming together to undertake a major restoration of the iconic Hammer film library. The project will bring over 30 movies into HD format for Blu-ray and new media exploitation in the 21st Century. This represents substantial investment by Hammer and its key partner STUDIOCANAL, and is testimony to the extraordinary regard with which the Hammer legacy is held internationally, with some materials for the project being provided by Hammer’s original US production partners Twentieth Century Fox, Warner Bros. and Paramount Pictures.
Dracula Prince of Darkness is the first title scheduled for release in the global restoration project and will be released in the UK in conjunction with STUDIOCANAL in March 2012. The partnership continues throughout the spring for the releases of The Reptile and The Plague of The Zombies, and will also include The Devil Rides Out, Rasputin the Mad Monk and The Mummy’s Shroud during the course of the year.
Hammer will also release definitive versions of its three hugely-influential original Gothic classics in the UK: The Curse of Frankenstein, Dracula and The Mummy.
As well as featuring a fully-restored HD picture and restored sound, the remastered films will boast a host of newly-filmed extras, including interviews with cast members. These documentary extras are being produced by Hammer expert and historian, Marcus Hearn – author of the recent “The Hammer Vault”.
Pinewood Studios carried out the restoration of the first three Studiocanal titles after housing the original negatives for the films, restoring the original UK title sequence to The Plague of The Zombies as well as the UK title cards to Dracula Prince of Darkness.
Recently-discovered footage that was originally cut from the British version of Dracula has been restored by Molinare to the BFI’s 2007 restoration courtesy of The National Film Center at The Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo. The Japanese footage features an extended and particularly gruesome death scene for Dracula, as well as a moment considered too erotic by the censors of the day.
Following the discovery and restoration of the Japanese footage to Dracula, Hammer is keen to unearth further “lost” scenes and on-set footage from The Curse of Frankenstein, The Mummy and other titles in their library, and hope that any private collectors with viable unseen elements will contact the company.
In addition, Hammer will regularly be posting to a “Restoration Blog”, which will give a unique insider’s view on the entire process, from material selection right the way through to release. The blog can be followed at: http://blog.hammerfilms.com
Other companies involved in the restoration project include Warner Bros. Motion Picture Imaging and Thought Equity Motion in the US and Cineimage and Deluxe 142 in the UK.
Simon Oakes, President and CEO of Hammer commented, “Our decision to restore some of Hammer’s most famous titles not only allows existing fans to experience the films again in high definition, but also encourages a new global audience to discover Hammer for the first time – especially as we get ready to release our next exciting new Hammer project The Woman in Black, starring Daniel Radcliffe. We have a busy year ahead but are confident that our Blu-ray plans will ensure that Hammer’s legacy will live on for generations to come.”
John Rodden, General Manager UK Home Entertainment for Studiocanal added, “The great Hammer films are uniquely stylish and ceaselessly entertaining. Like the vampires and other supernatural forces they depict, they appear to be deathless, re-emerging relentlessly to thrill and terrify new generations of film fans. STUDIOCANAL is immensely proud to continue its investment in the best of British cinema both past and present by restoring and re-releasing these films.”