Just finished watching my new Dracula Theatrical Cut which luckily, arrived earlier than I thought.
My thoughts about the release:
I would be eternally grateful to Shout/Scream Factory for insisting on getting the proper version of this film. But I must confess I have mixed feelings about the release too. Universal Studios and John Badham problably conspired to allow Scream Factory to scan ONLY a sub-par 35mm print, and that way make their crappy washed-out colors version look better than the how the film was photographed original by the great late Gilbert Taylor. Same as George Lucas did with the original theatrical versions of SW, TESB and ROTJ.
I don’t believe there isn’t a original negative theatrical available in their vaults.
I understand we all prefer this Blu ray than nothing, but this is not how I remember the film (which remains branded in my memory since I saw it on huge screens several times when it was out in 1979)
The print they’ve been allowed to use has a LOT of issues, and some perks over the washed out version. The major issues are the bland softness of the photography on some parts, like when Dracula arrives to diner at the Asylum at the beginning… and the last reels when Dracula takes Mina into the woods until the end. There are important stains in the picture there damaging the beautiful cinematography of Mr. Taylor and distracting too much.
The perks obviously are all the rest… like how much LIGHT this movie had in the darker scenes and in general. The lush matte painting shots coming to life, the lively and more realistic skin tones and the strength of the make-up of Mina in the famous scene where she’s impaled by her father which is once more scary thanks to the life of having the bright wolf eyes shining red. Unbelievable the amount of shadow detail which was lost in the “director’s version”.
So, like I said I’m happy and I’m not. I’m happy because I’ll finally be able to see the movie “approximately” as it was… but on the other hand in my mind there wasn’t any softness whatsoever in the previously mentioned scenes, dining or dancing. Mina and Lucy in bed too, etc… and those stains in the last reels make the watch a bit uncomfortable.
Anyway, I’m never gonna watch again the crappy director’s cut anymore, no matter how blind he was and still is about it. I wonder how he would’ve felt if Paramount forced him to release “Saturday Night Fever” in sepia and Monoaural when it was out on video.
Well, he did something similar to his best movie ever… “Dracula” (1979) which in my opinion remains the best version since Bela Lugosi’s and vastly superior to the rest of Badham’s filmography.
I still have to see all the extras but I see there are no interviews at all with anyone from the cast, John Williams or anyone else so they can’t be too good… sadly.
The quality of the movie remains magnificent in my opinion, and has aged more well than any other recent Dracula version. The only thing that stings a bit as outdated for me is the final make-up of Dracula destroyed on top of the boat, although I love that final scene in general.
Ok, those are my 5 cents, and knowing that is very unlikely I hope someone from Criterion Collection, Arrow Video, etc… someday decides to properly REMASTER this wonderful film some day. Problably I’ll be dead by then, so its good having at least a “so so” print of the original Theatrical version.
It should’ve been a LOT better though… but at least we can see now that great label at the end saying “When In Hollywood visit Universal Studios” Have been a while since I watched that in a video release.