For true fans of Hammer’s output, the news that long thought legendary extra footage was finally being restored for the new Dracula doubleplay DVD/Blu-ray release was of course exciting. But we’d already come to accept the 1958 gothic horror highpoint as a classic and for most people, there’d been no sense that the movie was incomplete. So what changed?
“It didn’t have a reputation like The Wicker Man, for example, partly because Hammer were so skilful in covering the tracks of the British Board of Film Censors,” explained Hammer historian and author of The Hammer Vault, Hammer Glamour, The Art Of Hammer and The Hammer Story, in an exclusive interview with SciFiNow.
“Hammer edited the film so skilfully that for many years many people, many fans suspected the existence of extra footage was a myth, when all we actually had to show for the fact that there were extra sequences was a couple of press comments given by Christopher Lee and the producer Tony Hinds back in 1958 in a magazine – where they said, ‘Oh, there’s a stronger version of this, you know’ – and the fact that there was one really bad quality picture that was circulating in various fan magazines and things for years, and one very good quality picture showing Christopher Lee with all the make-up on his face, which showed him disintegrating.
“So we suspected that there was a longer version, and then the myth arose that Hammer had specially made a longer version for the Japanese market because the Japanese at the time, in 1958, didn’t have any censorship as such, not like we had here, so it was possible to send them export versions of films that were much stronger.
“And then the myth arose that Hammer had specially created a version, which isn’t what happened at all. What actually happened was that Hammer made the film, set the film, edited the film, submitted it to the British Board of Film Censors, the British Board Of Film Censors cut it quite radically, Hammer had already done their work on the film so decided to keep their original cut of the film and export it to Japan. It was only the Japanese who saw the original version of Dracula in 1958 – no-one else around the world saw Hammer’s definitive, original cut of Dracula except the Japanese for that short time in the late 1950s when it was doing the theatrical rounds.”
As for what the deleted scenes return to the film, the short answer is sex and gore – the two magic ingredients that put Hammer right at the top of the game until the Sixties.
“The material that’s reinstated is crucial to the film – I’d go so far as to say it’s the two most important scenes in the whole film,” Hearn continues. “We now have a more explicit and a longer version of Dracula’s seduction of Mina, which was considered far too erotic by the British Board of Film Censors, and we have a longer and a much gorier version of Dracula’s ultimate disintegration in sunlight, where he’s seen to claw the flesh from his own face and we see more of his skeletal arm and more of his skeletal leg, and we see more reaction shots from Peter Cushing, who played van Helsing.
“So these two scenes are absolutely crucial to the action, but not only that, the reinstatement of the second scene in particular – the disintegration scene – actually restores the original rhythm of the editing. So not only is it a surprise to see this extra footage, but it’s actually far more satisfying viewing to actually see the correct rhythm of the editing of that scene at the end, rather than the abridged version that we’ve known for all these decades.
It’s very significant, probably because Dracula is such a significant film and these are such significant scenes. As part of Hammer’s ongoing restoration program, other films are being restored and other scenes are being reinstated in this way – for example in The Curse Of Frankenstein, and Frankenstein And The Monster From Hell – but none of them add as much to their respective films as these two scenes add to this. I believe they are crucial to Hammer’s original vision for this film.”