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Dracula - Prince of Darkness [Blu-ray]
(Terence Fisher, 1966)
Review by Gary Tooze
Theatrical: Hammer Studios
Video: Exclusive Media Group
Region: 'A' (as verified by the Oppo Blu-ray player)
Disc Size: 20,688,378,382 bytes
Feature Size: 15,246,422,016 bytes
Video Bitrate: 20.99 Mbps
Case: Standard Blu-ray case
Release date: September 17th, 2013
Aspect ratio: 2.35:1
Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps
Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video
Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps
Commentary: Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps
English (SDH), none
• Commentary by cast (Christopher Lee, Barbara Shelley , Francis Matthews, Suzan Farmer)
• World of Hammer - Episode II Hammer Stars Christopher Lee (narrated by Oliver Reed) (24:58)
• Documentary: Back to Black (30:33)
• Restoration Example (3:59)
Collector's Card (reprints) in Blu-ray case
Description: In this sequel to 'Dracula' (1958), four English tourists are holidaying in the Carpathians when they meet the unconventional Father Sandor (Andrew Keir) at an inn. He warns them to avoid the local castle if they value their lives, but the next day the quartet find themselves stranded in the mountains after their driver abandons them. When a driverless carriage arrives they board it, intending to travel to the nearest village. However, the carriage instead takes them to the very castle which Sandor warned them against, where they are welcomed by Klove (Philip Latham), sinister manservant of Count Dracula (Christopher Lee)...
Christopher Lee dons the evil Count's cloak once again after an 8-year hiatus for this first "authentic" sequel to Hammer Studios' Horror of Dracula (the literal 1960 follow-up Brides of Dracula did not feature Lee). The story begins when two stuffy vacationing couples make an ill-fated stopover at Castle Karlsbad in the Carpathian mountains -- despite the warnings of the mysterious Fr. Sandor (Andrew Keir) and the near-destruction of their coach when the terrified driver runs for his life. After a slightly tedious stretch, one of the men (Charles Tingwell) is sacrificed in a bloody Satanic ritual, orchestrated by the Count's loyal manservant Klove (Philip Latham) to bring the legendary vampire back to life. The revived Count immediately sets his sights on the man's wife (Barbara Shelley), making her his undead bride; the surviving pair seek refuge in Fr. Sandor's abbey, with the undead bloodsuckers in hot pursuit. This stylish and chilling production is imbued with Gothic atmosphere by director Terence Fisher (one of his last films for the studio) and remains one of the classier entries from Hammer's heyday. Also known as Revenge of Dracula.Excerpt from MRQE located HERE
Instead of Van Helsing, those clever chaps at Hammer invented Father
Shandor, a monk with a mission (and a big gun). Andrew Kier excels in
this role as a big, bearded bully, shouting at backward peasants for
their superstitions, before going right ahead and staking vampires left,
right and centre. It's still the same tale of sceptical Northern
Europeans failing to take heed of the warnings plainly spelled out to
them about Castle Dracula, but this time the deaths come thick and fast,
Dracula's lifestyle sticks very closely to that detailed by Stoker, and
the whole thing is a class act from beginning to end.
Image : NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.
Firstly, I don't own the Studio Canal Blu-ray of Dracula: Prince of Darkness - but I suspect it would be fruitful to compare. The image quality here shows, what looks like, significant moiring - most notable in the first 20-minutes. I gain comfort with the visuals as the film runs but there appears to be some anomalies in the beginning that may not be present on the European release. This is only single-layered and has some green hue that damages the pureness of the contrast. Some scenes are overly dark masking detail. This Blu-ray provides an imperfect presentation but the 1080P resolution advances over SD in a few important areas. I'm keen to see the comparative Studio Canal transfer.
CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION
The 'Exclusive Media Group' producers of this Blu-ray don't take advantage of the ability to utilize lossless audio and stick with a standard Dolby 2.0 track. I think this was a mistake as it isn't anywhere hear as robust as it could have been. It still supports the wonderfully atmospheric score of James Bernard (a composer of many horror classics) but lacks depth. There are optional English (SDH) subtitles, in large capital letters, on the region 'A' disc.
We get a commentary by the cast (Christopher Lee, Barbara Shelley, Francis Matthews, Suzan Farmer). It is quite scattered, a little hushed - but still represents some good fun filtering through the heavy brit accents. Lee himself seems quite frank at times. We get the World of Hammer - Episode II - Stars Christopher Lee. It is from the 21 Oct. 21st, 1994 TV episode narrated by Oliver Reed and runs 25-minutes. It focuses on Lee's Hammer efforts with plenty of good clips. Included is Hammer Films historian Marcus Hearn's 2012 documentary: Back to Black. It runs 1/2 an hour and has cast members Barbara Shelley and Francis Matthews as well as Jon Mann the technical restoration manager at Pinewood Studios. Speaking of which there is a split-screen restoration example lasting 4 minutes as well as an odd 'restored original theatrical trailer as double bill' and a Stills Gallery. The package has en envelope of 'collector's cards' reprints.
September 4th, 2013
About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 5000 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.
Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who
focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I
find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction.
Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD
Gary W. Tooze
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