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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

Dracula - Prince of Darkness [Blu-ray]

 

(Terence Fisher, 1966)

 

 

Review by Gary Tooze

 

Production:

Theatrical: Hammer Studios

Video: Exclusive Media Group

 

Disc:

Region: 'A' (as verified by the Oppo Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 1:30:22.000

Disc Size: 20,688,378,382 bytes

Feature Size: 15,246,422,016 bytes

Video Bitrate: 20.99 Mbps

Chapters: 12

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: September 17th, 2013

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 2.35:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Audio:

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

 

Subtitles:

English (SDH), none

 

Extras:

• 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)
Restored original theatrical trailer as double bill (:31)
• Stills Gallery

Collector's Card (reprints) in Blu-ray case

 

Bitrate:

 

 

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)...

 

 

The Film:

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.

The only small niggle I'd have is that in giving him another "Achilles heel" in pure running water, the script writers did rather pave the way for the future "anything goes" methods of dispatching vampires, which reached a nadir in the otherwise superb Satanic Rites, when not only do hawthorn branches cause the Count no end of problems, but a bunch of water sprinklers despatch a whole army of semi clad toothy totty.

Excerpt from British Horror Films located HERE

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio :

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.

 

Extras :

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.

 

 

BOTTOM LINE:
It takes a while to get going but this has much of the Hammer appeal that fans of the genre thrive on. This 'Exclusive Media Group' Blu-ray has issues but the price reflects some value - especially including the extras. For around $15 - it might be a reasonable to fans of the studio's essential horror output. We will compare to the UK Blu-ray edition when we can. 

Gary Tooze

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.

Gary's Home Theatre:

60-Inch Class (59.58” Diagonal) 1080p Pioneer KURO Plasma Flat Panel HDTV PDP6020-FD

Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD Player
Momitsu - BDP-899 Region FREE Blu-ray player
Marantz SA8001 Super Audio CD Player
Marantz SR7002 THX Select2 Surround Receiver
Tannoy DC6-T (fronts) + Energy (centre, rear, subwoofer) speakers (5.1)

APC AV 1.5 kVA H Type Power Conditioner 120V

Gary W. Tooze

 

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