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Classic Hammer films being restored, released on Blu-ray

Classic Hammer films being restored, released on Blu-ray

It’s like all my fondest and wildest Blu-ray dreams are coming true all at once!! First the Universal Monsters films, then the Macross anime series and now a good portion of Hammer Films‘ catalogue films have all been announced for release this year. Is everyone celebrating an anniversary, or what? This is nuts! Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining but my bank account is going to be mighty drained by the time December rolls around if all of these releases come to pass as they’ve been announced.

Dracula Prince Of Darkness [Blu-ray] Hammer films have apparently met with the rights-holders for most (if not all) of their films and are planning a massive restoration effort, along with accompanying home video releases. Don’t ask me how they’ve managed this miracle because this sort of cross-studio planning is usually the thing of nightmares and more often than not, completely impossible. No new North American Blu-ray releases have been announced yet but the studio has made clear that the UK will be getting handsome new HD editions of Dracula, Prince of Darkness (March 5th – complete with licensed Christopher Lee, Suzan Farmer, Francis Matthews and Barbara Shelley commentary track from the 1998 Anchor Bay DVD!), The Reptile (May 7th) and Plaque of the Zombies (May 7th) through partnership with Studio Canal and Optimum Home Entertainment in the next few months. Count those discs, along with the already released (and apparently quite stunning) Quatermass And The Pit (October 2011) and Paranoiac (July 2010) discs and the UK is absolutely spoiled with Hammer Blu-ray discs, relative to our paltry (but very fine) two domestic releases – Vampire Circus and The Man Who Could Cheat Death.

Hammer have stated that North American release news is forthcoming with a Dracula, Prince of Darkness disc (that apparently matches the UK release in every way) a certainty in the coming months. I’ll post an update as soon as I hear anything. In the meantime, keep up with the Hammer restoration effort over on the studio’s excetional blog: There are already great pieces up there about their releases schedule and the issue of their films Original Aspect Ratios in both the UK and US. Bookmark and read now!

From the press release:

    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:

    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.”

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