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The BFI Restoration of Hammer's Dracula - unleashed this Halloween

The BFI's restoration of the original Hammer Dracula is unleashed on British audiences this Halloween.

BFI poster for 2007 re-release of Dracula.

Halloween Preview screenings: 31 October 2007 at BFI IMAX and

60+ venues nationwide

Release date: 2 November 2007

Opening Venues: BFI Southbank, Irish Film Institute, Cineworld venues nationwide plus other venues tbc.

The BFI have a website dedicated to the film, with details of screenings around the UK and Ireland at

The BFI IMAX screening on 31st October will be introduced by the film's legendary screenwriter Jimmy Sangster. For details see:

The Irish Film Institute in Dublin will be screening the film on Sunday 28th October at 5pm, as part of the Horrorthon festival. The film will be introduced by editor Robert J.E. Simpson. For booking details see:


Back From The Dead: The Restoration of Dracula

Despite the size and scope of the BFI National Archive, there are still areas of British cinema under-represented in our collection. The classic Gothic Hammer horror films are one such group, so we decided that we would celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the rebirth of Hammer as a horror studio with the restoration of Dracula (1958), the second film in the cycle, but perhaps the most iconic.

We were fortunate to have the support of Hammer Films, Warner Bros – who store the original negative in their vaults -  and YCM Laboratories in Los Angeles. Simon Hessel, a contributor to earlier Archive projects, generously agreed to fund the restoration and creation of new preservation materials to be held by the Archive in the UK.

Once we established that the original negative was still in good shape, our next concern was to locate the original UK title sequence, as all available versions retained the US release title of The Horror of Dracula and were bland in comparison with the original. Under the enthusiastic direction of Andrea Kalas, our Senior Preservation Manager, who supervised the whole project, Ben Thompson, Senior Image Quality Specialist, took on the search for this material as well as for other missing footage. At Ben’s urging, Warner Bros pulled more materials from their remote vaults and found the original elements of the UK title.  

The BBFC originally excised some 55 feet (36 seconds) to give the film an ‘X’ certificate, but the US release version was slightly longer. Also we knew of the persistent rumour that a longer Japanese version had an extended decomposition scene at the finale. Ben proved absolutely tireless in his search for this footage, consulting Hammer scholars, ex-employees, Warner Bros in the UK and USA and the National Film Center in Japan.

It seems that we can blame fire for destroying most of this material. The UK censor cuts were most likely lost in a fire at Hammer’s studios in Bray and the Curator of Film at the National Film Center confirmed that a surviving Japanese release print had suffered water damage following a fire in 1984. The evidence for a longer Japanese version remains inconclusive, despite the appearance in a fanzine of a gorier, disintegrating Dracula not seen in any existing film copy.  However, we were able to reinstate one of the UK censor cuts (of around four seconds) as this had not been cut for the US release.

Warner Bros had made interpositives for DVD mastering with YCM Laboratories in Los Angeles and gave the BFI permission to use the same grading for the new  preservation materials, making a considerable cost saving on the project. Ensuring that the final prints resembled as closely as possible the original 1958 ‘IB Tech prints’ meant working with a knowledge of the process and modern film stocks.

In 1952, Kodak introduced its first colour negatives – called Eastmancolor – for professional motion picture production. Technicolor adjusted its printing processes for prints from these negatives rather than from the three-strip black and white negatives which traditionally made up the Technicolor process.  The prints that were produced used the dye-transfer process, known colloquially as ‘IB Tech’, with ‘IB’ standing for the imbibition process of applying dyes to the prints. This process is no longer in use, so our task was to capture this highly saturated look in modern stocks. Audio restoration was carried out at our Video and Audio Lab in Berkhamsted.

The new version had its first public screening in the Cannes Classics section of this year’s Festival and was followed in early July by a triumphant screening at Il Cinema Ritrovato, an archive festival in Bologna. More than 4000 people crammed the Piazza Maggiore for a late-night open-air screening and watched in spellbound silence.

Dracula opens in the UK on November 2 in both 35mm and High Definition after special Halloween previews.

Nigel Algar
Senior Curator (Fiction)
BFI National Archive



page posted 11 October 2007










House of Horror: The Unofficial Hammer Films Site © RJE Simpson 1999 - 2007
Site launched Sunday 8th August 1999