Dracula: Prince of Darkness Collector's Edition - Blu-ray Review

Discussion in 'Blu-ray / Media Reviews' started by Michael Scott, Feb 11, 2019.

  1. Michael Scott

    Michael Scott Moderator / Reviewer
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    Apr 4, 2017
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    Dracula: Prince of Darkness Collector's Edition

    Movie: :4stars:
    Video: :4stars:
    Audio: :3stars:
    Extras: :4stars:
    Final Score: :3.5stars:

    [​IMG] Movie

    Scream Factory DID announce that they were digging deep into the vaults for Hammer Horror productions, and this December we got a good old taste of some classic vampire films with Dracula: Prince of Darkness, which marked the end of Christopher Lee’s stint as the infamous count. Sadly I wasn’t able to review it back in December due to a mixup with Scream Factory, and they were extremely kind enough to send over a belated review copy for us to enjoy.

    Back in the late 50s Terence Fisher and Christopher Lee put out the ground breaking Horror of Dracula, and Christopher Lee decided that was the time to hang up his fangs for good. However, a scant 8 years later Lee was once again required to put on his fangs and hiss at the camera as the count of evil once more. The reason being was that there was some rights being bought and sold over the Dracula name, and Christopher Lee’s iconic presence was needed to seal the deal. Studio head honcho, and personal friend of Lee, James Carreras was needed to talk the reluctant actor into the role as the head vampire, and even agreed for Lee to to have minimal lines (which turned out to be NO lines) and a much more atmospheric take on Count Dracula than the previous films.

    It’s an interesting move with Christopher Lee wanting to not do much heavy lifting, but it makes for a fascinating film with Terence Fisher directing once more and using Lee’s stoic tiredness to his advantage. Instead of having Lee dole out the classic cheesy Hammer Films lines, he gets to smirk and sneer at the camera, giving a moody sense of dread that permeates his presence. The terror comes from that cold confidence instead of shrieking girls and bad guys that twirl their mustache, but at the same time it wears a little bit thin with Lee hissing and grimacing at the camera.
    It’s been 10 long years since Van Helsing (Peter Cushing shown in legacy footage at the beginning of the movie) put Count Dracula in his grave, but the surrounding townsfolk still fear his return, living in the shadow of his great castle. A lone priest poo poo’s the town’s superstitions, but keeps a watchful eye on the horizon. However, as is the case with MOST horror movies (young or old), it’s a group of ignorant travelers that mess things up for everyone. 4 British tourists are seeing the sights and want to go over to Dracula’s castle, despite the warnings of the terrified peasants. Thinking it’s a bit of a lark they end up at the abandoned castle only to find out that it’s not nearly so deserted as they thought it was.

    A lone sentry named Klove (Phillip Latham) greets them, takes their clothes and puts them up for the night. It’s not until it’s too late do the unsuspecting travelers release that this is a trap. Klove sacrifices Mr. Alan Kent (Charles Tingwell) to his defeated lord, resurrecting him with the human’s blood. Mrs. Kent is next in line, but Alan’s brother Charles (Francis Matthews) and his wife Diana (Suzan Farmer) are lucky enough to get out of Dodge while the gettings good. HOWEVER, with Dracula on the loose there is no stopping the terror without his blood. Dracula wants Diana for his bride (Dracula’s got a real fetish with munching women and keeping them), and Charles must stand up and fight this monster in lieu of Van Helsing’s absence.

    Prince of Darkness is fun movie, filled with all of that Hammer Horror cheese that we’ve all known to love and enjoy. Dracula (Lee) is gloriously devilish despite his lack of words, and the film actually features one of the most underutilized “kills” in the whole of ancient vampire lore. It’s a rather nifty one that adds some freshness to the usual “stab him in the heart or use crosses” techniques. There are some flaws to the film though, especially in regards to the “why in blazes didn’t Dracula use that power BEFORE?” moments, but overall this is a fun flick. It’s not as gory or as in your face as Horror of Dracula, but it’s still a solid contender nonetheless.


    Not Rated by the MPAA

    Video: :4stars:
    Scream Factory has included both the 4K remaster of the U.S. cut, and the 2K master of the U.K. cut that was released a few years back in the U.K. (The U.S. cut is the full cut, the U.K. cut trimmed some of the gory scenes out and toned down the blood due to British censors at the time), and the two video masters used are WILDLY different. According to Scream Factory the 4K remaster for the U.S. cut was taken from the interpositive in the 20th Century vaults instead of the original camera negative due to the fact that the camera negative was in abysmal shape. The U.K. master was taken from a different overseas source and has a much more yellowish hue to it. Upon comparing both masters side by side it’s a bit of a give and take situation. The U.K. one has the yellow hue, but it also is much cleaner and less grainy than the U.S. remaster. There’s a smoothness to the picture that is appealing, which lends itself much easier to details in the dreary and dim castle of Count Dracula. At the same time I also noticed that colors are much hotter and almost burnished with that yellow hue. Look at the scene where the Kent’s open up the castle walls for the first time. On the U.K. edition it’s very colorful with hot oranges and yellows and neon greens. In the U.S. cut it’s much darker (the whole remaster is much darker than the U.K. cut in general) with more deep reds and light blues and greens. Looking out at the forest outside of Dracula’s castle the U.K.’s greens are almost a hot neon green for the foliage, while in the U.S. remaster it’s more muted and natural looking in the greens department.

    The one thing that I will say is that I really enjoyed the U.S. master better than the U.K. one, as it feels more “natural”. The colors look more accurate, it’s truer to the source, and the grain levels (while a bit thick) look much more accurate than the smooth and clean U.K. version. The downside to the U.S. edition is a some heavy grain that spikes here and there, as well as random print damage from the less than ideal interpositive due to the fact that they couldn’t use the source print. Flecks are noticeable here and there, as do certain vertical lines and the occasional bit of debris that is noticeable over the lens. But at the end of the day, I’d choose the U.S. edition over the U.K. edition for the color timing alone, and the entire master feels more “purist” in nature.

    Audio: :3stars:
    Just like the video, there seems to be two different mixes used for the DTS-HD MA Mono track that is given to each cut of the film. Since there is 12 seconds cut from the film, it looks like the audio tracks weren’t just “trimmed” but rather taken from different sources as the Mono mix for the U.K. cut is definitely better than the U.S. edition's source. Voices are clear and clean, there’s some mild thump to the track when Charles walks down the stairs in Dracula’s castle, and the I don’t detect much hiss going on. The U.S. edition sounds a bit worse for wear, with some analog hiss in the background as well as some harshness to the voices when volume is increased (especially the more shrill female voices). It’s not enough to wildly distinguish one from the other, but you can definitely heart the cleanness and lack of audio distortion in the U.K. mix.

    Extras: :4stars:
    • NEW audio commentary with author Troy Howarth
    • NEW audio commentary with filmmaker Constantine Nasr and writer/producer Steve Haberman
    • Audio commentary with cast members Christopher Lee, Suzan Farmer, Francis Matthews, Barbara Shelley
    • World of Hammer episode "Dracula and the Undead"
    • Back to Black – The Making of Dracula -Prince of Darkness
    • Super 8mm Behind-the-Scenes footage
    • Theatrical Trailers
    • Still Gallery

    Final Score: :3.5stars:

    Prince of Darkness is a good return to form for Christoper Lee’s portrayal of Count Dracula, and a good sequel to Terence Fishers Horror of Dracula. Scream Factory does a good job with the new 4K remaster of the U.S. cut, and does a very appreciated move of having the U.K. cut and it’s 2K remaster from a few years back included in the disc. The audio and video differences between the two cuts is fascinating to watch and both are unique enough and flawed enough have their own sets of pros and cons for which one you want to view. Extras are excellent and well worthy of the collector’s edition status that the film commands. Definitely worth it for Hammer Horror fans and general horror fans alike. A very good watch.

    Technical Specifications:

    Starring: Christopher Lee, Barbara Shelley, Andrew Keir, Francis Matthews, Suzan Farmer, Charles "Bud" Tingwell, Thorley Walters, Phillip Lantham
    Directed by: Terence Fisher
    Written by: Jimmy Sangster
    Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1, AVC
    Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 2.0 Mono
    Subtitles: English, French
    Studio: Scream Factory
    Rated: NR
    Runtime: 90 Minutes
    Blu-ray Release Date: December 18th, 2018

    Recommendation: Fun Watch

    Todd Anderson and Jack like this.
  2. tripplej

    tripplej AV Enthusiast

    Jul 13, 2017
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    Thanks for the review. I don't think I ever saw this before so will keep an eye out for it. :)
  3. Asere

    Asere AV Addict

    Apr 14, 2017
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    Thanks for the review. I plan on watching this one.

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