Horror of Dracula…Restored! (But not for the U.S.)

Some of you probably don’t remember when there were only three networks on television, and when less than a handful of channels were available to watch on UHF channels and the distant channels flickering with static from out of town. It was considered really late night viewing to watch Johnny Carson between 11:30 pm and 1:00 am, at first, and then 11:30 to 12:30 when he went to just an hour. There were only a few other late night shows, premiering mostly in the late ’70s; but in mid-1972 there were only Carson, Cavett…and the CBS Late Movie.

Here is a true fan’s comprehensive list of movies and shows that ran late night on the CBS Late Movie.  It was a great time to be a movie fan who was starved for entertainment, because finally you’d be able to see movies and tv shows you had only heard about before.  For me, that meant some of the movies mentioned in my favorite magazines, The Monster Times and Famous Monsters of Filmland.

The best newspaper ever.

The best newspaper ever.

Occasionally, at some point in ’72 or ’73, CBS would promote and broadcast one film, and then, during the broadcast, announce that a second film would follow.  This didn’t happen often, but, on one occasion, they showed a second, unheralded movie that I had been afraid I would never get the chance to see.  (And, if you’re wondering, the list I linked to only gives the titles of the first movies broadcast at 11:30.)

Think about that, now, here, in the 21st Century, when almost every old movie is available on DVD, Blu-Ray, YouTube, Hulu, Vudu, Netflix, or BitTorrented…

The movie I refer to is, as far as I’m concerned, the finest adaptation of the novel Dracula ever filmed.  Horror of Dracula, produced by the great Hammer Film Studio in 1958, is as primal and as sensually powerful as it was 56 years ago.

However, over the years, the distributor, Warner Bros., or Hammer lost some of the footage due to censorship issues around the world.  I have Horror of Dracula on DVD, and it is not the same film I saw on CBS in the ’70s.  Specifically, Dracula’s death scene has been cut in every recording I’ve viewed ever since.  It was, perhaps, the most powerful demise of Dracula I’ve ever seen, simply because it was so visceral, so groundbreaking, for 1958.  And that is why portions of the scene were cut from the finished film.


This is part of the death scene that has been unseen in this country since the early 1970s.


For decades, I wondered what happened.  Now, that scene has been restored to all its phantasmagoric glory, along with at least one scene I don’t remember, in a Blu-Ray produced for Region 2…the UK and Europe.  But not for us here in the States.


The Blu-Ray was released in spring of 2013, and carefully restores and color corrects the vintage film.  But it’s not yet available here.  Okay, I don’t get it.  I know that there’s a built-in audience in Hammer’s native England, but the sheer numbers of horror lovers are enormous right here in the US.  To me, the restored is a natural for horror fans, Dracula scholars.

It has been almost two years.  It’s time to offer this Blu-Ray to the vampire lovers in the States.  Warner Video…get this into the stores!  Until then, the death scene is viewable on YouTube…

Monsters, Mayhem and the Bowman Body

My friend, Cliff, loves the classic movie monsters. So do I. That’s the cover of a book he loaned me. I instantly recognized it, and for a few seconds even thought I owned a copy; then I realized I had never been able to find it, anywhere, but I owned a sequel of sorts, bought in the mid-’70s:
I hit adolescence in the 1970s, reading Forrest J. Ackerman’s Famous Monsters of Filmland, reading Swamp Thing and Eerie and Creepy and Vampirella. Although I lived on the Peninsula, on good nights we could get Channel 8, WXEX, Petersburg-Richmond, and we Hamptonians would be graced with the presence of the Bowman Body, his patented green tennis shoes, and his cry of “Liberty rings the old bell!”
Three notes before I go on:

1. Bill Bowman, thanks! A friend of mine and I, in high school, wrote a Bowman Body poem, which you read on air. You named only me as the author, though. My friend, I fear, still hates me. This is the impact which you had upon us.
2. On the day I got my first driver’s license, what did I do? I drove two friends in my father’s Galaxy 500 to the WXEX studio, to watch a taping of the Bowman Body show. The show was great and hilarious. However, on the way home, I totaled Dad’s car. He forgave me.
3. I mentioned the Bowman Body in a book review in the Times-Dispatch earlier this year, and Bill was gracious enough to call and leave a voicemail message, thanking me for the mention. Bill, if you’re reading this, I’d love to talk with you. I need to thank you for your sense of humor and for showing wonderful movies!

The great Universal monster movies have been with us since 1931’s Dracula, made without a film score, just after talkies were introduced. In 1966, Universal first syndicated their classic monster movies, some of which made it to Bowman Body’s show. Some made it to Shock Theater on WVEC in Hampton-Norfolk (I still remember hiding my eyes whenever Lon Chaney, Jr. appeared on my parents’ black and white TV as the Mummy), and some later made it to Dr. Madblood on WAVY out of Portsmouth. Bowman Body showed a bunch of American-International horror movies, if I remember correctly, and Madblood is the place where I first watched the original Dracula and Frankenstein.
The black and whites were always the movies of choice in Famous Monsters; but the ones that hit home with me and my friends were not Universal’s monsters, but the more contemporary horrors of Hammer. (More on Hammer in a later post.) I mean, Lugosi’s Dracula is really a Victorian play of manners and repressive traditions. I could well imagine the dramatic and fearful impact the caped vampire had on the screen in 1931; but such melodramatic stage theatrics were dull and old-fashioned in the ’70s, when all my friends were watching Madblood and wondering what he was smoking in his pipe, and “Dracula” was appearing daily on Sesame Street.

Bowman Body and Madblood were facilitators — our connectors to the movies. No matter how old — or, in many cases, how awfully, truly bad — the movies were, our hosts would make us laugh and wink, and at the same time share with us the joy and wonder of these cinematic horrors. This was a good time, and a good way to grow up — watching the flickering, grainy shadows of television with your friends and family, laughing at all the wondrous weirdness.

I’ve never gotten over it. I never will.

Thanks, Bill. Thanks, Jerry.

I owe you guys a lot.