THE MONSTROUS QUESTION
(Questions by Michael Arruda)
Watching THE HILLS RUN RED a couple of weeks back, a horror movie about a lost horror film, it got me to thinking about the real thing.
There are lots of stories out there of lost scenes. For example, growing up, I’d read about the scene cut from the Boris Karloff FRANKENSTEIN (1931) where the monster drowns the little girl. This scene had been cut when the movie was shown on television, and although I’d seen stills from this scene, the actual scene didn’t seem to exist anymore, until it was discovered and restored on video in 1987.
There are so many more scenes like this out there that still have not turned up.
So, here’s this month’s MONSTROUS QUESTION: If you could discover lost footage from any movie, old or new, and this could include an entire movie, what would it be?
From MICHAEL ARRUDA:
I have read about many instances of lost scenes, but being a lifelong fan of Hammer Films, I’m going to go with a Hammer Film as my top choice, and it’s probably their most famous movie, HORROR OF DRACULA (1958).
The rumor has existed for years that Hammer released different versions of their movies for different markets. For example, the tamest version was released in Britain, a more violent version went to the United States, and the most explicit version was shipped off to Japan.
For example, one of the bloodier scenes in HORROR OF DRACULA, where Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) drives a stake through Lucy’s (Carol Marsh) heart, was not shown in Britain until a recently restored version was made available in 2007, but the scene has been shown intact on U.S. video/DVD prints for longer than that. The scene was often cut on U.S. television, though. I would say that when I used to catch this movie on TV back in the 1970s, usually late at night, about 90% of the time this particular scene would be cut. The uncut scene shows the stake going into Lucy’s chest, as blood bubbles out onto her gown.
Now, rumor has it that in the version released in Japan, Lucy actually tries to climb out of her coffin, but Van Helsing clobbers her across the head with the hammer. I actually find this hard to believe, as it seems rather violent for 1958, even for Hammer, and I’ve never seen a still from this scene anywhere or read anywhere that it still exists. But if it does, it’s one I definitely want to discover.
There are two other scenes in HORROR OF DRACULA still missing. The first is of Jonathan Harker (John Van Eyssen) decomposing after he has been staked by Van Helsing. In the print that exists now, the camera fades as Van Helsing approaches the crypt. The staking scene doesn’t even happen on camera. Stills of this scene do exist and show Harker in the crypt in an early stage of decomposition.
Now, the biggest missing scene from HORROR OF DRACULA is from its famous ending. You know the scene, where Van Helsing runs across a table in castle Dracula and leaps through the air ripping down the curtains, unleashing the sunlight which ultimately destroys Dracula (Christopher Lee.)
There were scenes in the original HORROR OF DRACULA that have not been seen here.
This scene is pretty graphic as is, as we see Dracula disintegrate into dust before our very eyes, but it’s a quick scene, with each stage of decomposition interrupted by cutaways to reaction shots of Cushing’s Van Helsing.
But this scene was longer when originally filmed. Evidently, for a particularly gruesome special effect, Lee’s face was painted over with a red blood-like make-up, and then covered again with a flesh tone make-up, so when he scratched at his face, his fingers would rip through the “skin,” making deep bloody gouges in his face.
I’ve seen stills from this scene as well, and they’re pretty cool looking. In the special feature on the DRACULA-PRINCE OF DARKNESS DVD from 2004, where Christopher Lee, Barbara Shelley, Francis Matthews, and Suzan Farmer provide voice-over commentary to DRACULA- PRINCE OF DARKNESS (1966) (this commentary was recorded in the late 1990s) Lee talks about the ending to HORROR OF DRACULA.
Since DRACULA-PRINCE OF DARKNESS is the sequel to HORROR OF DRACULA, the film begins with the ending of HORROR OF DRACULA before the opening credits, and during this sequence, in his voice-over commentary, Christopher Lee points out that the sequence he’s watching, where Dracula disintegrates, is much shorter than the one they originally filmed. So, the longer death sequence was definitely shot.
If I had to pick one lost sequence to discover, this one would be it.
Some other lost sequences I would love to discover:
—from KING KONG (1933) the famous “spiders in the pit” scene after Kong has thrown the men off the giant log into the ravine below.
—-from THE WOLF MAN (1941) the scene where Larry Talbot (Lon Chaney Jr.) wrestles a bear, and any other scene that was filmed for its original shooting title, DESTINY. Originally, the wolf man stuff was all going to be in Larry Talbot’s mind, and the bear wrestling scene I’m talking about supposedly had Talbot seeing himself as a werewolf fighting the bear, while onlookers saw only the man. There are still several scenes in the final print where you can get a feel for the original intentions of the storytellers.
—from THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935), the deleted footage where Karl (Dwight Frye) murders his uncle and then blames the crime on the Monster (Boris Karloff), a scene that explains why the Monster is so intent on killing Karl in the film’s climax. Without this scene, the Monster’s actions make little sense.
I could go on, but it’s time to give someone else a turn.