I now have the Blu-ray release and can address directly the talked about issues with the new transfer and comment on the extras which I had not seen 'til now.
First and most importantly, yes, most of the pre-release frame caps represent to a degree the new "bluer" color grading. The thing is, this color grading is *not* an across the board "tinting," it's very scene specific, notably in many of the scenes represented by posted screen caps. Most of the daytime or brightly lit scenes look acceptable, it's just certain night time or indoor scenes feature clearly heavy handed "new" color timings. Another result of the revised color grading is faces or other lighter objects (look at the clouds in the opening titles) often take a pinkish hue vs the much more natural color grading of any previously seen version on film or home video. Saturation isn't as strong as in previous home video releases as well, something which is addressed in the Restoration feature.
IMO, it's not nearly as bad as it originally appeared to be, but perhaps more problematic than any revisionist color grading (and it is, there's no denying that fact) is the significantly darker quality of the transfer than any previous home video release. Obviously, the decade old Warner Bros dvd release is a bit to bright and on the warm side but I think the BFI went too far in the other direction. In some scenes, detail is unacceptably lost in murky blacks and subtracting the fact this is the film's first home video presentation in HD, it's not a huge step up in fine detail over the previous WB dvd release. One of the unexpected improvements in this release is the audio which is much more robust and full without drawing attention to itself. All said, if you're buy / no buy decision is based purely on the quality of the transfer, I'd still recommend it despite some misgivings.
But there's much more....
The "found" Japanese footage is worked into the original cut nicely - especially considering just how awful the footage's condition was in it's original state. The audio isn't a smooth merge when the Japanese footage cuts in, but overall, it isn't a jarring transition and especially the holy grail scene of Dracula clawing a bit of flesh off his face during his death and perhaps more importantly, Cushings additional reactions (he shuts his eyes at one point) adds greatly the the films climax.
The extra features are really well done with the exception of the reading of a passage from the book by Janine Fay, the now grown up actor who played a child in the film. Predominantly, there's a feature on the BFI's restoration where Ben Thompson of the BFI discusses and directly addresses how they came to the overall "look" of the film for the restoration and this home video release. He states "I felt in controlling the overall look of the (color) grade, the most genuine thing to do given the lack of materials was to not push the saturation bias to emulate an (IB) print for example.... we didn't want to put much of a signature that might suggest we're trying to look like an Eastmancolor or IB print .... Really just trying to emulate what I saw on the check print from the camera neg (from Warner Bros which the had produced a new IP used to make the 2002 era dvd?)." That feature goes into detail the work done to digitally restore the damaged Japanese footage and as a whole, the feature is a fascinating and revealing look into the kind of work and decision making processes involved in current film restoration and home video presentation.
Another interesting bonus feature is basically the last half of the film taken from the unrestored Japanese footage which had burned in subtitles on the right side. Oddly, the Lucy staking scene looks like an alternate take and is severely cut compared to the UK/US version. Also, for some strange reason, during the finale as Dracula is forced into the sunlight, there's a couple of quick cuts of Lee's reaction just before he falls backwards not included in the restored cut of the movie. As the footage unspools in all it's chewed up, scratchy, skipping glory, the frame almost organically breathes as the image ebbs and flexes in a visceral way today's digital medium can never match. It's Grindhouse at it's best.
All in all, despite my misgivings and this thread's rather unfortunate title, the overall package is far from a "Epic Fail." I still am greatly disappointed in the new color grading and darkness of the film itself on this Blu-ray and will hold on to my old dvd, in large part, the effort by key individuals into making this release more than the sum of a clearly classic film makes this a recommended buy.
Edited by Partyslammer - 3/20/13 at 2:00pm