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Bram Stoker’s Dracula (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

October 3, 2015 by  



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Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” would showcase Dracula as a tragic hero turned monster but a romantic yet horror/love story that captivates you because this is unlike the plethora of Dracula films out there.  While I wouldn’t call this film a Francis Ford Coppola masterpiece, it is one of the highlights in his film oeuvre worth watching.

Image courtesy of © 1992 Columbia Pictures. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Bram Stoker’s Dracula

YEAR OF FILM: 1992

DURATION: 127 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:85:1 Aspect Ratio, English Dolby Atmos (Dolby True HD 7.1 Compatible, English, French, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish

COMPANY: Columbia Pictures/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RELEASE DATE: October 6, 2015


Based on the Novel “Dracula” by Bram Stoker

Directed by Francis Ford Coppola

Screenplay by James V. Hart

Executive Producer: Michael Apted, Robert O’Connor

Producer: Francis Ford Coppola, Fred Fuchs, Charles Mulvehill

Co-Producer: James V. Hart, John Veitch

Associate Producer: Susan Landau Finch

Music by Wojciec Kilar

Cinematography by Michael Ballhaus

Edited by Anne Goursaud, Glen Scantlebury, Nicholas C. Smith

Casting by Victoria Thomas

Production Design by Thomas E. Sanders

Art Direction by Andrew Precht

Set Decoration by Garrett Lewis

Costume Design by Eiko Ishioka


Starring:

Gary Oldman as Dracula

Winona Ryder as Mina Murray/Elisabeta

Anthony Hopkins as Professor Abraham Van Helsing

Keanu Reeves as Jonathan Harker

Richard E. Grant as Dr. jack Seward

Cary Elwes as Lord Arthur Holmwood

Billy Campbell as Quincey P. Morris

Sadie Frost as Lucy Westenra

Tom Waits as R.M. Renfield

Monica Bellucci as Dracula’s Bride


Gary Oldman, Winona Ryder, and Anthony Hopkins star in director Francis Ford Coppola’s visually stunning, passionately seductive version of the classic Dracula legend. In BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA, Coppola returns to the original source of the Dracula myth, and from that gothic romance, he creates a modern masterpiece. Gary Oldman’s metamorphosis as Dracula who grows from old to young, from man to beast is nothing short of amazing. Winona Ryder brings equal intensity to the role of a young beauty who becomes the object of Dracula’s devastating desire. Anthony Hopkins co-stars as the famed doctor who dares to believe in Dracula, and then dares to confront him. Opulent, dazzling and utterly irresistible, this is Dracula as you’ve never seen him. And once you’ve seen BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA, you’ll never forget it.


In 1897, Bram Stoker’s Gothic horror novel “Dracula” was released.

The novel would spawn numerous films and plays but it wasn’t until 1990 when director Francis Ford Coppola (“The Godfather” films, “Apocalypse now”) and writer James V. Hart (“Hook”, “Epic”, “Contact”) would create a film adaptation that was more respectful to Bram Stoker’s original novel, but yet being a loose film adaptation.

The film would star Gary Oldman (“The Dark Knight” films, “Leon: The Professional”), Winona Ryder (“Edward Scissorhands”, “Black Swan”, “Girl, Interrupted”), Anthony Hopkins (“Hannibal”, “Red Dragon”, “Thor”), Keanu Reeves (“The Matrix” films, “Speed”, “John Wick”), Richard E. Grant (“Withnail & I”, “Penelope”, “Corpse Bride”), Cary Elwes (“The Princess Bride”, “Saw”, “Liar Liar”, “Robin Hood: Men in Tights”), Billy Campbell (“The Rocketeer”, “Once and Again”, “Enough”), Sadie Frost (“Deadly Virtues: Love.Honour.Obey”, “Shopping”), Tom Waits (“Fight Club”, “12 Monkeys”, “The Wire”) and Monica Bellucci (“The Matrix Revolutions”, “The Matrix Reloaded”, “Irreversible”).

The film would receive critical acclaim and would become a box office hit earning over $215 million and would win three Academy Awards for “Best Costume Design”, “Best Makeup” and “Best Sound Effects Editing”.

And now Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” will be released on Blu-ray courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

The film begins in 1462 as Vlad Dracula (portrayed by Gary Oldman), who is a member of the Order of the Dragon, goes to war against the Turks.  His beloved wife Elisabeta and Vlad are deeply in love, but when Elisabeta receives a false report that her husband has died, she commits suicide.  Moments later, Vlad arrives back home after the victory against the Turks and is looking forward to be reunited with Elisabeta, to find out that she had killed herself.

Distraught and angry, Vlad renounces God and declares that he will rise from the grave to avenge his dear Elisabeta with the power of darkness and stabs the chapel’s stone cross with his sword, which leads to blood pouring out and he drinks from it and goes through a major transformation.

Fastforward to 1897, we are introduced to a solicitor Jonathan Harker (portrayed by Keanu Reeves), his colleague R.M. Renfield (portrayed by Tom Waits) has gone insane and so his client, Count Dracula from Transylvania becomes his new client and now must leave his fiance Mina (portrayed by Winona Ryder) behind.

Jonathan travels to Transylvania for business to discuss real estate acquisition, but once he enters his mansion, Dracula sees a picture of Jonathan’s fiance, believing that Mina is the reincarnation of Elisabeta.

Now wanting Mina, Count Dracula has his brides to capture and ravage Jonathan and heads to England in order to get close to Mina and takes residence at Carfax Abbey.  He finds out that Mina is staying with Lucy Westenra (portrayed by Sadie Frost).

But needing to feast, he bites Lucy which then leads her to change drastically and leads to poor health.  With Lucy’s fiance Arthur Holmwood (portrayed by Cary Elwes) and Lucy’s former suitors Quincey Morris (portrayed by Billy Cambell) and Dr. Jack Seward (portrayed by Richard E. Grant) thinking that Lucy may have been possessed, they summon Dr. Abraham Van Helsing (portrayed by Anthony Hopkins).

When Dr. Helsing arrives, he recognizes the effects on Lucy and tells them that she is a victim of a vampire.  Meanwhile, Jonathan escapes from Transylvania and manages to contact Mina and Mina wants nothing more but to marry him which enrages Dracula.

Will Dracula make Mina his bride or will she be devoted to Jonathan?


VIDEO:

“Dracula” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 aspect ratio). It’s important to note that the first Blu-ray release of this film was released back in 2008.  But since then, Blu-ray remastering has since improved and studios know what Blu-ray purchasers are expecting in HD releases.  Gone are the DNR and color timing issues and now, picture quality is much sharper with much better detail.  My counterparts have told me that while the newer version looks much better, there are framing issues.  But those who would be most affected by this are diehard fans of the film.  Personally, I’m more grateful for the better PQ compared to the original Blu-ray release.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for the lossless audio, “Dracula” is presented in English Atmos DolbyTrue HD 7.1 (note: Atmos is a technology that utilizes Dolby Atmos enabled speakers that reflects sound upward and bounces audio from the ceiling in order to recreate overhead sound).  As well as an English, French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack.  This is another improvement from the original Blu-ray release and now, along with crystal clear dialogue and musical score, there is good use of surround channel usage for environments and overall ambiance.  Also, very good use of surround channels for the more action-driven sequences.

Subtitles are presented in English SDH, English, French and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Dracula” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring a new audio commentary with director Francis Ford Coppola, visual effects director Roman Coppola and makeup supervisor Greg Cannom.
  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by director Francis Ford Coppola.
  • Francis Ford Coppola Introduction – (3:55) Director Francis Ford Coppola discuses the previous film adaptations of “Dracula”.
  • Reflections in Blood: Francis Ford Coppola and Bram Stoker’s Dracula – (29:11) Featuring an interview with film critic F.X. Feeney with Francis Ford Coppola.
  • Practical Magicians: A Collaboration Between Father and Son – (20:07) Film critic F.X. Feeney interviews Francis Ford Coppola and his son Roman Coppola.
  • The Blood is the Life: The Making of Bram Stoker’s Dracula – (27:48) A behind the scenes look at the making of the film and interactions with the director and his cast.
  • The Costumes are the Sets: The Design of Eiko Ishioka – (14:02) Interview with director Francis Ford Coppola and costume designer Eiko Ishioka.
  • In Camera: Naive Visual Effects – (18:46) Roman Coppola discusses the film’s in-camera visual effects.
  • Method and Madness: Visualizing Dracula – (12:06) Francis Ford Coppola, Roman Coppola and storyboard artist Peter Gramsey discuss the film’s imagery.
  • Deleted and Extended Scenes – Featuring 12 deleted and extended scenes.
  • Trailers – Featuring the “Beware” and theatrical trailer of Bram Stoker’s “Dracula”.

There is no doubt that vampire films have changed in the past decade with films such as “Twilight” and the many vampire-related series on television.

But while many versions of multimedia have showcased Dracula in a variety of ways, the fact is that there hasn’t really been a story that tries to capture the original story written by Bram Stoker.

While film historians have heard of reports of a faithful silent film adaptation of “Dracula” in 1920 released in the Soviet Union, all footage and stills have been lost.

While F.W. Murnau made a horror film called “Nosferatu” about a vampire that was set in Transylvania and Germany, and the name was changed to Count Orlock, Bram Stoker’s estate sued and all prints of “Nosferatu” were thought to be destroyed (various prints were found and the film was recently released on Blu-ray a few years ago).

But since then, the story of Dracula has changed drastically beginning with the Bela Lugosi films up to the present in which Dracula, as well as his nemesis Dr. Hellsing, have appeared in non-related storylines for many decades.

For director Francis Ford Coppola and writer James V. Hart, the two wanted to capture the feel of the original novel but also add a subplot involving Mina Harker.  But also to showcase a Dracula that is not villainous but a tragic hero who brought damnation to himself because of the death of his beloved wife and now, finding out hundreds of years later that his wife may have been reincarnated.

Watching this film almost two decades later, I will say that I was entertained by this film but also my opinion of it has changed a little.  While I applaud the acting of Gary Oldman, the choice of visual effects by Roman Coppola and of course, the strict choice of perfection from his talent ala Francis Ford Coppola, Keanu Reeves was more of the “Bill & Ted” actor at the time.  And while he has grown a lot as an actor since this film, I admit that watching Jonathan Harker, I was expecting him to give the Keanu Reeves “Woh”.

Reeves acting aside, Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” was no doubt a fascinating, dark yet tragic film that portrays Dracula in a more compassionate yet vile character, but not the monstrous character that we have seen the character become in other films, TV series or video games.  This is a man who has been haunted by his wife’s death and has lived in darkness until seeing a picture of a woman, who looks exactly like his deceased wife and feels she is reincarnated and will do all that is necessary to get close to her.

The costume and set design was fantastic and for the most part, Bram Stoker’s “Dracula”, at the time, was seen as unique and bringing something new to the genre but also paying respect to the original novel, capturing the feel of the novel but yet having a loose adaptation.

It’s important to note that there are various versions of Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” available.  The original 2008 version is the one most will want to stay away from, while this vanilla version I am reviewing does come with the new special features and an Ultraviolet code and then there is the “Supreme Cinema” release that features clear packaging and a booklet.

But this 2015 Blu-ray release is much better than its 2008 counterpart.  Better picture quality and also features a newer English Dolby Atmos soundtrack.  Picture quality is much sharper and features better detail and while I do not have Atmos speakers, the fact that a lossless Dolby TrueHD 7.1 Atmos soundtrack is featured is wonderful!  You also get more special features in this 2015 Blu-ray release.

Overall, Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” would showcase Dracula as a tragic hero turned monster but a romantic yet horror/love story that captivates you because this is unlike the plethora of Dracula films out there.  While I wouldn’t call this film a Francis Ford Coppola masterpiece, it is one of the highlights in his film oeuvre worth watching.






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