Now this is how you use immersive audio
Francis Ford Coppola's film version of Bram Stoker's Dracula is one of the best versions of literature's most famous vampire story.From the outset Coppola's aim was to stay as close to the original text as possible, resulting in one of the more faithful screen adaptations. The director also wisely adds more background detail to Count Dracula's personal history, weaving in elements of the real-life Vlad the Impaler. The film's structure uses many of the same narrative devices as the source novel and deliberately mixes in nods to what would have been new technology at the time like cinema and wax recordings. Coppola decided to take an interesting approach to making the film, which was shot entirely on sound stages and only uses practical effects.The film boasts an interesting cast, with Gary Oldman excellent as the immortal vampire with a tragic past. He's ably supported by Winona Ryder and Sadie Frost, whilst Anthony Hopkins is clearly having a ball as Van Helsing. The only misstep is the terribly miscast Keanu Reeves as Jonathan Harker. Aside from that, Coppola's take on Dracula is a gorgeously designed and lavishly executed film with some memorable scenes. Bram Stoker's Dracula might well be the definitive take on the titular vampire and it's also the last great film that Francis Ford Coppola has directed, making it an obvious addition to any collection.
Picture QualityThis Region A locked Blu-ray release of Bram Stoker's Dracula is based on a new 4K master of the original 35mm camera negative and has been colour-timed and re-framed to match the original cinema release. The disc itself is presented in 1080/24p using the AVC codec and uses the film's 1.85:1 original theatrical aspect ratio. Sony Pictures have presumably remastered the film in anticipation of a forthcoming Ultra HD Blu-ray release but, in the meantime, this new Blu-ray release is a worthy upgrade.
The film has never looked better with a new 4K transfer matching the original cinema release.
In fact the film has probably never looked better and since we have the previous Blu-ray release as well, we were able to do a direct comparison. The new Blu-ray certainly demonstrates greater fine detail, allowing the image to reveal all the amazing costumes and set design. The colour timing is also noticeably different to the previous Blu-ray but apparently this is deliberate and the film now matches the way it originally appeared at the cinema. The colour scheme appears quite deliberate and the Blu-ray replicates it perfectly, with bright primaries, natural-looking skin and a sepia tone to certain scenes.
The image has also been reframed slightly, moving it up and making the compositions more balanced and central, so we assume this is also deliberate. The blacks are suitably deep and the dynamic range slightly better, although there is still the occasional bit of crush in dark scenes. However the transfer is clean, retaining a nice sheen of film grain, and is free of any digital artefacts or unwanted processing. There is still the occasional instance of banding in the image but overall the film looks great and since American Zoetrope oversaw the new master, the colour timing and reframing are presumably deliberate.
Sound QualityBram Stoker's Dracula was originally released at the cinema with a Dolby Digital soundtrack and even by the standards of 1992 it was a wonderfully inventive and immersive experience. This new Dolby Atmos mix has probably been created for a future Ultra HD Blu-ray release but, in the meantime we get a chance to experience it on regular Blu-ray. And what a fantastic mix it is, with the sound designers making full use of object-based technology to create a truly immersive experience. We reviewed this Region A locked Blu-ray on a full 7.2.4 Dolby Atmos configuration with overhead speakers.
The film has always had a great soundtrack and this new Dolby Atmos mix takes it to a new level.
Bram Stoker's Dracula has always had a fantastic soundtrack, with one of the most active surround mixes we've ever heard. In the same way that Dracula's shadow appears to have a life of its own, so the soundtrack feels like a living creature. The surround field is constantly full of noises and voices that are steered around the room, creating an uneasy atmosphere. The quality of the original soundtrack is even more impressive because it was created back in 1992, making it one of the first Dolby Digital soundtracks. The new Dolby Atmos mix takes this wonderfully creative sound design and turns it into an even more immersive experience.
The sound designers have taken full advantage of Dolby Atmos's object-based technology to move sounds around the room in a three-dimensional space. There are a multitude of effects, including lightning, screams and bangs that are all delivered with sonic clarity. The result is a soundtrack that simply feels alive and yet within all these audio layers, dialogue remains clear and centred. The bass effects are impressive, underpinning the action, whilst the score is delivered effectively and spread across the front soundstage. The soundtrack to Bram Stoker's Dracula was great to begin with but this new Dolby Atmos mix is simply one of the best we've heard.
ExtrasThis new Region A locked release of Bram Stoker's Dracula includes two new interviews, as well as all the other extras found on the previous Blu-ray release. It also includes a rare commentary track from the 1993 LaserDisc release that is definitely worth a listen:
Reflections in Blood: Francis Ford Coppola and Bram Stoker's Dracula (HD, 29:11). A new interview with director Francis Ford Coppola, where he talks about the film and his involvement. This is a great new extra and well worth watching.
Practical Magicians: A Collaborations Between Father and Son (HD, 20:07). This other new interview is with Coppola and his son Roman, who oversaw second unit and special effects on the film. This goes into detail about their deliberate use of practical effects and is another great extra that is worth watching.
Commentary with Director Francis Ford Coppola, Visual Effect Director Roman Coppola, and Makeup Supervisor Greg Cannom - this is taken from the 1993 LaserDisc release.
Commentary with Director Frances Ford Coppola
Francis Ford Coppola Introduction (HD, 03:55)
The Blood is the Life: Making Bram Stoker's Dracula (HD, 27:48)
The Costumes are the Sets: The Design of Eiko Ishioka (HD, 14:02)
In Camera: Naive Visual Effects (HD, 18:46)
Method and Madness: Visualizing Dracula (HD, 12:06)
12 Deleted & Extended Scenes (HD, 28:14)
Trailers - "Beware" Trailer (HD, 01:31) and Theatrical Trailer (HD, 02:36)
Blu-ray VerdictBram Stoker's Dracula remains one of the best and most faithful film adaptations of the famous novel. Francis Ford Coppola's version was shot on sound stages, with elaborate costumes and it deliberately used practical in-camera effects in the style of the classic films of the past. The result is one of Coppola's best films and certainly his last great film. Bram Stoker's Dracula is both imaginative and lavish, making it a film that any cinema-fan should own
Bram Stoker's Dracula is Coppola's last great film and this new Blu-ray release does it full justice.
This new Region A locked Blu-ray release is the best that Bram Stoker's Dracula has ever looked on disc, with a great transfer that retains all the detail of the film's costumes and production design. The colour scheme is deliberately stylised and the disc replicates the original intent with new colour timing and the image has also been reframed. The new Dolby Atmos soundtrack is superb, taking an already great mix and adding an entirely new level to the sound design, resulting in a truly immersive audio experience. An excellent set of features rounds off a great package that belongs in any self-respecting film fan's collection.
You can buy Bram Stoker's Dracula on Blu-ray here
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