Interview With The Vampire Blu-ray Review
PictureIncorrectly labelled on the packaging as being 2.35:1, Interview With The Vampire hits Blu-ray with its original 1.85:1 image opened-out to 1.78:1 with an MPEG-4 encode that I believe is firmly authentic to what I saw at the flicks so long ago. Well, I say this primarily because I recall being astounded by how dark the film was and how Philippe Rousselot had utilised lots of natural light - candles, lanterns, flames - and allowed the shadows to literally engulf the picture. This intensely nocturnal aesthetic is very respectably reproduced here in an image that, to many, will seem like only a slight upgrade over their SD copies. Indeed, Interview's 1080p incarnation, upon first inspection, appears very soft, murky and lacking in finite detail. While much of the movie is bathed in darkness, pockets of light illuminate faces and eyes with nothing short of precision.
The feral gleam in the vampires' eyes is now more scintillating and bold - to wit Louis' rejuvenated peepers when he first wakes up as a vampire, Lestat's cold blue hypnotic stare and Claudia's penetrating, accusatory glare.
Colours are muted - unless you count the expressionistic and thematic enhancement of red robes, splashing blood and the bloody pallor of some fine rooms. Skin tones are exceedingly pale, but the almost-glowing veins beneath flesh that is almost translucent have more detail and vibrancy than before. The sudden appearance of a deadly blue-sky and the sun that dominates it is a massive change in the film's palette, but the disc copes well with it. Flames from torches and the two major infernos are extremely bright and colourful, burning their orange pallor into white-hot furnaces quite quickly. The intensity of the white-outs wasn't so immediate in the SD version, however, leading me to suspect that the contrast here has been jacked-up slightly.
Blacks, as you would imagine, are startlingly deep and ripe with mystery. You certainly can't complain about the immense weight of the shadows. This transfer is darker than the SD disc that I have to hand - a R1, but the blacks are deeper, fuller and retain more cinematic density. I can't see that any detail has been lost within them, either. Information found in the gardens around Louis' mansion, the swamp into which a body is lowered, the catacombs in Paris and the many varied rooms and parlours in which unwitting humans are slurped. Hair has instances of terrific detail in close-ups, but I don't think that this was all that consistent, although things like teeth, jewellery and object d'art reveal a more prevalent delineation.
I like the fact that the supernatural blur of vampire motion as Santiago skirts around Louis during their final confrontation is now clearer and more distinct and some of the wounds now seem more finitely composed with greater scrutiny of them now permitted. The great throat-slitting and skin-change sequence now benefits from better clarity and the faces that we see peeping through the flames during two classic CG enhanced incinerations now project more detail. The brickwork in the dungeon/well that two unfortunates end up inside offers slightly more definition and the subsequent “dust cloud” moment has a finer texture. Costumes reveal more texture too, but the upgrade in detail is not always so immediately apparent, for the image is still soft compared to most hi-def releases. One terrific upturn in the visual aspect of the film and, as a result, is the curtain-unveiling on the Theatre Des Vampires - suddenly the film opens out with light and colour in almost every quarter and a fair degree of depth is created. For the most part, Interview With The Vampire is not a transfer that is overly concerned with three-dimensionality, the gauzy, soft-filtered and diffuse appearance of it smoking-out such a quality. Though this is how the film is meant to be seen.
With its readily apparent and consistent grain, the film has not been subjected to any overt DNR. Edges are not worryingly enhanced and there appears to be no banding or smearing taking place. However, I did detect some occasional dragging affecting some fast motion, but this was slight and didn't affect my enjoyment of the movie at all, and was also apparent on the SD transfer too.
SoundPerhaps the biggest bone of contention with Warner's release on BD is that Interview comes with only a DD 5.1 audio track and no lossless option. Considering that the R1 SD disc had full-rate DTS, this does seem like some kind of weird backward step. I, along with many I suspect, am not too happy about this, especially as some have claimed that this edition was finalised before Warner had elected to utilise lossless in the main for their hi-def releases, meaning that we may yet see the film get another release with probably TrueHD in place somewhere down the line.
However, what must be remembered is that Interview With The Vampire is not that spectacular an example of sound design anyway. It never was embroidered with much surround detail, its ambience swept up in the music more than anything else and most of the action tending to flash across the frontal array. Dialogue is marvellously clear, however, and every intonation and playful twirl of Lestat's voice is given a clean presentation.
The relatively few examples of surround action worth mentioning would include the corpse burial in the swamp, which brings some quite loud chirruping, hooting and rustlings from the wildlife, and the terrific scene of Louis' revenge, which has barrels being hacked open, flames crackling, vampires leaping and screaming about the set-up and effects spicing things up. Other sporadic instances of discrete steerage occur, but this is not a mix that was ever meant to wow you with its wraparound dynamics. By far the best thing issuing from the speakers is Elliot Goldenthal's amazing score and here, for sure, the track comes alive. Deep bass, swooning strings and brass flurries have clarity, power and sheer weight of presence. Would the music have sounded better in a lossless track? Well, possibly, but who knows for certain? Individual instrumentation is cleanly delineated and some of those heart-lurching high moments of sustained emotion are exquisitely rendered so, at least for now, the track is a winner in this respect.
So, this is definitely an element that will cause debate, but, at the end of the day, I still enjoyed what the DD track delivered. Interview was always dominated by music and dialogue - and these two vital components still shine through.
ExtrasWarner's have brought over the extras that adorned the previous Special Edition, but added nothing new for the Blu.
We have Neil Jordan's erudite and informative commentary that covers the production in some detail. He talks about the themes, the stars and the effects - long makeup jobs and the desire to create CG effects that will blend-in seamlessly and not draw attention to themselves - and is brave enough to discuss the controversy surrounding Cruise's Lestat. Highly engaging and affable without ever being highbrow, Jordan's chat track is great stuff and very entertaining.
The brief introduction to the film from Jordan, Rice and Antonio Banderas is totally superfluous and lacking in impact or importance, so it is left to the 30-minute making-of, In The Shadow Of The Vampire, to delve behind the secrets of the movie. Sadly, although nice to look at, this really only skates quickly and superficially over the themes of the story and the plight of the characters. The crew and the stars perform strict EPK duties and the film is highly endorsed by everyone without a hint of its troubled inception, 17-year production hell (mentioned in a throwaway comment by Jordan) or the notorious creative differences that consternated Rice. We hear from the author/screenwriter, from Jordan, Pitt, Cruise, Banderas and an older Dunst, and also from Stan Winston, who all provide reasonably nice, but hardly challenging, interviews. The feature then closes with a section that looks at the mythology and cultural aspects of the vampire.
Finally, we have the film's theatrical trailer. Personally, I would have liked much more as the production was courageous, deeply crafted with passion and integrity and a true innovation within the genre.
VerdictWarner release Interview With The Vampire with a transfer that may disappoint some people with its lack of hi-def pizzazz, yet it is one that remains faithful to the movie and is a definite upgrade from its SD counterpart in terms of its visual presentation. The studio's decision not to include a lossless audio track will definitely prove off-putting to some potential purchasers, though. Personally, I doubt whether a lossless track would make much of a difference to a film that never really capitalised on its sound design to begin with, but I would have liked the option of have found out. Extras-wise, we have seen this stuff before and, apart from Neil Jordan's excellent commentary, they are pretty lacking. But it is the film, itself, that is the important thing and Interview is not only a wonderful adaptation of a much-loved book, but a groundbreaking achievement in the horror genre in its own right. It is powerful, intelligent and darkly seductive and its brooding intensity is difficult to shake off. For me, the film has grown in stature over the years and is a delightfully decadent slant on a well-worn theme.
Fans will see a visual improvement with this disc and that, for many, will be enough to sway them. The DD 5.1 doesn't make any errors and, as always, it is Elliot Goldenthal's superb score that benefits the most. Recommended.
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