Bram Stoker's Dracula Blu-ray Review

by Casimir Harlow
Movies & TV Review

2

Bram Stoker's Dracula Blu-ray Review
SRP: £17.99

Picture

Francis Ford Coppola's Bram Stoker's Dracula comes presented with a solid 1080p High Definition video rendition in the movie's original Theatrical aspect ratio of Widescreen 1.85:1. The movie is some fifteen years' old and certainly looks far better than it ever has done before, particularly on that original Standard-Def DVD released some eight years ago. The detail is very good throughout, keeping grain to a bare minimum, with some softness and a little edge enhancement, but nothing that particularly detracts from your enjoyment of the nightmarish fairytale romance. The colour scheme is rich and brimming with deep crimson reds and a multitude of browns and other faded colours suitable to depict the Centuries-old setting. Some of the darker moments suffer a tiny bit, but for the most part blacks are rendered in a solid and deep, and make for decent shadowing and good night sequences. Overall this classically vibrant and luscious Dracula interpretation has been given a good cleaning-up, perhaps not up to the standards of the best of the remastered High Definition video presentations out there, but certainly considerably better than any alternatives.
Bram Stoker

Sound

To accompany the movie we get two solid soundtracks, although one is clearly the superior. Whilst the standard Dolby Digital 5.1 mix pushes all the right buttons, the Uncompressed PCM 5.1 audio really hits the spot, being stronger and more potent in almost every aspect. Dialogue, from the conversations, to Anthony Hopkins' narration, to the screams and shrieks that are prevalent, all gets presented clearly and distinctly, largely coming from across the fronts and centre channels. The effects - the crashes, the slashes, the occasional musket shot and crack of thunder, it all gives the surrounds something to do, although it is only the most intense of the sequences (like the sea storms) that really become atmospherically all-encompassing. The rest of that responsibility falls upon the powerful, orchestral scoring, which, often featuring chanting, is perfectly evocative of the settings and themes within the tale. Often thundering into action, it provides plenty of surround support during the more significant scenes, and rounds off this soundtrack well. Perhaps this isn't a hugely powerful track to gleam Uncompressed presentation, but it is a decent enough soundtrack presented in the best possible fashion and, remembering that, fans should not be too disappointed.
Bram Stoker

Extras

Although we neither get any High Definition-exclusive material, nor anything that fully utilises the capabilities of Blu-ray (i.e. no BD-Java-utilising Interactivity etc.) we do get all of the Extras that adorn the recent Deluxe DVD edition, ported over onto this release. First up there is a full-length Audio Commentary by the Director Francis Ford Coppola, who by himself manages to provide one of the most interesting, comprehensive Commentaries that I have ever come across. We get a great deal of historical detail, with Coppola explaining how it was all abbreviated in the movie. He talks about how he had known a lot of the history of the book before being offered the chance to make the movie (by Winona Ryder, who had previously inconvenienced him on Godfather III by dropping out at the last minute, leaving him to employ his niece, the talented Director but uninspired Actress Sofia 'The Virgin Suicides' Coppola in her stead). Coppola explains his intentions behind the filming style used, how he wanted to shun most modern effects techniques in favour of more old-fashioned concepts, often as a nod to the skills employed by Nosferatu's Director, Murnau. Coppola discusses wanting to follow the book closely, and yet also focussing on the integral love story, making it as much a tragedy as a horror. We also get a rather strange comparison between Vampires and the Mafia, as Coppola highlights how if you don't let them into your lives, you won't be affected by them. I'm not sure whether that statement quite rings true, but still it is a minor niggle in what is a thoroughly enthralling extra, which fans will want to lap up.

Next we get twelve Deleted Scenes, totalling an extra 28 minutes. They are not fantastic quality but fans of the movie (and of Coppola's work in general) will get a kick out of seeing all this extra footage. There's quite a powerful Extended Prologue, with buckets more blood. But there are several annoying Murder She Wrote-esque scenes (with Winona Ryder narrating whilst typing a letter) and twee scenes between the ludicrously posh Keanu Reeves and Winona impersonating Keira Knightley. The silly extended party scene more extensively highlights Lucy's fondness for the attention of multiple suitors and could easily be skipped, but the extra Dracula scenes, where he first welcomes Reeves into the castle, as well as the exploration of the castle, are suitably atmospheric and worth checking out. And who's gonna' complain about a bit more Monica Bellucci, naked as one of the brides of Dracula? Harker trying to escape the Castle gets extended quite a bit as well, although the Dracula on the boat scenes are a little odd. Finally there's a gruesome pseudo-interrogation scene that gives us a fraction more Anthony Hopkins, as well as an insignificantly Extended Ending. Overall it would have been truly tremendous to have some of the more valuable sequences here reinstated into the Main Feature, but still it is great to have them on offer here, finally, for fans to check them out. It should be noted that at the end of the Deleted Scenes list, if you press 'down' on your control, you will highlight a single coin that, if selected, allows you to see a brief Outtake featuring Gary Oldman in costume.

There are several meaty Documentaries to accompany this re-release of Dracula. First up there is The Blood is the Life - The Making of Dracula, a comprehensive half-hour Documentary about this production, which contains a huge amount of b-roll footage, footage of the scenes being filmed, the Director and Cast on set to give interview snippets and even some of the rehearsals being shot. It's a superb addition, often visualising some of the things the Director verbally discussed in his Commentary, with discussions by the relevant cast and crew on their specific characters, the motivations, the themes of love and lust in the narrative and the methods by which they wanted to make this production both different to the previous interpretations and something of an homage to them. This is well worth your time, the highlight being that you get to see great actors like Gary Oldman and Anthony Hopkins really putting their all into filming the scenes (compare them to the interviews with Keanu Reeves, who appears to be still in his 'surfer dude' phase, even off-set), as well as the master filmmaker Coppola working his magic.

The Costumes are the Sets - The Design of Eiko Ishioka is a Featurette which spends a quarter of an hour looking at the way in which the Designed Ishioka brought her visions to the production, using elaborate costumes (often Geisha-related) to bring the movie to life. I'm still not entirely sure what Coppola means by 'the costumes are the sets', it's the same phrase he says in the Commentary and whilst I do understand that they are clearly so unusual that they can be more important than the sets, it is also clear that there were sets involved! Still, this is a nice extra, with focus particularly on Gary Oldman's outfits, and even some footage of him being dressed-up and talking about the experience.

In-Camera - The Naive Visual Effects of Dracula is a Featurette that takes the best part of twenty minutes to explore the fairly old-fashioned effects that were used to bring the visual sequences to life. The intention behind the whole production was clearly to pay tribute to classics like Nosferatu, so rather than use more glossy visual effects, the techniques used were all old-school, and here we have Coppola's son on hand to guide us through the various processes.

Method and Madness - Visualizing Dracula is twelve minutes long and has Coppola on set taking us through his storyboards, the pieces of art he used to give him ideas for the movie, and the intentions he had in bringing this imagery to the Big Screen. We get plenty of still shots, with contributions from some of the storyboard artists and designers that were on board. Done in the same style as the other Featurettes, it's another worthy addition that has very little fluff and plenty of meat. They are all worth checking out and, as a whole, mark a prime example of how to do a decent set of Documentary extras. Finally, to round off the disc, we get the Theatrical and Teaser Trailers (the latter being the one that was banned for being too 'intense').
Bram Stoker
Francis Ford Coppola's interpretation of Bram Stoker's classic Dracula story is something of a cult classic in itself, a visionary work flawed by as many odd performances as it has outstanding ones. In my opinion, it is one of the best Dracula movies out there and it has finally been given some decent treatment on the new High Definition formats, with a Blu-ray release that has a significantly improved video presentation and a solid audio track, as well as a wealth of extras that are sure to have fans watering at the mouth. Those who are fond of it will have probably already bought the Stateside version, but if you haven't then this one's a no-brainer purchase. Newcomers should take heed that it is not perfect, but that they are likely to nevertheless find plenty to love about it. Recommended.

Scores

Movie

.
.
8

Picture Quality

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.
8

Sound Quality

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.
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7

Extras

.
.
8

Overall

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.
8
8
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

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