Bram Stoker’s Dracula (Sony, Blu-ray)

Director - Francis Ford Coppola

Cast - Keanu Reeves, Gary Oldman

Country of Origin - U.S.

Discs - 1

Distributor - Sony

Reviewer - Scott MacDonald

Date - 10/12/15

The Film (3.5/5)

     Bram Stoker's Dracula stars Keanu Reeves as Jonathan Harker a London Estate agent who is sent to Transylvania to assist in the sale of a piece of London property, Carfax Abbey to Count Dracula. Harker is the second person to attempt this journey, the first Renfield, returned without his sanity, and now spends his days in an insane asylum. Upon arriving, it becomes almost immediately apparent that things in Castle Dracula are not what they seem. When Dracula spies an image of Harker's betrothed, Mina. He imprisons Harker in the castle with his vampire brides, and hastens his London move. 400 years earlier, the one love of Dracula's life, Elisabeta had killed herself when the Count did not return from battle, and was presumed dead. When he did return and was told her suicide would damn her to Hell, he denied his faith, and swore revenge. Mina is the precise image of Elisabeta, and his centuries long burning will stop at nothing to have her.  In the process he turns Mina's best friend Lucy into a member of the undead. In response the 3 men vying for Lucy's hand Quincey Morris, Dr. Seward, and Arthur Holmwood hire Abraham Van Helsing (Anthony Hopkins) to help them destroy Dracula.

   In one of the interviews contained on this Blu-ray edition of Bram Stoker's Dracula, Coppola mentions that when he adapts a book to film he prefers to put the authors name above the title. As an example he gave his all-time cinema classic the Godfather, which he referred to as "Mario Puzo's The Godfather". Bram Stoker's Dracula at the time that Coppla directed his 1992 version of the film from a screenplay by James V. Hart was purported to be the definitive version of Stoker's vampire classic. This would be the film to finally do right by the book. As per usual, it did not.

   Coppola could have very well pulled a John Carpenter on the title, and called it Francis Fordd Coppola's Dracula, for while his version does edge closer to the book more so than any version before or since. It is only through such elements as the diary framing device, and the incorporation of segments from the book, never previously adapted. Rather, Coppola took Stoker's Dracula, some light historical elements from the life of Vlad the Impaler to add some more background to the characters giving the illusion of drama and depth, and cast him into a more romanticized version of the tale.That is not to say the film is bad, far from.  The film is actually a top tier Dracula story, and a excellent gothic romance. Coppola’s Dracula is just not as accurate to the story as Coppola would have led the viewer to believe.

     While Coppola’s Dracula is certainly a horror film with the incorporation of vampires, and other fantastic elements, the film is more moody than scary, and has a fantastic atmosphere. One thing I did notice on this viewing that I failed to notice on prior views of the film is the sense of campy fun that Coppla brings to the picture. There are moments like Tom Wait's Renfield being slammed multiple times by Dracula into the bars of his cell, or the total of Anthony Hopkins performance that could not have been played for anything but laughs.

     Bram Stoker's Dracula is probably the most visually stunning of Dracula films. The special effects were all done without the assistance of CGI (this was in that formats infancy), but the effects used were done mostly in-camera with a collaboration between second unit director Roman Coppola and cinematographer Michael Ballhaus who would try and channel the techniques used by the masters of silent cinema, to bring the visuals closer to the style of when the film was set.

   The casting for the film is largely excellent large roles to small with Oldman playing a truly dynamic version of Dracula whose performance hinders on the age of Dracula. Anthony Hopkins plays Van Helsing with a sense of drama, and quite a bit of high camp, and is a delight every time he is on screen. Winona Ryder offers a solid turn as Mina offering a wonderful dramatic turn. The weak link is obviously Keanu Reeves, who has grown as an actor since this time, but his performance here still feels awkward. The rest of the cast populated by film greats like Cary Elwes (The Princess Bride) and Richard E. Grant (Withnail and I) bring excellent performances and chemistry to the piece.

 

Audio/Video (4.5/5)

     OK, so I'm going to preface this....carefully. I have watched this movie 3 times in my life. I was never a real fan of this one. I do not know the film inside and out. I saw it on VHS in the 90's, on DVD around 2007, and on Blu-ray now. The Blu-ray on my screen looks AMAZING. It has gorgeous colors, deep inky blacks, excellent detail all around, facial detail, background detail, foreground detail, all very solid. There is a healthy grain structure at play.  However, there are some apparently framing issues that longtime fans are sure to notice.  I get it, if some viewers are going to take a pass on this disc because of that, but understand that the new transfer is an absolute gorgeous sight, and is very probably the best this film has and will look in this home video generation. The film is presented in a 1:85:1 1080p MPEG-4 encoded transfer.

     The Blu-ray presents the audio with a Dolby TrueHD 7.1 track in English. The track is excellent all around with dialogue, score, and the films ambient effects coming through nicely with solid utilization all around. I did not detect any issues with pops, cracks, or hissing on the track.

 

Extras (5/5)

     The new Supreme Cinema Series Blu-ray of Bram Stoker's Dracula comes packed with extras. The disc has an introduction to the film by Coppola. Sony has also provided 2 commentary tracks one from the old Criterion LD, and one newly recorded with Coppola and crew. There are a slew of featurettes on the making of the film, deleted and extended scenes, and trailers.

 

Overall

   Bram Stoker's Dracula has never been a favorite, but this time around I've come to enjoy it.  The film creates a nice moody atmosphere, and is a visually stunning experience. The Blu-ray does have a slight framing issue, but aside from that the new transfer is stunning. The disc is loaded with extras new and old. The framing thing isn't a deal breaker for me, but for some viewers it will be. If it's not for you HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, all else RECOMMENDED.