on 18 September 2014
I have recently been watching a lot of Dracula films and I must conclude that this is the best one, streets ahead of the old ones and even of good T.V. versions of the 1970s and 1980s.. It's also a film which follows Bram Stoker's version more closely than other Dracula films. It does make key changes and in fact, I would say that the romantic element concerning Dracula himself and his final redemption are arguably great improvements to the book. The effects are good too and crucially, the acting is good, nay excellent - gosh, how many potentially brilliant scripts are let down by flat acting.
Originally intended as a TV production by Michael Apted, who stayed on as executive producer, Coppola's film may be a long way from his best work but at least is a welcome throwback to the days when big pictures took risks. Most of these are in terms of style, but for once this does not mean the designer gloss of the mainstream blockbuster. This at least gives the punter something different.
Filmed entirely in a studio, there are some quite wonderful visuals. Bite marks become the eyes of a wolf, a peacock's 'eye' becomes a train tunnel, a train in the extreme background casts a shadow over a journal superimposed over the foreground while unseen eyes edge into frame on the blood red sky, all to the accompaniment of Wojciech Kilar's stridently foreboding score.
Stoker's novel is told in the form of various letters and journals and Coppola's interest in toys and turn of the century technology (not for nothing did he call his company American Zoetrope) finds expression in the various forms used by the main characters to record events - journal, typewriter, phonogram - and with the inclusion of an early Kinematograph (introduced by a street scene shot in the style of an early Lumiere camera at a jerky 18fps). Indeed, the whole film owes much to early cinema with its use of fades to iris and expressionistic touches. The castle is straight out of Cocteau with the odd nod to Caligari and Escher in its impossible gravity. The Count's shadow has a life of its own and betrays his true intentions. Revelling in it's sense of the purely cinematic, many of the effects seem to be designed not to create the illusion of reality but the illusion of illusion.
Venereal diseases, diseases of the blood and dark desires are all interwoven with rather more skill than usual for the tale. Yet despite some very sexual blood sucking and one of the most beautiful love themes of the past decade that harks back to the days when Hollywood composers came from Hungary it is less effective as a love story than the under-rated Frank Langella version. Nonetheless, those sexual fantasies on display perfectly reflect those of the period it is set in, a cross between the European brothel and dirty postcards of the turn of the century, while the film manages to touch on the fear of cultural contamination by foreigners implicit in the book.
Gary Oldman impresses as the Count in his various guises of medieval hero, embittered old man and mittle European romantic, a man who can throw a baby to his brides to feed on or turn tears to a diamond. There is something about Van Helsing that tends to bring out the worst in actors, and if Anthony Hopkins isn't as dizzyingly awful as Laurence Olivier he still veers sharply towards ham. Richard E. Grant (not Renfield, surprisingly enough) is comparatively restrained, although in his case that simply means barking rather than baying at the moon, while Tom Waits is surprisingly good as Renfield and Keanu Reeves' much mocked accent is quite acceptable, as is his performance as Harker (though quite how Winona Ryder's atrocious Anglish Arksunt got a free pass is beyond me).
Fascinating, occasionally frustrating and frequently very striking, Coppola may sometimes lose sight of the narrative with his stylistic thrust, but this doesn't disgrace itself when compared with Lugosi, Lee (1958 version) and Nosferatu.
While the single-disc edition doesn't offer as much in the way of extras as the 2-disc edition (which reportedly has regraded the colour in some scenes), it's not completely free of extras. As well as the trailer and a costume design gallery, a rather sanitized view of Coppola at work is offered in the accompanying documentary, Bloodlines, with none of the drug abuse, madness and rampant egotism so prevalent in Hearts of Darkness. Instead, it's a straightforward promotional short with a heavy emphasis on the pre-production rehearsals. We do get Gary Oldman singing Sinatra songs and otherwise behaving oddly at almost every opportunity and Anthony Hopkins does point out that he thinks rehearsal is pointless in films, but this is more interested in putting bums on seats than showing you what really happens on a movie set. Gore fans will be disappointed to note that the special effects side gets short shrift here, but it is well put-together.
This film really cast a spell on me when I saw it in the cinema back in the early nineties and I was always slightly disappointed with the vanilla edition DVD, because it always seemed that there was such a lot to say about a film which looks so good.
I know the Coppola take on Dracula was not to everyone's taste, but this great edition gives the full story, for those who want to know. Lovely packaging, presentation, great commentary from Mr C himself. By far though, it's the 3 or 4 documentaries which make this release. Why? Because they illustrate brilliantly the single-minded process which went into creating the film.
I was stunned to learn that Coppola insisted on all old-style effects, so that everything done in actually done ON SCREEN i.e. no CGI. Usually documantaries are a bit take-it-or-leave-it but here it's totally fascinating: how they created Dracula's separate shadow, the long arm of the coachman, even little illusions which go by almost un-noticed in the film.
Also, a seperate doc on the costumes and again, you really appreciate how important that was (Coppola:"the costumes ARE the set for this film")
The most incredible thing for me was learning that the WHOLE FILM was shot on a soundstage - that almost defies belief. As Coppola says at one point - it's the restrictions which lead to inventiveness.
The only let down was the lack of really up to date interviews with the actors, but in a sense this is Coppola's show, and with this disc he opens up his bag of tricks and gives us a quick but fascinating glimpse inside.
Buy without worry. By far, the most interesting take on the book in the last fifteen years now has a worthy DVD to match.
on 30 October 2007
The Movie: Very little needs to be written about the plot and production values of this 15 year old film. Chances are you've seen it at least once, if not then I would suggest looking further afield for detailed reviews, a few critics have been snippy about small details or overblown minor flaws. This is to be expected regarding a film of such high caliber, there really isn't anything substantial to berate. The movie is one of the all time greats of the 1990's, great plot (faithful to the book) which has been enhanced by F.F. Coppola's production to make the transition from book to film flawless. Rarely dull with real emotion and exciting action and horror sequences.
The Blu-ray Presentation: First of all, the major concern is that this film is advertised as being 2.40:1 aspect ratio - it isn't - it's the same as the original DVD release which is 16:9. Neither is the sound format made entirely clear, the packaging states simply '5.1' but doesn't say weather it's Dolby Digital or DTS. It isn't until you play the film that it becomes clear that it's DD. The picture clarity is excellent - and that's only on a 1080i TV - I'm sure it would be even better with a 1080p capable TV. It's amazing to think that this movie was made before High Definition was an option. The make-up and set design is absolutely flawless - really, quite stunning. Of interesting note, Gary Oldman's make-up is actually much more convincing whist he's portraying the old and decrepit Dracula; His make-up whilst in his 'young' mid 30's guise is actually less believable, but not so much as to be distracting. Winona Ryder's make-up is barely visible as is that of Keanu Reeves. The sets look realistic, solid and vivid, showing up extremely well in HD. The costumes are also flawless and vivid, with great detail visible throughout. This is a subtle movie and is well underplayed. The same can be said of the details that stand out due to the HD presentation. The viewer notices small details such as the beauty of props, sets and costumes that really stand out among the darkness of the overall film. The character of Lucy now stands out as a vivid bold character due to costume, hair and make-up whereas in the SD DVD version of the movie the character is too strong compared to the muted image portrayed, instead coming across as somewhat tarty an scandalous - the bold contrast, colours and clarity now give the character's image a very strong look which matches the personality of the character. The lower price than many Blu-ray movies is also attractive. This release offers a lot, the sound, despite not being DTS is vivid and busy with a lot of attention paid to channel separation and positioning.
Special features: These are numerous, of special note is the collection of deleted scenes, while presented in a rather muddy SD format, they are none-the-less engaging and interesting. There's a whole lot more besides, including several documentaries, trailers and commentaries. You really get the impression that a lot of care and attention has been invested in this movie, from its initial production in 1992 to its late 90's DVD presentation and on to its High Definition Special Edition release. Obviously not the very best Blu-ray release available but certainly apt and well realized treatment for a brilliant movie.
on 13 March 2015
gorgeous production design; amazing performance from Gary Oldman; fantastic musical score; great support from the likes of Winona Ryder and Sadie Frost and Richard E Grant and Cary Elwes; the best screen Renfield EVER as performed by Tom Waits; and beautiful cinematography, all add up to make a fantastic film (that even manages to overcome Keanu Reeves wooden performance, absurd delivery and ridiculous accent!) Not perfect - but when it's good, it's incredible!
on 21 January 2016
Francis Ford Coppelas vision of Dracula is enchanting. Although flawed it is beautifully filmed, imaginative and one of a few vampire films that gets it right. If there is ever more consistent proof that CGI will never rival classic production techniques that give a human touch, it is this film especially with a story that is set during the age that gave birth to advancements in science and technology. Quite apt imo.
Gary Oldman and Anthony Hopkins steal the show with effortless charisma, as much as the supporting cast of Richard E Grant and Winona Rider. Tom Waits appearance in the film is a special treat. Although Keane Reeves maintains a sketchy english accent throughout I feel it is perhaps not bad enough to spoil the film completely. For me it isn't an embarrassing performance compared to films such as Far and Away.
The soundtrack by Wojciech Kilar is another treat in this film, beautifully written and flanks every step of the picture with a lurking prowess that is spellbinding, especially the love scenes. It is perhaps the strongest aspect of the film, making it a die hard for hopeless romantics and none to shabby for those with a disdain for soppy lovefilms. This makes the Dracula charater what it always has been to me, a tragic love story and not an offspring of devil worshipping bloodsuckers.
That leaves the visual qualities of the movie and the ever lurking presence of Gary Oldman's Dracula, one that can be felt off screen to really seal the film as a spectacle, one that was much talked about when it was released.
After putting it like that Ill give it a five over a four.
on 10 February 2010
having always been into vampire stuff, i saw this in asda and since only had the film on vhs and picked it up. but have only realised it is a 2 disc edition. so along with the great film there is also a dvd with lots of stuff: 4 documentaries about the making of the film which gives away a lot and lots of deleted scenes. i would recommend getting this one. the film is a different approach to the dracula story where dracula is a more romantic character and is very dark and sensual in its look
on 20 March 2008
I have been a fan of this film for many years. It first prompted me to buy the accompanying book back in 1992. This book was actually the novel as Bram Stoker wrote it. Be careful; I notice Amazon are now selling an accompanying book with a very similar cover to mine but it is about the film rather than the novel.
Once I started collecting DVD's, the standard version, which Amazon also offers, became one of the first to be added. I have recently upgraded to the 2 disc deluxe version.
Comparing the 2 versions, the film is actually the same length on both, no additions or deletions. The deluxe version houses a brand new HD transfer of the original 1992 film. The picture quality seemed much the same on both versions on my HD TV screen. However, I felt the voice dialogue was slightly clearer on the deluxe version.
Well everybody knows Dracula or at least thinks they do. In reality most film portrayals emphasize the gory bloodlust horror aspects of the character, excluding everything else. These stereo-types probably do for Dracula what "Jaws" did for the white shark. Bram Stoker intended his novel to be a Gothic Romance. Although Francis Coppola does not stick faithfully to the novel, his film is probably the closest so far.
Coppola's Dracula, superbly portrayed by Gary Oldman, is definitely not human but at times displays some distinctly human qualities. He hopes and dreams, he laughs and cries. He can be afraid. Also, he is cultured and above all, he can love.
The ruthlessly single-minded monster is still present; he deals with Jonathan, Lucy, Renfield and anybody else who gets in the way with the usual expected cold-bloodedness. However, when it comes to Mina, the possible reincarnation of his late wife, Dracula actually needs some persuading to grant her eternal life. He loves Mina too much to condemn her to a soulless existence and it is not until she willingly participates that he relents. A Dracula that can show compassion is something very different. This is what Coppola intended to add to the story.
Furthermore, we are introduced to Vlad the Impaler, a Romanian prince who is said to be the real life Dracula. The film does take liberties with history; it is thought that Vlad's wife, whose name is unknown, threw herself to her death to evade capture by the advancing Turks, rather than because she thought her prince was dead. The storyline followed by the film, which I believe again to be Coppola's mark gives Dracula a motive. He is not being evil for the sake of it and this somehow helps to soften the character even further.
Clearly at the beginning of the film Dracula is shown to be victorious in battle, but curiously when Van Helsing later confronts him in Seward's quarters he taunts him that his armies were defeated! It is known that Vlad fought the Turks more than once and spent some time in captivity. It is possible that he was brutally murdered. Is this an error in the script that was not spotted during final editing or a hint at the real history of the man?
Usually a Dracula film is a straightforward fight between the Count and Van Helsing. Here all the characters are portrayed much as Bram Stoker intended. The Count is killed in this version by a combination of Jonathan and Mina and their lesser known companions rather than by Van Helsing himself.
The film has been criticised for bad English accents particularly those of Winona Ryder and Keanu Reeves. I think fairly good editing has limited the problem. However, when Jonathan is telling Van Helsing about Carfax abbey, I couldn't help thinking "The rain in Spain falls mainly in the plain"!
If you take advantage of the extras in the deluxe version the unseen deleted scenes are of great interest. Some lengthy dialogues which would have made the film follow the novel more closely but would have caused problems, have been cut and the overall film is better for it.
It is really if you are interested in the extras that you would buy the deluxe version. The production interviews are more comprehensive than before. It is amazing to think that the special effects were not computer generated. The time and trouble taken with the photography and the stunning costumes made for a huge budget and probably mean that this film too is the last of its kind.
on 17 July 2014
One of my all time favorite films. Nice packaging. Arrived very fast via Prime service.
The film looks great on Blu Ray, not excellent but a good improvement on the DVD. Nice extras including a documentary about the making of the film. If you don't already have the DVD I think it's worth spending a few extra pounds. If you do have the DVD then it's personal choice.
be you vampire who yearns for a lost love or spectator who loved the movie 20 years ago and now finds it a bit comic. Indubitably it is a most romantic take on Stoker's antihero, due in no small part to the excellent score from Wojciech Kilar, as well as Gary Oldman's uniquely passionate and emotional Dracula. I'd say the others are selectively inspired by Oldman's assumption of the role, Keanu and Winona making the best of things, Hopkins going over the top. I s'pose a story about people biting each other is bound to have its comic side. Coppola's script could have used some tweaking but he does give the cinematography the blurred edges of dream and fireside fable. The outcome is more erotic than scary, with a hint of Lloyd Webber about it. Hammer did the predatory Dracula better and the colder reality of the story's locations is better realised by the BBC's version with Louis Jordan.
A must see for Oldman's Dracula. Or Drac. Or D.