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 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.
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 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 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!
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.
I had not planned to write a review on Bram Stoker's Dracula because I thought that it's quality spoke for itself. However, having read some of the previous reviews I have to make a statement or two! For the benefit of whoever asks 'why call it Bram Stoker's Dracula'... this is not Coppola's claim to absolute unabridgement of the text, but is a copyright issue. You must have permission to use a copyrighted charcater name such as Dracula, so thats that.
Now, I have read some negative reviews that suggest the acting, directing and general authorial nature of Dracula is poor. This is not the case; the acting is not oscar-winning material (except for Oldman who is beyond fantastic) but is well suited to the overall framework of this version of Dracula. In an earlier edition of this DVD a documentary was included about the making of the film and showed that many of the scenes and much of the dialogue was changed to suit what the actors wanted to say and do, which actually works well if you analyse the characters properly.
The effects and atmosphere of this film are not comparable to other versions of Dracula because Coppola's film has a strong element of emotion and psychology that overwrites the stereotypical neck biting, but as an individual film made in 1992 this movie is a great looker. There are some wonderfully atmospheric sequences, an exemplary richness of contrasting colours and fantastic costumes that won the film a deserved Oscar. THE 1 lost star is due to the absence of special features, which were ok on the last edition.
In simple terms, those die-hard fans of Bram Stoker that want every film to conform to every detail of his novel will consider this film a travesty and an injustice, but for the rest of us that recognise the essential differences between the printed and visual arts Bram Stoker's Dracula is an absolute gem of a film in many ways and deserves no less than to be bought, enjoyed and admired for a long time to come.
on 30 April 2016
NO CAPES AND TOP HATS IN THIS MOVIE. THIS VERSION TELLS THE STORY OF HOW DRACULA CAME FROM VLAD THE IMPALER WHO DENOUNCED GOD AND THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH AND BECAME THE VAMPIRE WE ALL KNOW. THE ACTING IS GOOD AS IS EVERYTHING ABOUT THE MOVIE.
GARY OLDMAN MUST BE THE BEST DRACULA EVER AND MATCHES THE LATE GREAT SIR CHRISTOPHER LEE.
PLENTY OF EXTRAS AND LPCM 5.1 UNCOMPRESSED AUDIO.
on 6 June 2015
Bram Stoker's Dracula. R2 18cert, two disc DVD. Collector's edition. 1992.
The picture quality's great 1.85:1 no black bars. Sumptuous production
design & an English accent butchered by Reeves. The bug eating
lunatic asylum parts are excellent, caged heads and grime.
I like this flick quite a lot, greatest vampire film?...Near Dark.
Apparently our U.K print is uncut & the U.S R1 version is cut,
about time we had a bit of luck.
Extras: commentary while disc 2 has four documentaries & more.
Not watched extras. Run time: 2hr 2min.
on 19 January 2010
Over the years there have been many attempts at doing justice to Bram Stoker's magnificent book as a motion picture and despite some gems here and there, none have even come close to faithfully depicting the story. The other problem is that while so many of them had their moments they also had their weaknesses.
So it was that Francis Ford Coppola was given all he should need to create the ultimate Dracula movie - sophisticated filming techniques, a large crew and the budget to deploy them properly. He was also given an all star cast and a remit to make Bram Stoker's Dracula. Curiously, this is what makes this film perhaps the most disappointing of all of the noteworthy Dracula films.
Looking back over the years you have to look at Nosferatu which caught many of the themes of the book. But that was from the silent era when most films were barely an hour long and as such the film remains a gem from the past with the budget and technological restraints of the day holding it back. Tod Browning's 1931 classic with Bela Lugosi contained a brilliant lead performance but as an early talkie it lacked finesse and was also held back by a low budget and a more restrained form of story telling. Other versions with Christopher Lee followed which either had too much studio pressure or too little money with the best intentions and so missed the target. Despite all of this, those films all had an excuse for their failings that this version does not.
Having recently re-read the full, original book for the second time, I am reminded just how far off the mark Francis Ford Coppola's Dracula was. The book is terrifying with passages that have you hooked and spellbound. It's only failings are that it simply goes on too long in passages with rather too much detail. Naturally a film will always take some dramatic license and outright alterations for cinematic effect. But this film makes far too many in the wrong places. It would be pointless to just list all the places where the film differs from the book but it is sensible to examine the ones which have let this film down.
First of all, let us give credit where credit is due: Coppola's directing is faultless and captures so much of the atmosphere of Transylvania and many other locations and his cutting between the shot of Jonathan and Mina's wedding with Lucy's demise brings back memories of a similar trick used in the Godfather (high praise indeed).
The beginning scene is not taken from the book, where Dracula's origins are never properly explained. The idea of Dracula being a noble warrior of Christianity and renouncing God in blood for punishing him when he has served the cross is actually brilliant. At this point, the film is outpointing the book. The story continues with Harker's journey into Transylvania with dialogue lifted straight from the book in places. Although the book draws out the unnerving and impending terror better, the film is holding its own here with some spectacular visuals.
As Harker arrives at Castle Dracula we finally meet the Count and again, the film is shaping up very well indeed. Gary Oldman's portrayal is at this point actually more faithful to the book than Bela Lugosi's legendary performance and every bit as good. It is at this point that the book takes the lead as the film spends far too little time dwelling on just how dastardly, cunning and calculating the Count really is. An extra half hour exploring this point would have been necessary but given the restraints of film, this can be forgiven as can the overtly sexual nature of the film which panders to a modern audience in a way the book did to its Victorian readership. That is until the classic scene from the book where Harker finds Dracula asleep in his coffin and attacks him with a shovel which gets a mere few seconds and is so brief as to be irrelevant and not at all scary.
Nonetheless, the film seems to be going strong, even sticking largely to the narrative being told through journals and letters. However, as the Count makes his way to England, the film seems to leave all its hopes of going down as the definitive Dracula in Transylvania as the film disappears into mush.
The film's producers decided to add some convoluted love story to the film, where not only is Dracula stricken by grief but somehow, Mina Westenra/Harker is the reincarnation of his wife from 500 years ago and Dracula wishes to love her again. This is of course NOT in the book and for good reason - it's a very stupid idea! Dracula is and should be, a repulsive individual. He is a 500 year old demon from Hell, walking on Earth as the King of the Un-dead. He is meticulous and selfish, concerned only for himself and the survival of his diabolical kind. He is NOT a lover or sentimental in any way whatsoever. Not only is the idea stupid, it is a break from the narrative in the film. We are, as viewers, supposed to believe that Dracula can go from this Hellish fiend who serves babies au bag for dinner to his vampiresses and yet is led by a broken heart? Sorry, I'm not buying that one for a second.
After this, the film carries on rather aimlessly for a while, despite a wonderful performance from Van Helsing by Anthony Hopkins and (at last) a Dracula film that does not perpetuate the myth that vampires are killed by the sunlight.
Many scenes which follow are indeed fine when not interrupted by the idiotic love story, especially the 'killing' of Lucy which is much shorter than in the book (where various visits are made over the course of four days) which works to its advantage. The final race to the end is also filled with brilliant moments, including the truly horrifying scene where the three vampire brides kill Van Helsing and Mina's horse in shadow a la Max Schreck walking up the stairs in Nosferatu (passed over too quickly in the book). The actual climax is also superb and very much in keeping with the book until....the love bug strikes again. One can forgive the way in which Mina is 'vamped up' so to speak as it makes for just as good a story as in the book (if quite different), but when Dracula has been stabbed through the heart and had his throat cut, rather than his body crumbling into dust after a sudden look of peace coming over his face in the breathtaking scene from the book we are subjected to a trite scene where Mina kisses this vile beast who she now loves. We are left choking on syrup rather than blood.
It is quite sad that this dreadful love story was added to the film as in so many other ways, it came very close. It is true that characters such as Arthur's father and Lucy's mother are omitted altogether, but while those characters enhance the book, it can be said that they would not have enhanced the film. The film was also very sexual, too much so in my book, especially with Lucy who comes across more as a bit of a slapper than a pure and innocent girl. Renfield is also once again told to have been under Dracula's spell all along rather than a madman manipulated by the count, and for this and many other reasons, Dwight Frye's legacy remains untouched. But these are minor points, relatively speaking which could be forgotten where the film perfect in other ways which sadly, thanks to the love-story, it is not.
If I had a time machine, one of the first things I would want to do is go back to the early 1990s and shake Coppola up and down and hold him at gunpoint until he agreed to remove the indescribably awful love story from this film which ruined what could have been the greatest of all Dracula films which I still believe to be Nosferatu. Of the many attempts at putting on screen what Stoker put so well into more than 400 pages, all have fallen short. Unlike all of the others though, this film, had no excuse.