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50 of 61 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It helps to read the novel first., 20 Mar. 2008
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This review is from: Bram Stoker's Dracula (Two-Disc Deluxe Edition) [DVD] [1992] (DVD)
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.
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