146 of 163 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "We are all madmen for God"
When I first saw this film I was completely carried away with Francis Ford Coppola's dark and brooding presentation of the novel that created the modern vampire. The visual composition, the use of color as theme, and the music overloaded my senses to the point that I barely noted the movement of the plot. After all, I had read Stoker's tale often enough to recite it...
Published on November 23, 2002 by Marc Ruby™
35 of 46 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not Stoker's Dracula
Terming this film version of Dracula as "Bram Stoker's" is patently ridiculous. The love story that is one of the main plots of this film is not in the novel and simply does not work. Instead of a dreaded monster of great power we are given a lover who will not die. One of the elements of the novel that make it work so well is that the forces of good - Jonathan and...
Published on March 12, 2002 by David A. Wend
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146 of 163 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "We are all madmen for God",
When I first saw this film I was completely carried away with Francis Ford Coppola's dark and brooding presentation of the novel that created the modern vampire. The visual composition, the use of color as theme, and the music overloaded my senses to the point that I barely noted the movement of the plot. After all, I had read Stoker's tale often enough to recite it word for word. Why pay too much attention? Going back over the film 10 years later revealed much that I missed the first time.
Of course, the film really tries to capture the feeling of the book rather than be a literal copy, which may bother some aficionados. Coppola has chosen to gradually shift emphasis from a horror tale to the tragic story of an impossible love, without ever losing either thread. By shifting Dracula (Gary Oldman) back and forth from Rumanian hero to terrible monster, and allowing each persona to have its emotional context, he forces a foreboding dilemma on the viewer. Dialog and narration is sparse, just enough rather than florid. Again, nothing is allowed to distract from the building tension.
What completely escaped me on the first viewing was Coppola's vision of a creeping corruption that infects almost all of the characters. British social mores fare little better than those of the vampires. Jack Seward (Richard Grant) is a morphine addict and Lucy Westenra's (Sadie Frost) sexual intensity proves her Achilles heel. Even Van Helsing (Anthony Hopkins) is subject to eerie, almost degenerate moments. This is a less pure, more disturbing world than that of Bram Stoker's imaginings.
Coppola keeps the film working on many levels - foreboding horror, grand romance, sharp social commentary, and transcendental morality play. If love redeems, it only does so at a terrible price. Well worth viewing - several times.
185 of 212 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Actually, I come down on this as James V. Hart's "Dracula",
"Bram Stoker's Dracula" or, more properly, "Francis Ford Coppola's Dracula"? The assumption was that the title was chosen to stake a claim to being the film adaptation closest to Bram Stoker's original gothic novel, but the reason was more mundane. Another studio had the rights to the title "Dracula," so a qualification was necessary. Since this 1992 horror film would have the same characters along with the same general plotline as the novel, this seemed reasonable enough. But screenwriter James V. Hart added a significant element to Stoker's novel that justified the movie's potent tagline, "Love Never Dies." As director, Francis Ford Coppola provides the stylistic flourishes, which are this movie's best parts, but Hart is the one who is responsible for the derivations.
In the novel Count Dracula only makes vague reference to the historical Vlad the Impaler, son of the prince known as Dracul (the Dragon), hence the name Dracula (son of the Dragon), when he tells his guest Jonathan Harker of the history of his family. Hart takes advantage of what we know about the historical figure to craft the film's prologue. Vlad (Gary Oldman) is fighting the Turkish invaders, not simply as a prince of Wallachia, but rather as more of a true Christian knight. He succeeds, but the exaggerated rumor of his death reaches his beloved Elisabeta (Winona Ryder), who throws herself to her death from the castle walls. As a suicide she cannot be buried on consecrated ground, and an outraged Vlad renounces God and is somehow transmorgraphies into a vampire as a result of his blasphemy. Then we get to the beginning of the novel.
Harker (Keanu Reeves) is traveling to Transylvania to Dracula's castle to complete a series of real estate transactions that will allow the Count to come to London and live in style. Something not very nice happened to the previous member of Harker's firm to make this trip (can you say Renfield?), but the old Count only seems eccentric. However, when he sees a picture of Harker's fiancée, Mina Harker (Ryder), the Count knows that she is the reincarnation of his beloved Elisabeta. Now Dracula has reason to not only travel to London, but to make himself young again so that he can woo his woman.
Once we move from Transylvania to London, we meet the rest of our cast of characters. Mina's best friend, Lucy Westenra (Sadie Frost), is being courted by Dr. Jack Seward (Richard E. Grant), who runs his own little asylum, Lord Arthur Holmwood (Cary Elwes), a handsome nobleman, and Quincey P. Morris (Bill Campbell), who hails from the American West. However, before Lucy can choose from amongst her beaus, she becomes the new bride of Dracula instead. Fortunately, Professor Abraham Van Helsing (Anthony Hopkins) knows more about medicine than what is found in science books and knows what is to be done in this situation. Meanwhile, Count Dracula manages to run into Miss Mina, and the seduction is on.
The production design on this film is fantastic. When it first came out on DVD I would use it as a prime example of what could be down with sets and decor: Thomas E. Sanders and Garrett Lewis were nominated for an Oscar. The film won Oscars for Eiko Ishioka's Costume Design, and the Makeup of Greg Cannom, Michèle Burke and Matthew W. Mungle, as well as the Sound Effects Editing by Tom C. McCarthy and David E. Stone. Cinematographer Michael Ballhaus deserves to be mentioned despite similar notice. The bottom line is that this is a great looking film, which is one of the things we come to expect in Coppola's work.
Oldman's performance as Dracula is interesting. Given all the actors who have come before from Max Schreck and Bela Lugosi to Christopher Lee and Frank Langella, it is hard to stake out new ground in the role. But Oldman bases his characterization on not only the romantic but also the tragic elements of this particular Dracula. Unfortunately, the performances of the cast are the weakest part of the film. Reeves is far and away the most wooden, but Ryder does not create a woman worth waiting for as far as I am concerned, which is the true weakest point of the film. Hopkins follows Laurence Olivier in the Van Helsing role and in a similar vein creates an eccentric ethnic know-it-all who spends a lot of time basically telling the gang of fearful vampire slayers to shut up and do what he says.
When "Bram Stoker's Dracula" is over you will be struck by how gorgeous the film is from start to finish. That will make up for so many of the actors being as wooden as the stakes used to dispatch the vampires. Hart's twist on the tale helps improve Stoker's original ending, which was basically a race to kill Dracula before the sun sets. The tragic element established by the prologue is adequately played out in the ending. This film might be another example of the triumph of style over substance, but given the depths that some vampire movies can reach, it is nice to have one that aspires to such artistic pretensions.
43 of 46 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Bram Stoker's Dracula : ( Blu-Ray Review ) Stop the Blu-Ray Hate!,
This review is from: Bram Stoker's Dracula [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
For months people have been complaining about the visual quality of this particular Blu-Ray title. I'm a Blu-Ray enthusiast and I do enjoy this film so I wanted to find out for myself if all the attacks about it's visual quality had merit. Here are my thoughts...
I bought the Superbit Collection standard DVD of this movie and compared it to this Blu-Ray version. For me, it's a no-brainer, the Blu-Ray is superior. The Superbit version actually looks more garish and brighter than any version I've seen before, be it on TV or VHS. The overly bright colors give the movie a fantasy feel. Rarely did the night scenes in the castle look dark or disturbing. It was all very garish, color wise.
In this Blu-Ray version, Coppola's people, acting on his instructions, toned down the color scheme and made it darker, far more sinister and realistic. I enjoyed the look of the film very much. Those night scenes in the castle are eerie and dangerous in comparison to the overly bright Superbit version. The movie has a more horror like atmosphere to it. In a couple of short scenes, the color is drained and the picture has a nearly black and white look to it. It's strikingly beautiful. On Blu-Ray, instead of the garish haze, the color of Dracula's wardrobe for instance, blood red, leaps off the screen unlike the Superbit DVD.
Although most of the scenes don't have the sharpness or detail you've come to expect from Blu-Ray, I still say it's a very good purchase. Obviously this movie is not going to look like the Blu-Rays of Pixar's Cars or Blade Runner or 2001: A Space Odyssey. I didn't expect it to. The audio quality is just fine. Top notch. Some of the most hilarious features on this Blu-Ray are the multi-language tracks. They have Russian, Romanian and several others. I speak Russian and had a blast watching Dracula in Russian! It's goofy watching Keanu Reeves in Russian at first but soon enough you realize this is very high quality dubbing. Not done as some afterthought at all. Very nice.
The special features have many documentaries and of course Coppola's commentary. This Blu-Ray certainly warrants a purchase for those who like the film. If you're unsure because of the controversy of the color scheme, I suggest buying the Superbit alongside the Blu-Ray and contrasting them for yourself. Perhaps you'll like the Superbit DVD better. Compare them on your widescreen TV in a dark room at night and I think you'll find the Blu-Ray is a better experience. Yes, there is grain and dirt and the picture is not perfect by any means. It's an older catalog title. If it doesn't get a full on restoration, it's not going to look any better than this.
Now, as to the movie itself. I always enjoyed this Coppola treatment of Dracula. The atmosphere and art direction, the costumes, sets, music are all first class. The script, acting and pacing can be a bit stiff. That and Keanu Reeves hamper this movie. It's still about as good as "Interview with the Vampire" or any of the other big-budget Hollywood vampire spectacles. Don't forget that vampire movies are typically all exploitation and titillation with nothing remotely serious about them. I can point to dozens of examples. How about "John Carpenter's Vampires" for one? Or the abysmal "Blade" trilogy for another?
The fact that Bram Stoker's Dracula and Interview with a Vampire take things a tad more seriously than 95% percent of vampire flicks counts for something. The ultimate vampire film is yet to be made but Gary Oldman's portrayal of Dracula makes him one interesting bloodsucker!
42 of 47 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Gary Oldman makes this movie work,
Not since Bela Lugosi has there been a Dracula this sexy, handsome, ugly, lovelorn and pure evil at the same time. Whether portraying the young count in the 16th century or playing himself as a late 19th century ogre of a man with a big white bufont hairdo (with a handsome window's peak to boot) and Edward Scissorhands fingernails, Oldman makes this film what it is. His acting is exquistite as the tortured soul who longs after his lost love and lusts after the taste of human blood.
Post-Lagosi vampires in cinema have always seemed to get the best of the good guys, but in this film taken from Stoker's 19th century novel, good does triumph over evil. Copola endeavored to stick with older cinema effects and he did a superb job. There are some scenes that you will never forget ... a marriage between simple effects and creativity gone wild... especially when the elder count's shadow acts on its own accord. More suave than gory, but there is gore... this is the best production of the tale of Dracula since the invention of color film. If Anne Rice's spin on the vampire tale is more your speed, this film will probably not be up your alley. Violence and sexual inuendo make this a film not suitable for kids.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Slightly Dark Blu Ray Transfer,
This review is from: Bram Stoker's Dracula [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
I will refrain reviewing the film here (as obviously it's one of my favorites or I wouldn't have purchased it on Blu Ray) but instead concentrate on the transfer and content, which I found satisfactory but not exceptional.
Firstly, the deleted scenes were a great addition to the Blu Ray disc. I only wish there were more! Being the nerd that I am, I had purchased a companion book to the film back in 1992 that had the whole script and now finally I get to see those scenes I had only previously been able to imagine.
The transfer was decent, but honestly I would have wished for a little more in the way of brightness. I ran this simultaneously with my old Superbit DVD and kept switching back and forth to compare. Now while the obvious clarity and sharpness of HD, along with greater color depth was apparent, I did notice that the Blu Ray was markedly darker. Some shadow detail was lost as a result, and oddly enough I found myself seeing small details in the DVD that were rather obscured on the Blu Ray. Somewhat disappointing.
The other thing was odd - the English subtitles that are displayed in the opening sequences had changed in font from the original. On this version they are in a very standard looking font, whereas the old VHS and DVD versions had a more old fashioned style font that I personally feel matched the look of the film more effectively. A very minor gripe but still, stylistically speaking it seems a little incongruous and unnecessary on the whole.
Part of me hopes that perhaps a special edition or director's cut may lie in the future. I'd love to see the deleted scenes restored, a slightly brighter transfer, and those original subtitles back in action.
18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars After Years of Anticipation ...,
This review is from: Bram Stoker's Dracula (Collector's Edition) (DVD)
Like many who love this movie, knowing that Coppola reportedly had to submit something like 38 different cuts of the film to the MPAA before they'd give it the passable blessing of an "R" rating, I've assumed that the version released to the public was drastically compromised and that, someday, a "director's cut" would be released that would be at once more wickedly graphic and cinematically substantial than the theatrical cut. At the very least, for years I've been hoping that Criterion, who had distributed the film on laserdisc, would put out a new, comprehensive DVD set of "Bram Stoker's Dracula" with the missing (practically censored, I'd imagined) footage along with extras that would shed light on all the gory details fans have been waiting to sink their fangs into.
Well, as it turns out, that ultra-transgressive "director's cut" doesn't quite exist as I (and many others) had envisioned. What we have here is a brand-new transfer of the same movie as it was released in 1992, together with an outstanding commentary and extensive video introduction by Coppola, some great featurettes and documentaries, and that deleted material, which does not contain the reels of censored were-beast ravishment and full-frontal-Monica-Bellucci vampire-bride orgies that I had somehow built up in my mind.
The transfer is noticeably sharper and cleaner, but it does seem overly dark in places, and I expect more fan-boy "controversy" about how correct the colors are in this print. (I still have my Superbit copy, and though I haven't compared the two, there's a difference.) What's more, in a few shots I noticed barely visible transparent horizontal bars scanning across the screen. It didn't seem to be a problem with my monitor, but some sort of video glitch in the transfer-scan, part of the actual digital print. At any rate, the new print impressed me in places, disappointed or outright irritated me in others -- far from a reference-quality transfer, with the flaws evidently all the more visible on the Blu-ray disc, I have read.
The documentary extras are all beautifully produced. There is the definite sense that F. F. Coppola and his production company were responsible for all of the supplemental material, not a DVD producer working out of a cubicle at Sony Pictures, and that alone makes this set worth buying. Even the simple, slim packaging is nicely done.
That's basically my two cents on this edition of the DVD, but I'd like to make a couple of modest points about the film itself.
First: No, the movie doesn't follow the book to the letter, nor was that Coppola's intention. All of Coppola's comments on the film illustrate how incredibly knowledgeable he was, and is, about Stoker's novel and the factual history behind the Dracula myth. The book is a classic, but it is not great literature; it's a gothic potboiler full of clumsy narrative techniques, egregious historical and medical inaccuracies, silly characters and dialogue, a mish-mash of ideas taken from now-forgotten but once-popular vampire stories, etc. Anyone familiar with Coppola's work knows that, as one of the few filmmakers with a genuine familiarity with and appreciation of literature, it is his custom to include the name of the author in the title of a film he has adapted from a written work (hence, "Mario Puzo's The Godfather," the original, complete title of that movie).
Second: All the above taken into consideration, I believe Coppola's version is the truest in spirit to Stoker's novel (seconded, perhaps, by Guy Maddin's "Dracula"), even though the storyline is divergent from the book. Like the book, this movie is a gonzo gothic potboiler, kinky and compelling, and each outlandish exclamation point at the end of virtually every line of dialogue delivered by Anthony Hopkins is an echo of its source material.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars not bad,
This review is from: Bram Stoker's Dracula (Superbit Collection) (DVD)
The acting and effects in this film were very well done and the story was deeper than the shallowness of horror as it recognized that all have their motives. It was, despite the critisism of some of the nay sayers, very faithfull to the book in many ways ( the vampire being abroad in day light, the facination for the modern, etc). The only real point of divergence from the book was the love story added. Many have complained that the Dracula of the novel was an heartless unfeeling monster not the gentle mis-understood lover in the film. While this analysis has textual merit, the film was certainly within the relm of legitamate interpretation. The novel was in the epistolary form, each section being only a letter, diary entery, recording, etc of a specific characters recounting of events. There was no omniscient narrator, to tell us how dracula viewed things. The only examination of dracula in the epistolary form was, per-force, that of those who were bent on his destruction and would tend to view him as a monster, and from Mina, who might understandably leave out some detail. Thus, while this was probably not what the author intended, there is actually plenty of room in the text to contain such an interpretation.
Also the complaints about the nudity and so on are misplaced when one considers that, with even a tighter eye on the text and sociolgical background, a huge part of the "evil" of dracula was the symbolic sexulaity verboten at the time it was published. The wontonness/nudity of dracula's "wives" was ther very symbol of evil at the time. In addition the films focus on the lush sexuality of Lucy and the more restrainted, but perhaps just under the surface sexuality of Mina would mark them as easy tagets for the devil of the time. Any discomfort we as veiwer feel about the nudity, sexuality, etc, indicates that the film/novel is makeing its point.
The interseting thing that I have not seen addressed by most reviewers relating to the film is the nature of faith. In the film Dracula basically become what he was becuase of the injustice of God againt him. He fought to protect christiandom from invation, he was rewarded with his love dead and, apparently, damned. He become what he is becuase he rejects God. We don't all have the paitence of Job, in this film even after failing at his test of faith, it is implied that he can still be reconciled with God through love and the triumph over fear.
While this film looks beyond the book it never contradicts it and it tells a story that has levels of meaning that the text does not contain. If I have to choose between a fun book or a thoughtfull and fun, meaningful film, I will take the film.
16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "See What Your God Has Done To Me",
This review is from: Bram Stoker's Dracula (Superbit Collection) (DVD)
A few years ago I approached Coppola's "Dracula" in a mood of indifference mixed with skepticism. Remembering Hammer Studios final, rather mediocre Dracula films, unable to forget Paul Morrisey's travesty of a film, and dissatisfied by Frank Langella's interpretation of the vampire Count--I expected Coppola's "Dracula" to be mildly entertaining at best. Thus I sighed, slipped the borrowed disc into my machine, sighed once more--and 130 minutes later I started breathing again! Coppola's "Dracula" is truly spellbinding, breathtaking. The very first moments of the film were surprising: the musical score's harsh, Balkan rhythms, the sight of wind-driven mists over the dome of St. Sophia's, the fine narration of the Turks' 15th century conquest of Constantinople, a heavy cross thrown down and shattering on a cobblestone pavement: such is beautiful film-making. That such visionary intensity could be sustained the entire length of the film--miraculous!
In practically every respect the film seems unprecedented--paradoxically because it adheres to the spirit, if not the letter, of the original 1898 novel. Only the conclusion deviates significantly from Bram Stoker's book. Nevertheless the cinematic ending remains quite effective: passionate, violent, Romantic--epithets that can be applied to the entire film as well. But there's one more word that seems equally fitting: "grandeur." "Dracula" has a truly epic scope: it begins with medieval armies contending for the possession of Europe; it spans centuries of implied supernatural warfare; it concludes among the incredible fortified mountains and precipices that seem to overlook the edge of this world...
While such visuals are stunning, they never diminish one's interest in the principal characters. Gary Oldman's portrayal of Dracula is both flawless and original. Less a monster than a tragic hero, he suffers a centuries-old torment of lost love. At the same time he is painfully aware of his own monstrosity--apparently inflicted for the understandable sin of cursing God! Anthony Hopkins is likewise impressive as Van Helsing--eccentric to the point of mania (as are many geniuses), yet formidable in every respect. Wynona Ryder is appropriately cool and beautiful as Dracula's reincarnated love. She is upstaged, however, by Sadie Frost's incredibly sexy interpretation of Lucy Westenra, the aristocratic Victorian dream-girl transformed by Dracula into a Victorian nightmare. Incidentally, I am astonished that Mistress Frost has yet to be recognized as a major horror film Icon.
All in all, Coppola's "Dracula" is one of those rare films that one can seriously compare to the best work of certain European directors--men like Mario Bava, Dario Argento, Jean Rollin, Jess Franco. In the horror film universe that constitutes the highest possible praise.
39 of 50 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant but flawed,
This review is from: Bram Stoker's Dracula (Collector's Edition) (DVD)
I've waited and waited for this collector's edition while scoffing at the bare-bones release for the better part of a decade. Come on, this is legendary director Francis Ford Coppola's adaptation of the most iconic vampire story of all time, surely they could do better. Well, my prayers have finally been answered. 30+ minutes of deleted scenes, director's commentary, documentaries; this is what I'm talking about! The cover is rather silly, as if someone caught Drac without his makeup on and he's shielding his face from the camera, but it's the movie that counts, right?
The film itself is a visual masterpiece that suffers both from it's overwrought, big-budget nature and it's annoying lack of faithfulness to the original work. I mean, if you're going to call it "Bram Stoker's Dracula" the least one could reasonably expect is for the story to stick as closely to the book as possible. Sure, there are plenty of lines from both the novel and the classic Bela Lugosi film as well as plenty of other faithful details, but that isn't necessarily enough. The biggest chink in this film's shiny armor is the baffling romantic story that is shoehorned into what was a classic horror yarn. I'm not talking about the romance between Mina Murray and Jonathan Harker, nor Lucy Westenra and her three suitors -those were in the book- but the romance between Mina and the undead monster that kidnapped her fiance, raped and murdered her best friend to bring her back as a soulless creature that feasts on children in the night. Not a good foundation for any relationship. And let's face it, the whole "vampire searching for his reincarnated lost love" storyline is a terrible cliche that never fails to make an otherwise good horror film drag. This was a bad move on Coppola's part that compromises the film's integrity in an attempt to appeal to the Anne Rice set. The time spent on Mina and Dracula's romance would have been much better spent on sequences that were left out of the film, such as Drac's wolves tearing apart a mother who comes looking for her child that was stolen in the night by the vampire, or the fate of the ship's captain who ties himself to the steering wheel with a crucifix attempting to avoid sharing his crew's fate and is found dead that way when the ship docks. And then there's Jonathan Harker's attempt to end Dracula's life with a shovel while he sleeps in his coffin. These are three of the most memorable scenes in the novel (the latter, at least, is available as a deleted scene) and they would have been amazing on film.
The performances are uneven at times, but are overall quite good. Keanu Reeves will always be Keanu Reeves, but his performance doesn't detract from the film as much as it could have since his blandness certainly helps the Mina-loves-Dracula story seem a little more believable. Anthony Hopkins gives an enthusiastic performance as the original vampire hunter Abraham Van Helsing; commanding at times, and at other times bizarre and off-putting. There is a scene which was deadly serious in the book where Van Helsing is attempting to explain the gravity of the threat Dracula's influence poses and Hopkins delivers lines like "We are dealing with forces beyond all human experience, and enormous power. So guard her well. Otherwise, your precious Lucy will become a bi+ch of the Devil! A whore of darkness!" to Lucy's lover while attempting to suppress hysterical laughter. Real classy, Abe! Speaking of Lucy, Sadie Frost plays her as an extremely sexy, charming, and eventually horrifying tragic character. Spot on. Not much needs to be said about Gary Oldman; he is an unbelievable actor who goes so far into his characters that he is often unrecognizable. As the 19th century vampire lord who has lived for centuries, this one is no exception. Wynonna Ryder plays Mina with an interesting mix of innocence and sexual curiosity and though she comes off as clueless in the end, I'll let it slide since she wasn't the brightest bulb in the book either. Dracula's three brides are portrayed in very memorable fashion: seductive, beautiful, and terrifying. Perfect.
The deleted scenes are a mixed batch, featuring some truly ghastly acting from Reeves in an otherwise grand alternate opening, much more of the film's awesomely elaborate sets, and at least one scene that should have stayed in (discussed previously). Throw in four solid documentaries and commentary from the director and you've got a DVD done right.
Other than the few major quibbles I've discussed, "Bram Stoker's Dracula" is the most faithful and visually impressive Dracula adaptation to date. There are scenes that will thrill, repulse, titillate, and creep you the hell out, sometimes all at once. It also features some of the coolest edits ever in a horror film and plenty of shocking imagery. While it fails to capture the charm, iconic performances, and legendary status of the original "Dracula" (still my favorite vampire film) this is a worthy update and, with the bonus features, this is an no-brainer for horror and vampire fanatics. If you haven't seen this film you've missed out on a unique, visually staggering, and atmospheric take on the greatest vampire story ever told and you shouldn't hesitate to pick this up.
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This Blu-ray is spectacular,
This review is from: Bram Stoker's Dracula [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
It seems to be commonplace for folks on the Internet to dismiss the Blu-ray transfer of this film, citing inconsistent definition, incorrect color timing, among other things.
I'm a bit of a hi-def enthusiast: I do not usually pay for Blu-rays that are subpar, that which don't live up to my expectations. For me (and I wish it weren't just "for me" but instead an industry standard), Blu-ray is a medium whose sole purpose is to bring a movie into a living room, representing that film as accurately to the original look and sound as possible. A proper Blu-ray Disc (BD) of a movie shot on celluloid will look like an actual film projection on one's HDTV (with the proper video settings, of course--a well-calibrated TV makes a great deal of difference). If a film is shot on gritty 16mm film, the BD product ought to replicate that look accurately, with little digital noise reduction (DNR)--only used for dirt and scratch clean-up, not to remove grain (which is NOT "noise," but an inherent part of the image)--and a good encode with as much room as possible for the least amount of compression with zero artifacting.
Francis Ford Coppola's "Bram Stoker's Dracula" is a visually rich and captivating film. Shot at the brink of CGI, the filmmakers made it a point not to use any computer effects, preferring traditional means: practical effects, optical effects, the lot. The end result is a visually striking film that is above and beyond anything being produced today.
The Blu-ray for this film, as far as I can tell, is an accurate representation of its original finished and edited photography. Colors are vibrant when intended to be, and likewise dull when intended. A good grain texture and structure is present throughout, and is appropriately grainier during scenes where a different film stock was used. Definition is strong, with a great deal of detail, with any occasional softness to the picture being due to the original photography and effects. It's important to understand that BDs are supposed to represent the film itself, not a reimagining of it. I all too often feel that consumers and "professional" HD DVD and BD reviewers have a wrong notion that films should be touched up and filtered to provide a "pristine and clear" picture, meant to satiate the immature, undeveloped tastes and preferences of "the HD video game crowd." (I can't count how many times I've read a review where the words, "The image just POPS!" are used to convey the supposed high quality presentation of a BD film, as if this faux-3D "popping" factor is key to a good transfer.) Old films aren't meant to look like the pristine, "flawless," and entirely clear digital photography of, say, "Zombieland". Different methods of filming, different technology, different eras, different intentions--artistic or otherwise.
I own the Superbit DVD of this film and can honestly say that the BD blows it sky-high in every manner. Far better clarity, more lush colors; I'm convinced that the old home video color timing of this film is way off, on VHS, LaserDisc, and DVD (despite claims to having received Coppola's approval; people should know by now that such phrases are usually marketing fibs). The look of a film should never be determined by how it appeared on old home media, but rather by the source. The Superbit DVD is a mess of browns and washed out colors; the BD is much more natural and filmic, and also far more beautiful. According to Robert A. Harris, a noted film preservationist (who approves of this BD), the transfer for the "Bram Stoker's Dracula" BD is based on the answer print of the film, and thus accurate to the original artistic intentions and endeavors.
It's disheartening that so many have put this BD down. Even more sad that many have come to their conclusions based on low resolution screencaptures of the BD (that are also often captured incorrectly, degrading the quality of the original image further) rather than anything even remotely representative of its quality. There's a particularly well-known screencap of the BD that has circled the Internet, one in which Dracula's face has a green glow on it, and people use this to dispute the color timing of this HD transfer, saying it's outrageous, out of place, and totally off. The fact of the matter is, this particular scene's color scheme fits contextually. It's a dark film, but is very colorful at key scenes where certain colors are chosen to set the mood--and yes, there is a source to that eerie green glow, which is completely absent from previous home video releases.
I'll never understand how anyone could choose the look of any previous home video releases over this utterly fantastic Blu-ray THAT WHICH IS REPRESENTATIVE OF THE ORIGINAL FILM. Thank God the "pro" reviewers aren't in charge of things! Though I fear their ignorance and the exposure of such can sway studio decisions in a negative direction.
Hopefully this review will persuade somebody to pick up the BD, and to not be dismayed by the wrong and, might I say, uneducated outlooks of disapproval.
In a collection of Blu-ray films where I somewhat pride myself on only having "the best" quality visual representations of films I enjoy, I can say that this is one of the most stunning Blu-ray Discs I own, in large part due to the original film's merits and visual feats, and equally the accurate representation of that film's transfer to high definition. (For a quick example, some of my other favorite United States-released BDs I own are for the films "Blade Runner", "Braveheart", "The Searchers" [another BD that gets slagged for its color timing compared to older home video releases, even though this release is most accurate and most visually appealing], "Hellraiser", "Children of Men", "The Bird with the Crystal Plumage", "No Country for Old Men", "Bonnie and Clyde", "Saving Private Ryan", "Rio Bravo", "Shoot 'Em Up", "Drag Me to Hell", "Black Dynamite", "Inglourious Basterds", "Hot Fuzz", "How the West Was Won", "Zombieland", and "The Wizard of Oz", among many other quality BD titles.)
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Bram Stoker's Dracula [Blu-ray] by Francis Ford Coppola (Blu-ray - 2007)