75th Anniversary Edition
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(Sep 26, 2006)
75th Anniversary Edition
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The legend of Dracula continues in this gripping, masterful 2-disc edition of cinema's most ominous vampire, digitally remastered for the 75th Anniversary Edition. Relive the horror, the mystery, and the intrigue of the original 1931 vampire masterpiece starring Bela Lugosi and directed by Tod Browning. The inspiration for hundreds of subsequent remakes and adaptations, this classic film launched the Hollywood horror genre with its eerie passion, shadowy atmosphere, and thrilling cinematography. The children of the night are calling…
The extra features on this 2-disc 75th anniversary edition of a film classic are a mix of previously available extras and some new stuff. But these are trumped by the news about the film itself: as befits one of the legendary titles of Hollywood history, Dracula looks noticeably cleaner and brighter than in its previous DVD releases, and the soundtrack also seems improved. As with previous DVD packages, the Spanish version of Dracula, shot concurrently with the English-language version, is included. It's a cool movie in its own right and essential viewing for vampire-movie fans.
Also returning from previous DVDs: the option to watch the film with Philip Glass's fascinating original score (the film had no score except for source music and "Swan Lake" over the titles); this is a one-time-only experience, as nothing could improve on the original's eerie patches of silence. Also back are horror scholar David J. Skal's contributions: a commentary track and a featurette called The Road to Dracula, which gives the history of Bram Stoker's character.
New to this edition: a 36-minute documentary, Lugosi: the Dark Prince, a decent career overview with comments from enthusiasts including director Joe Dante; "Monster Tracks," a feature that allows for pop-up onscreen info-bites (a distraction for the short of attention); a feature commentary by Steve Haberman, horror author and a screenwriter on Dracula: Dead and Loving It (lots of context, but Haberman also gives a spirited and rather welcome rebuke to recent conventional wisdom that favors the Spanish film over the Browning version); and Universal Horror, a 95-minute documentary by Kevin Brownlow. As good as Brownlow's work generally is, this 1998 doc, narrated by Kenneth Branagh, is choppy, and ranges far afield from Universal's great run of horror movies. It's worth seeing for clips from very rare films and for interviews with the likes of Fay Wray, Gloria Stuart, Ray Bradbury, and Curt Siodmak. --Robert Horton
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The commentaries were conducted by film historian David J. Skal and author & screenwriter for "Dracula: Dead and Loving It," Steve Haberman. Both commentaries are very well-done and obviously were planned out, written ahead of time and rehearsed. I enjoyed the Skal commentary the most. He gives background information (sometimes gossipy) on many of the actors, production crew, and film techniques. He includes symbolism and cultural references used in the film and also reveals scenes that were cut from the original script. Haberman focuses more on motion picture politics which I did not find as interesting. He also does not follow the scenes like Skal does, except to point out the ways in which the Spanish version is inferior to the English version. The Spanish version here includes an introduction by Lupita Tovar Kohner, who played the female lead.
In two main areas, Skal and Haberman disagree. Skal prefers the Spanish version for its innovative filming techniques while Haberman believes Browning's version is more effective on all levels. They also have completely different takes on a piece of cardboard attached to a lamp in Mina's bedroom. Skal believes it was an oversight while Haberman defends it as "set dressing." I tend to side with Skal as, if the item was used to show the character was shielding the light of the lamp as she slept, it probably wouldn't look so shoddy. This was a mansion with wealthy people. Why would this rich socialite use a ripped piece of cardboard to create a night light?
Several documentaries are included in this set. The tribute to Bela Lugosi "Lugosi: The Dark Prince," covers his film career. It would have been better if it also presented some info on what he was like as a person and not just his characters, especially since his son is included in another documentary on this set and could have shed some light on his father's personality. "The Road to Dracula" was hosted by Carla Laemmle, the niece of Universal owner Carl Laemmle who spoke the first words in the film in the stage coach scene. It goes into the history of the novel by Bram Stoker and its adaptation to stage and screen. This documentary includes a recreation of sorts of Prof Van Helsing's final curtain speech that was later removed from the film.
"Universal Horror" is a very interesting and rather lengthy documentary that covers many of the scary films put out by Universal in the 1920s and 1930s and includes freaky scenes from such films as "The Phantom of the Opera," "The Man Who Laughs," "The Black Cat," etc. I liked the inclusion of scenes from early silents. It also reveals secrets to special effects found in "King Kong" and "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde," and "The Invisible Man." Film historians who were kids back in the day talk about what these films meant to them and the reactions of audiences at the time. Bela Lugosi Jr. talks about his famous father in several clips in this documentary. And if all that were not enough, you also get to see a collection of posters and stills. This 75th Anniversary set has so much to offer and is so well-done that I recommend it to any Dracula/horror film fan even if they already have a copy of Dracula.