Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
Bram Stoker's Dracula (Superbit) (1992)
"She is vampyre, nosferatu."- Abraham Van Helsing (Anthony Hopkins)
Stars: Gary Oldman, Winona Ryder, Anthony Hopkins, Keanu Reeves
Other Stars: Richard E. Grant, Cary Elwes, Bill Campbell, Sadie Frost, Tom Waits
Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Manufacturer: American Zoetrope
MPAA Rating: R for sexuality and horror violence
Run Time: 02h:07m:15s
Release Date: 2001-12-11
DVD ReviewMost cinematic versions of Dracula have been based on John L. Balderston's rather talky stage play. Precious few have gone back to the source material of the novel and made use of what is highly cinematic material in the raw. In 1992, Francis Ford Coppola tried his hand at such an adaptation, not altogether successfully, but the result has a good deal to recommend it.
Young Jonathan Harker (Keanu Reeves) is sent to Transylvania to assist the aged Count Dracula (Gary Oldman) in purchasing property in London. Harker finds himself taken prisoner by the vampire count, who then departs for England. Growing younger as he drinks the blood of the living, Dracula sets his sights on Mina Murray, Harker's fiancée (Winona Ryder), and her friend Lucy Westenra (Sadie Frost). Dracula believes that Mina is the reincarnation of his beloved wife Elisabeta, who killed herself centuries earlier, and will stop at nothing to make Mina a creature of the night like himself, despite the best efforts of Dr. Van Helsing (Anthony Hopkins) and his band of would-be vampire slayers.
While retaining much of the outline of the Stoker novel, Coppola unfortunately succumbs to using the silly reincarnation plot point cribbed from the old Universal Mummy series. He also takes the underlying sexuality of the book and makes it explicit to the point of being fairly incredible. One doubts that young Victorian women spent their time reading oriental sex manuals, for instance. Perhaps the most serious alteration is in the character of Mina; quite capable in the novel, she is here little more than a simple victim. This leads to a nonsensical climax that rather ruins what had been an exciting chase sequence through the Carpathian mountains.
Other materials that Coppola adds tend to be effective; the soundtrack in particular is masterful, with strange inexplicable sounds coming from all directions during the chilling sequence in Dracula's castle. Few sights are quite as unnerving as Harker being shaved with a straight razor by Count Dracula, who gets uncomfortably friendly. The numerous double exposures are generally effective, but become tiresome after a while.
Oldman does an excellent job of bringing the tormented master vampire to life. He is helped by some wildly imaginative and utterly loathsome makeup and special effects that make him into a human bat and beast. Winona Ryder is just barely adequate, though as noted the script doesn't give her much to do except be the count's love slave. Keanu Reeves is, as usual, Ted. Whatever possessed Coppola to put Reeves into a period drama escapes me completely. Perhaps the strangest performance is that of Anthony Hopkins, who takes the eccentric Dr. Helsing and basically turns him into a complete fruitcake. Tom Waits, as the mad Renfield seeking after lives by eating flies and spiders, completely steals the show with a tiny part, especially as he begs his keeper for a kitten.
It's still not a definitive version of Stoker's book, but it does manage to be one of the better of the many adaptations for the screen.
Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B+
|Aspect Ratio||1.85:1 - Widescreen|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: The picture here is quite good, but it was also quite good on the previous single-layer disc. Despite a significantly higher bitrate, the difference between the two discs in an A-B comparison is practically zero. Detail and sharpness on both versions is quite good, as are color and shadow detail. The additional bits don't seem to have made much of a difference on the picture, which was already fine. Columbia would have done better to have cleaned up the print (used as the master for both discs), which has occasional bits of dirt visible.
Image Transfer Grade: A-
Audio Transfer Review: The differences between the old and new audio are minor, but perceptible. The DTS sound has a bit more depth to it, and in certain sequence more bass is audible. This is particularly noticeable in the shipboard sequence on the Demeter. The excellent sound design of the earlier disc is intact, with a great deal of surround activity. There's a slight improvement, but really not enough to justify the expense of the Superbit disc.
Audio Transfer Grade: A
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean, Thai with remote access
Layers Switch: 01h:03m:35s
Extras Review: As was the case with the original release, there are no extras whatsoever. Curiously, there are only about half as many chapter stops on the Superbit version as on the first DVD. As is usual for the Superbit line, the layer change is completely seamless, and is placed right in the middle of a shot as if to defy anyone looking for the change.
Extras Grade: D-
Final CommentsCoppola's Dracula makes a reappearance as a Superbit disc; still barebones, the difference between this and the original discs is hardly noticeable. The DTS soundtrack has a bit more bass oomph in a few sections, but not enough to justify an upgrade.
Mark Zimmer 2001-12-13