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MOVIE INFO

Director:
Francis Ford Coppola
Cast:
Gary Oldman, Winona Ryder, Anthony Hopkins, Keanu Reeves, Richard E. Grant, Cary Elwes, Bill Campbell, Sadie Frost, Tom Waits, Monica Bellucci
Writing Credits:
Bram Stoker (novel), James V. Hart

Tagline:
Love Never Dies.

Synopsis:
Gary Oldman, Winona Rider and Anthony Hopkins star in director Francis Ford Coppola's visually stunning, passionately seductive version of the classic Dracula legend. In Bram Stoker's Dracula, Coppola returns to the original source of the Dracula myth, and from that gothic romance, he creates a modern masterpiece. Gary Oldman's metamorphosis as Dracula - who grows from old to young, from man to beast - is nothing short of amazing. Winona Ryder brings equal intensity to the role of a young beauty who becomes the object of Dracula's devastating desire. Anthony Hopkins co-stars as the famed doctor who dares to believe in Dracula, and then dares to confront him. Opulent, dazzling and utterly irresistible, this is Dracula as you've never seem him. And once you've seen Bram Stoker's Dracula, you'll never forget it.

Box Office:
Budget
$40 million.
Domestic Gross
$82.522 million.

MPAA:
Rated R

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Surround 2.0
Portuguese Dolby Surround 2.0
Subtitles:
English
Spanish
French
Portuguese
Korean
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
Spanish
Portuguese
Korean
Japanese

Runtime: 127 min.
Price: $24.96
Release Date: 10/2/2007

Bonus:
DVD One:
• Introduction with Director Francis Ford Coppola
• Audio Commentary with Director Francis Ford Coppola
DVD Two:
• “The Blood Is the Life – The Making of Dracula” Featurette
• “”The Costumes Are the Sets – The Design of Eiko Ishioka” Featurette
• “In-Camera – The Naïve Visual Effects of Dracula” Featurette
• “Method and Madness – Visualizing Dracula” Featurette
• Deleted Scenes
Cinefex Magazine “Heart of Darkness” Article
• Trailers


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EQUIPMENT
Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


Bram Stoker's Dracula: Collector's Edition (1992)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (October 5, 2007)

Though we’ve seen umpteen cinematic renditions of the Dracula story, none boasted a director as noteworthy as Francis Ford Coppola – until 1992’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Coppola brings an all-star cast with him as well to tell this version.

Since the story’s so well known, a plot synopsis seems almost like a waste of time, but I’ll throw one out anyway – taken straight from the DVD’s press release. “A young lawyer named Jonathan Harker (Keanu Reeves) is assigned to a gloomy village in the mist of Eastern Europe. He is captured and imprisoned by the undead vampire Dracula (Gary Oldman), who travels to London, inspired by a photograph of Harker’s betrothed, Mina Murray (Winona Ryder). In Britain, Dracula begins a reign of seduction and terror, draining the life from Mina’s closest friend, Lucy Westenra (Sadie Frost). Lucy’s friends gather together to try to drive Dracula away.”

Although Coppola hadn’t made a great movie in quite some time before 1992, he still coasted on his rep. The prospect of such a formidable filmmaker – or at least a once-formidable filmmaker – behind the kind of material usually left as “B”-movie fodder proved irresistible. It was rare to find such a prominent director’s take on a horror flick, so this one boasted a lot of promise.

A promise that it couldn’t keep, however. Indeed, the presence of Coppola behind the camera serves to make Dracula an even bigger disappointment than it would’ve been if created by a less famous director. If some middling talent makes a movie this bad, you think little of it. When someone with Coppola’s classics on his résumé turns out such nonsense, the stench becomes unbearable.

I know I saw Dracula back in 1992 but I can’t recall what reaction it provoked from me. Did I like it? Did I hate it? I really have no idea, though I imagine my reaction fell somewhere between those two poles; if I’d felt actual passion for it, I’d probably remember.

If someone asks my opinion of Dracula in another 15 years, I hope I’ll recall, as I definitely fall into the “hate it” camp right now. Actually, “hate it” might be too strong, as “pity it” sounds more accurate. The film provokes sadness because it shows how far Coppola fell as a director. How could the man who created the sublime visual poetry of the first two Godfather flicks and Apocalypse Now make a movie as over the top and ham-fisted as this?

I don’t know, but Dracula falters in almost every possible way. The film tries so darned hard to scare us and give us the creeps that it becomes literally laughable. The opening introduction to Vlad is goofy in its intensity, and subsequent shots of Drac and Harker follow the same lines. Coppola packs the flick with every possible ominous creak, whisper and rattle. He throws out so many of these elements that they become positively goofy, and they completely subvert any potential dread they might inspire.

Indeed, Dracula gets so silly so quickly that I wonder if Coppola meant for us to take it seriously. I think he wants us to buy into the scenarios and terror, but much of the time, his effort comes closer to Mel Brooks than to Tod Browning. This is a downright campy version of the tale, and not an effective one because it doesn’t seem to be aware of its inherent absurdity.

Coppola becomes too concerned with cinematic techniques, as he uses a mix of these to compensate with his inability to tell a competent story. Coppola pours on various effects, superimpositions and other methods to create a supposed sense of unreality and the supernatural. They don’t succeed, as instead they just make us even more aware of how little substance exists at the heart of the film. It’s a whole bunch of stylistic conceits without any depth or punch.

A series of bad performances don’t help. I know it’s easy to pile on poor Keanu and discredit his acting, but in parts like this, he makes it so darned easy. Horribly miscast, he plods through the role of Harker without any sense of life whatsoever. I get the feeling he tries so hard to reproduce a British accent – without success, mind you – that he can’t muster any attention for other aspects of the part. You know – like personality, intelligence or anything else usually referred to as “acting”.

Oldman doesn’t chew scenery – he feasts on it with giant bites. As Professor Van Helsing, Anthony Hopkins takes the same path, and he proves no more effective. Perhaps the actors were aware how little punch Coppola could bring to the project so they went big with their performances to compensate.

But the whole thing’s big, isn’t it? Coppola can’t leave us alone with our thoughts for a half a second since he feels compelled to throw so much at us. Frankly, this makes the film kind of boring. It tries so damned hard to scare us and disturb us that it provokes the opposite effect.

When costume design offers the most – and perhaps only - interesting aspect of a movie, you’re in trouble. This is the state of affairs we confront with the impotent Bram Stoker’s Dracula, a nearly completely ineffective retelling of the classic tale. This one ends up as a misguided misfire.


The DVD Grades: Picture B/ Audio A-/ Bonus A-

Bram Stoker’s Dracula appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. In my experience, early 1990s film stocks can tend to be a bit murky. That trend created minor distractions during Dracula, but I thought the transfer usually looked good.

Sharpness was positive most of the time. Occasional shots appeared a little ill-defined, but those instances cropped out without frequency. Instead, the majority of the flick looked crisp and accurate. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering materialized, and I noticed only light edge enhancement. The movie also came with a clean transfer. Grain looked a bit heavy at times but usually stayed in control, and no other defects could be observed.

Colors could vary, but I found them pleasing overall. Some shots – like those when we first meet Mina – warm and rich tones. The not infrequent heavy red images demonstrated good delineation and never became too thick or runny. Although a few scenes suffered from slightly dense tones, the hues were usually positive. Blacks also demonstrated nice clarity, and shadows seemed acceptable to good. Again, the minor murkiness of the era’s stock meant a few low-light shots appeared a little muddy, but they worked fine in general. Though I wasn’t ecstatic about the transfer, given its restrictions and age, I felt it merited a “B”.

I found a lot to like about the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Dracula. To be sure, the movie boasted an active mix. From start to finish, the film made frequent use of all five channels. The various speakers kicked in good ambience during creepy quiet scenes, and they rocked to life well in louder, more action-oriented bits. All the elements meshed together smoothly and created a fine sense of place and environment.

Audio quality also was positive. Music sounded lush and full, while effects were clean and concise. Both of those elements showed nice range, with crisp highs and firm lows. Speech appeared natural and distinctive. This was a terrific soundtrack.

For this two-disc “Collector’s Edition”, we get a mix of extras. On DVD One, we start with an introduction from director Francis Ford Coppola. In this three-minute and 54-second chat, Coppola discusses prior vampire films and his childhood experiences with those and the book. He also tells us why he wanted to make his own version of the tale. Though the intro isn’t crucial, it opens the movie in a pleasant manner.

Coppola also appears for an audio commentary. The director provides a running, screen-specific chat. He looks at how he came onto the project, visual storytelling and the use of shadows, effects and costumes, the adaptation of the original novel and other influences, sets, music, cast and performances, and other thoughts about the experience.

The best parts of the commentary come when Coppola reflects on his own mindset. In regard to the movie industry, the director seems weary at best and bitter at worst. I don’t know if he intended this, but the commentary provides an interesting entry into Coppola’s psyche.

So how does it fare as a look at the movie itself? In that regard, it works fairly well. Though the track never becomes scintillating, it provides an honest view of the flick. Coppola goes over a nice range of subjects, especially during the second act. He starts slowly and fades somewhat toward the end, but the middle portion of the commentary includes quite a few good notes. This ends up as an unusual and intriguing piece.

From there we head to DVD Two and its materials. First comes The Blood Is the Life – The Making of Dracula. This 27-minute and 47-second documentary involves movie clips, archival components, and interviews. We hear from Coppola, screenwriter James V. Hart, and actors Gary Oldman, Richard E. Grant, Anthony Hopkins, Sadie Frost, Winona Ryder, Keanu Reeves, Bill Campbell, and Cary Elwes. “Blood” examines the rationale behind the creation of another Dracula film and a desire to remain faithful to the original novel. It also goes into characters and story, cast and performances, script alterations, and aspects of the shoot.

“Blood” was created with elements around the time of the flick’s release, a fact that initially caused me some concern. I feared it would be fluffy and not very informative. However, those fears proved unfounded, as “Blood” offered a strong examination of the film. The inclusion of so much prime movie personnel helps, and they offer consistently open and frank comments. The shots from the set contribute to this tone as well, for we find quite a lot of intriguing background clips. In particular, the rehearsal images are fun, and we see fascinating shots of on-the-set conflicts between Coppola and Oldman. This is a very good program that doesn’t sugarcoat the experience.

Next we find the 14-minute and one-second The Costumes Are the Sets – The Design of Eiko Ishioka. It gives us notes from Coppola, Oldman, Frost, and designer Ishioka. The show tells us about Ishioka’s costumes and the realization of her designs. We see lots of conceptual sketches and behind the scenes footage that gives us a good look at the creation of the elements. This is another informative piece that digs into its subjects well.

In-Camera – The Naïve Visual Effects of Dracula lasts 18 minutes, 44 seconds and features Coppola, Reeves, visual effects and 2nd unit director Roman Copolla, visual effects supervisor Gene Warren Jr., and visual effects camera operator Christopher Lee Warren. The show examines the visual effects techniques used in the film. Dracula went with “primitive” effects, which makes “Naïve” all the more interesting. We get a great look at these various methods in this fascinating program.

For the last featurette, we go to Method and Madness – Visualizing Dracula. The 12-minute and four-second piece provides remarks from Francis Ford Coppola, Roman Coppola, and storyboard artist Peter Ramsey. “Method” discusses artistic influences and goals for the visual design of the film. It shows the storyboard process and its use on Dracula as well as different aspects of the flick’s look and style. I really liked the other featurettes, and this one finishes the set with another terrific show. It’s consistently informative and intriguing.

Taken from a 1993 issue of Cinefex magazine, Heart of Darkness offers a text piece. As one would expect from an article from that magazine, “Heart” provides a detailed investigation of the film’s visual effects. Inevitably, some of the information repeats from “Naïve”, but “Heart” digs into the elements with much greater depth. It’s a nice extra.

12 Deleted Scenes show up here – though many are extensions of existing sequences. Taken together, they fill a total of 27 minutes, 48 seconds. Among the extended pieces are “Prologue” (6:20), “Gypsies In Coach” (1:00), “Lucy’s Party” (3:35), “Harker Meets Dracula” (1:56), “Harker Explores Castle” (1:37), and “Rule’s Café/Convent” (2:34). There’s a “trim” from “Harker/Dracula Dinner” (0:57) and an “early version” of the “Ending” (2:44).

This should mean the remaining four clips offer new sequences. We locate “Harker’s Escape Attempt” (4:07), “Dracula on The Demeter” (0:32), “The Demeter Lands” (0:50) and “The Death of Renfield” (1:32).

Do any of these prove interesting? Not really, though the extensions are often more substantial than expected. “Prologue” creates a bloodier sequence in which Dracula condemns God, and it provides greater exposition in terms of our intros to Mina, Harker and Lucy. That one and the other elongated scenes don’t tell us anything we don’t already know, however, and the added sequences usually fail to develop much of interest. “Escape” drags, and the Demeter pieces are downright goofy. “Death” is a little more compelling, at least, but the “Ending” isn’t satisfying. Though I can’t find much good material here, I do appreciate the inclusion of the cut clips.

Under the Trailers banner, 11 ads appear. We get both teaser and theatrical trailers for Dracula along with promos for Youth Without Youth, “Ray Harryhausen In Color”, Taxi Driver, Hostel Part II, Seinfeld Season 9, Pumpkinhead IV: Blood Feud, Ghost Rider, Fearnet.com, and Rise: Blood Hunter.

Busy and over the top, Bram Stoker’s Dracula provides an unsatisfying retelling of the vampire legend. It musters a few intriguing moments but proves so goofy and overdramatic that it doesn’t work. The DVD offers good picture, very strong audio, and a mix of informative and enjoyable extras. Too bad the movie itself is such a mess.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4 Stars Number of Votes: 28
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Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main