Bram Stoker’s Dracula appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Overall, this was an appealing presentation,
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 no edge haloes. Grain suited the material and I noticed noconcerns with print flaws.
In terms of colors, Dracula tended toward either an orange-red feel or blue overtones. These didn’t match the orange/teal tints that affect so many modern movies, though; they offered a stylistic choice but not an overwhelming one. The hues seemed well-rendered within the fimmaking decisions.
Blacks also demonstrated nice clarity, and shadows seemed acceptable to good. The minor murkiness of the era’s stock meant a few low-light shots appeared a little muddy, but they worked fine in general. In the end, I felt this was a solid “B+” image.
In terms of audio, the Blu-ray came with a Dolby Atmos soundtrack. For those who lack Dolby Atmos equipment, the mix played as a Dolby TrueHD 7.1 presentation, and it was one that fared much better than I’d expect from a semi-older film.
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.
How does the 4K Blu-ray compare to the 2007 Collector’s Edition DVD? Audio was fuller and more involving, while visuals seemed tighter, cleaner and better defined. This was a clear upgrade.
Note that the 2015 Blu-ray comes with some controversy, primarily related to color timing. The 2015 release offers hues that differ notably from those of the 2007 DVD and Blu-ray. Some minor framing differences also occur. I don’t know Dracula well enough to claim which version provides the more accurate representation of the source, but I wanted to mention the variations.
The Blu-ray mixes old and new extras. We start with an introduction from director Francis Ford Coppola. In this three-minute, 55-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.
The set includes two audio commentaries, the first of which comes from director Francis Ford Coppola. Created for the earlier DVD, Coppola 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.
Created for a 1993 Criterion laserdisc, the second commentary features Francis Ford Coppola, visual effects director Roman Coppola and makeup supervisor Greg Cannom. Recorded separately for this edited piece, we learn what led Francis to the project, inspirations and influences, the adaptation of the source as well as character/story choices, visual design and cinematography, effects, cast and performances, costumes, music and related topics.
Criterion commentaries tend to be good, and this one works well. It covers a nice array of subjects and benefits from its proximity to the movie’s release. While Francis’s solo track took plays years after the film hit screens, the Criterion chat occurred only months after its debut. That gives it an immediacy that benefits it and allows it to become a solid overview of different subjects.
As an aside, I wonder if Francis remained stung by the criticisms Godfather Part III received a couple of years earlier. His commentary for Part III left me with the impression he felt bitter about the experience, and a similar tone occasionally creeps into this track, as Francis gripes about those who didn’t like his movie. It kind of feels like sour grapes, especially since Dracula did pretty well with both critics and audiences.
Next comes The Blood Is the Life – The Making of Dracula. This 27-minute, 48-second program involves movie clips, archival components, and interviews. We hear from Francis Ford 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, two-second The Costumes Are the Sets – The Design of Eiko Ishioka. It gives us notes from Francis Ford 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 – Naïve Visual Effects lasts 18 minutes, 46 seconds and features Francis Ford Coppola, Reeves, visual effects and 2nd unit director Roman Coppola, 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.
After this we go to Method and Madness – Visualizing Dracula. The 12-minute, six-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.
12 Deleted Scenes show up here – though many are extensions of existing sequences. Taken together, they fill a total of 28 minutes, 14 seconds.
Among the extended pieces are “Prologue” (6:28), “Gypsies In Coach” (1:08), “Lucy’s Party” (3:44), “Harker Meets Dracula” (2:03), “Harker Explores Castle” (1:44), and “Rule’s Café/Convent” (2:41). There’s a “trim” from “Harker/Dracula Dinner” (1:04) and an “early version” of the “Ending” (2:53).
This should mean the remaining four clips offer new sequences. We locate “Harker’s Escape Attempt” (4:14), “Dracula on The Demeter” (0:41), “The Demeter Lands” (0:58) and “The Death of Renfield” (1:41).
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.
We also get two components specifically created for this Blu-ray. Reflections in Blood goes for 29 minutes, 11 seconds and offers a conversation between Francis Ford Coppola and film critic FX Feeney. They discuss the adaptation of the source novel and related story/character choices, costumes, sets, effects and the movie’s visual style, and cast/performances. While a good chat on its own, “Blood” repeats a lot of info found elsewhere, so it feels redundant.