HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: Bram Stoker's Dracula: Cinema Series
HTS Overall Score:86
Dracula is one of the greatest and most terrifying villains of all cinematic (and literary) history, in this humble man’s opinion. His exploits and his powers have grown through the decades and has spawned countless movies, starting the original vampire craze. We would not have characters like “Blade”, “Van Hellsing”, the Vampire Lestat, or even the horrific “Twilight” series (which may have been a blessing). He’s taken on many different forms and character traits, ranging from full on evil incarnate, to a sympathetic anti-hero, to an action hero at times. “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” takes on one of the more literary translations of the novel, but still suffers from creative liberties that turn the character into something he had no original designs of being from the novel. I enjoy many vampire movies, but “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” will always hold a special place in my heart for its quirky mix of horror, romance and period piece arthouse drama.
Setting the mood for the story, we go back hundreds of years to when the Turks are invading their neighboring lands. Vlad (Gary Oldman), a Christian knight serving the church and his nation fends off the mighty Turks with his barbaric acts of war, skinning people alive and impaling them on spikes, completely demoralizing the enemy. Upon victory, he travels back to his beloved wife (Winona Ryder), only to find out that she has committed suicide after hearing rumors of his death cooked up by the retreating Turks. Unable to be buried and sanctified by the church due to taking her own life, Vlad goes mad with grief, cursing God and drawing from the powers of darkness. Cursed by God and given power from the darkness, Vlad is left to walk the earth as an undead monster of immense power.
Fast forward to the year 1897. Jonathan Harker (Keanu Reeves), a young clerk at a law firm, is given the task of going to Transylvania to broker a land deal with the enigmatic count Dracula. Upon arriving to the mysterious and creepy castle, Jonathan is greeted by the pale creature, and invited in. Soon it becomes clear to the clerk that he is being held prisoner in the castle, and that Count Dracula has plans far greater than capturing a mere file clerk. While Jonathan is being held prisoner, Dracula has made arrangements to travel to London, where he has bought land in order to relocate. While it’s a bit vague at first to his intentions, it becomes crystal clear when you see that Jonathan’s Fiancée, Mina (Winona Ryder), is the reincarnation of Vlad’s long dead wife.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=54922[/img]Changing form and terrorizing Mina’s friend Lucy, Dracula begins to suck the life out of her, and exert his powerful influence over the weaker minded individuals in her life. Overcome with his ages old passion, Dracula introduces himself to Mina as Prince Vlad, and begins a strange friendship that will change her perception of love and commitment forever. Being that her friend Lucy is dying of some strange malady thanks to Dracula’s feeding on her, Professor Abraham Van Hellsing (Anthony Hopkins) is called in to take over for the stressed out physician. Coming to the conclusion that there is something deeper and darker at stake here, Van Hellsing puts two and two together, honing in on his lifelong enemy and thus begins a wild hunt to take down the demonic creature once and for all.
“Bram Stoker’s Dracula” is a simple tale at heart. It’s a mixture of love and revenge in one engorged blood fest of gore and artistically beautiful visual storytelling. Dracula is a tragic hero here, unlike the book, who has great pain in his life, but takes his anger out in the wrong way. Denouncing his God, he becomes the very monster that to his own kind that he was to the advancing Turks. Ironically the original novel never really had him associated with Vlad the Impaler, but used the name Dracula (son of dragons) because it was a cool sounding name. The actions of Dracula in the book were never associated with the famous monster Vlad the Impaler. The love story comes into play with his obsession over his reincarnated wife, in the form of Mina. This was also another addition to the story, as Mina was never a love interest in the book, and never fell for him as well. She fought him tooth and nail and was madly in love with Jonathon Harker. It works for the movie though, as Francis Ford Coppola has infused many of the original novel elements into the movie, making it a true mix of love story and horror, in a way that is both visually stimulating and eerily creepy at the same time.
Gary Oldman is almost unrecognizable here. Not just because he’s covered in makeup and prosthetics a goodly amount of the time, but because he is a bit more laid back than his normal over the top hammy acting style. Dracula is a larger than life character, with Transylvanian accent and all, but he is also a very icy cold and methodical character here. Anthony Hopkins takes over the role as chief scenery chewer in the film, gleefully overacting out the wazoo in his portrayal of the vampire hunter Van Hellsing. I was a bit worried when the film originally came out about Winona Ryder, but strangely she is a beautiful and mesmerizing character as Mina. In many ways, with the British accent, she reminds me of a slightly meatier Kiera Knightley. The only one who REALLY stands out as a poor casting decision is Keanu Reeves. He still has that sort of “Bill and Ted” persona going on, with his normal blank stare and bad accent. However, as much as I would have preferred a different actor, Reeves sort of grows on you and by the end of the film you can overlook a lot of his wooden acting.
Rated R for sexuality and horror violence
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=54930[/img]Here’s where it gets really interesting. Sony’s original release of “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” was a hotly debated transfer. Coppola supposedly oversaw the entire transfer, but the home video community was VERY put off by the darkness that Coppola infused into the new release. Black crush was literally everywhere, and blue filters dominated the screencaps. The brighter looking DVD and VHS was deemed “not Coppola’s original vision” and people have been debating the merits of his changes ever since. Now that Sony has gone back and redone the film, that level of darkness has been lifted, as the 4K remastering looks brilliantly brighter and with a color tone that shifts back to a more orange look that the much older transfers shared. Fine detail is simply amazing, as I have never EVER seen the movie look this good. Colors are warm and bright when necessary, but also desaturated and grey when the Count makes his appearance. The orange look to the skin tones contrasts nicely with the bright contrasts and gauzy looking whites that adorn Lucy’s home. The film is still VERY dark, but you can actually SEE what’s happening in these shadows instead of just seeing a mass of black crush. Black levels are magnificent, showing off wonderful shadow detail and with only minimal crush (unfortunately some is still left).
I mentioned that this is where it gets interesting, and I’m not just talking about the color timing and darkness that Coppola used previously. The film has been confirmed as having been reframed, done so in a strange way. The image is been shifted to the left and upwards in many shots, while other shots are left entirely the same. If you have the old Blu-ray or DVD to compare against (which I do and did), you can see the issues pop up and see the differences in framing (over forums have detailed this and show side by side shots to show the difference), but I have to say that as a viewer who has seen the film several times it’s VERY had to see without comparing side by side. It really will be a personal decision if you love or hate the new color timing, or the new framing, but I really find this new release to be significantly superior to the old one (at least for me).
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=54938[/img]Given a Dolby Atmos track remix (and a subsequence 7.1 TrueHD core track), “Dracula” has been given an audio boost that elevates the already great sounding PCM track from the original 2007 release. Even though it is not the original mix, the 7.1 track that was used for this review sounded absolutely fabulous. The haunting score flows throughout with pinpoint precision, allowing for individual instrument plucks to be heard, and the sound to drift from one speaker to the next. The clicking of Dracula’s nails are crystal clear, along with the scrape of stone doors and the sobbing of mentally ill men in the asylum. Dialog is crystal clear and locked up front, with my only complaint being that the thick accents are still a bit hard to hear, but that is no fault of the transfer. LFE is strong and powerful, adding an intensity and ferocity to the track that is simply marvelous. It’s not wildly hot or aggressive, but accentuates the score as well as the more action oriented pieces of material quite nicely.
• 4K Restoration & Dolby Atmos soundtrack (Dolby TrueHD 7.1 compatible)
• Reflections in Blood: Francis Ford Coppola and Bram Stoker's Dracula
• Practical Magicians: A Collaboration Between Father and Son
• Rare 1993 Commentary with Francis Ford Coppola, Roman Coppola and Greg Cannom
• Deleted Scenes
• Audio Commentary & Film Introduction by Director Francis Ford Coppola
• 4 Legacy Featurettes
This iteration of Dracula’s tale of woe is by far my favorite (despite many of the others being ridiculously fun), and rightfully so. Francis Ford Coppola has a masterful hand behind the director’s chair and the film is beautifully artistic as well as being accessible to all. It’s strangely sensual, yet hauntingly melancholy, allowing the full range of emotions to be laid out on the table over Dracula’s sentence. You loathe the monster for what he is (think of the baby seen that Jonathon Harker is so horrified over), yet there is these brief glimpses of humanity that remind you of his motivations and terrible anguish. The disc itself is leagues better than the original 2007 release, in both audio and video (despite the framing issues) and the extras make the pot even sweeter. If you have the original release, I fully recommend upgrading, as it is well worth it. Or, if you have been holding out this is the best I think the film will look for this generation. Highly recommended.
Starring: Gary Oldman, Anthony Hopkins, Winona Ryder, Keanu Reeves
Directed by: Francis Ford Coppola
Written by: James V. Hart (screenplay), Bram Stoker (Novel)
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 AVC
Audio: English: Dolby Atmos, Dolby TrueHD 7.1 (core track)
Runtime: 127 minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: October 6th 2015
Buy Bram Stoker's Dracula: Cinema Series On Blu-ray at Amazon
Buy Bram Stoker's Dracula: Supreme Cinema Series On Blu-ray at Amazon
Recommendation: Good Watch
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