Bram Stoker’s Dracula

Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Cast: Anthony Hopkins, Gary Oldman, Winona Ryder, Keanu Reeves

Francis Ford Coppola’s artistic and dazzling approach to the gothic tale that has inspired many filmmakers in the past stays very faithful to the original novel by Bram Stoker, while also making room for some fresh interpretations of the material.

"Bram Stoker’s Dracula" is not the usual monster movie you would expect at first. Instead, it’s a very romantic story, portraying the vampire count as a tormented being with emotions that, like his body, never die. Suffering from his existence, Dracula is tracked by his nemesis Dr. Van Helsing and hunted down for a climactic finale in the yard of his own castle. The lush and colorful production design, shot almost entirely on sound-stages, combined with the vivid and sometimes surreal imagery created by cinematographer Michael Ballhaus, made this movie a cinematic feast in 1992 — a feast not only for genre lovers. Don’t be fooled, however; despite all its splendor, romance, and charm, Dracula still remains a horror movie with plenty of blood and gore.

The movie starts before the actual novel from 1897 takes place, showing Dracula (in an outstanding performance by British actor Gary Oldman) as a Romanian knight fiercely battling the Turkish empire. A false letter from the Turks sends his wife Elisabeta (Winona Ryder) to her premature death. Leaving the battlefield after a premonition, Dracula finds his beloved wife in a pool of blood and condemns life and God Himself in a very spectacular, blood-soaked moment.

Four hundred years later Jonathan Harker (Keanu Reeves), an aspiring real estate broker travels to Transylvania in order to sell an old London abbey to Dracula. Chased by wolves and strange glowing mists, he finally arrives at the towering castle, only to find a weird and seemingly frail old man. Soon enough, he finds out that this man has more power then he could have possibly imagined. When Dracula finds a picture of Harker’s wife Mina (Winona Ryder), he sees his lost wife Elisabeta in her and decides to travel to London, leaving Harker back at the castle at the hands of some of his lascivious vampiric minions. The rest is almost history and features some of the most memorable moments in movie history, including Anthony Hopkins’s brilliant portrayal of Dracula’s nemesis, Dr. Van Helsing. Focusing mainly on the romantic aspect of Dracula’s tormented soul and his eternal love for his wife and her reflection in Mina, this movie has a completely different tone than any other incarnation of the vampire theme.

"Bram Stoker’s Dracula" is definitely a tough nut to bust when it comes to capturing all the details and delicate shades of the movie. Coppola’s production is rich and colorful, reveling in shades of blood-red and night-blue, making this movie extremely prone to chroma-noise on other media. This transfer, however, shows absolutely no noticeable <$chroma,chroma noise> or <$pixelation,pixelation> and the level of detail is simply breath-taking. Dracula is primarily presented in a transfer specially enhanced for 16:9 displays with a standard 1.78:1 letterbox format on standard TVs, dubbed in three different languages. As a bonus the disc’s second side also contains a <$PS,fullscreen>, scan&pan version of the movie.

Wojciech Kilar’s remarkable, "Fedora"-inspired soundtrack is an integral part of the movie’s overall experience and features a <$DD,Dolby Digital> 5.1 audio track. This disc also features some of the best audio transfers to date. The wide frequency response helps to make Kilar’s menacing celli even more foreboding while the crystal clear violins and choirs help to build tension for the movie’s breath-taking finale. The award winning-sound effects shine in a highly active surround environment and make full use of all the system’s channels.

DVD has seen a lot of high quality releases lately, and this new release from Columbia Tristar is no exception. As a matter of fact, it sets itself apart quite substantially and is definitely one of the premiere products to demonstrate DVD’s superior qualities over any other medium available to home theater owners today. If you have ever asked yourself why you should possibly switch to DVD, this movie holds the answer for you. Columbia’s treatment of this Academy Award winning movie is a perfect example of how DVD can do justice to even the most demanding movie. "Bram Stoker’s Dracula" is a drop-dead gorgeous release that shows off all the qualities DVD has to offer and is simply a must-have movie for every DVD owner.