Interview With The Vampire

Review by Guido Henkel

Interview With The Vampire  (1994)
Warner Home Video

Length:        122 mins.
Rated:          R
Format:       Anamorphic Widescreen · 1.78:1
Languages:English, French
Subtitles:    English, French, Spanish
Extras:        Commentary Track
                     Documentary
                     Trailer

When, some years ago, I first read Anne Rice’s novel "Interview with the Vampire", I was impressed by the unique, romantic view she used to explore the vampire subject. Ever since the publication of the novel, the genre has been turned upside down to the point that today the market appears literally over-saturated with romanticized vampire novels and the original view of the bloodthirsty animalism of the creature seems almost lost. But still, Anne Rice’s "Interview with the Vampire" stands out as a great novel that is imaginative and masterfully told.
Vampires are now perceived in a totally different light than the horrible, blood-sucking monstrosities they were in the decades previous. Anne Rice’s stories display vampires as lost souls that harbor emotions more deeply felt than most humans could dream of. Despite being blessed by their ability to live forever, they are damned to eternal life, tormented and constantly struggling between joy and angst in the hopelessness of their being - just like humans. They are stylish ladies and gentlemen with their own weaknesses and character streaks, while at the same time wielding unbelievable powers. Neil Jordan’s excellent adaptation of this novel resulted in an atmospheric and eye-catching movie.

"Interview with the Vampire" is the story of the age-old, disillusioned vampire Lestat (Tom Cruise) searching the world for companionship in his time of solitude. In New Orleans of 1791, a desolate young man named Louis (Brad Pitt) finally catches his eye. After losing his wife in childbirth, the wealthy Louis has given up hope, become extremely self-destructive, and is now on the verge of killing himself. Lestat lures the young man with promises about the beauty of eternal life and everlasting youth, and finally turns him into his companion as another vampire. It soon turns out that the soft-mannered Louis has some problems with the vampire’s lifestyle and attitude. Unlike Lestat, he does not enjoy taking people’s lives. He is tormented by even the mere thought and decides to feast on rats instead, while constantly seeking answers to his innermost questions, as well as seeking the truth behind vampiredom: Where do vampires come from and are there more?

Over time, Lestat grows increasingly angry over Louis’ neurotic weaknesses and finally decides to create another companion for them, both as a friend to Louis and a punishment for his self-obsessed behavior. The 6-year old orphan Claudia (Kirsten Dunst) seems to be the perfect choice for him, for children are by nature quite unrestrained. What Lestat forgot - or perhaps realized - was the fact that Claudia would grow older and find herself eternally trapped in the body of a child. As the movie unfolds, she develops a furious hatred toward the unscrupulous Lestat, and plans the most hideous thing a vampire can possibly do. She wants to kill one of her own kind. To that end, she poisons Lestat. When Louis and Claudia leave New Orleans to visit the Old World, they finally find some of Louis’ answers. There are more vampires in Paris.

Though at first it seems that Lestat simply celebrates and enjoys his eternal life as if it were an overly splendid party and with a gratuitous disrespect for life, there is far more depth to the character that remains mostly untouched in the movie. In fact, he is just as tantalizing a character as Louis, and while the movie focuses on Louis and Claudia, in some ways it is also the story of Lestat, lost in his loneliness and somehow detached from the world around him. Tom Cruise as the choice for the vampire Lestat raised controversy before the movie’s first theatrical release. Even Anne Rice herself publicly bad-mouthed the actor as being a mis-casting for the character, rambling against the studio’s lack of sensitivity regarding her intellectual properties. Many people, Mrs. Rice included, had to review their positions however after the movie’s first public screenings. While it might have been audacious, it turned out, Tom Cruise, is Lestat, just as Brad Pitt plays the perfect Louis. Both of them are bested by the young actress Kirsten Dunst, however, in her gripping and ferocious portrayal of Claudia.

The movie has a weak spot, which is the script itself. It’s not very explanatory and has some logic gaps. This will be especially obvious to viewers who are not familiar with the novel, as Anne Rice, who also wrote the movie’s screenplay, makes far too many assumptions about the viewer’s familiarity with the characters and their individual traits. The script evolves on its own time, resulting in a lamentably slow start of the movie with lots of dialogue. Only about 30 minutes into the story, with the introduction of Claudia’s character, do events start to flow more naturally. Since the story is more of a narrative than a drama, the lack of a human victim to fear for keeps the suspense level low. However, the movie easily compensates for those weaknesses through an interesting story and convincing acting, enhanced by its lush production designs and the atmospheric sepia-toned photography. It is entertaining and an elaborate piece of filmmaking with stunning visuals.
Currently "Queen Of The Damned" is in production at Warner Brothers, a sequel to "Interview With The Vampire" also based on Anne Rice’s novel from the Vampire chronicles. Given the novel, the film will most likely focus more on Lestat as a character and hopefully avoid some of the explanatory gaps of this first film.

Visually and atmospherically, "Interview With The Vampire" is a beautiful film and it is great to see that this DVD from Warner Home Video is bringing the film to life like never before. In a direct comparison to the 1997 DVD release of the film - it was one of the first DVDs in the market, actually - it becomes obvious that technology has made big strides. While the image quality of the original release was outstanding at the time, the new transfer exhibits a notably higher definition. Although the master from which this DVD has been created appears to be the same that was used for the DVD release three years ago, the film looks remarkably better on this DVD. The movie is presented in a 16x9 enhanced widescreen presentation in a 1.78:1 widescreen aspect ratio.
The color reproduction is more faithful to the film’s original presentation without any signs of discoloration. The level of detail is incredible and edges are sharply defined without the signs of edge-enhancement that were evident in the earlier release. Blacks are deep and always maintain enough detail without breaking up. The highlights are beautifully rendered while contrasts are perfectly balanced, restoring all of Jordan’s ominously dark and atmospheric imagery. Color reproduction is very faithful with strong hues and tones, never bleeding, and free of noise. The compression of the movie is virtually flawless without any signs of compression artifacts in the presentation, leaving all the details, and colors fully intact. Interestingly however, the menus found on this disc, are riddled with compression artifacts like pixelation and banding, which is quite surprising given the overall stellar presentation of the movie itself.

The disc contains 5.1 channel Dolby Digital audio tracks in English and French as well as an English DTS audio track. Just as in the video department, Warner Home Video brings out some spectacular quality in the movie’s audio presentation. The Dolby Digital track is beautifully an engaging without the slightest signs of noise or distortion. With its good use of the surrounds, the track exhibits a beautiful spatial integration and flawless imaging. Even the subtlest ambient effects are evident in the presentation, adding to the haunting beauty of the film. A good bass extension adds to the movie’s visceral punch, which helps giving some of the more dramatic action scenes the necessary impact.
The DTS track that can be found on the disc is equally impressive and actually manages to outperform the Dolby Digital mix on a number of occasions. The dynamics of the track, the clarity and natural reproduction of the score is simply breathtaking. The spatial integration creates a sound image that is extremely lively and boasts of the most subtle sonic nuances and timbres.
Dialogues are well integrated in all versions and always understandable.

Director Neil Jordan has also contributed a commentary track to this release, which is very engaging and full of valuable information. Jordan covers a plethora of aspects surrounding the production of the movie. Without notable pauses, Jordan easily coves the entire 2 hours of the movie’s running length and manages to remain interesting, entertaining and informative over the entire course. You will walk away from this commentary with a new-found appreciation for the movie and the people involved. The faithfulness and efforts that went into making this the atmospheric film it ultimately is, is impressive and full of exciting tidbits.

When starting up "Interview With The Vampire" a 1-minute introduction will greet you, which helps to set the right mood and expectations for the film. The introduction can also be found in the disc’s "Special Features" section where you will also find "In The Shadow Of The Vampire," a new 30-minute documentary featuring interesting interviews with Anne rice, director Neil Jordan, Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, Kirsten Dunst, Antonio Banderas, Stan Winston and many others. Not only does it cover different aspects of the movie and the novels themselves, but also the peripheral area of vampirism in general. It is a great piece that you shouldn’t miss to watch. The disc also contains the movie’s theatrical trailer and a link to a special feature on Warner’s website, called "History Of The Vampire."

Warner Home Video has prepared a spectacular package for "Interview With The Vampire" with this DVD. Given the quality of all the content it is surprising Warner managed to squeeze four audio tracks in top notch quality on the disc, together with a beautiful anamorphic transfer and even supplements like the documentary. All in all, this DVD turns out to be an incarnation of the movie like you have never experienced it, so don’t miss out on this one.

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May 16, 2000

rectrect

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