Interview With The Vampire

Interview With The Vampire (1994)
Warner Home Video
Cast: Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, Kristen Dunst, Antonio Banderas, Stephen Rea, Christian Slater
Extras: Commentary Track, Documentary, Introduction, Theatrical Trailer

It is hard to believe it has been 14 years already since this movie first made it to theaters, but I vividly remember still how, when 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 any more of them?

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 maliciously 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 and leaves him for dead. 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. Kirsten, of course, went on to become a major force among young actresses in Hollywood ever since.

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 film with lots of dialogue and narration. Only about 30 minutes into the story, with the introduction of Claudia's character, do events start to flow more naturally and the plot picks up pace. Since the story is more of a narrative than a drama, the lack of a human victim to fear for keeps the suspense very 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.

Visually and atmospherically, "Interview With The Vampire" is a beautiful film and it is great to see that this Blu-Ray debut from Warner Home Video is bringing the film to life like never before. By design, the image in the movie is often soft and filtered, resulting in a bit of grain in many shots. Instead of trying to get rid of these artistic elements I am glad to report that Warner kept it all intact in this high definition transfer. The disc presents the movie just as I remember it from theater screenings but with a level of detail in many shots that is dramatically improved.

Color reproduction of the transfer is remarkable and extremely faithful to the film's original presentation without any signs of discoloration. The sepia-toned imagery, its warm colors, combined with deliberate color accents, it all is wonderfully reproduced here without flaws. The level of detail is incredible and edges are sharply defined, letting the image come to live like never before. It does, however, make some of the matte paintings and effects shots stand out a little more while at the same time lending incredible richness to the production design and costumes.

Blacks are deep and always maintain enough detail without breaking up, giving the image dramatic visual depth. The highlights are beautifully rendered while contrasts are perfectly balanced, restoring all of Jordan's ominously dark and atmospheric imagery. Overall it is top notch transfer of the movie. The only reason it does not stand out as strikingly as some other titles is because of the film's cinematography and its use of soft filters.

The disc contains a 5.1 channel Dolby Digital audio track in English as well as Dolby Stereo tracks for selected other languages. I was somewhat surprsed at the lack of a lossless audio track – be that Dolby TrueHD or DTS HD – but with its increased bitrate, the Dolby Digital track does a great job in underscoring the movie without any problems.
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 commentary track by director Neil Jordan that had previously been included on the DVD version is included on this release. The track 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. Strangely though, it feels much less like a real introduction and are actually random excerpts from interviews without any introductory feel.

"In The Shadow Of The Vampire," is also included, culled from the DVD version, a 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.

Warner Home Video has prepared a wonderful package for "Interview With The Vampire" with this Blu-Ray Disc that should make fans of the film happy. Sadly all extras are presented in standard definition and some new bonus materials, as well as high definition audio tracks, would have been welcome, the noticeably improved quality of the transfer in high definition alone is worth the upgrade if you're a fan of the film, no doubt. Add this one to your shopping list and see for yourself.