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Bram Stoker's Dracula: Superbit Collection

Reviewed by: David Litton
Genre: Horror
Video: 1.85:1 widescreen
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 5.1
Language: English
Subtitle: English, Spanish, French, Chinese, Korean, Portuguese, Thai
Length: 2 hrs, 10 min
Rating: R
Release Date: 12/11/01
Studio: Columbia Pictures
Commentary: None
Documentaries: None
Featurettes: None
Filmography/Biography: None
Interviews: None
Trailers/TV Spots: None
Alternate/Deleted Scenes: None
Music Video: None
Other: None
Cast and Crew: Gary Oldman, Winona Ryder, Anthony Hopkins, Keanu Reeves, Cary Elwes, Sadie Frost
Screenplay by: Written by: James V. Hart
Produced by: Francis Ford Coppola, Fred Fuchs, Charles Mulvehill
Directed By: Francis Ford Coppola
Music: Wojciech Kilar
The Review:

The often-told vampire legend of Dracula receives the ultimate treatment in "Bram Stokers Dracula," a film that is, by far, one of the greatest and most achieved films ever made. Director Francis Ford Coppola's hallucinatory nightmare returns to the original origins of Dracula as created in the mind of Stoker himself, taking on a sumptuous, visceral, and frightening sheen that dazzles the senses and the emotions. Some have quarreled that the movie's retelling of the legend is faulty in its willingness to do justice to the source material.

After reading the novel, I find that there are differences between the two, but James Victor Hart's script captures all the romanticism, scope, and macabre elements of Stoker's tale, making this a somewhat faithful yet completely engrossing rendition of a gothic love story. It also makes us wonder if Dracula can really be considered a villain. The opening scenes portray him as a great soldier, who returns to his castle to find his true love dead, the victim of suicide, damned by God for eternity. An infuriated Dracula vows vengeance against the Lord, after which, many centuries later, he calls upon a London real estate office to close a deal on property in the city.

As Jonathan Harker makes his way to the Count's castle, he leaves behind a hopeful fiancée, Mina, who bears a striking resemblance to the love of Dracula's life. Keep in mind that the film does not try to work in a reincarnation theory; it's merely implied, and much of the implication will come from cynical audiences. Dracula holds Harker prisoner in his castle, at the whim of his three blood-thirsty wives, and makes his way to London, where he easily courts the gorgeous Mina and recruits her rich friend Lucy to join the undead. So is he really a villain? I choose to believe not. His quest for his true love takes on a greater meaning, as he will stop at nothing to return to her. His actions are not the typical ones we'd expect out of a lovesick romantic, but we're in a completely different mindset with this film, and anything is possible.

Much has been made about the visual style and over-the-top effects Coppola employs, but to dismiss the film as style-over-substance is unjustifiable. In fact, the style and the story find common ground, working together to get at our senses and under our skin. It has some of the most beautiful vistas and landscapes you'll ever see in a movie, from the majestic yet foreboding shots of the Carpathian Mountains, to the densely atmospheric rooms and spaces inside Dracula's expansive castle.

There is gore, which is to be expected, but it never exceeds the bounds of good taste, and works to serve the movie's greater purpose. Hart's script does a terrific job of keeping the elements of Stoker's novel intact for the most part, and while there are inconsistencies, this is still a far more faithful retelling than any version made to this day.

It captures the essence of the romance without making it the sole force of the film, and also gets under our skin with frightening monologues and exchanges of dialogue. And who would've thought Keanu Reeves would be able to pull of a performance such as this? He, along with the rest of the cast, make the most of this movie's characters, giving them depth and emotion, real talent from Hollywood's best.

Gary Oldman is the best Dracula to date, evoking a subtle intensity that is as romantically alluring as it is increasingly chilling. Anthony Hopkins turns in another well-rounded performance as Van Helsing, playing his eccentricity and his willingness to put an end to Dracula with superb talent. Winona Ryder is exceptionally engaging as Mina, with sweet charm and innocence to spare. And Reeves is surprisingly well-to-do as Harker, doing his best to keep himself in gear. In this telling of the classic tale, anything goes. There's a little bit of everything in this visually sumptuous package, much that will please those who look for a wide variety in their films of choice. To sum it up, "Bram Stoker's Dracula" gives you two choices: you'll either like it or hate it, but forgetting it is not one of your options. --

Image and Sound I must say I was pretty impressed with the quality of this disc, though it's not much of an improvement over the first release, which was pristine in its transfer of sound and image quality. Here, the images are slightly clearer, with excellent color fidelity, accurate flesh tones, and clarity and sharpness to boot. The darker scenes and shadows are completely solid, without the usual noise or appearance of grain. The sound quality, which includes the original Dolby 5.1 mix and a newly remastered DTS 5.1 mix, is big on being aggressive and LOUD! Kilar's musical score is terrically wrapped into all channels of the soundfield, threatening to overpower the dialogue and all else. Deep bass is felt with a very effective presence, with just a touch more in the DTS mix than the Dolby mix.
The Extras No features included... for the second time!
Commentary None
Final Words:

This re-release of this classic version of the vampire tale is well-rendered and nearly flawless, if not for its lack of special features. Still, those looking to see the film in its most pristine format to date should look no further than this.

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January 11, 2002