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While BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA ($30) may not be the best film appearance for the classic horror character, the sheer style of this film makes it a cinematic masterwork. The biggest problem with BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA is its cast. Gary Oldman may be a good actor, but Dracula he is not. All of the silver screen’s best remembered Draculas had a little something extra which gave their creations an overwhelming screen presence. For horror fans, Bela Lugosi and Christopher Lee were Dracula. Even Frank Langella had his moments. The character of Dracula requires an actor with real magnetism, and personally I feel that someone like Antonio Banderas would have been a much better choice to fill the Count’s coffin. Another major casting weakness is Keanu Reeves. Does this guy ever give a performance? Reeves is just bloody (pardon the pun) awful in everything in which he appears. BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA is no exception. Reeves makes an attempt at an English accent for the movie, but he still comes off as if he wandered in from the latest BILL AND TED opus.

Director Francis Ford Coppola must have figured that the deficiencies in casting would cause problems, so he turned BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA into a virtual textbook of film technique. Coppola overwhelms his audience with style for the film’s complete running time, never giving them a chance to figure out that BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA has virtually no substance. The familiar plot concerns the vampire Count’s travels to England, where he encounters a beautiful English girl who would seem to be his long dead wife reincarnated. Winona Ryder doesn’t embarrass herself as Dracula’s eternal love, but this performance is far from her best. Anthony Hopkins makes for a marvelous Professor Van Helsing, giving Dracula’s nemesis real zest. Actually, Hopkins’ performance is the only one with real teeth, and he uses them to chew the scenery quite effectively. Sadie Frost portrays Dracula’s first English victim. Frost is exquisitely beautiful and her performance lends the film most of its eroticism. The cast of BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA also features Richard E. Grant, Cary Elwes, Bill Campbell and Tom Waits as the screen’s most impressive Renfield.

Columbia TriStar Home Video offers BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA in both Letterboxed and pan and scan presentations on opposite sides of the DVD. The pan and scan transfer is acceptable, even though it crops the image slightly. Color and image quality is quite good on the pan and scan transfer. However, the Letterboxed transfer is utterly glorious. The transfer restores the proper 1.85:1 framing to Michael Ballhaus’ spectacular cinematography. On DVD the Letterboxed transfer is magnificent to look at, making this edition of BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA tough to beat. The image is richly detailed and the colors are deeply saturated. Hot colors such as red, which tend to be problematic on analog Laserdiscs, reproduce quite beautifully on this DVD. There were a couple of minor instances where digital compression artifacts were noticeable on both presentations. The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack was truly outstanding, definitely demonstration quality and perhaps one of the best mixes, period. The soundstage is truly amazing, with the track taking full advantage of all of the discrete channels. Little sounds emanate from everywhere, as do big sweeping directional effects and deep bass. Other soundtrack options include a matrixed Dolby Surround soundtrack, plus Spanish and French language tracks. Subtitles are available in Spanish and Korean.

Although the performances are somewhat lacking, BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA is a DVD worth acquiring for its sense of cinematic style, the beauty of its Letterboxed transfer, and its outstanding Dolby Digital soundtrack.


Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992)


DVD reviews are Copyright 1998 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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