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For a long time, it appeared as if INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE ($25) would never reach the screen. The project had been kicking around Hollywood for almost two decades before director Neil Jordan brought Anne Riceís hugely popular novel to cinematic life. Even after production began, there was a bit of controversy attached to the project. It seems that Anne Rice wasnít too pleased with the choice of Tom Cruise in a pivotal role. Fortunately after viewing the completed film, Rice admitted that she was wrong about the casting choice and that Cruise gave a very good performance. Jordanís casting choices seem to imply that vampires must be eternally beautiful and seductive to survive as they do. Also, there is a certain logic to beautiful vampires. Letís face it; any vampire looking for eternal companionship, certainly wouldnít bestow immortality on someone whose face is unappealing.

INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE stars Brad Pitt as Louis de Pointe du Lac, the title character who is interviewed in a San Francisco hotel room and recounts the story of his undead existence over the last two centuries. Unlike the traditional vampire, Louis is a tortured soul, torn between his blood lust and the sympathy he feels for his human prey. Tom Cruise portrays Lestat de Lioncourt; the vampire that turns Louis into an immortal and creates a child vampire named Claudia (Kirsten Dunst), as a means of holding onto the somber Louis. Louis and his very strange little family live together for decades, until Claudia mentally matures and realizes that she is a woman forever trapped inside a childís body. Eventually, Claudiaís rage against Lestat tears the threesome apart, Claudia and Louis traveling to Europe in search of other immortals. After traveling for years, Louis and Claudia finally discover other vampires living in Paris. However, it is here that their past with Lestat finally catches up with them.

While Brad Pitt is especially good at portraying Louisí inner turmoil and Tom Cruise is well suited to Lestatís sharp toothed sense of humor, it Kirsten Dunstís performance as Claudia that one will long remember after the film has ended. Dunst gives a performance that is well beyond her years, making one truly believe that there is a woman residing behind the eyes of a very deadly child. INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE also features marvelous supporting performances from Stephen Rea, Antonio Banderas and Domiziana Giordano. Director Neil Jordan beautifully stages the film, creating one of the most opulent and visually haunting vampire movies to ever be produced. The best way to describe INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE is to say that the film is like a dark, rich tapestry that becomes more beautiful the longer you look at it.

This release marks the second time that Warner Home Video has issued INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE on DVD. Warnerís original release came during the early days of DVD and did not offer fans much by way of supplements. The presentation of INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE has been enhanced for playback on 16:9 displays and the film has been framed accordingly at 1.78:1. Image quality on the DVD is quite good, with everything appearing sharp and well defined. The marvelous transfer allows one to appreciate the meticulous care that went into creating the ornate sets and costumes used for the filmís period settings. Since the majority of the film takes place at night and appears to be lit by candlelight, most colors are more subdued than they would appear broad daylight. This isnít to say that the colors arenít rich, just that the shading doesnít allow them to pop off the screen. Flesh tones are warm and healthy for the living characters, however the undead tend to appear pale and unnatural. Blacks are accurately rendered and shadow detail is quite impressive on this DVD. Because of the darkness, INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE is a difficult movie to compress into the MPEG-2 format. However, this DVD takes advantage of the extra storage space afforded by dual layers to keep motion artifacts at bay.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack has an atmospheric mix that does make effective of the discrete nature of the format for directional effects and ambient sounds. The period setting maintains the realism of the sound effects, however they are effectively implemented within the mix. Dialogue reproduction is smooth, fully intelligible and quite natural. The bass channel ensures sonic fullness by adding weight to sound effects. Elliot Goldenthalís score is well recorded and has been carefully integrated into the mix, so that it washes over the viewer from all sides. French Dolby Digital and English DTS soundtracks have been encoded onto the DVD, along with English, French and Spanish subtitles.

The interactive menus have been very nicely designed and take advantage of animation and sound. Through the menu system, one can access the standard scene selection and set up features, along with a nice complement of supplements. Director Neil Jordan contributes a very accessible running audio commentary, which contains a great deal of information about the production. I donít know how Jordan manages to talk so enthusiastically for a full two hours without running out of gas, but fans will be delighted to hear everything he has to say. The DVD also features a new 1-minute introduction that features Anne Rice, Neil Jordan and Antonio Banderas, which appears before the start of the movie, but also can be accessed from the menus.

In The Shadow Of The Vampire is a new 30-minute documentary that features new and old interviews with Anne Rice, Neil Jordan, Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, Kirsten Dunst, Antonio Banderas and special effects creator Stan Winston. Most aspects of the production are covered in the documentary, along with the modern allure of the vampire. History Of The Vampire is a DVD-ROM feature that works as a web link. Filling out the supplements is a theatrical trailer, plus cast/crew biographies/filmographies.

INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE is a marvelous film adaptation of the Anne Rice novel. The movie is beautiful to look at and quite entertaining. Warnerís new DVD edition certainly does the film justice, delivering a great looking and sounding presentation, as well as some very nice supplements. Recommended to fans of the book, the movie, vampires and the horror genre in general.




DVD reviews are Copyright © 2000 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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