Love Never Dies.
Francis Ford Coppola takes this story of Dracula further than any other version thus far. The stunning visuals combined with Oscar winning Sound Effects Editing are a treat that is enhanced by the qualities of the DVD format.
In this version of Dracula (based upon Bram Stoker's novel of the same name) Coppola maintains the vampire facts with which we are familiar with an emphasis placed upon a never-dying love that burns deeply in the Count's heart. In fact, it was this love for his wife that caused Dracula to become a vampire in the first place. The story begins with Dracula going off to battle. While on the battlefield his enemies deliver to his wife a note that says that he is dead. She inconsolably jumps from the castle to her death far below in the river. Upon his return Dracula learns of his wife's suicide and renounces his faith in God, thereby being transformed into a vampire. Several Centuries later he meets Jonathan Harker (Keanu Reeves, The Matrix, The Devil's Advocate, A Walk in the Clouds) and happens to see a picture of the woman that Jonathan hopes to marry, Mina Murray. As luck would have it…Mina (Winona Ryder, Little Women, The Age of Innocence, Alien: Resurrection) looks exactly like his beloved Elisabeta and Dracula becomes determined to have her as his own.
Coppola presents Dracula as an ever-changing figure; one time as very old, another time as quite young and vibrant. In fact, Dracula can become whatever he desires, including a beast or a wolf or the time-honored flying bat. This ability of Dracula's to metamorphose gives Gary Oldman (Immortal Beloved, Air Force One, The Professional) the chance to showcase some of his acting ability. Whether he's an ancient man looking frail enough to blow over by the wind or a young dashing man of position yearning to capture Mina's heart we see the thread that makes him the same, yet it is played so that each characterization is equally real. Another intriguing aspect of Coppola's Dracula is that he can transcend the physical laws that we are used to. His shadow often tells of his true feelings—feelings that are hidden well by his physical manifestation. It's very interesting to watch the little things in this movie…that is, if you can draw your attention away from the main story unfolding before your eyes.
We are given a story of love transcending the ages, but there is also the angst that Dracula feels about making Mina his forever by turning her into a vampire. As an audience we also understand that some of what makes Mina desirable would be lost if she became one of the living dead. So it's with some relief that we are introduced to Professor Abraham Van Helsing (Anthony Hopkins, Silence of the Lambs, Instinct, The Edge) who believes in Dracula and is obsessed enough to confront him. Hopkins plays this part a little over the top, but who else but an eccentric professor would be foolish enough to take on the powerful and worldly Dracula? Overall Hopkins' Van Helsing is believable and enjoyable to watch.
The picture is presented in both pan and scan and widescreen 1.85:1 aspect ratio anamorphically enhanced for 16x9 TVs and Columbia did their normal excellent job on the transfer of this film. Although both versions are presented on this disc I would hasten to warn that a lot of information is lost in the pan and scan presentation. I've only seen a few movies where watching widescreen makes a vastly improved viewing experience and this is definitely one of them. Coppola uses the entire screen to set the mood and to convey the story, watching the 4x3 version will undoubtedly limit your enjoyment of this film.
This film won three Oscars, one of them for Best Sound Effects Editing and Columbia took the sound information and did a really fabulous job on the Dolby Digital 5.1 DVD presentation. The sounds are separated well and the back surrounds are used for things like the sound of flying bats. When you combine the beautiful vibrant video with the realistic sounds of bats flying and horses running while wolves howl in the distance you will end up with an entranced spooky sensation as a result.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
The DVD presentation of this film really delivers the experience that we hope to have when watching the story of Dracula. However, after we get done watching this movie there's nothing else that the disc has to offer us. Unfortunately, this is from Columbia's earlier collection of DVDs, from the age when they didn't know what "extras" were. Scene selections are the extent of what we are offered here in that department, which is very disappointing by today's standards.
Bram Stoker's Dracula will exceed your expectations of what you might imagine that a Dracula story is like. If you are even vaguely interested in either the story or any of the major actors then this is a must have for your library.
The movie is totally acquitted and I'll let Columbia off on the "no extras" charge as they have been making great strides in correcting this oversight on their recent releases.
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