Francis Ford Coppola’s sumptuous retelling of the classic horror
Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel about the titular Count of Transylvania has left its mark, not just on vampiric lore, but the horror genre in general. Countless adaptations have graced our screens, varying in faithfulness and quality, from the Universal series, to Hammer horror, to the more misguided efforts (I’m looking at you Van Helsing and Dracula Untold). What is clear is the undeniable allure of this magnetic monster. Francis Ford Coppola’s (Apocalypse Now, The Godfather: Part II) take on the tale met with some mixed reactions upon release in 1992. While a box office and critical success (winning 3 out of 4 nominations at the Academy Awards) some aspects of the film were scrutinized, critiques that have been burnished away over time, as the film’s popularity has only grown.
Opening in 1462, Vlad Dracula (Gary Oldman) returns from a campaign against the Ottoman Empire. His victory turns to loss as he finds an act of deception has driven his wife Elisabeta (Winona Ryder) to suicide. Castigating the cruelty of God for allowing this to happen, his desecration of a chapel results in him being cursed as a vampire. 1897, and solicitor Jonathan Harker (Keanu Reeves) heads to Transylvanian to aid the real estate dealings of one Count Dracula. A haunting experience, that takes on a more surreal tone when his host spies an image of Harker’s fiancée Mina (also Ryder), and believes her to be the reincarnation of his beloved wife. After securing Harker in his castle, Dracula voyages to London to reclaim his bride, setting in motion a battle over this woman’s heart and soul.
A familiar core, but Coppola’s adaptation learns heavily into the tragedy of the tale. Weaving together Gothic romance, melodrama, adventure, and horror in the Gilded age. Lush period details, bold colors, ornate costume design, effective optical/practical effects, opulent production design from Thomas Sanders, and stylised cinematography from Michael Ballhaus, support the confident hand of Coppola, to make for a creative and directorial flex. The film is anchored by the immense performance from Gary Oldman. Relishing the machiavellian theatrics as the aged Count, and later as the reinvigorated youthful form. He does much to reframe the vampiric personna as something more brooding and soulful as well as erotica and dangerous. He’s aided in this by a winsome presence of Ryder as Mina/Elisabeta. Hopkins revels in the more cutthroat nature of this version of Van Helsing, while Tom Waits delivers one of the more memorable portrayals of Dracula’s familiar Renfield.
Bold primary colors and nuanced secondaries, with a superb depth of image and level of detail. The textures and grain density all lend to a natural, organic, filmic appearance, that is very complementary to the overall aesthetic. It really highlights the craft that went into this production. Simply put, a very handsome UHD presentation.
Sony’s new UHD release of Bram Stoker’s Dracula ships exclusively in SteelBook packaging which smartly makes good use of the original theatrical artwork.
4K- UHD Disc:
- NEW! Music Video: “Love Song for a Vampire” by Annie Lennox.
- NEW! Blood Lines: Dracula — The Man, The Myth, The Movies: An up-scaled version of a documentary that dives into the history of Dracula in literature and film, before focusing in on the film itself, themes, cast, set pieces, production design, and Coppola’s approach
- Audio Commentary: Director Francis Ford Coppola, Visual Effects Director Roman Coppola, and Makeup Supervisor Greg Cannom: Recorded individually, but spliced together. The result is a track packed with info about various aspects of the film, creative decisions, design, changes while filming, and more. A really solid commentary
- Audio Commentary: Director Francis Ford Coppola: A solo outing for the director who gets into a lot of detail about the planning of the production, techniques used during shooting, working with the cast, the themes in the tale he wanted to promote, and more
- Francis Ford Coppola Introduction: A short segment where the director establishes his familiarity with the novel and previous adaptations
- Reflections in Blood: Francis Ford Coppola and Bram Stoker’s Dracula: Coppola converses with Film Critic F.X. Feeney about the original tale, the history of its adaptation, and all manner of aspects of Coppola’s take, from the script, to the design, to visual effects, and more
- Practical Magicians: A Collaboration Between Father and Son: Coppola’s son Roman actually worked on the film’s visual effects. This featurette features the pair in conversation about the experience
- The Blood Is the Life: The Making of Bram Stoker’s Dracula: Just under 30 minutes, this featurette gives a nice rundown on how this approach to the titular character differs from previous adaptations, with intentions to stay more try to the original novel. Also features some behind the scenes and raw footage
- The Costumes Are the Sets: The Design of Eiko Ishioka: A look at the sumptuous costume designs for the film, and how they informed the overall aesthetic
- In Camera: Naïve Visual Effects: Roman Coppola gives a fine rundown of the film’s in-camera visual effects, including the adherence to some traditional methods of crafting these additions
- Method and Madness: Visualizing Dracula — Concepts for the look and design of the film shared by Coppola and storyboard artist Peter Ramsey
- Deleted & Extended Scenes: Each running from a few seconds to several minutes. Prologue, Gypsies in Coach, Lucy’s Party, Harker Meets Dracula, Harker/Dracula Dinner, Harker Explores Castle, Harker’s Escape Attempt, Dracula on the Demeter, The Demeter Lands, Rule’s Café/Convent, The Death of Renfield, and Ending (Early Version)
- Bram Stoker’s Dracula “Beware” & Theatrical Trailer
- Digital download code also included
The Bottom Line
Bram Stoker’s Dracula showcases Coppola, and a creative team, firing on all cylinders to craft this soulful spectacle. The sumptuous visuals are given a new lease of life thanks to this 4K treatment, which also delivers plenty of extra features to sink your teeth into.
Bram Stoker’s Dracula 4K-UHD Steelbook is available via Sony Home Entertainment now