Originally released in 1992, Bram Stoker's Dracula, directed by Francis Ford Coppola, had an incredible look and feel. The sets, costumes, and all the visual aspects of the film were incredibly rich and complex. Happily, the same is true of the collector's edition of the DVD, a two-disc set, released on October 2.
The film is just as visually entertaining now as it was 15 years ago, with all the effects appearing as elegant and as “real” as they ever did. Several of the DVD extras in the set focus on this, including one featurette on how the effects were created “in-camera” rather than through the use of computers. It provides a fascinating look at how incredible effects can be created using just one's imagination. Some of the effects that look the best turn out to be the easiest to create.
Rather than spoiling the magic of the movie, learning about the effects only seems to enhance the magic that surrounds the film and the character of Dracula himself, which is played to perfection by Gary Oldman. Oldman, in every frame, exudes not only evil, but a depth of emotion and love.
Francis Ford Coppola masterfully recreates Bram Stoker's quintessential vampire tale as one of love. The story follows Count Dracula as he movies from Transylvania to England, in search of the reincarnation of his one true love, Elisabeta.
In the prologue to the movie, believing Dracula dead, Elisabeta commits suicide, which in turn prompts Dracula to turn from the Church and become a vampire. Years later, she is reincarnated as Mina Murray (Winona Ryder), who is engaged to Jonathan Harker (Keanu Reeves). Dracula imprisons Harker in his castle in Transylvania after Harker helps him purchase London real estate, so that he can pursue Murray.
Unluckily for Dracula, due to his attacking a friend of Mina's, the Count comes under the sights of Abraham Van Helsing (Anthony Hopkins). Van Helsing is a man who has made it his life's mission to capture and kill the Count and all vampires. Hopkins is quite engaging, if not slightly too far over-the-top, in his role.
Coppola's take on the legend of Dracula is one where the Count seems at times good, and Van Helsing, his enemy and would-be murderer, at times more than slightly evil. This twist on the classic tale of Dracula works brilliantly, and provides an interesting way to view an old tale. It also gives the actors more to do and show, a task which both Hopkins and Oldman are up to.
In fact, the cast as a whole is a wonderful ensemble, featuring Cary Elwes, Bill Campbell, Richard E. Grant, Sadie Frost, and Tom Waits. Each actor, even if their screen time is limited, seems to add depth to their role. The true standout though is Oldman as Dracula. Every word, movement, turn, thought, and gaze put forth by Oldman in the movies seems to imbue preternaturalness to the Count.
In the end, watching the movie and myriad of special features that accompany it, one gets the impression that Bram Stoker's Dracula is a love letter, one from Coppola to history itself. Coppola's love not only of the Dracula legend, but filmmaking, in all its aspects, becomes readily apparent in this release. The film looks a sumptuous now as it ever did, and is a must-have for fans of the director or genre.