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review added: 1/4/02



Bram Stoker's Dracula

review by Greg Suarez of The Digital Bits

American Pie: Ultimate Edition (Unrated)

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

Encoded with DTS & Dolby Digital 5.1 Digital Surround


Bram Stoker's Dracula
SuperBit - 1992 (2001) - Columbia Tri-Star

Film Rating: A

Disc Ratings (Video/Extras): A+/F

Audio Ratings (DD/DTS): A/A+

Specs and Features

127 mins, R, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, dual-layered (layer switch at 1:03:36, in chapter 13), keep case packaging, scene access (28 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1 & DTS 5.1), subtitles: English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean and Thai, Closed Captioned



Bram Stoker's Dracula

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs
Bram Stoker's Dracula
1992 (1997) - Columbia TriStar
Film Rating: A

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A-/A-/F

Specs and Features

126 mins, R, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), 16x9 enhanced, full frame (1.33:1), dual-sided, single-layered, Amaray keep case packaging, film-themed menu screens, scene access (52 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1), Spanish and French (DD 2.0), subtitles: Spanish and Korean, Closed Captioned


"The blood is life!"

It would be nearly impossible to list all of the different theatrical derivations Bram Stoker's 1897 novel Dracula has inspired since the dawn of cinema. The novel has been adapted to different times in history, with certain poetic licenses taken, in many cases, to place the story in less traditional plot situations. Director Francis Ford Coppola's 1992 telling of Bram Stoker's Dracula remains one of my favorites, for its extravagant and richly textured style and unique spin on the story of Vlad the Impaler.

Bram Stoker's Dracula tells the tale of Prince Vlad Dracula (Gary Oldman). Dracula lost his true love to the deception of his enemies and denounced the church, which doomed him to everlasting life as one of the undead, forced to feed off of the blood of man to sustain existence. Several centuries later, London real estate agent Jonathan Harker (Keanu Reeves) calls on Dracula to finalize a deal to purchase Carfax Abbey in London. While he entertains his new guest, Dracula sees a picture of Harker's fiancée, Mina (Winona Ryder). She looks exactly like Dracula's long-dead true love, and the Count decides it is his fate to travel to London to reunite with his past, and once again discover true love.

Once in London, Dracula brings with him a plague of death that leaves the city shaken. Little by little, Dracula begins to charm his way into Mina's heart, while Dr. Van Helsing (Anthony Hopkins) discovers that Dracula is responsible for the evil that has been unleashed on the town. Van Helsing and Harker must save Mina before she becomes Dracula's bride, doomed to the same tortuous, everlasting existence.

Bram Stoker's Dracula stands apart from other vampire films, in that in this version, Dracula is not a soulless animal that exists to merely terrorize women and drink blood. Here, Dracula is a terribly lonely man doomed to an eternity of pain and heartache caused by the death of his true love. What Coppola does with this version is give Dracula a reason for existence and more of a history. The audience is actually shown why Dracula is a tortured undead creature, and the plot element of his anguish and loneliness (caused by his lost love) bestows on the character a more human quality. The fact that Stoker's story has always contained an element of eroticism and sexuality lends itself perfectly to Coppola's retelling, with the added amount of passion and romantic desire. In all, I would characterize this film as first, a romance and only second, a horror flick.

Back in 1997 Columbia released a nice looking and sounding DVD of Bram Stoker's Dracula, and it still holds up pretty well today. The dual-sided, single-layered disc contained both a widescreen and full frame version, and the video quality of the anamorphically enhanced widescreen side (framed at 1.78:1) was very good. The rich and stylized colors were vibrant and realistic. Images were sharp, and the disc portrayed a very admirable black level, especially for such an early release. However, the disc did contain some compression artifacting and slight amounts of video noise and edge enhancement. With their new line of SuperBit DVDs, Columbia has made a good thing even better. For the SuperBit version of Dracula, Columbia tossed out the full frame version (…and don't let the door hit your ass on the way out), and spread the film over dual layers on a single side of the disc, allowing for the maximum video bit rate and this completely exterminating any and all compression artifacting. The attention given to this new DVD has eliminated almost all noise and grain, and overall, the image is sharper and more vibrant.

The original DVD release of Dracula boasted a sweet Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack that was spacious and assertive, effectively placing the audience in the eerie atmosphere of the film. The haunting score by Wojciech Kilar was draped around the listening environment, and the rear channels were aggressively used for directional effects and ambiance. With the new SuperBit edition, Columbia upped the Dolby Digital 5.1 bit rate from 384 kbps to 448 kbps, and the differences, not surprisingly, are subtle. It's the same great soundtrack, just with a touch more atmosphere. Dial in the new DTS 5.1 audio (encoded at 768 kbps) on the SuperBit edition, and you're in for quite an experience. The entire sound field images more seamlessly, and low frequency effects are tighter, and more natural. The DTS audio also fleshes out the subtle whispers and creepy surround effects more naturally.

The original DVD of Dracula contained no features at all - the menu screens were hardly even film-themed. I suppose you have to make allowances for the fact that this was a very early DVD release from the studio. The SuperBit edition, as well, has zero extras, but this time it's strategic. The idea behind the SuperBit discs is to use every available bit for the audio/video encoding, thereby foregoing supplements - the menu screens aren't even film-themed. While the original version of Dracula is still available on store shelves, spend the extra $5 or so to get the SuperBit edition… technically, it's the clear winner, and will more than hold you over until the oft-rumored special edition finally comes around.

While I have been somewhat anti-SuperBit since the first batch of titles showed up, this is the one SuperBit offering that is worth the scratch. The video improvements with Dracula: SuperBit are more pronounced than the other SuperBit "upgrades." Even those with smaller displays will probably see small improvements - unlike many of the other SuperBit titles. And the new DTS audio is a must-hear for fans of the film, and easily bests the Dolby Digital track featured on the original release. If you've been curious at all about the new line of SuperBit discs, but have been wary to spend the money on a featureless DVD to replace an already good looking and sounding disc, Bram Stoker's Dracula is the one you'll want to choose. In my opinion, it most closely embodies what Columbia's SuperBit line of DVDs is meant to represent.

Greg Suarez
gregsuarez@thedigitalbits.com


Bram Stoker's Dracula (SuperBit)


Bram Stoker's Dracula


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