The Dracula character has appeared in hundreds of movies, but you could argue he’s never looked as good as he has in Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula (1992)…
…Oscar winner of Best Costume Design, Best Sound Effects Editing and Best Makeup (and nominated for Best Art Direction), the film is a stunning display of beauty and terror. To celebrate the 30th anniversary, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has unleashed a limited edition 4K steelbook worth sinking your teeth into.
Based on the novel by Bram Stoker and adapted by James V. Hart, Dracula follows Jonathan (Keanu Reeves) as he heads out to meet eccentric weirdo/ancient monster, Dracula (Gary Oldman), at his Transylvanian goth palace in order to broker a real estate deal. Shocking that it turns out to be a trap to capture Jonathan, freeing up Dracula to cross the sea and seduce Jonathan’s boo, Mina (Winona Ryder), who just so happens to be the reincarnation of the vamp’s long lost love, Elisabeta. What the centuries old creature does not count on is a band of misfit heroes led by Van Helsing (Anthony Hopkins) who will stop at nothing to keep Mina out of his jaws.
When Coppola set out to make Dracula, he was determined to create the most romanticized, horrific, breathtaking version of the film we had ever seen. Hard to deny that he succeeded on all three counts. From grand sets dripping with a spooky atmosphere to Michael Ballhaus’ rich cinematography, the scope of Dracula is incredible. Coppola poured every ounce of his creative blood into the production. Dracula’s vibrant, purple eyes watching from the sky as Jonathan approaches the castle. The lush colors of the three vampire brides’ kink dungeon. Random blue infernos. The 4K transfer makes all of it glow with fresh life like a vampire that’s just fed. While I’ve always been a fan of the visuals, the enhanced imagery allows some moments to play as if they’re brand new. An already gorgeous film has been made even more exquisite.
Dracula didn’t win the Oscar for Best Sound Effects Editing for nothing, and the Dolby Atmos audio sends the film’s soundscapes creeping through your bones. You have to wonder why Jonathan doesn’t immediately turn tail after entering Dracula’s castle, the sounds of women moaning, men screaming and bats flapping are all crystal clear. The children of the night, how much sweeter their music sounds. I felt like Brad Pitt in Interview with the Vampire, heightened vampiric senses presenting the film like I’ve never heard it. And my god, Wojciech Kilar’s score! Few compositions in horror are as seductive, as powerful and bellowing as the music which flows through Dracula. It’s just part of why the film’s prologue is the most captivating in all of Dracula cinema.
The other piece of that is the man himself, brought to life with a heart that beats stronger than you’d expect by Oldman. There are many greats who have embodied the role of the Count, but it would be foolish to say that Gary Oldman isn’t amongst the five best of them. While Coppola sought to capture the book as closely as possible—going so far as to have the cast read it out loud together and suggest what the script was missing—there is much more emotion in this Dracula than in Stoker’s heartless version of the beast. As much of the cast describes on the “Blood Lines” featurette included with the disc, Oldman is a highly emotional actor. We get a good taste of that through glimpses at rehearsals, one of which sees Gary repeatedly slapping himself in the forehead after stumbling over dialogue. The sudden shock on Winona’s face is palpable, and it made me uneasy as well. Uncomfortable or not, that sort of commitment comes through in the performance. Oldman has an undeniable presence as Dracula that doesn’t just capture the audience, but clamps down on our necks and doesn’t let go. Some of that is Eiko Ishioka’s unforgettable costume design or Dracula’s terrifying makeup effects, but Oldman is simply entrancing. Even when he’s not in a scene, you can feel his shadow looming tall over the other characters.
The one knock on Dracula has always been the performances of Reeves and Ryder—I’ll admit, the English accents are less than good—but I’ve always found them and the other actors to be charming. Anthony Hopkins in particular chews the scenery like a starving maniac. For those that don’t find them as endearing, I doubt the “Blood Lines” featurette will change your mind on the acting, but it might make you appreciate them more. Filmed in 1992 and clocking in around thirty minutes, the featurette is a blood-deep look at the behind-the-scenes work of the cast and their approach to their characters, as well as their views on the iconic creature of Dracula. Aside from the glee of seeing everyone so young, we get a delicious dose of what went into the development of the characters, how the performers prepared themselves for some of the more intense scenes, and Coppola’s kind and understanding process as a director who appears open to any and every suggestion to improve the film. That’s rarer than you might think.
A blood-curdling horror film blended with a touching love story that brings a more romantic side to a typically evil icon, Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula remains a top-tier vampire film thirty years later. Since the only new additions to the disc are the featurette and a music video by Annie Lennox for her song “Love Song for a Vampire” it might not be worth draining your wallet for those who already own it, but the upgraded transfer will leave diehard fans of this masterpiece swooning like Mina in the arms of Dracula.
The 30th anniversary Dracula 4K steelbook is now available from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. Check out the full list of special features below.
4K ULTRA HD DISC
By Matt Konopka