DVD Review: Bram Stoker's Dracula

Sony
Movie •••½ Picture •••• Sound •••• Extras ••••

Fifteen years after its debut, Francis Ford Coppola's faithful adaptation of Dracula looks more lush and lustrous than ever on this appropriately elaborate two-disc special edition. The project's central conceit - to make an effects-laden film using only pre-digital in-camera and optical techniques - still works exclusively in its favor, conjuring an organic richness all its own.

The sharp and color-saturated transfer manages to bring a new cohesion to a sometimes disjointed storyline, while putting a welcome spotlight on the mind-blowingly original costumes of designer Eiko Ishioka. And the 5.1-channel soundtrack is among the most detailed and atmospheric I've ever heard, with chilling surround-channel effects that considerably heighten the movie's scarier scenes.

Disc 2 contains four documentary segments totaling more than an hour. Apart from 27 minutes on the overall production, the main subjects are the effects, Ishioka's costumes, and the artistic vision underlying the film. Deleted and (mostly) extended scenes total about 30 minutes and add a few minor bits of intrigue to the story, including an early version of the ending with a very different outcome. Best among the extras are the director's new introduction and commentary. Wise, thoughtful, and entertaining, Coppola reminds us why even his imperfect works - such as this - are still to be treasured for their originality and fearlessness, especially in an era of prefab corporate entertainment. [R] English and French, Dolby Digital 5.1; Spanish and Portuguese, Dolby Surround; letterboxed (1.85:1) and anamorphic widescreen; two dual-layer discs.

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