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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Dracula-1979
Dracula-1979
Universal
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Review by Chuck Arrington | posted July 4, 2001 | E-mail the Author
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DRACULA-1979

Synopsis:

The story of Dracula is not new to the cinema. In 1979, Frank Langella imbued the Count with a charisma and charm that had never been explored to this extent in any prior incarnation. The story for his version is as follows: Dracula has arrived in England with a trail of blood and death in his wake. He enters polite English society and almost immediately, the unexplained death rate in the area doubles. Included in this count is Mina, the daughter of none other than, the venerable, Dr. Abraham Van Helsing (Sir Laurence Olivier). When she takes ill and dies suddenly, her caretaker, Dr. Seward (Donald Pleasance) cables Van Helsing immediately. Upon his arrival, he goes to visit her grave. As an expert in the occult and all things supernatural, he performs a rite to determine the presence of the undead in the cemetery in which his daughter is buried. When the rite identifies his daughters' grave, Van Helsing sets out to destroy the vampire that has damned his daughter! A confrontation of colossal proportions ensues when you combine the acting genius of Sir Laurence Olivier with Langellas' bravado and fiery performance. The resultant cinematic effort is nothing short of tremendous. The story of Dracula has been told and re-told and will probably be told again and again. The performances however of the greats (Lugosi, Lee, Langella) will never be equaled. Dracula is a great film that's visual treats are just as dazzling as the repartee between the film's staggering collection of top-drawer talent. I cannot say it enough, I love this movie! There's just enough camp and just enough action/drama to make it a fun film.

Audio/Video:

Now for the bad stuff. The audio and video for Dracula are a disgrace. The audio is presented in a very lackluster and poor DD2.0 platform that sounds more like mono than anything else. The dialogue is soft and the overall volume at which the film is presented is very low. There are no directional effects and no LFE involvement at all. The score is one of the most memorable movie themes however, you couldn't tell it by this presentation. The Video for the film is equally deplorable. There are hints of color throughout the widescreen-non-anamorphic print however; the bulk of the film looks rather monochromatic and extremely drab. Having seen this film countless times, I am somewhat conversant with the color levels I have seen in previous editions and this is by far the worst I have seen. It's so bad, it's almost unwatchable. In addition to the washed out color, there are flecks, scratches and every imaginable transfer error present that you can think of. I could see my way to ignore some of these glairing errors however they are really too numerous to ignore. Back on the color front, the most obvious flash of color is of course the inside of Dracula's cloak but even that isn't as vibrant and beautiful as it should be. In all, this is one of the worst transfers I have seen in some time.

The DVD:

In the many years since Bram Stoker penned his legendary novel, there have been literally hundreds of cinematic incarnations and variations on his theme. In the late seventies, Dracula made it to Broadway and was both a critical and financial success. So much so that the play was destined for feature film treatment and its lead, Frank Langella would bear the title "the most romantic Dracula ever". The resultant effort was a beautifully filmed epic that captured elements of the story that had not been fully fleshed out in previous versions. Like every Dracula film, the novel is responsible for the primary elements however; the storyline itself takes on a life all its own given the studios' desire and the Director's bend as well as the actor's personal interpretation. I'll admit, Langella's performance had to grow on me a bit before I could really get behind it but once I did, I found a lot to really love about this film and its performances by some of the screen's best. Frank Langella's performance is definitely unique in terms of approach. Langella brought a certain sex appeal to the role that had never before been presented. Where sexual attraction and sexual tension where elements brought to bear in Hammer studios' contributions, there was never a "love scene" where the Count actually had sex with one of his victims. The elements of attraction, stimulation and eroticism where always there however, they took on a fuller and all together new meaning with this feature. The DVD looks to have been one of the first produced and bears a poorly rendered audio and video portion. The menus are static and poorly conceived and the color seems to have all but washed out from the print. 1979's Dracula is another great re-telling of a classic horror tale. It's just a shame that more care wasn't taken in preserving the integrity of the film's vision and the quality of its presentation.

Overall:

As vampire movies go, this one is very good. It's a cool-looking film that captivates you from the opening credits, till the film's ending. Had the transfer been given even a moment's thought, I'd whole-heartedly endorse it, however, as the color has all but drained from the print, I'm gonna have to give this one a rating that's underscored by an incredibly bad and porrly transferred image and sound. The transfer is so bad; the VHS (shudder) would be a better choice. As much as I'd like to say skip it, it's too good a film to pass on even in it's deplorable condition. rent it

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