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Dracula: The Dark Prince

review by Chad P.

 

 

Running Time: R (For Blood and Violence)

Running Time: 89 minutes

Starring: Rudolf Martin, Jane March, Roger Daltrey, and Peter Weller

Written by: Tom Baum

Directed by: Joe Chappelle

 

Studio: Artisan

Retail Price: $24.98

Features: Director and Cast Filmographies, Trailer, Sneak Peeks, Photo Gallery

Specs: 1.33:1 Full Screen, English Dolby Digital 5.1, English Dolby Surround, English Subtitles, Spanish Subtitles, English Closed Captions, Scene Selections

Released: April 23rd, 2002

 

 

 

Let me first state that this film was a refreshing breath of air.

Not only was this a decent flick, but better yet -- it was a decent vampire flick. "Dracula: The Dark Prince" could have suffered from the recent fate of several vampire films -- a fate that has seemingly dissolved the vampire film into a flashy techno-bop joyride -- But "Dracula: The Dark Prince" is not one of those films. It understands the downfall of the vampire sub-genre, and has made its statement to put the *dark* back into the name "Dracula". This is a film that says, "Buffy Summers, you can take that fake wooden stake and jam it up your--"

--Well, you get the point. (no pun intended, as usual)

In our world of flash culture and Anne Rice novels being turned into crap (see, "Queen Of The Damned") -- I can only help but wonder, when will it all end? When will directors once again make serious films that scare the bejesus out of their viewers? By all means, I can't get away from the topic at hand, but I can't ignore the fact that there are more flashy techno driven horror films than there are serious ones. Maybe it has something to do with marketing, producers or whatever, but it's going to come to an end shortly -- when no one wants to see another vampire hunter shift his or her hips to a catchy tune. Hollywood, I'm on to you -- MOST of us are on to you -- It's time you pay attention and make better directorial decisions.

SO, back to "Dracula: The Dark Prince"...Now that I've honored this film alongside the "serious" vampire movies, such as, "Interview With The Vampire," I must justify why "Dracula: The Dark Prince" is not as good as them -- And also why I like it.

The downs: This film is flat. It is a compilation of one scene to the next, with nothing in between. The characters are mildly developed and we hold no real sense of identification with anyone -- it doesn't allow us to. There is potential for greatness, with little help from the storyline to back it up. Simply put, we have the epic tale of Vlad Dracula, minus the ability to immerse ourselves within it.

The ups: I admit having never heard of this film previous to having reviewed it, but the cover and photos caught my eye so I set my expectations up quite high -- and the film met those expectations, if not exceeded them. The cinematography was quite pleasant, despite having borrowed the now-cliched filming styles of "Gladiator" and "Saving Private Ryan" -- with the shutter turned up so high it's a wonder they can even fit light through the lens. The film's colors were quite rich and beautiful, but the film stock tended to shift quite a bit, leaving sections of heavy grain -- or no grain at all.

The story of "Dracula: The Dark Prince," isn't so much about a blood-sucking being as it is simply the tale of the actual Dracula family as it exsisted in 15th century Romania. The film offers only a taste of supernatural at the end, and nothing but reality based fiction previous to that.

What we have here, all in all, is a decent watch -- and a film worthy of 89 minutes of your time, should you find yourself wandering the rental section at the local video store.

For those of you more in tune with vampire films, pick this one up -- it's one of the few that treats itself seriously.

 

I must say I was ashamed at Artisan for not giving more than five minutes of their time to the transfer of this film. The video quality is grainy even when it should be black -- and that can be blamed on the transfer personnel -- Not the cinematographer. At times I wondered if the film was overly grainy, or if it was simply the cruddy transfer.

Here, the lushness and deep saturation of all the colors has been overwhelmed with grain and a lack of contrast adjustments. I'm amazed that this film hadn't received the attention it deserved -- and again, it's probably the same reason why we've never heard of this film.

 

The audio has surpassed the video in the case of this DVD -- but, with such a visually colorful film, it should be the opposite. The Dolby tracks are both crisp and fluid and cannot be held responsible for the one or two mistakes I came across during the viewing. Sound editing can be to blame for whatever problems you may find here, but ultimately, there's only one instance in the entire film when the sound jumped out of the screen and said, "hey, I've been poorly edited."

 

The supplement sections of all these "unknown" films always suffers from a lack of creative motivation. In this instance, we're left with a few trailers from some other Artisan films we're probably never going to see, as well as a small photo gallery that consists of about 15 different photos. Also included are the ever popular Director and Cast Filmographies, which can either serve as a list of movies to rent, or a list a movies to avoid -- depending on the quality of what dvd you happen to be watching.

 

"Dracula: The Dark Prince" reminded me of "The Brotherhood Of The Wolf" in quite a few ways. If you've seen "Brotherhood" and enjoyed it, you'll probably enjoy this one as well. If you have not seen "Brotherhood," but would like to see a Vampire film that takes itself seriously without having to rely on the use of poor gimmicks or big breasts -- This is most definitely an option.