Werner Herzog's reinterpretation of director F.W. Murnau's classic 1922 film - loosely based on Bram Stoker's novel "Dracula" - was originally released in two versions for the respective English and European markets. The English version, via Twentieth Century-Fox in North America, had Klaus Kinski and Bruno Ganz speaking their own lines, and the studio had requested Herzog trim scenes to improve the overall pacing, as they objected to the director's indulgence with lengthy take; Ganz' detailed journey to Count Dracula's castle; and minor performance nuances, which indicated Herzog seemed to aim for a strange archaic silent/labored sound acting methodology, giving the film a dreamlike texture.
Though both films were previously released by Anchor Bay as a dual-sided disc, this new set ports over the identical extras, with anamorphic transfers. Besides the 16x9 enhancement, the transfers for both the English and German language versions look the same; details are very sharp, and the colours are steadily reproduced. Some minor artifacting appears in both versions - such as Ganz' ride out from the town, and his forest journey to the castle - and heavy, video-like grain plagues the English version (in the nighttime sequence, where Dracula's chariot/hearse stops and picks up Ganz).
The remastered audio is relatively tame in Dolby Digital 5.1, and the dialogue is evenly balanced, including Kinski's occasional whispers to Ganz, early in the film. Popol Vuh's soundtrack still sounds rather coarse (a flaw still present, though to a lesser extent, in the recently released Popol Vuh/Werner Herzog compilation CD, from Milan Records), but the curious tonal and folk pieces still create a stirring, eerie undercurrent throughout the film.
Herzog's commentary, assisted by Norman Hill, is very laid back, and the director offers sufficient details regarding the film's casting (Kinski was the only choice for Dracula), the dubbing for the film's international cast (Adjani's German voice was dubbed), and the production challenges of shooting in Holland and Germany with thousands of grey-dyed rats. There's a number of funny Kinski anecdotes - including the director's addressing Kinski's highly creative autobiography - but the best remains Herzog's familiarity with his star's temper tantrums, and the parental ploy that elicited a perfectly subdued take for a key scene.
Anchor's Bay's Talent bios for director Herzog and star Kinski are excellent, using quotations and insight culled from various sources, and paint a basic enough portrait of these two eccentric talents for those unfamiliar with Herzog's recent Kinski documentary, "My Best Fiend."
A rough looking but fascinating featurette covers shooting in Holland (with rats), and combines some interview dialogue from the star and director over make up and behind-the-scenes footage.
The two U.S. trailers differ in their use of music-only in one, and spare dialogue scenes in the other, whereas the Spanish trailer uses various optical effects - silhouettes and spinning - for pacing and mood.
© 20025 Mark R. Hasan