Dracula: The Vampire and the Voivode DVD Review
Written by TGM
DVD released by Virgil Films and Entertainment
Directed by Michael Bayley Hughes
2011, Region 1 (NTSC), 98 minutes, Not Rated
DVD released October 4th, 2011
Let me preface this review by stating that I am a huge fan of documentaries. And as long as they are done right, I usually won’t even care about the subject, be it the numerous unsuccessful assassination attempts on Adolf Hitler, how sausage is made, or the myriad of ridiculous post-9/11 conspiracy theories. I often find myself watching and recording more shows on the Discovery Channel, A&E, or the History Channel than I do on network primetime television. This is why I jumped at the chance to review a documentary on author Bram Stoker, his most famous fictional creation of Dracula, and the ties to the historical figure of Vlad the Impaler. Produced in association with the Transylvanian Society of Dracula, I was ravenous to learn new details about one of the most iconic figures in horror history. Unfortunately, due to the droll presentation style and lack of any visual flair whatsoever, my expectations were quickly dashed like a stake through the heart.
Don’t get me wrong, there are a few worthwhile pieces of information relayed in this documentary. For instance, did you even know that there was such a thing as the Transylvanian Society of Dracula?! Did you know that Bram was short for Abraham?! Were you aware that Bram Stoker was the first to coin the term “the Undead” and that Stoker never even stepped foot once onto Transylvanian soil? Too bad such intriguing tidbits are mired in an unspectacular coating of insipid monotony. For every nugget of marginally interesting information that is offered, one must sit through mountains of inane verbal diarrhea without an ounce of visual stimuli to keep your interest.
It’s amazing how these filmmakers were able to take such an engrossing subject and turn it into a tedious chore akin to one of those reel-to-reel educational movies that you were forced to watch during social studies class in the 4th grade. You know the ones…with that annoying dancing pubic hair and the intermittent warbled voice as the reel-to-reel player starts up, shooting a thin beam of light piercing the darkness of the classroom exposing the decades of airborne chalk dust particles that virgin lungs would be subjected to inhale for the next decade, predisposing them to cancer and asbestosis.
I did find it rather humorous when one of these talking heads went blathering on about how preconceived expectations of Transylvania end up being nothing like reality. He adamantly spouts off claiming that without a stereotypical population of quaint migrant workers seemingly stuck in the middle ages or creepy castles perched high on foggy cliffs, that modern day vampire-loving tourists are often left disappointed when they charter a trip to Dracula’s unofficial homeland. Nice sentiment, except for the fact that while this man is speaking, they show multiple shots of current day creepy Transylvanian castles perched high on foggy cliffs, while numerous babushka wearing farmers lead around overburdened oxen. Thanks for clearing up my misguided preconceived expectations!
Old man sitting on a bench, talking. Old lady walking near a river, talking. Old man walking down a street, talking. Old lady sitting on the stairs, talking. Occasional still shot of an old photograph or map. Old lady weaving wool. A group of people dancing and playing an accordion. These are the cinematic highlights of Dracula: The Vampire and the Voivode, and if you were ever looking to finally invite that visually impaired friend over to “catch a movie”, this would be a deft choice, as you finally won’t feel guilty about having fully functional rods and cones. It might very well be the world’s first audio-book made for television.
(Oh, and for the record, the definition of Voivode is of a local ruler or governor, especially the semi-independent rulers of Transylvania, Wallachia, or Moldavia before the 1700’s. Don’t feel dumb, I had no clue what it meant until I looked it up myself).
Video and Audio:
Shot in stunning full screen and blazing 2.0 audio, Dracula: The Vampire and the Voivode will magically transport you back in time to the ‘80s to a land where televisions weighed four hundred pounds and Betamax was king. The disappointing video not only showcases an old school 4:3 ratio, but there is often an irritating horizontal squeeze effect which makes the people look disturbingly thinner than they are. As for the lackluster two-channel audio… well… it’s a bunch of chattering dullards. 7.1 surround isn’t going to make it any less exhausting.
The only special feature is of a still gallery of images taken directly from the documentary. Considering there wasn’t anything worth looking at in full motion, why should I care to relive still photos of old-timers gumming it up for the camera? I suppose this is a thoughtful special feature for the relatives of the interviewees, making it easy to show off pictures of grandpa at the next family reunion, but for those of us not of blood relation, not so much.