Since Bram Stoker first brought the tale of Dracula to life in 1897, the story has been told and retold countless times on screen, and used in several hundred books, and highly likely any and all horror fans know of the tale and even able to quote famous lines. Many famous directors such as F.W. Murnau, Tod Browning, and Terrence Fisher, told the story, while numerous actors stretching the wide spectrum as Max Schreck, Bela Lugosi, Christopher Lee, and Frank Langella have all portrayed the blood sucking count without an ounce of glitter among them. The most notable vampire films clearly standing out the silent classic Nosferatu (1922), Dracula (1931), The Horror of Dracula (1958) and even Dario Argento’s Dracula (2012). Therefore, what more could happen, well 25-years ago, in 1992, the legendary director Francis Ford Coppola known for his dramatic films The Godfather and Apocalypse Now, wanted to give The Count the definitive visual appearance on screen. Coppola, known for his work on the Roger Corman film The Terror (1963) and his gothic masterpiece Dementia 13 (1963), understood what the horror audience required in a film, and he triumphantly delivered.
Francis took a positive step forward and presented a conceptual visual look sweeping across the screen filling the entire frame with a grandiose production value, including a rich love affair regarding the bloodlust and deep meaningful sexuality involving vanity and immortality. Of course, a budget $40-million, never hurts, after all he earned a windfall return on the worldwide box office $215,862,692 (1993) along with Academy Awards, for Best Makeup, Best Effects, Sound Effects Editing, and Best Costume Design. He also made the bold move to place the author’s name above the title as Bram Stoker’s Dracula providing the closest tie to the original work from the story of Dracula (1897); which coincidentally marked 100-years later for this incredible film to emerge. Using the screenplay from James V. Hart, and loyal reworking the work stands alone, as the story has the title character fading to the background, and therefore tweaks the tale to reflect the endless circle of love. For those unaware how, a bit of spoiler, Mina acts as the reincarnation of Dracula’s wife and takes that further by conveying the actions and thoughts of other characters, revealing several minute details to the viewers for the first time. I must state clearly, while a fan of the previously mentioned Dracula movies, this one captures my full attention.
I try to refrain from making assumptions, however I feel as a safe bet everyone in the horror genre knows the story of Dracula, hence, best to focus the nuances of the film itself, than the mere time to recap the story and book. The viewers witness the transformation of Vlad a defender of the church, informed his wife killed herself (Wynona Ryder) condemned to hell he lashes out and became a vampire by stabbing a cross, a dramatic scene.
The main story starts at a London real estate agent Jonathan Harker (Keanu Reeves) sent to Transylvania to handle business for Count Dracula (Gary Oldman), Coppola then uses Jonathan’s diary to track his journey a visual method, all in way to remember his fiancée, Mina (Wynona Ryder). First major issue with Reeves who fails to have a convincing English accent and second is very lethargic on the screen. Dracula (Gary Oldman) himself presented without the typical formal wear, carries on interesting conservations, however Reeves lacks the proper responses. Speaking of Gary Oldman, his performance ranks extremely high in the regard of the greats who portrayed Dracula, his technique of generating deeper voice to accompany his presence aiding to command each scene. He gives an authentic and mesmerizing performance and enhances the well-known lines of the story. The set construction goes to great lengths to excel certain feelings unto the viewers such as slowly moving the walls as well as to capture the intimacy from the count to his prey. Dracula transitions to his first meeting with Mina, establishing the psychic bond, all leading to a sensuous romance at the heart of the story. However, while there some wild beastly werewolf sex occurring, a slow transformation of Mina’s friend Lucy (Sadie Frost) into a vampire. Frost gives a creepy performance of a bloodsucker, while in her white burial gown all very gothic makeup work. Then the introduction of Dr. Van Helsing (Anthony Hopkins, fresh from his Oscar winning performance in Silence of the Lambs (1991)), works to stop the Dracula before taking her soul completely. However, he takes the role too wildly, especially when describing the beheading of Sadie, a gleeful comedic tone, switching a deadpan attitude. It actually became the character version that Mel Brooks exploited greatly in his film Dracula: Dead and Loving It (1995). The climatic end of the story told with wondrous visuals capturing the audience into the web with a chase, action sequences and one Bowie knife.
A tad further breakdown, definitely needed for the film aside from the trivial but true note by Coppola over the unplanned but confirm nuptials of Ryder and Reeves actually married in a Greek Orthodox church (oops) believe it or not actually happens more often than not. One must note the contribution of Tom Waits, as Renfield, generating a touching portrayal, while not the frenzied madness of Dwight Frye from Dracula (1931), as copying near impossible to take a different track with character, though great bug collecting hobbyists on the screen. Although this version, brings a more authentic telling of the famous tale, Reeves almost sinks the entire population, never seems terrified of the Count, perhaps a bit annoyed, as if the fear becomes an insult for his mentality, and unable to transcend past himself and into his character.
This movie went above the normal production meetings and began a series well planned aspect to transform the story into a wonderous adventure. For example, the vampire creature made as an opposition to Christian values, anti-christ values, therefore his shadows act on their own, rats scurry upside down on ceilings, liquids move in opposite directions. The shadows becomes a wonderful tidbit, no need to worry about the when filming the character of Dracula. However, Coppola wanted his movie to become even more special, no special computer effects, and fired the first team in place, before setting on his son Roman, to return the filming to old-school trickery. This advantage allows for the blank canvas like an artist to layer his storytelling and uses effect cinema tricks stretching across the film, and thereby not repeating it often as to not bore the audience. He implemented the skills of costume design by Eiko Ishioka, enhance the numerous physical changes of Dracula from the novel, with aged old man wearing a long robe, the werewolf, exotic nobleman, but especially for is battle armor in reddened design. She also gave everyone’s role a fittingly look, and era sensitive appearance, this all went to her an Oscar, sadly she passed on in 2012.
Since the inception of the film, many collectibles emerged first the Bram Stroker’s Dracula 2-pack Werewolf and Vampire Bat from McFarlane Toys which only gone up in value, to statues, and numerous DVD releases including a 4K Ultra, however sought by many a definitive vinyl soundtrack version the of film, currently an out of print record exist from 1992. The interest extended to two board games at least both incredibly hard to located here in the United States as well as a video game too. The influence of the character and the Dracula movies in general continue to gain a loyal legion of fans.
Bram Stoker’s Dracula is a thoroughly entertaining movie, delivering sensual elements, with eroticism of bloodlust, and succeeds in vividly awakening this blood-sucker on the screen with then a 100-year story. While not flawless, and rarely is a movie, but no fittingly with overlook the retelling now as it stands at 120-years than with this phenomenal version of the story all for your viewing pleasure.
IMDb Rating: 7.5/10
Baron’s Rating: 8.5/10
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