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Bram Stoker's Dracula

Francis Ford Coppola's 1992 film adaptation of Bram Stoker's classic novel, reinterpeted as a Gothic romance.

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Bram Stoker's Dracula... A Tragic Figure?

  • Dec 23, 2008
Rating:
+3
Francis Ford Coppola's 1992 film, Bram Stoker's Dracula, is a lavish, visually stunning treatment of the Dracula tale. The film features exquisite production design, startling special effects, and one of the best film scores that I've heard in a long time. But the film, which had so much potential, is deeply flawed. Altogether Bram Stoker's Dracula suffers from an excessive amount of visual stimuli, which takes priority over characterization and acting. Much of the cast gives either flat, unconvincing performances or goes to the opposite end of the spectrum, overacting and projecting their own celebrity rather than the persona that they're supposed to be adopting.
The story itself, despite what the film's title implies, is a great departure from Bram Stoker's 1897 horror novel. The screenplay by James V. Hart plucks the characters and events out of Stoker's original story, and then awkwardly attempts to create a gothic romance around them. Anyone who is truly familiar with the novel knows that romance was the furthest thing from Stoker's mind. I am of the opinion that you can tell a Dracula story without directly basing it upon Stoker's novel, or you can take Stoker's initial ideas and alter them for your own purposes, but you should never claim that you're following Stoker's blueprint when you do so.
Blood drinker!


The story follows young and ambitious solicitor, Jonathan Harker, as he travels to Transylvania to oversee the signing of certain papers, which have to do with the selling of ten very specific houses in London, to the mysterious and eccentric Count Dracula. Harker must leave behind the woman he loves, Mina Murray. After arriving in Transylvania, Harker is taken to Dracula's castle by a dark and ominous coach, whose driver is obscured beneath his gothic armor. When Harker arrives at the castle, he is greeted by the ancient Count himself. The castle is dreary and oppressive, covered with spider webs and barely lit. As Harker and Dracula go over the details of the paperwork he is to sign, Dracula discovers a photograph of Mina, and he becomes convinced that she is his lover, Elisabeta, reincarnated. Dracula insists that Jonathan stay with him for a month, though Jonathan is anxious to return to Mina. He becomes aware that he is not a guest, but a prisoner in Dracula's castle.
Meanwhile Mina is staying with her wealthy friend, Lucy Westenra, who is shamelessly flirtatious and uses her sex appeal to win the hearts of three suitors, Dr. Seward, Quincy P. Morris, and Arthur Holmwood.
Back in Transylvania, Count Dracula prepares for a voyage to London as Jonathan Harker realizes that his captor is an inhuman monster capable of unspeakable evil. Once Dracula arrives in London, he seduces and feeds off of Lucy turning her into an insatiable, damned creature of the darkness. As Lucy's unusual "illness" grows in its severity, Dr. Seward calls upon the brilliant and eccentric Abraham Van Helsing to help diagnose her. At first Van Helsing is perplexed, but quickly he becomes aware that Lucy is the victim of a vampire... and Mina may be next.
Soon Van Helsing, Jonathan Harker, and Lucy's three suitors must exterminate Dracula and his demonic offspring all the while Mina's mind, body, and soul hang in the balance.


Gary Oldman as "old" Count Dracula
Francis Ford Coppola assembled an impressive cast for the film, however none of them seem to be comfortable in their roles. Keanu Reeves plays Jonathan Harker as pompous bore, and Winona Ryder's portrayal of Mina suggests that she was never confident of her ability to produce a believable English accent. Anthony Hopkins hams it up as Professor Van Helsing, turning the beloved character into a drunken raving madman. In fact, the only member of the cast who seems to fit his role, at least partially, is Gary Oldman as Count Dracula. However, the moment he is taken out of his "old man" makeup, he mistakenly changes Stoker's Count from a repulsive, parasitic invader into a tragic and romantic figure.
Dracula and Mina
Arguably the film's greatest strength is the magnificent score by Wojciech Kilar. This score deserves a better film.

The Brides of Dracula
As the film progresses it dissolves into a kaleidoscopic menagerie of cavorting half-naked women, melodramatic romance, and some of the most gratuitous bloodletting seen in a mainstream American film. Though, I admire Coppola's tenacity as a filmmaker, this film is a missed opportunity as he dazzles us with eye candy but leaves us craving something more substantial.
Count Dracula, as a Werewolf, Ravages Lucy
Poster Prince Vlad Dracula and Elizabeta The Final Farewell Kiss... Most Boring Couple in Victorian England Award! The Living Shadow of the Undead What's Going on Here? So, That's Why He Doesn't Drink Wine! Scared Stiff... Monica Belucci as Bride Numero Uno The Three Brides of Dracula Monica Belucci Unholy Three-some! Love Bites (Literally)... Don't Look at Me! Resisting the Urge... So Much for Being a Virgin Bride... Master! Yuck! The Devil's Concubine It's Not Wise to Mess with a Van Helsing...

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October 18, 2010
I agree with you man except for one thing, and it seems like I am the only one who thinks this. I thought Tom Waits was brilliant in this film, he did a masterful job with the character and what he was given.
October 18, 2010
Waits certainly gives one of the most interesting performances in the film, but his personality and that of his character never meshed with me. I never felt like I was watching Renfield, but rather watching Waits saying Renfield's lines. That said, I do love the scene in which he cries out, "Dr. Jack! Dr. Jack! I'm no lunatic, man. I'm a sane man fighting for his soul!" That was awesome.
 
November 05, 2009
How did I miss this? I think i may have read this before in amazon, but those photos are just so awesome. Nice work. I am with Trashie on this, although I may have rated this one as a 4. You're a bit harsh to it LOL!
November 06, 2009
Harsh, me? I don't think so. I just get hung up on little things like acting, style over substance, deviation from source material, and continuity. That's all. It is peculiar though, that this version was the last real attempt at doing a big American Dracula film. I've heard that Proyas is working on the script for one though. That should be really interesting. From what I've read the entire film takes place before the novel and will be a fictional account that merges the historical Vlad Dracula with Bram Stoker's vampire character.
November 06, 2009
I was just messing with you, I would've given this a 3.5 rounded up. Twilight is taking over in American vampire filmmaking...
November 06, 2009
Yeah, I know that's why I was being so over-the-top. You think Twilight's bad now, wait til you see this... vampire Barbie dolls! 
(as Adam Sandler in "The Wedding Singer")
"Somebody kill me, please! Somebody kill me please! I'm on my knees. Pretty, pretty please. Kill me! I want to die. Put a bullet in my head!"
November 06, 2009
Ka-Blam! there...
November 06, 2009
Oh, I feel so much better. LOL!
Seriously, can you believe that though? Twilight Barbie dolls... what is this world coming to?!
November 06, 2009
Don't worry, things like that never last...
November 06, 2009
I don't know. Something tells me that twenty years after this has gone out of style, it will be back. There seems to be a twenty-year cycle on nostalgia. I mean if "Cabbage Patch Dolls" and "G.I. Joe" can come back, what's to stop vampire Barbies? Scary thought.
 
May 10, 2009
Good review, I wrote one, too, though not as spot-on as yours.
 
February 16, 2009
Coppola took a preview reel of this to the Orlando World Con and we were among the first to see it. He was really pushing it hard. It looked so gorgeous and we were all drooling in anticipation. But alas it was another case of style over substance. The audience I saw it with actually laughed at Anthony Hopkins, he was just way over the top in his performance. So many Dracula flix seem to fall apart after they leave Transylvania and just never recover.
April 23, 2009
I hear ya Queenie. I think Hopkins is one of the greatest living actors, but he's given some of the most over-the-top performances I've ever seen. he was unintentionally hilarious in Legends of the Fall. But, you might say that only an actor of his immense talents could go so horribly wrong in a role like that. Me, I'll stick with Edward van Sloan and Peter Cushing as Van Helsing. You don't get better than that.
April 23, 2009
I guess a lot of directors give important actors too much leeway and forget that their job is to rein them in.
 
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More Bram Stoker's Dracula reviews
Quick Tip by . February 21, 2010
my favorite
review by . October 26, 2008
Bram Stoker's Dracula
In an exercise of cosmic madness, the essence of vampire lore is born with Count Dracula and his centuries-long yearning for the deceased Mina, an erotic love story lost in a netherworld of dreamless musings.   In this sensual feast of images, saturated with thick, red blood, an epic struggle is waged, a battle for eternity. Count Dracula purchases real estate in Victorian London, transferring crates of Transylvanian earth, where he will rest by day, pursuing the reincarnated Mina (Winona …
review by . November 08, 2004
posted in Movie Hype
I was a junior in high school when this film first came out. I went with one of my friends on one of the coldest Louisiana evenings of that year. That cold atmosphere, along with the dark, damp and aging cinema that I saw the film in made "Bram Stoker's Dracula" one of my favorite films of all time. It's been awhile since I read the book, but I think the film follows the pages of Stoker's novel reasonably close, with a couple of adjustments in characters and in sequences(as is the usual for books-to-the-big-screen) …
review by . July 07, 2001
This is a fascinating movie, but not just for the reasons Coppola might have intended. It's a lushly shot, beautifully staged affair, oozing over-ripe, autumnal colours in obvious counterpoint to cool blues and bloodless hues asociated the cast of vampires. It is outwardly a fairly faithful rendering of Bram Stoker's novel, but in pretty much every other respect it puts a novel spin on the well worn story. For one thing, it's not very scary; any horror is supplanted by the decadence and sexuality …
review by . August 31, 2000
Pros: a pleasant retelling of his oldie     Cons: ..     THE PLAYERS:   Dracul - Gary Oldman   Elisabeta/Mina - Winona Ryder   Jonathan Harker - Keanu Reeves   Van Helsing - Anthony Hopkins      In a twist to this timeless tale, we are finally given a peek into the background and lifestyle of Count Dracul, played remarkably well by Gary Oldman. In his life (former life, first life?) Dracul is the …
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