Bram Stoker's - Dracula
Dir: Francis Ford Coppola
Star: Gary Oldman, Keanu Reeves, Winona Ryder, Anthony Hopkins
Cert / Year: 18 - R / 1992
Format: DVD R2

Young clerk for a solicitors firm Jonathon Harker ( Keanu Reeves) is despatched by his employer to Transylvania to conclude some property purchases by an eccentric Count named Dracula (Gary Oldman). After leaving the bustling streets of London 1897 and his school mistress fiance Mina Murray ( Winona Ryder) for his assignment, Harker travels to the remote part of Romania which is known as Transylvania.

After his long and occasionally strange journey Harker eventually arrives at the crumbling castle Dracula, where he meets his eerie elderly client. After their business in concluded the Count insists upon Harker's remaining at the castle for a month as his guest and during his stay Harker learns of the diabolical truth about his host. Before Harker can escape he falls into the hands of Dracula's brides or devils of the pit (Like you would really complain about being held prisoner in a room with three beautiful women. especially if one of them is Monica Bellucci) and cannot escape their vampirous wiles.

With Harker under supervised incarcarartion the Count journeys to his new home in London intent upon finding Mina, whom he believes to be his reincarnated wife who took her own life 400 years before.

Okay, so this is yet another spin on one of the most famous literary characters ever created, and despite the title of "Bram Stoker's" Dracula don't be deceived into thinking that what you have is a true adaptation of the book, because it isn't. Credit where credit is due though, Coppola has tried to retain the original format of the book which is a series of letters, diary and journal entries making this movie a slightly more accurate interpretation of the book. But in addition to trying to translate this classic Victorian horror novel Coppola has interwoven a love story, which has Dracula pursuing Mina for romance instead of his original sinister purpose. For example there is a scene in Sewards room at the asylum where Mina who is besotted by Dracula drinks his blood, but in the book this scene was at Harker's home with Jonathon unconcious on the bed and shaking due to a stupor controlled by the Count who was forcing Mina to drink of his blood. That is just an example of the way that the original story has been convoluted by Coppola so that he can make a movie for the masses. Amongst the romantic trappings however are facets of the original story but most these have been moulded to accomodate the new perspective and have turned the Count from the deplorable blood thirsty monster to a lovelorn repressive who only does what he has to so that he may find true love, which involves drinking a little blood and bearing a grudge against God.

Dracula was first published in 1897 and written by Bram Stoker who was at the time a theatre manager, the book was perceived as quite dark and erotic but controversialy became a bestseller and won Stoker both acclaim and criticism. After his success with Dracula, Stoker went on to write numerous horror novels including The Mummy and The Lair of the White Worm which was the last book he wrote before he died in 1912. More than 100 years later and the book is still in print and available throughout the world and has been the reference for numerous literary works and in excess of 200 films. It is hard to believe that of 200 films made about Dracula there are perhaps only 2 that are have endeavoured to remain in some way true to the book. The first is of course the classic Nosferatu which was made in 1922 and which was one of the first horror movies. The second although I hate to admit it, is this one, because if you tolerate the new over-romanticized story there are recognizable elements which Coppola has taken from the book and transferred to big screen even in a diluted form.

Direction wise I have to admit that Coppola has done a fine job and the film is quite superbly directed and presented with some breathtaking photography. Stunning special make up effects courtesy of Greg Cannom who has also provided vampire make up effects for The Lost Boys, Vamp and Fright Night 2 and has provided some awesome prosthethics for this film which are most impressive. Eiko Ishioka won an Academy Award for the lavish and extravagant costumes that he designed for this film and deservedly so as it is sometimes amazing how some of the women managed to stay in them.

The cast give very strong performances and Gary Oldman possibly even more so. He presents the Count with a menacing sensuality whilst retaining a lot of the physical and vocal quirks established by many of the other fine actors that have played this character before, Oldman succeeds in giving his role more depth and weight. Anthony Hopkins provides a fantastic performance as the ever so eccentric Professor Van Helsing and often appears quite mad on screen but this makes his scenes more memorable. Winona Ryder plays the role of Mina well and is almost alluring in a cute waif like kind of way and her English accent is passable unlike Keanu Reeves. His scenes fill you with dread and his accent is so cringeworthy you half expect Alex Winter to appear in a time travelling telephone booth so that Bill & Ted can go on another Excellent Adventure. Winona Ryder should do more dramatic roles because she obvoiusly has a talent for them and Keanu Reeves should steer clear of them and stick with The Matrix. Good performances from the supporting cast, notibly Richard E. Grant for an inspired, manic performance as morphine addicted psychiatrist Doctor Seward. Cary Elwes provides a stiff upper lipped performance for Lord Arthur Holmwood, Lucy Westerna's (Sadie Frost) fiance and whilst appearing a little pompous he seems quite at home in a period drama.

Although a little dissappointed that the film was not as close to the book as it promised and that they had incorporated a love story amidst the hypnotic tale of Count Dracula's nocturnal attrocities, this is nontheless a very good film. Well, it must be it won 3 Academy Awards. I have rated the film with it's merit's and tried to ignore it's misconception of the book. But personally I don't think that the film warrants the title of "Bram Stoker's" Dracula, because it isn't really, as there is so much left out and contorted to accomodate the new romantic plot that at times it barely resembles the book. It is unfortunate that in order to make this film of a classic novel the director had to bastardise it to appease the studio, it is this form of literary rape that will jade the younger generations perspective upon the written word and mar their appreciation of good literature.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Picture 1:1.85 A sharp and crisp picture
Audio 5.1 Dolby Digital & Surround Excellent soundtrack
Features Theatrical Trailer
DVD Trailer
Very good documentary about the film(s) and the legend of Dracula, features cast & crew
Cast & Crew Filmographies
Verdict A very good presentation doing the film justice but it does have static menu's and the only really notable extra is the documentary which is interesting but in my opinion there could have been more in the way of extras.

Rating: 2 out of 5

Reviewed by Logan Back Top Home