Director: Francis Ford Coppola
In 1992 Francis Ford Coppola brought us the definitive Dracula film in his luscious adaptation of Bram Stoker’s classic novel. Bram Stoker’s Dracula truly captures, and even goes beyond, the horror and sensuality of the novel which previous adaptations barely touched on. The film exudes orgasmic production values, the best I’ve seen in a Gothic period film, earning Academy Awards for Costume Design, Make Up and Sound Effects Editing. In light of the current trend of new films celebrating old cinema with the likes of Hugo (2011) and The Artist (2011), it is interesting to note that Bram Stoker’s Dracula does the same thing, only better. Coppola reached deep into the ‘heart of darkness’ to realise this film as creatively as possible and what he found was a beautiful adaptation of a story, written and set in 1897, using only the film techniques of that period. There were no green screens or computer generated effects, all effects were achieved on set and in camera, the results will make your heart leap.
In this adaptation you will find the most interesting portrayal of the Count, both visually and characteristically. The chameleon himself, Gary Oldman, plays Dracula in one of his best performances of his career, and he wasn’t even NOMINATED for Best Actor at the Oscars that year. Oldman’s Dracula, whilst terrifying, is a tragic hero and much more sympathetic than his previous incarnations. Coppola added to Bram Stoker’s tale by weaving in a back story of the Count before he became undead. The back story sees Dracula as ‘Vlad the Impaler’, real-life ruler of Wallachia in the mid 1400’s from which the myth of Dracula was born, allowing us to identify with the character first as a man and providing us with the most engrossing Dracula origin story ever.
We all know that Dracula can appear in many forms and in Coppola’s film, thanks to the award winning make up and costume design and Oldman’s chameleon like features, we get the privilege of seeing such forms in all their horrifying glory. Shudder in the presence of the old Count, be seduced by young Dracula, bow before the notorious Vlad the Impaler, run from the ruthless man-wolf and die at the sight of the bat-like demon. Some of these descriptions may sound ridiculous, but Bram Stoker’s Dracula turns camp-horror into Gothic-art; it has to be seen to be believed.
Bram Stoker’s Dracula is extremely erotic, as a vampire film should be. Aside from the lurid sexual imagery (i.e. naked vampire brides and wolf rape), the sexual tension brewing amongst the cast’s ensemble will put you on edge, in particular the chemistry between Count Dracula (Gary Oldman) and Mina Murray (Winona Ryder) is dynamite. Sex and Death have always gone together like Jack and Jill and this film ensures that they are kept together; beware, you may be excited by things you once thought repulsive.
While we’re talking ‘sexy’, I must acknowledge that in Bram Stoker’s Dracula you will be graced with the company of the hottest ensemble cast of the early 90’s…
As Dracula – Gary Oldman: Oldman enthusiasts would be fools to neglect one of his most iconic performances.
As Mina Murray/Harker – The beloved Winona Ryder: This is Winona in her prime. Here, she gets the opportunity to embark on a confronting and sensual character journey.
As the legendary Professor Van Helsing – Sir Anthony Hopkins: Hopkins uses his charisma and genius to make this character both loveable and ferocious.
As Jonathan Harker – Keanu Reeves: Reeves gets a fair bit of shit for his performance as an Englishman in this film. Keanu is one of the few actors who makes poor acting appealing and I believe that it is this quality that makes Keanu’s Harker one of the better portrayals of the character. Jonathan Harker is the naive, perfect and boring young hero and Keanu’s naive performance gives the character the cuteness and vulnerability we need to root for him.
Joining the four leads we have the spicy supporting cast of Richard E. Grant as the bumbling Dr. John Seward, Carey Elwes as Sir Arthur Holmwood, with Sadie Frost as the delicious Lucy Westenra and Tom fuckin’ Waits as Renfield!
I hope I’ve given you enough reasons to watch Bram Stoker’s Dracula. The only reasons one may not want to see this film are you don’t like horror, you hate Gothic period films, and/or you hate movies…
I love this movie so much, it should be higher on this list! Well, it’s ON it; I hope that counts for something.