BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA. (1992) BASED ON THE BOOK BY BRAM STOKER. DIRECTED BY FRANCIS FORD COPPOLA.
STARRING GARY OLDMAN, ANTHONY HOPKINS, WINONA RYDER, KEANU REEVES, CARY ELWES, RICHARD E. GRANT, TOM WAITS AND SADIE FROST.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
I’ve had quite the love-hate relationship with this film. The first time I saw it, I hated it, much to the disgust of the friend and massive Gary Oldman fan with whom I was watching it. (‘But he’s Sirius Black!” she kept saying. ‘Sirius Blaaack…!’) Sirius Black from HARRY POTTER or not, it made no odds to me. I just didn’t get his whole deal.
The thing about me is that I like a nice sexy Dracula. Christopher Lee, Bela Lugosi, even Klaus Kinski as Nosferatu in Werner Herzog’s beautiful, dreamy film; these are all my boys.
I’ll also accept a terrifyingly scary head vampire in lieu of a sexy one. For example, Max Schreck as Nosferatu in Murnau’s ground-breaking 1922 masterpiece, or the wonderful Reggie Nalder as Kurt Barlow in the 1979 TV miniseries adaptation of Stephen King’s SALEM’S LOT.
I guess I just don’t like Gary Oldman as Dracula, and I didn’t dig him either as Old Dracula, with his ridiculous ‘two loaves of bread’ hairstyle; as Young Dracula with those dreadful dark blue eye-glasses he sports; or even as ‘Bye-dear-I’m-off-to-war-Dracula, in which persona his suit of armour and long unkempt hair/facial hair makes him look like a cross between an armadillo and the Cowardly Lion from THE WIZARD OF OZ.
The second time I saw the film, about a year later, I totally got it and had a whale of a time. I still don’t like Gary Oldman’s portrayal of Dracula, a fictional character very close to my heart, but I guess sometimes you have to give something a little distance before you realise that you love it…
So, what is the actual deal here? Well, this is a rather superior re-telling of Bram Stoker’s supernatural- and super!- literary classic, DRACULA. Gary Oldman, as if you didn’t know, lol, plays the aristocratic vampire Count from Transylvania who has waited centuries to be reunited with the love of his life, Elisabeta, who took her own life due to the cruel lies of others.
The poor tormented Dracula, who really is a most sympathetic character, finds his Elisabeta again in nineteenth-century England. In a nineteenth-century Englishwoman and prim, proper little schoolmarm, to be precise.
While in his alternate guise of a young(ish) nobleman, he quickly gets under the skin of Winona Ryder’s Mina, the reincarnation of Elisabeta, and wins her unswerving allegiance. Not too surprising, considering Mina’s romantic alternative is lowly estate agent’s clerk Jonathan Harker, woodenly played by the hilariously uncharismatic Keanu Reeves.
Winona Ryder, an actress I don’t normally like, is actually quite acceptable as Wilhelmina Murray, who wants to be faithful to her beloved Jonathan, but just can’t help falling for the lonely charms of Dracula, even while the dopey Jonathan is still trapped in Dracula’s castle in Transylvania, being sexed up nightly by Dracula’s three hot, sex-starved wives. And complaining his scrawny arse off about it too, if you can believe that!
Dracula, of course, is simultaneously leeching the life out of Mina’s bezzie mate, the slutty Lucy Westenra, played by Sadie Frost. The scenes of seduction between Lucy and Dracula in the guise of a hideous wild animal manage to be both sexy and mind-blowingly wild. Red-haired Lucy also has a loyal little band of male followers surrounding her who gladly provide her with their blood when Dracula takes hers.
Cary Elwes plays Lucy’s fiancé, Arthur Holmwood. Richard E. Grant, another actor for whom I’ve never much cared, plays suitor Dr. Jack Seward, whose insane asylum needs to be brought seriously up to code, as it still uses the power-hose as a means of subduing hysterical inmates. Billy Campbell plays the third suitor, the rich American Quincey P. Morris.
Ultimately though, even the clever ministrations of Anthony Hopkins’s wonderfully dramatic and over-the-top Professor Van Helsing (actually, lads, is he drunk?) fail to save Lucy. She succumbs to Dracula’s blood-sucking ways, as we know from reading the book (so don’t be saying I’m dealing out spoilers here, it’s a one-hundred-and-twenty-three-year-old book!), then comes back as a vampire and is put to death appropriately in some brilliant scenes in a gloomy crypt by Van Helsing and Arthur Holmwood.
Good old Gary Oldman as Dracula then swaps haemoglobin with the not unwilling Mina in some surprisingly sexy and even tender scenes. Meanwhile, Van Helsing and Arthur Holmwood and the rest of Mina’s suitors, Jack Seward and Quincy P. Morris, are running around like headless chickens trying to destroy and/or render useless the boxes of earth from his native Transylvania without which Dracula is unable to travel. They eventually burst in on the loved-up couple, but are they in time or is it much, much too late to save Mina from a fate worse than death…?
The scenery, costumes and special effects are excellent. Lavish and visually stunning, as we might expect from director Francis Ford Coppola. I have no beef with these. This is not a low-budget affair.
The Vampire Chicks are absolute knock-outs, but even they can’t coax a life-like performance out of Keanu Reeves. Is it because they’re un-Dead, or is he just a bit crap…? I’ll leave you guys to make up your own minds.
I guess the reason I sometimes feel less than tender myself towards this film is that its cast is not the cast I would have personally chosen. But don’t worry, folks, the film’s done quite spectacularly well over the years even without my personal seal of approval, lol, and I’m sure it’ll continue to do so. Over and out.
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:
Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books.