© 1992 American Zoetrope

Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)

After watching Mel Brooks’ Dracula: Dead and Loving It the other day, which left me with an ever-so-slight desire to go back and watch the film from which most of the parody is derived. The Brooks film turned out to be a lot more entertaining. Francis Ford Coppola did an honorable thing in trying to make the first film adaptation that actually follows the plot of Brahm Stoker’s 1897 novel, rather than just lifting the principle characters from it. The Stoker’s work is an epistolary novel, told in a series of diary entries, letters, ship captains’ logs, etc, and resist direct adaptation to the screen. Eiko Ishioka, who was hired as the production designer and moved on to be the costume designer, a job for which she won an Oscar, and the costumes are amazingly detailed and dramatic, if not strictly accurate to the novel or the period. Coppola does some interesting old-school in-camera cinematography tricks. But this time around I found the acting almost unbearably bad. Keanu Reeves is as wooden as ever, and Winona Ryder looks great but can’t really handle the more dramatic scenes. Gary Oldman as Dracula bites necks and also chews scenery. Sir Anthony Hopkins does his best in the slightly silly role he was given. I thought that having Tom Waits in the role of Renfield was the coolest thing in the world when this was released, but this time around it just seemed like gimmick casting to me. And finally, listening to the American actors attempting British accents, and the British accents overdoing nondescript Eastern European ones got a annoying pretty quickly. Only Briton Richard E. Grant in a tiny role as the doctor treating Renfield seems at home in his part. But hey, it has great costumes and camera tricks, giving you something to look at for two hours at least.

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“Do you intend to set back American theater 50 years simply because of your mid-Victorian conservatism?”
-Monty Woolley (Himself)
from Night and Day