Listening to: "Vampire Killer" by Konami Kukeiha Club
Title: Bram Stoker's Dracula
Gary Oldman as Count Dracula
Wynona Ryder as Mina Seward Harker
Keanu Reeves as Jonathan Harker
Anthony Hopkins as Professor Van Helsing
Richard E. Grant as Dr. Seward
Cary Elwes as Sir Arthur Holmwood
Billy Campbell as Quincy P. Morris
Sadie Frost as Lucy Westerna
Tom Waits as Renfield
Directed by: Francis Ford Coppola
Country: USA, United Kingdom, and Romania
Distributed by: Columbia Pictures
Genre: Horror/Drama/Novel Adaptation
Year of Release: 1992
Synopsis: In 15th century Romania, a Transylvanian knight known as Vlad Dracula III is sent out into battle by the "Sacred Order of the Dragon" against an invading army of Turks. In the battlefield, he mercilessly slaughters each and every one of the Turkish soldiers by staking them on long spears, and leaving their impaled corpses displayed in the field. Returning from the battle, Vlad Dracula is devastated to discover that his wife Elisabeta had committed suicide after receiving false news about Dracula's death. Enraged at the notion of his wife being damned for taking her own life, Dracula denounces God with such anger and rage, that he declares that he that he will rise from the grave to avenge Elisabeta with all the powers of darkness. He impales his sword onto the center of a stone cross, and tainted blood pours out from the dent that was made on it. Dracula drinks some of the blood, and therefore gave his soul to the devil in exchange for immortality.
Over four centuries later, in 1897, a newly-qualified solicitor named Jonathan Harker takes Count Dracula as a client from his colleague Renfield, who has gone insane, and has since been placed in a mental institute. Jonathan travels to Transylvania to arrange Dracula's real estate acquisition in London. After seeing a photograph of Jonathan's fiancée Mina, Dracula begins to believe that the woman is a reincarnation of Elisabeta due to her striking resemblance. The count forces Jonathan to remain at his residence for an extended length of time. Realizing that he is a prisoner in Dracula's castle, Jonathan is fearful, but does his best not to show it in anyway even when writing his letters to Mina. Dracula leaves Jonathan in his castle as a prisoner for his brides to torture to no end, and then makes his way to England by ship. Upon his arrival to London, Dracula begins his search for Mina.
Personal Comments: With the month of Halloween here, I figured I'd do a review of a classic horror movie from the 90s, which has since gained critical praise and recognition from critics and audiences alike. "Bram Stoker's Dracula", directed by Francis Ford Coppola, is yet another one of those movies from the early 90s that has left me with a powerful impact on my mind and imagination. I didn't see this movie in theatres when it first came out back in 1992, but I did get to see it on a VHS tape which I acquired shortly after the film's release in theatres. And wow did this movie blow me away. Anyway, as you've guessed, I've known this movie since the early to mid 90s, and even after almost 20 years knowing this movie, I can clearly see why critics consider this to be one of the best film adaptations of the novel to date. Everything about this movie is just incredible. In fact, it's a classic. The script is well-written, the acting is great, and the overall atmosphere this movie induces is pretty sensational. And to top it off, the actors selected for this movie did an outstanding job in their roles.
As everybody should know by now, this movie, like many other Dracula films that came before and after it, is based on the novel written by Bram Stoker back in 1897. As I read the novel and watched the movie, I recognized some striking similarities that the movie shares with the novel. But like all film adaptations, there are also a significant number of differences as well as alikenesses. From what I understand, the 1992 film seems to be more true to the novel than any of the other film adaptations so far. However, this movie is somewhat comparable to the 1931 film starring Bela Lugosi as both films seem to follow the same plot as the novel. Though, both movies are significantly different from the novel as well as each other since the 1931 film is considerably older than this movie. One of the most obvious differences between both films is the events that occur at the beginning. In the 1931 film, Renfield was sent to Dracula's castle to arrange a real estate appointment with the count. But in the 1992 film, it was Jonathan Harker who was sent to Dracula's castle to arrange the appointment. This however, is more true to the novel.
What can I say about the actors? They perform their roles so perfectly in this movie. Not only do they perform their roles so well with the overall acting and characterization of their roles, but they also do a particularly swell job with their impression of European accents. In fact, for a film that consists of mostly American actors set in 19th century London, they all sound very convincing in their British accents. Especially Gary Oldman with how he impressions the Romanian accent for his role as the count. And the special effects that were used for Dracula's transformations were breath taking as well. In this movie, Dracula has three different forms; human form, bat form, and werewolf form. Even though this film is strictly about vampires and vampirism, the special effects artists sure made good use of werewolfism by having it as one of Dracula's transformations. In fact, his werewolf form looks great. Though, just in my opinion, I think it would have looked a little better if they made the facial features in that form more canine like. But what the hell. It's still awesome. Though, I have to admit that Dracula's bat form looks downright creepy. In fact, in that form he looks like a true demon straight out from hell. Oh, and I don't want to forget about his other abilities ranging from telepathy, telekinesis, and his ability to assume the forms of mist, a swarm of bats, and even a horde of rats. Hell, in this movie, Dracula was just full of surprises. Though, his primary form at the beginning as an aging man with ghostly pale skin and white hair looked kind of funny to me. But his alternate human form was much more plausible. Because in his second form, he closely resembles the actual Vlad Tepes III, who was most likely the inspiration for Bram Stoker's fictional character. In my opinion, Gary Oldman was one of the best actors to play as Dracula to date.
The cast of actors in this movie are all commonly known by audiences from a large variety of other films. Keanu Reeves for instance is most noted for his role as Neo, the main protagonist from the Matrix series. Besides the Matrix series, Reeves as also appeared in a number of crime and drama films throughout the heart of the 1990s including "Permanent Record", "Point Break", "Speed", and "The Devil's Advocate". In between the first Matrix film and its sequels, Reeves received positive reviews for his portrayal as an abusive husband in The Gift. Aside from The Gift, Reeves appeared in several films that received mostly negative reviews and unimpressive box office grosses, including "The Watcher", "Sweet November", and "The Replacements". However, the two Matrix sequels, "The Matrix Reloaded" and "The Matrix Revolutions", "Something's Gotta Give", and the 2005 horror-action film, "Constantine", proved to be box office successes and brought Reeves back into the public spotlight. Anthony Hopkins (Professor Van Helsing) has been in the acting business since the late 1960s, and surprisingly, he's still going strong after all this time. In the earlier years of his career, Hopkins played in movies like "A Flea in Her Hair", "The Lion in Winter", "Hamlet", "Department S", "War and Peace", and "Dark Victory". But in fact, from the late 60s all the way through to the present day, Hopkins has played in a large number of different films. Many of which I'm not familiar with. Some people may notice him for some of his roles from the late 90s and the early 2000s like "The Mask of Zorro", "Mission Impossible II", "How the Grinch Stole Christmas", "Hannibal", "Bad Company", and "The Red Dragon". Wynona Ryder, (Mina) is an actress who has been in the business since the mid 1980s. I'm not sure how well known she is in the business because outside of Bram Stoker's Dracula, I haven't seen that many of her movies with the exceptions of "Aliens Resurrection", "Celebrity", and the 2009 film "Star Trek". But if there's one thing I do know, is that Wynona Ryder once had a relationship with famous actor Johnny Depp back in the early 90s. In 2010, she was nominated for two Screen Actors Guild Awards, as the lead actress of "When Love Is Not Enough: The Lois Wilson Story", and as part of the cast of "Black Swan". As for Gary Oldman, he two has played in a large number of different films. In fact, based on what I've learned, he started his professional career back in 1978, and from there, he built up his fame and popularity from the early 80s all the way to the present day. But most people these days probably know him best as Count Dracula, Sirus Black from the Harry Potter films, and Commissioner James Gordon from Christopher Nolan's Batman film series.
Aside from the awesome acting and the chilling suspenseful atmosphere of the movie, the cinematography is just wonderful. From beginning to end, this movie is like a dark drama with horror movie elements in it. But in fact, that's actually what this movie is; it's a horror with a bit of romance and drama in it. So I can't really tell if this movie was intended to be a horror film or a drama because it seems to be a bit of both. In fact, there's a lot of drama in the relationship between Dracula and Mina. One thing I noticed about this film is that it depicts Dracula in a slightly different light from his usual villainous portrayal. In most movies, Dracula is simply evil to be evil. But in this movie, he seems to be more of a tragic villain who feels betrayed by fate and by God. Because the introduction scene shows us that he was human, and was once in love with his past wife Elisabeta. But after his wife's suicide, he goes into a rage that prompts him to give his soul to the devil in exchange for everlasting life. But in doing so, he became a monster who is doomed to live age after age feeding on the blood of the living to sustain his health. For the most part however, Dracula was forever haunted by his wife's suicide, and therefore, suffered four long centuries in pain and agony, knowing that he could never die of old age to be released from the pain of living. Because of this, I for some reason found myself sympathizing with Dracula because he didn't seem like the typical villain he is normally portrayed as in other films. But make no mistake, he is still a villain. A tragic villain, but a villain nevertheless. Anyway, that's what I really loved about this movie; it's got a dark atmosphere, it has great actors, and the depiction of Dracula was quite a twist from the usual.
What I really want to go over in this review are all my favorite scenes in the movie. Being the huge success that it was, "Bram Stoker's Dracula" is filled with loads of memorable scenes that have been imprinted into my head ever since. The first being the introduction scene where Dracula battles the Turks and slaughters them without mercy. Now I know I sound sadistic saying that. Hell, even my brother would scold me and rag on me just for saying that. But the thing is, this scene provides the dark atmosphere of the film along with the suspense and the chills that is felt throughout the entire film. I mean seriously, in a horror film, you got to have at least some level of violence and gore to go along with the dark chilling atmosphere of the movie. It doesn't have to be over the top, but you got to have at least some. And this movie balances those out quite well. Another scene I enjoyed was Jonathan's arrival to the castle, where he is greeted by the count with that oh so familiar line from both the Bela Lugosi movie and the novel; "I
And I bid you welcome to my home." Some of the most priceless parts in that scene include where Jonathan is shaving himself, and Dracula suddenly appears in his room. When he sees Jonathan's shaving mirror, it shatters. And when Dracula sees that Jonathan is wearing a miniature crucifix around his neck, he snarls and pushes him aside. And then he says "Do not put your faith in such trinkets of deceit. We're in Transylvania. Transylvania is not England. Our ways are not your ways. And to you, there shall be many strange things." Followed by the sound of wolves howling from a distance, to which Dracula says "Listen to them! The children of the night! What sweet music they make!"
My other favorite scenes include the part where we see Dracula in werewolf form, attacking Lucy, and tainting her with vampirism. Again, I know I sound sadistic, but give me a break; his werewolf form really stands out here. And I could never forget that one line he utters after Mina spots him; "No! Do not see me!" before vanishing into thin air like a ghost. And of course there's the scene where he assumes bat form and ambushes Van Helsing and the gang, initially while out at a cemetary, and later on while he was seducing Mina. But probably my favorite scene in this entire movie is the part where Mina tries to escape Dracula while running through a crowd of people in a theatre, and she comes in contact with a white wolf who escaped from a local zoo. The wolf growls at her for a few seconds until Dracula comes along and calls it off. The best part in that scene is where Dracula subdues the wolf, and Mina is able to gently and softly pet the animal. Followed by Dracula saying "He likes you." For some reason, this particular scene in the movie really touched me in such a way I can't even describe. I don't know. Something about this scene just really stood out for me. The fact is it was quite unusual seeing something like that happen in a horror film. But this movie has proven that even in horror films, there can be some emotionally striking scenes if done correctly. And again, this is one of my top favorite scenes in the entire movie. It's so captivating for some reason.
Some of the best and most horrific scenes include Lucy's transformation into a vampire after being corrupted by Dracula. The scene where we see her walking down the stairs to her cemetery while holding a crying human child in her arms was quite horrifying. The part that really caught me off guard was when she vomits blood all over Van Helsing as he wards her off with a crucifix, just before they finally drive a streak through her heart with a huge iron nail, and then decapitate her with a small sword. And that's another thing I noticed about this movie; it portrays the vampire mythology quite different from the usual. According to this movie, Dracula could walk around during the day without being fried to a crisp by the sunlight. But because it's not his natural time, his powers are relatively weak, and are not as effective as they are during the night. I'm not sure how old this idea is. But in my opinion, it was quite a unique twist from the usual cliché about vampires being vulnerable to sunlight. Though, it is a common cliché that is still used today. Anyway, the other differences that separated Gary Oldman's take on Dracula from all the earlier incarnations of the character was that he was also strong against garlic, crosses, and holy water. In fact, Dracula was almost completely indestructible and the only way he could be killed was to stake him through the heart, and then he must be decapitated in order to stay dead.
One thing that Gary Oldman's take on Dracula shares with all the other incarnations is his hatred of God and all things that are Christian. He is repulsed by all things that are holy. But because he is a powerful vampire and a dangerous foe, these things do not kill him. But instead, they fill him with rage that makes him stronger. And I have to say that Oldman's portrayal in this film is ultimately different from either Christopher Lee's and Bela Lugosi's portrayal of the character. I almost forgot to mention Renfield's role in this movie. As I mentioned before, Renfield, as he is depicted in this movie is replaced by Jonathan Harker as the person who arrives to Dracula's castle to arrange the real estate appointment with him. But similar to the 1931 film, Renfield is depicted as a wacky and mentally disturbed individual who has lost his humanity to Dracula. Even though he pretty much remained at the mental institute throughout the movie, he had some priceless scenes and some memorable lines of dialogue here and there. Probably one of the funniest parts in this movie is where Dracula kills Renfield by repeatedly slamming him against the bars of his cell.
Now, I don't mean to spoil the ending or anything. So before I go over this I just want to give out a little warning for those of you who've never seen this movie before; this paragraph contains a spoiler. So if you haven't seen this movie before, don't read this paragraph. Towards the end, Van Helsing and the gang eventually hunt down and kill Dracula by stabbing him through his chest with a small sword. But just before they could finish him off, Jonathan stops them, and tells them to let Mina finish the job. And so, Mina takes the dying Dracula inside a temple, where he asks her to end his suffering. Mina drives the sword down further into Dracula's chest, and as he dies, his face turns human again. Shortly afterwards, Mina takes the sword out his chest, and slices off his head. Then just before the closing credits, she looks up at the ceiling to see a painting of Dracula and his wife Elisabeta together. For some reason, the ending in this movie was dark, suspenseful, and at the same time a bit depressing. Because like I said before, Dracula was more of a tragic villain in this movie rather than a villain who is pure evil. And because he was a victim of his own anger and hatred which led him to forsaken his own humanity, I actually felt sorry for him. Again, this movie was really quite a unique take on Bram Stoker's novel. And because this movie was such a huge hit, it's a timeless classic.
Bram Stoker's Dracula has grossed $30,521,679 at the box office. However, it dropped from the top five after only three short weeks following its theatrical release. But the film was still considered a major box office hit; grossing $82,522,790 domestically and becoming the 15th highest grossing film of 1992. As fate would have it, the movie has fared even better overseas, grossing $133,339,902 for a total worldwide gross of $215,862,692, making it one of the most successful box office hits of the year. The movie has won three academy awards for best costume design, best sound effects editing, and best make up. It was even nominated for best art direction. It has also won four Saturn awards for best film director and best actor, for Coppola and Oldman respectively.
Overall: Again, "Bram Stoker's Dracula" is a timeless classic. Even though it's been almost 20 years now since its release in theatres, it has definitely withstood the test of time, and it really stands out above every other vampire film out there today. At least in my opinion anyway. And Coppola sure has outdone himself in directing this movie. And I mean that in the good way; he directed this film and executed it wonderfully. Not to mention Gary Oldman's unforgettable performance as the title character. Complete with a well written script, great actors, awesome costume designs and special effects, memorable scenes, and a chilling atmosphere, "Bram Stoker's Dracula" has had me coming back to it again and again. For the past several years now, I've been watching this movie along with other great horror movies every Halloween season. For those of you who haven't seen it before, I would strongly encourage you to buy it from your local video store, or order it online from amazon.com. The movie is available on DVD, HD DVD, and Blue Ray. If you are familiar with the Dracula novel, and are into the whole vampire mythology, then I strongly encourage you to see this movie. It's definitely worth a good watch. In fact, "Bram Stoker's Dracula" is one of the best vampire films of all time right next to "Interview with the Vampire". All in all, this movie deserves a solid 5 stars.