AWESOME-tober-fest 2011: Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)
Continuing the final week of AWESOME-tober-fest. This week I’ve been reviewing all Dracula movies. Monday was Nosferatu from 1922. Tuesday was Universal’s Dracula from 1931. Yesterday I reviewed Horror of Dracula by Hammer Films. Today I’m looking at a movie that threw out these past movie versions of Dracula and went back to the source. The director wanted to do a new, more faithful adaptation of Stoker’s novel. That director was Francis Ford Coppola.
So, in 1992 we got Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Coppola was actually given the script for this adaptation by Wynona Ryder. She wanted a project for them to do together to help patch things up with the director after she pulled out of The Godfather Part III at the last minute. So Coppola agreed to do this and production began.
Coppola really wanted to create an ethereal almost dreamlike quality to this movie. Originally, he didn’t want to build any sets. He wanted elaborate costumes but very sparse, minimalistic backgrounds. Luckily the studio said no and forced him to do “traditional” sets. I’ve attempted to watch this movie several times since the 90s. But I hadn’t tried for a few years, so I thought this might be the year to give it a try, especially since I just read the original novel and watched a bunch of other Dracula movies.
So, what did I think this time? I didn’t like it. At all. They put Stoker’s name over the title, but that was mainly to differentiate it from Universal’s movie, not because there is that much more devotion to the novel. Coppola has created an overly indulgent arthouse flick about Dracula. It’s surreal and strange and boring. He ties the origins of Dracula to “The Impaler” Vlad III who renounces God after his beloved wife kills herself after mistakenly believing her husband was killed in battle. Then Dracula stabs a stone cross, which starts to bleed, then he drinks the blood from the cross. WHAT?!
There’s a lot I don’t like. The story. The acting. Keanu Reeves as Jonathan Harker is terrible. Wynona Ryder as Mina Harker is also terrible. The costumes are pretty good, but the movie is like a fever dream. It’s so surreal and weird that it’s hard to really follow what the hell is going on. You would think a Dracula movie starring Gary Oldman, Sir Anthony Hopkins, Keanu Reeves, Tom Waits and Monica Bellucci as Dracula’s bride would be AWESOME. But it’s not. It’s terrible. I didn’t even finish watching it. The movie is two hours and I stopped it just after the hour mark.
Is there anything I did like? Well, Anthony Hopkins is good. Oldman is pretty good as Dracula. I enjoyed the costumes and sets. Monica Bellucci as a topless Dracula bride was fantastic. Sadie Frost, the chick that plays Lucy’s loses her top several times. But none of that makes up for the horrible, surreal story that felt like a morphine fever dream and made little to no sense. I realize this has become sort of a cult hit, but I can’t recommend it. If you want to watch a thoroughly entertaining Dracula movie, see Hammer’s Horror of Dracula.
Two years later, a very similar attempt would be made with Mary Shelly’s book, Frankenstein. Acclaimed director Kenneth Brannagh would film a re-adaptation of Shelly’s novel starring himself as Victor Frankenstein, Helena Bonham Carter as Elizabeth and Robert DeNiro as the Monster. Click the link to read if I thought it was successful or not.
So, one more day of AWESOME-tober-fest. Tomorrow will be Freaky Friday, I’ll be looking at a Dracula “spoof” movie. See you then.
Also, check out the blog Countdown to Halloween for more Halloween-y, bloggy AWESOMEness.