Old Movie Review: Bram Stoker’s Dracula by Francis Ford Coppola
I watched Francis Ford Coppola’s version of Bram Stoker’s Dracula (again) a couple of nights ago. And keeping with my Thursday vampire theme, I decided to review it for my blog. I know it’s an older movie (1992), but I think it marks an important milestone in vampire cinema. The film had a formidable cast: Gary Oldman as Count Dracula, Anthony Hopkins as Van Helsing, Wynona Ryder as Mina Harker, Keanu Reeves as Jonathan Harker, and a few other talented names or almost-names. It was an early movie for Keanu Reeves, so his acting skills were somewhat unpolished, yet his performance fit the role well. He comes across as naïve, in a stiff sort of way. And that, surprisingly, worked. The other actors did fine as well. The weakness of the film was not in the actors who worked in it, but in some of the liberties the makers took with it.
Of all the Dracula movies I’ve seen—and I’ve seen a number of them over the years—this one, I think, followed Bram Stoker’s original book the best, keeping true to much of the storyline. It begins with Jonathan Harker going to Count Dracula’s castle to help the count purchase various properties in the London area. The Count goes to London, kills a couple people, and is forced to flee back to his castle in Transylvania. A desperate chase ensues. Etc… All that being said, Francis Ford Coppola did take a number of creative liberties with the script. Some of them good, some not so good.
It’s been a while since I read the book, but I don’t think Mina had actual romantic feelings for the Count in the book. She was bitten, of course, and began to succumb to his powers, but the background romance wasn’t there. I like how she was introduced to the Count in the movie, but the whole reincarnation bit, and the amplification of Mina’s role in Dracula’s demise, I have mixed feelings about.
The next topic of concern is the sexuality of the movie. It far exceeds the level of sexuality found in the novel. That’s not really a big surprise considering when Bram Stoker wrote Dracula. As vampires are supposed to be seductive forces of darkness, the sexuality portrayed by the vampires in the movie might have been a bit too brutally bestial at points, but I think it was acceptable. What I didn’t like, however, was the portrayal of the sexuality of the human characters, particularly Mina and Lucy. The whole bit with the pornographic Arabian Nights book and the two young women kissing in the rain was totally unnecessary. And, more importantly, it did not fit at all with the sexual mores of Victorian England which was when the book took place. I think it ruined a potentially very good movie.
Then there was an odd scene with blood flying everywhere (when Lucy was killed). That was just too random and should have been edited out.
Overall, I thought Francis Ford Coppola’s version of Bram Stoker’s Dracula had a lot of potential, but failed to realize much of it. It got distracted by its own efforts to sexualize the vampire to the nth degree. I’ll give it three out of five stars. It’s worth watching, but it could have been a much better movie than it was.