Rated: R For violence and sexual content. Reviewed by: Chris Release date: November 13,1992 Released by: Columbia Pictures
Francis Ford Coppola directs this newest version of Bram Stoker's 1897 novel with total indulgence.
The film has a prologue which sets up the story behind Dracula's existence as an "undead". It begins in the 1400s as Prince Dracula's beautiful bride commits suicide when she falsely hears that her beloved husband is killed in battle. When the Prince returns home to find her dead body, he goes mad and curses God, damning himself for eternity.
The film picks up four centuries later with Jonathan Harkin (Keanu Reeves) summoned to Count Dracula's castle in Transylvania to sell him some London properties. The eerie, foreboding castle and grotesque Count Dracula (Gary Oldman) are more than the naive young clerk had bargained for.
After the Count sees a picture of Harkin's fiance, Mina (Winona Ryder), who resembles his dead wife, he leaves Harkin Prisoner in his castle and heads to London to meet her. He decides he had better do a complete makeover first, because he resembles a white-haired, ugly gargoyle with claw-like hands, so he drinks a lot of fresh blood and renews his body and appearance. He now looks like a long haired, titled gentleman with dark spectacles perched low on his nose. When Dracula meets Mina, he draws her to him with his hypnotic powers and even though her true love is Jonathan, Mina can't stop thinking about the mysterious Count.
While in London, Dracula keeps up his strength by slowly sucking the life out of Mina's friend Lucy. When the doctors can't figure out what wrong with her, they call in Professor Van Helsing (Anthony Hopkins), an expert in blood diseases and an amateur vampire slayer. What a welcome sight he is, to Lucy and the audience alike; he's the most-spirited character on screen.
Bram Stoker's Dracula is a mixed bag of good and bad. The good is the terrific looking sets; the castle set high on a cliff with black spires poking into the clouds, mist filled graveyards, London streets and mansions with lush gardens and the decrepit madhouse which the pathetic Renfield calls home. The make-up and special effects are also terrific. Lastly, the talented Hopkins, who adds his own flavor to the wacky Van Helsing, gives the liveliest performance by far.
Now for the bad. Coppola wants this to be a sexy love story. He accomplished this in part with a ridiculous orgy with Harkin and three evil, but voluptuous spirits, totally unnecessary. The romance also suffers because of the leads; Winona Ryder is beautiful, but her acting is lackluster, and Oldman is most disappointing. His Dracula is neither interesting nor charismatic enough to make women swoon (someone more like the commanding Frank Langella from 1979's Dracula would have been a better casting choice.
Visually this is an expensive, beautiful film, but somehow it still ends up being silly and boring.
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