Francis Ford Coppola’s sumptuously mounted, painstakingly (pain-STAKING get it?) faithful adaptation of Bram Stoker’s timeless novel is far too uneven to be called a classic but it’s still quite a bit of fun. Everyone knows the plot so why even bring it up. The only major change Coppola made was adding a cool prologue that links the historical Dracula, Vlad the Impaler to the more traditional bloodsucker that we all know and love. There is also an emphasis on Mina being the reincarnation of Dracula’s lost love too. Other than that, the “plot” is the same old, same old.
Coppola does a great job in the style department. He cleverly uses shadows to establish mood and even steals a few old school camera tricks from the silent movie days as well. He also tosses in neat little nods to the 1931 Dracula and even Nosferatu too. I think he went a little overboard when it comes to being faithful to the book though. I mean the novel is basically nothing but people writing shit down in their diary. Keeping a journal isn’t the most cinematic of activities by any stretch of the imagination, so a lot of these scenes are pretty lame.
Coppola puts in just enough random weirdness in there though to keep things interesting. Some of these odd little touches work, like when Dracula crawls up on the castle walls. Others just don’t make any sense whatsoever. Like the fact that Dracula has an army of gypsies protecting him. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I thought gypsies where supposed to warn people about Dracula, not act as his bodyguards.
The film is at its best during the early going where Harker comes to Dracula’s castle. (Particularly when Drac’s trio of hottie brides give him a toothy blowjob.) The scenes inside the freaky mental asylum also have a certain kick to them. After Dracula arrives in
The second half of the film centers around the love story between Dracula and Mina and is nowhere near as much fun. This aspect of the film should’ve been the most involving yet it’s the most boring. The reason for this mostly is that it’s kinda hard to get a read on Mina. One minute she wants Drac to put the bite on her, the other minute she’s all prim and proper saying crap like, “But I’m Mrs. Jonathan Harker!” The next minute she's slapping Dracula and crying, “OOOH you killed Lucy!”, then she’s acting all slutty and licking Drac’s bloody chest.
Fortunately, this portion of the film also features Van Helsing cutting off heads and driving stakes into people’s hearts and saying funny shit afterwards. I especially liked the scene where he cuts off Lucy’s head then the next shot is of Van Helsing cutting into a big slab of pot roast. Very classy editing there Francis.
If you can’t already tell, this movie is all over the damn place. The ending is also a bit of a letdown and feels sorta rushed. This is forgivable mostly because of Gary Oldman’s portrayal of Dracula. (Or “Drac-Cool” as he pronounces it.) He’s great at playing the many different incarnations of Dracula. There’s Soldier Drac, Old Drac (he’s pretty hilarious when licking Harker’s razor), Wolfman Drac (there’s an excellent scene where he fucks Lucy in the rain giving new meaning to the term “Doggy Style”), Gothic Gentleman Drac, and Bat Drac. While he is rather unconvincing at playing the more romantic aspects of the character, he totally owns the screen whenever he’s covered in latex make-up.
The other actors are pretty hit and miss. Winona Ryder does a fine job as Mina, yet like Oldman, she has trouble conveying her character’s more seductive traits. That’s OK though because the foxy ginger-headed Sadie Frost more than makes up for Ryder’s lack of sauciness as Mina’s sex-obsessed friend Lucy. And I’m sorry, as much as I like Keanu Reeves; he gives one of the worst performances in the history of celluloid in this movie. He can barely even do an English accent and is hopelessly out of his depth in his scenes with Oldman. Watch him flounder while trying to say shit like, “I was chased by a pack of wolves through a blue inferno!” Also painfully annoying is Tom Waits as Renfield. Whenever he appeared he just irritating the living piss out of me. Giving easily the best performance in the movie is Anthony Hopkins. His deliciously hammy version of Van Helsing is downright hilarious and although his zany characterization runs against the grain of the rest of the movie, it’s still pretty awesome.
He also gets all the best lines in the movie. While Oldman gets to recite the more classic Lugosi lines like “I never drink… wine” and “Listen to them… children of the night”, it’s Hopkins who gets all the juicy dialogue. Try not to crack up whenever he says shit like, “She was in great pain then we cut off her head and drove a stake through her heart; then she found peace!” and “Your precious Lucy will become a bitch of the Devil. A whore of darkness!” Great stuff.
I think the coolest thing about the flick though was that Dracula’s screams where provided by the late Lux Interior of The Cramps. I can only imagine how awesome that ADR session was. Just picture the director of The Godfather giving vocal direction to one of the greatest frontmen in punk rock. Coppola: “Okay Lux this time I want you to sound more like a wounded hyena!” Lux: “AAAAAHHHHHH!” Coppola: "Perfect!" Too bad that isn’t on the DVD Bonus Features.
Coppola executive produced the similar (and to me, slightly better) Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein two years later.