Sunday, October 21, 2012

31 Days of Dracula | Gary Oldman (1992)

I would've enjoyed Francis Ford Coppola's Dracula adaptation more if it hadn't called itself Bram Stoker's Dracula. The implication was that it was a faithful retelling of the story, but - though it was more faithful than, say, Lugosi's - James V. Hart's screenplay took a lot of liberties with Stoker's novel. I've got no problems with changing the story in an adaptation, but it's crappy to do that and then market yourself as the original version.

That aside, I'm still not a huge fan of the movie. It's lavish, has great visuals (Mike Mignola worked in the art department), and a fantastic cast, but it owes more to Anne Rice than Bram Stoker, and I'm not a fan of Anne Rice. Dracula (Gary Oldman) is presented as a tragic, romantic figure who only wants to be reunited with his true love. That she's apparently been reincarnated as Mina Murray (Winona Ryder) is bad news for her and all her friends, but the movie asks its audience to at least pity the Count if not outright root for him. It would be an interesting exercise in cognitive dissonance if it were handled more skillfully, but the movie doesn't succeed in making me care about Dracula, and it kind of pisses me off that it even tries.

There were a couple of positive results of the film though. One is that it was extremely popular and got people creating Dracula stories again. The other is that it finally got me to read the original novel, if only to prove to myself that what was on screen wasn't what Stoker wrote.


Erik Johnson Illustrator said...

I remember my reaction when I saw this movie was "That was a really bloated movie". Well actually my very first reaction was "Is that Christopher Walken as Dracula?" With that balled up plantium blonde hair and odd mannerisms it could have been. (Note to self: Cast Christopher Walken opposite Keanu Reeves for Comedy Gold)

Looking back it suffers from a lot of cliches like "The Reincarnated Lover" or "Victorian People were outrageously uptight", or my favorite which you pointed out, "In Case You Forgot Who Wrote It" the whole "Bram Stroker's Dracula". I guess the marketers wanted to distinguish from the numerous Dracula adaptations out there. Maybe thats why John Carpenter never did an adaptation of Dracula, he just couldn't share the credit.

Its funny how this came out the same year as "Batman Returns" because you could tell me that this was a Tim Burton film and I'd have believed it because its visually indulgent, sometimes overly so, but I think thats what kept me going through so much of the latter half of the film because the material on the whole is so familiar.

Moncynnes said...

I had a professor in college who taught a course in British Literature every semester, and one of the novels he always assigned was "Dracula." Naturally, there was always a portion of the class that tried to just watch a Dracula movie instead of reading the novel; after the Coppola "Dracula" came out, he had a lot of very confused students.

One undergrad even tried to appeal because of a poor grade on the test. When the professor asked to see the student's copy of the novel, the student showed him the paperback novelization of the movie... credited to Fred Saberhagen, James V. Hart, and (in tiny little letters) Bram Stoker.


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