Bram Stoker's Dracula Review

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In Ford Coppola's Dracula, the Count (Oldman) turned his back on God after his wife committed suicide thinking her husband died in battle. Then some 400 years later he becomes obsessed with Mina (Ryder) who bears an uncanny resemblance to his late wife.


Oh, for olden times when all that happened in a vampire/Dracula movie was some Transylvanian coach driver would go (in an ill-suited Dorset accent, usually), "Oh, no, don't go up to the castle tonight, master, there's evil afoot!" Oh, for Bela Lugosi or the lusty fangs of Christopher Lee. Oh, particularly, for the bit in the Hammer Drac-fests where Francis Matthews (worst actor ever) opens the creaky coffin lid and reels back in preposterous "terror". Coppola has made some excellent films, it cannot be denied: The Conversation, Apocalypse Now and of course the Godfathers Part II and III. Gothic horror, however, is evidently not his forte. He fails to make his Dracula laughably lovable, a la Terence Fisher (Hammer supremo) and he fails to make it in any way frightening; he simply manages to make it terribly, terribly dull — an achievement in itself.

Gary Oldman's Count turns into a skinless bat and green mist and a strange old git and a festival of rats; Keanu Reeves, as the weedy Jonathan Harker, struggles with his Anglo-toff accent. There's sex: Sadie Frost has it off with a werewolf (Dracula in crafty Mr. Disguise kit); mad baby-feasting vampirellas provide Keanu with painful-looking "blow" jobs. There's death: slow-motion decapitations aplenty and men stuck on sticks. There are irksome discussions on the meaning of love within the Goth heavy metal-styled settings of foggy castles, and the special effects — ranging from the gory to the patently absurd — are ladled over the whole like an impossible soup. There's even Sir Anthony Hopkins as Dracula's nemesis, Van Helsing, sniffing away dementedly like Hannibal Lecter all over again.

The film is a calamity, a muddle, a mish­mash, nothing but blood spouting from the mouths of the undead. Fake accents steal up upon you without warning — does Gary Oldman really say, "I am the last of the Formica?" Probably not, but it makes little difference so laboured is the plot. Bram Stoker's Dracula is all style, no content (though Tom Waits as the insect-craving crackpot Renfield is rather marvellous), so if "horror" hokum is your particular cup of tea, might I direct you instead to The Abominable Dr. Phibes. You know where you are with Vincent Price.

Has a film ever promised so much yet delivered so little? There was so much potential, yet when it came down to it, Coppola made his Dracula too old to be menacing, gave Keanu Reeves a part and took out all the action. So all we're left with is an overly long bloated adaptation, instead of what might have been a gothic masterpiece.