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Bram Stoker's Dracula

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Bram Stoker's Dracula

Starring: Gary Oldman, Winona Ryder
Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Rated: R
RunTime: 128 Minutes
Release Date: November 1992
Genre: Horror

*Also starring: Anthony Hopkins, Keanu Reeves, Richard E. Grant, Cary Elwes, Bill Campbell, Sadie Frost, Tom Waits

Review by Pedro Sena
3½ stars out of 4

Dracula films, have always been on the edge of showing people what exactly they feared in their time. During the BELA LUGOSI era, the film dealt with the shadows and things that just seemed to lurk everywhere, which would scare people, specially when film was such a new adventure. By the 50's and 60's when we were introduced to the awesome battles between CHRISTOPHER LEE, and PETER CUSHING, the films begun to take on a new tone, that of the gory details of death, and the more sexually promiscuous side of things. And for the 90's, the film story has progressed from the gory and the specially disgusting, to the elements which we understand very little of, but which are a big part of it all. This Dracula, has desires, and his shadow lives them, right in front of us, though these bits are subtle, but obvious. He also has something which the novel does not get into. He is now a full story, a true love story, as opposed to an evil entity, who has an acute thirst for life.

The novel by Abraham Stoker, is exceptional, in that it is a series of diary letters between Jonathan Harker, Lucy and Mina Murray. And what brings Dracula to London, is not quite clear, since the story is never seen from the Count's point of view. This film, almost exclusively, lets us know the story from the Count's feelings, and what has led him to London, which was undoubtedly his inner feeling that he had to move, only to discover that the reason to move to London was because the incarnation of his beloved is the w oman who is about to marry the real estate agent who is closing the deals on Carfax Abbey.

All of a sudden we have a love story, and when the injured Count finally asks his beloved to 'save' his life, she does, and releases him to the spheres. The new problem is that Mina will not be able to have a satisfying life with her beloved, but the chances that a sequel will follow are nil, and none. The Count's tale is over, though he has not been able to meet up with his beloved as he wished.

In many ways, it was a sign of things to come, if this were the novel that Abraham ( Bram ) Stoker wrote. The lessons of love are no longer dependant on the past lives, and the beings merely interact without thought to anything else. Were they able to do so, their lives would be fulfilled and much more satisfying than what is evident.

In between, the film pretty much dwells on the part of the Count which we can least explain, or understand. The novel always suggested his bat, wolf, and mist life ( quite a shaman ), but never could delve very much into it. This film, unlike the previous ones, gets into it full blast, even if it isn't quite right. Lucy is being ravaged in a dream stupor, by a being that looks like a wolf, and she is enjoying it. The feral Count is insatiable, and does what it has to, so it can get to his real target, which in this film is Mina.

The other well done thing in this film, is that it finally, for the first time, looks at the country side, and London, as it may have appeared, at the time of the turn of the century, rather than the almost/quasi medieval look which it always had in the many films prior to this one. We see the trains, and a much more modern London, with an upper class that is entering the 20th century, rather than earlier in time. And this upper crust of a class has some education, and is less driven by emotional standards, which the other films worked on in detail. Lugosi's film appears very dated. Lee's films always had a bit of the 18th and 19th centuries feeling to them and never delved beyond that. ( I have never found the Spanish version of DRACULA with CHRISTOPHER LEE, which is said to be 100% like the book, with absolutely no deviations.. directed by the famed director Mario Bava. )

With an excellent cast, and well directed, this film is actually less scary than it is beautiful to watch. Excellent music replaces the shock horror classic music of the likes of Charles Martell and company that always scared us in the Hammer Films. And a superb costume and make up job, keeps us very much wondering what will come next, which is actually a pleasant surprise next to the other films. And yes, unlike the previous films, there is also a bit more skin to be shown in this film. But it is well done, and never mis-used.


Copyright 1994 Pedro Sena

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