The 1922 silent masterpiece "Nosferatu," and its 1979 remake by Herzog are
clearly the most lucid, atmospheric interpretations of the famous novel by
Bram Stoker. There have been several remakes and sequels in their wake, so
why keep remaking the oft-told story? We all know it by heart. Francis
Ford Coppola's "Bram Stoker's Dracula" is a visual mess - an overblown,
campy knock off of the legend. That's not to say that it isn't fun.
Coppola's "Dracula" starts off promisingly for the first half-hour
complete with silhouettes, shadows, irises, beautiful if ostentatious
imagery, and really fancy camera tricks, especially when we first visit
Dracula's castle. Some of this represents of Coppola's best directorial
work ever, but he screws up when he doesn't take the legend seriously.
The acting is uneven throughout. Gary Oldman ("J.F.K") plays Dracula
fairly straight with an astonishing array of body movements and language
(he's a bloodsucking, white-haired, venemous creature in the beginning) but his
performance lacks passion and verve. Keanu Reeves as Jonathan Harker is
merely incompetent and unbelievable in a period setting - he reminded me
too much of his Bill and Ted antics. Sir Anthony Hopkins overacts to the
hilt as Professor Van Helsing, and has a moment where he smells Mina's
fragrance reminding one of Hannibal Lecter. Winona Ryder, however, steals
the movie as Mina (Harker's sweetie), and she is appropriately passionate
and sexy, especially in the love scenes.
As incredibly flawed as "Dracula" is, it somehow works in the big
egostistical way that some of Coppola's lesser efforts have. At times
resembling more of a horror spoof, it is extraordinarily well-made and the
snowy climax at Drac's castle is terrific, suspenseful stuff.
Unfortunately, dear old Francis leaves so little to the imagination and
the gore is piled on scene after scene with none of the cold, chilling
atmosphere of "Nosferatu" or Lugosi's "Dracula."
Over-the-top, overstuffed, overdone and undernourished in character
details, "Dracula" is never boring and somehow fun in a crude way. This
Count does not suck, but he occasionally does bite.
Copyright © 1993 Jerry Saravia