Dracula (1992)

DVD Cover (Sony Home Entertainment Collector's Edition)
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Overall Rating 74%
Overall Rating
Ranked #704
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Connections: Dracula Van Helsing

When Dracula leaves the captive Jonathan Harker and Transylvania for London in search of Mina Harker - the spitting image of Dracula's long-dead wife, Elisabeta - obsessed vampire hunter, Dr. Van Helsing sets out to end the madness. --TMDb
Review by Crispy
Added: April 09, 2014
Having just finished Bram Stoker's classic horror novel, Dracula, I thought I'd take a look at some of the film adaptations that have come out through the years. After all, he's probably more well known for terrorizing the silver screen than from the world of literature. While the 1931 classic remains arguably the most well-known release to this day, Francis Ford Coppola's 1992 film runs a tight second.

Way back in 1462, Vlad Dracula was at war with the Turks; the campaign was a success, but he returns home to tragedy. It seems his wife has received a false report of his death and has commit suicide. In the throes of grief, he renounces God, announcing he plans to join her in damnedhood, and drinks the blood from a cross he's just stabbed. Over four hundred years later, Dracula hires real estate agent Johnathan Harker to handle the details of his move to London. However, when he sees a picture of Harker's fiance, Mina, the Count believes it to be the reincarnation of his wife, and makes plans to reclaim his betrothed. As he works to win back her heart, he feeds on her friend Lucy. Noting the radical decline in her health, her fiance summons Dr. Abraham Van Helsing. The good doctor immediately recognizes her wounds' vampiric implications, and quickly assembles a group of her friends to end the evil Count's reign, but after four hundred years of grief, Dracula is not going to go quietly when his beloved is so close.

While I initially felt that this version was a more faithful adaptation than the '31 release, the more I thought about it, I realized that wasn't actually the case. Once again, they took the story's general idea and framed an original story around it. Sure, this perhaps placed a few more of the novel's bones into the film's skeleton than the other one did, but the meat of it was still entirely its own. And that meat was something of a mixed bag. Never mind that it once again rewrote the plot; that's not a bad thing in and of itself, and I'll address that later, but there were little nuances here and there that completely changed the tone of things. Primarily among them was how much they upped the gore-and-sex ante. I mean, it was kind of expected, what with 1992's social tolerance a lot higher than it was 105 years ago, but they may have taken things a little too far. For example, Lucy is now an amoral flirt, perfectly content using her feminine wiles to draw her three suitors into a frenzy and confound Mina with her dirty talk. Likewise, the movie focused on this four-way love quandary with the three men instead of her love with Arthur. In fact, her choice of fiance almost seems like a whim, and that any one of them could have chosen. To say nothing of the brief lesbian bit thrown in there for no reason whatsoever. Now, I realize most people would find this bit of drama exciting, and it's no secret that I'm a fan of lesbian titillation in my horror movies, but I really don't think any of these changes were necessary. Also, Dracula had a penchant for turning into a werewolf during his attacks. Why? Couldn't tell you. Sure, it was one of the better looking werewolves Hollywood has to offer, but completely unwelcome in a Dracula flick. Personally, I wasn't a fan of most of these decisions, but I'll admit that a big part of it was me whining that it was such a radical departure from its source material. Except for the werewolf thing. That was just fucking dumb. With all that said, at least this one offered a much more coherent story than Dracula '31. There were a few parts that could have used an extra ten minutes or so, sure (primarily among them the entirety of Lucy's part after Dracula gets involved), but nothing that left holes in the film.

While completely different from the classic release, I once again loved the visuals this one offered. After all, Coppola hasn't earned the reputation he enjoys for nothing; the man knows how to catch something on film. For example, something as seemingly trivial as a close-up of the Count's reaching hand took on a ton of added affect; the surreal, sinister tone was dripping off of these shots. Plus, Dracula's shadow was almost a character to itself, and would routinely break from the vampire's actions. In a beautiful touch, it was a window to Dracula's true emotions, acting out the aggression that its source was forced to resist. And just while we're on the subject, the film brought in the novel's detail about a geriatric Dracula regaining his youth in London, and the former looked incredibly repulsive. Well done there.

For all the praise he receives, and rightfully deserves, I really don't think Anthony Hopkins was the best decision for Professor Van Helsing. Much like Sean Connery and Samuel L. Jackson, Hopkins seems to have one role that he brings to the table: the overly-eccentric, all-knowing old man. I'm sure a lot of viewers chuckled at his nonchalance when he asked the grieving Arthur Holmwood if he could cut off his dead fiance's head, but this heartlessness was another unwelcome departure from his counterpart in Stoker's pages. Yes, this complaint once again lies in the deviation from the novel, so you may enjoy Hopkin's portrayal a lot more than I did. On the other hand, I really enjoyed Gary Oldman's interpretation of Dracula in the first three fourths of the movie or so. The man knows how to add an unspoken evil into his actions, and even when Dracula was playing the part of the gracious host, the sinister overtones were all but palpable. As for that final fourth however, well I'll address that in a bit. Winona Ryder and Richard E. Grant, as Mina and Dr. Seward respectively, get the job done. Nothing amazing, but they didn't hurt anything. And then of course, there's Keanu Reeves, who, as usual, earns every ounce of criticism directed in his direction.

There is one point I do have to bring up, and it treads pretty heavily into spoiler territory. I normally try to avoid such things, but being as it had such a monumental effect on my thoughts of the film, I can't leave it out. You see, instead of using Lucy and Mina as food, Mina and the vampire actually, truly fall in love with each other. I simply can not tell you just how much this destroyed the entire story. The climax of this affair is the scene where Dracula begins Mina's transformation to vampire. Instead of putting her in a trance, and basically hypno-forcing her into drinking his blood, they get all hot and heavy under the covers when he suddenly stops and begins to cry, yelling "I can not condemn you to this curse!" Let me tell you, I literally got angry while watching that scene. Yes, we gave Dracula a conscience, and now he's bawling like a fucking baby. We're talking about a character that has to be in the top ten of evil incarnate being reduced to a blubbering sissy. How could anyone decide making Dracula a sympathetic character like this was a good idea? Sure, the novel mentioned Mina's sympathy for him, but they could have gotten that across the way they started, alluding to his still-crushing grief over his lost Countess. You didn't have to completely sweep everything that made him evil out from under him. Havoc is wreaked on the other side of that forbidden tryst as well. Making Lucy something of a free-spirit was one thing. Sure, she was much more sensitive in the novel, feeling pretty guilty about the two rejected suitors instead of having a ball leading the three of them on, but it didn't really effect anything. On the other hand, Mina's moral integrity was such an important part of the character. She was the glue that truly held the morale of that hunting party together. Plus, saving her from the horrors of vampirism, not to mention her own self-repulsion at the concept, was a huge unspoken part of the climax. Her terror at the realization that she is now unclean in the eyes of God (remember this is 1897; that's a big deal) was absolute, yet she was able to maintain a strong front in front of her friends. All of the emotion in those final pages was thanks to her. Needless to say, you lose all of that and more when the whore is literally begging for it.

I know plenty of people who love this version, and even with the visceral changes I was digging it myself until it hit that major snag. Once again, I can not fully express just how much damage it did; it essentially ruined the entire film for me. If you don't feel something like that would bother you as much as it did me, feel free to add two or three points back on, but personally, I'm going with a 6/10, which is as best as I can get to an average of how much I liked the first part and hated the ending.
George Snow #1: George Snow - added 04/10/2014, 10:27 PM
On 44th St there was a movie theatre that had a HUGE screen. Old fashioned one screen theatre, it was magnificent. The night this opened we went. The line was down 44th to 7th, down 7th and up 45th. Thankfully Karen and I walked to the front of the line and asked a nice group of young ladies if we could be their friend for a few moments. We didn't have to wait a half hour just to enter.

That was the only good thing that night. They only used a small portion of the screen, and while the cinematography and visuals are magnificent, everything else about this sucks. Ryder and Reeves trying to ACT like they're from turn of the century is beyond laughable. It's just awful.

BUT, I bought the blu ray this past week and popped it in a few nights ago. My opinion hasn't changed and I couldn't make it past their first kiss. Oldman's Lugosi impersonation is mind-crushing terrible.

I have to try to return this crap. I gave it a one because I can't give it a negative five.
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