Bram Stoker's Dracula

1992, R, 128 min. Directed by Francis Ford Coppola. Starring Gary Oldman, Winona Ryder, Anthony Hopkins, Keanu Reeves, Sadie Frost, Tom Waits.

REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Nov. 20, 1992

Coppola's version of Dracula has been one of the most eagerly anticipated films of the last ten years. Critics and fans alike have been positively drooling all over themselves waiting to see what the director of the Godfather trilogy would do with Stoker's source material, and now that they've seen it, reactions have been as polarized as day and night. There's no argument that this new take on the very old story is deliciously fresh; Coppola and writer James V. Hart have unfailingly followed Stoker's sanguinary romance nearly to the letter, including scenes never before tackled and deleting extraneous pap from the legions of cinematic forerunners. The film opens with sound and fury and bluster and even more sound (Coppola's sonorously creative use of audio in the film may very well nab him an Oscar -- watching this in LucasFilm's new Dolby Digital Stereo is downright cathartic), as we see Vlad Dracul returning triumphant from the Crusades only to discover his one true love driven to suicide by the Turks. Enraged, the nobleman renounces Christ and thereby becomes the vampire. It's a wonderful opening, and Oldman's portrayal of this passionate, bitter figure is excellent. Not so Keanu Reeves, who, as estate agent Jonathan Harker, seems to have wandered in from the set of Bill and Ted's Transylvanian Adventure, his face registering a perpetually glazed look of befuddlement. Winona Ryder, seemingly the perfect choice for Dracula's obscure object of desire, Mina Harker, is better by far than Reeves, but it's Anthony Hopkins' Van Helsing that really lights up the screen. Part Freud, part Cotton Mather, Van Helsing is the marginally mad antithesis of Dracula -- the perfect foil, all manic chuckles and graveyard humor. Interestingly, Coppola has eschewed state-of-the-art special effects in favor of a panoply of archaic film-school tricks -- reversing the film, multiple exposures, playing with the shutter speed -- that give his Dracula a stylized, almost hyperreal clarity and a wonderfully singular weirdness. It's unlike any Dracula since Murnau's 1922 Nosferatu (from which Coppola has liberally borrowed many techniques), and as such, it's a stunning, gloriously outre achievment, and never mind the fact that this Jonathan Harker looks like he'd probably be more at home in Malibu than Victorian England.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 36 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Francis Ford Coppola
From the Vaults: One From the Heart
From the Vaults: One From the Heart
This underrated Coppola flop is my favorite film from the Summer of 1982

Marjorie Baumgarten, May 18, 2012

More Francis Ford Coppola Films
Tetro
Francis Ford Coppola embraces smaller-scale filmmaking with this story about the reunion of estranged brothers in Buenos Aires.

Marjorie Baumgarten, Aug. 21, 2009

Youth Without Youth
After a 10-year absence, Francis Ford Coppola has come in from the vineyards, but his Youth Without Youth is a self-satisfied bore that fails to connect with the audience.

Marjorie Baumgarten, Feb. 29, 2008

More by Marc Savlov
Boy Erased
Joel Edgerton goes to gay conversion therapy's heart of darkness

Nov. 9, 2018

Bodied
Battle rap comedy takes no prisoners

Nov. 2, 2018

KEYWORDS FOR THIS FILM

Bram Stoker's Dracula, Francis Ford Coppola, Gary Oldman, Winona Ryder, Anthony Hopkins, Keanu Reeves, Sadie Frost, Tom Waits

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle