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Dracula (1992)

by on 2011/08/15

“I have crossed oceans of time to find you.”

* * * *

If I only had one word to describe Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula, that word would be baroque.

So that’s my review: this Dracula is baroque.

Right then. Thanks for your time.

…Er, this just in. Unfortunately, I’ve been told that several-word blog entries aren’t sufficient to qualify as reviews. So I have three boxes full of words (and ancient soil from my homeland) to share about Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

First of all, the look of this movie gives me shivers down to my pale gothic bones. The clothes, the settings, the hair (I could write several pages about the hair), the lighting, the food, the drink. It is all velvety lush and elaborate – an orgiastic feast for the gothically minded.

The beautiful devil is in the details with this Dracula. The sugar in the green absinthe, the blue eyeglasses, the long, red embroidered gown, the orange, flowing chiffon négligée – all the colours of the evil rainbow.

The real hero – besides the remarkable costume design and luscious settings – is Gary Oldman’s voice. His Eastern European accent flows as thick and rich as sour cream. His tongue sounds like it is resting on a bed of boiled cabbage.

His delivery of the classic line “…the children of the night. What sweet music they make” is hands-down the very best. He sounds like a delighted Romanian grandpa revelling in his misbehaving grandkids burning down the neighbour’s house on Thanksgiving.

Ivory-coloured beauty Winona Ryder as Mina Murray is incredible. Demure but sexy, prim, corsetted but willing to grab the nearest shotgun to protect her demon lover.

Anthony Hopkins (Legends of the Fall) plays Van Helsing as barking crazy as an Indian Wars Colonel who fathered the scalp-hunting Tristan. When he says “we’ve all become god’s madmen” he means it – really, really literally.

Tom Waits as Renfield is equally eccentric. I’m not sure if it is my decades-long affection for Mr. Waits speaking here but I think his depiction of the tortured Mr. Renfield is as compelling as I’ve seen – save Pablo Álvarez Rubio in Drácula (1931).

Oldman (Sid and Nancy) is elemental, a force of nature in this role. Horrifying, dashing, vicious and noble, he’s as layered and complicated a Dracula who’s ever been cast up on the silver screen. This Dracula is played as an epic romance with all sorts of things I am sure Bram Stoker never intended, like reincarnation and full-frontal nudity.

This film takes some tremendous liberties with Bram Stoker’s original story – Dracula was just a misunderstood, sympathetic national hero at odds with the Catholic church. In other ways it is remarkably orthodox – keeping characters, and plot details in strict compliance with the novel.

It is Dracula played as an opulent, decadent opera. I can’t help but think that Bram Stoker – a man who spent most of his life in the theatre business – would have been proud.

The overall result is a movie chemically configured to make me adore it with my full goth heart.


* * * *

128 minutes

Rated R for being really, really, really, really great. There’s also nudity, blood and an old-guy hairdo that is shaped somewhat like a bottom.

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