When it is not weird and dark, its gaudiness might annoy, but there is a method to the madness as Coppola pulls every trick in the cinematographic and editing handbook to deliver a studio movie that no one would probably dare try to make in this vein again.
Cast: Gary Oldman, Winona Ryder, Anthony Hopkins, Keanu Reeves, Richard E. Grant
Plot: The centuries old vampire Count Dracula comes to England to seduce his barrister Jonathan Harker’s fiancée Mina Murray and inflict havoc in the foreign land.
Awards: Won 3 Oscars – Best Costume Design, Best Makeup, Best Sound Editing; Nom. for 1 Oscar – Best Art Direction-Set Decoration
Subject Matter: Slightly Mature – Vampirism, Religion
Narrative Style: Straightforward
Audience Type: Slightly Mainstream
Dracula was an ambitious if strategic undertaking for Francis Ford Coppola, who badly needed a commercial hit to stay in business.
Following up on his lukewarmly-received The Godfather Part III (1990), a film that few people asked for, Dracula saw the director back in manic filmmaking mode as he attempted a version (or vision) of the famous vampire story by Bram Stoker that—seeing now with contemporary eyes—borders on the weird and gaudy.
It is dark, sometimes unintentionally hilarious, and seemingly a notch too gory and wildly sexual for a studio movie, albeit an R-rated one. The result is a movie that no one would probably dare try to make, at least in this vein, again. As such, one might be charitable to call it a unique film and a singular experience.
“I have crossed oceans of time to find you.”
I can’t say I like it, but there is a method to the madness as Coppola pulls every trick in the cinematographic and editing handbook, playing with shutter speed, front and rear projection, multiple exposures, reverse motion, copious amounts of match cuts and more, to create an entirely organic experience, one devoid of CGI effects in a time when digital VFX was the next big thing.
Gary Oldman is fantastic as Dracula and so is Winona Ryder as the woman that Dracula so badly desire, her resemblance to his dead wife from centuries ago affording him the opportunity to recover the prospect of love from the depths of his dark heart again.
Coppola’s film gets better after a while, but the first hour featuring Keanu Reeves (in an abysmal performance as the husband-to-be to Ryder’s character) who visits Dracula’s lair for a work assignment is quite difficult to endure, perhaps only saved by the bizarro production design and makeup.