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Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992, Gary Oldman, Winona Ryder)

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‘I very much believe that when you’re dealing with literature, even a minor classic such as Dracula, it is your job to make the book, and not go off and do your own thing.’ Given this perspective, it’s not difficult to see why Francis Ford Coppola was keen to title his manifestation of the vampire myth Bram Stoker’s Dracula. The movie was originally called Dracula: The Untold Story , and Coppola became involved after Winona Ryder tipped him off about the script.

Jim Hart’s script had almost as eventful a history as the 1897 novel itself, with Fleetwood Mac at one point trying to turn it into a rock musical. This failed, thankfully, and Coppola was entrusted with the $40million budget for this reasonably faithful dramatisation.

Beginning in the 15th-century with Vlad the Impaler’s conversion to vampirism following the suicide of his beloved wife Elisabeta, the movie then relocates to London, 1897. Jonathan Harker (Keanu Reeves) is sent to deepest Transylvania to finalise a deal with the enigmatic Count Dracula (Gary Oldman), who’s buying a property in England. After seeing a picture of Jonathan’s fiancée, Mina Murray (Ryder), the Count is reminded of his dead wife and persuades the estate agent to stay for a month. Jonathan soon realises that he is being kept captive while the Count prepares to leave for England.

Once in England, the Count takes the form of the hirsute but handsome Prince Vlad and is soon courting Mina and her friend Lucy (Sadie Frost). With the vampire paying Lucy regular visits, her health and behaviour start to deteriorate alarmingly until one of her suitors, Dr Jack Seward (Richard E Grant), calls in a specialist for advice. This expert, Professor Van Helsing (Anthony Hopkins), detects the work of a vampire and begins his investigations that lead all the way back to Transylvania.

Despite comparing the experience of making a big budget movie to ‘trying to draw a picture with a 500ft long pencil,’ Coppola creates a visually stunning and constantly involving drama that showcases both his rich storytelling talents and a fine cast. While keeping the horror element, with some stunning special effects set in both Transylvania and London, Coppola also makes sure that sympathy for the Count is never fully lost, presenting less a monster and more a man who would do anything, even denounce God, to stay alive to once again meet his one true love.

production details
USA | 128 minutes | 1992

Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Writer: James V Hart (based on the novel by Bram Stoker)

cast
Gary Oldman as Dracula
Winona Ryder as Mina Murray / Elisabeta
Anthony Hopkins as Professor Van Helsing
Keanu Reeves as Jonathan Harker
Richard E. Grant as Dr. Jack Seward
Sadie Frost as Lucy Westenra
Cary Elwes as Lord Arthur Helmwood
Billy Campbell as Quincey P. Morris
Tom Waits as R.M. Renfield
Jay Robinson as Mr. Hawkins
Monica Bellucci as Dracula’s Bride # 1
Michaela Bercu as Dracula’s Bride # 2
Florina Kendrick as Dracula’s Bride # 3
I.M. Hobson as Hobbs
Laurie Franks as Lucy’s Maid
Maud Winchester as Downstairs Maid
Octavian Cadia as Deacon
Robert Getz as Priest
Dagmar Stanec as Sister Agatha
Eniko Öss as Sister Sylva
Nancy Linehan Charles as Older Woman
Tatiana von Furstenberg as Younger Woman
Jules Sylvester as Zookeeper
Hubert Wells as Zookeeper
Honey Lauren as Peep Show Girl
Judi Diamond as Peep Show Girl
Robert Buckingham as Husband
Cully Fredricksen as Van Helsing’s Assistant
Daniel Newman as Newshawker

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