Saturday, October 23, 2010

31 Days of Halloween - Day 23 - Movie 1

When Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992) first came out I was pretty disappointed with it. Visually it was impressive, and I loved the stylized look of it and the low tech effects, but the script was really lacking, and the characters seemed like mere sketches rather than fully realized characters. I liked it even less on a subsequent viewing, and was reluctant to view it again.

So imagine my surprise to discover that I actually liked this movie quite a bit this time around. Yes, the same problems I had with it were still problems, and again, like most versions, Jonathan Harker's character suffers the most winding up as the blandest character in the story when he is the one with the most at stake. I was also underwhelmed by Anthony Hopkins interpretation of Van Helsing. Aside from that one great line about cutting off heads and removing hearts, there wasn't much to recommend him. He hardly comes off as a worthy adversary to Dracula. The romance angle which transforms this movie into something very different from Stoker's novel bothered me much less this time around since I've already long since gotten past the misleading, and outright untruth, that this was the most faithful adaptation to the time it was made.

Oldman's Dracula was a highlight as was Sadie Frost's Lucy. Again, the artifice, style, symbolism, design, and primitive special effects completely won me over again, as did the great score which has since been borrowed from in numerous movie trailers.  While this movie was far from perfect I admire Francis Ford Coppola's willingness to take such an unconventional approach to such an obviously commercial property.



Belle Dee said...

I have to say, I have a real soft spot for this movie. At the time I saw it, I was a mere year into my obsession with Dracula. I was going out and buying books like 'The Dracula Scrapbook' and various others. I also had just finished the Stoker novel, right before I saw this movie. And I had a major Winona Ryder fixation, so Dracula movie + Winona Ryder = Dream come true (at the time).
What I love about this movie is that it's such a showboat! I don't know if that makes sense but it's a spectacular! Like a broadway musical, but not a musical. It did have an awesome score though.

I just went on & on there didn't I. Oh, and I love Richard E. Grant. He wasn't in it enough if you ask me. He probably should have played Harker.

John Rozum said...

I completely get what you mean by this being a showboat. It's that aspect of it that I really love. I wish more filmmakers would cut loose like that.

I love Richard E. Grant too, and if you ever get a chance you should see a short movie he was in called "Franz Kafka's It's a Wonderful Life."

I think the problem was that while they did squeeze in all of the characters, including Quincey Morris, who never makes it into a Dracula movie, everyone was too broadly sketched out so that you never really cared for anyone.

Watching this today, I was watching Keanu Reeves as Harker, and as stiff and awkward as he was, I think it was more the way that the character was written than anything else. It's a completely passive role (except when he's shouting at Dracula right before he sees him climbing down the wall) and once he reaches London he has absolutely nothing to do.

As for Winona Ryder, I probably had the biggest crush on her then, and it started from the moment I saw her in "Lucas" and couldn't understand why Corey Haim wasn't going for that incredibly adorable girl who clearly liked him. Idiot.

Stephen said...

I have mixed feelings about this movie. I loved - loved - Gary Oldman's performance, and think the atmosphere and music are perfect. But why did they have to cast Keanu and Winona Ryder, two terrible actors, in these roles? They should have put, oh, I don't know, two BRITISH actors in the roles. Sorry Belle Dee.