Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992 film)
Bram Stoker's Dracula is a 1992 American gothic horror film directed and produced by Francis Ford Coppola, based on the 1897 novel Dracula by Bram Stoker. It stars Gary Oldman as Count Dracula, Winona Ryder as Mina Harker, Anthony Hopkins as Professor Abraham Van Helsing, and Keanu Reeves as Jonathan Harker.
|Bram Stoker's Dracula|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Francis Ford Coppola|
|Screenplay by||James V. Hart|
by Bram Stoker
|Music by||Wojciech Kilar|
|Distributed by||Columbia Pictures|
|Box office||$215.8 million|
Dracula was theatrically released in the United States on November 13, 1992 to positive reviews, even though Keanu Reeves' performance and English accent received criticism. The film grossed $215 million against a production budget of $40 million. It was nominated for four Academy Awards and won three for Best Costume Design, Best Sound Editing, and Best Makeup. Its score was composed by Wojciech Kilar; closing credits theme "Love Song for a Vampire", written and performed by Annie Lennox, became an international success.
In 1462, Vlad Dracula, a member of the Order of the Dragon, returns from a victory against the Turks to find his wife Elisabeta committed suicide after his enemies falsely reported his death. The priest proceeds to tell him that his wife's soul is damned to Hell for committing suicide. Enraged, Dracula desecrates the chapel and renounces God, declaring that he will rise from the grave to avenge Elisabeta with all the powers of darkness. He then stabs the chapel's stone cross with his sword and drinks the blood that pours out of it.
In 1897, newly qualified solicitor Jonathan Harker takes the Transylvanian Count Dracula as a client from his colleague Renfield who has gone insane. Jonathan travels to Transylvania to arrange Dracula's real estate acquisitions in London. Jonathan meets Dracula who discovers a picture of his fiancée Mina Murray and believes that she is the reincarnation of Elisabeta. Dracula leaves Jonathan to be attacked and fed upon by his brides, while he sails to England with boxes of his native Transylvanian soil, taking up residence at Carfax Abbey. His arrival is foretold by the ravings of Renfield, now an inmate in Dr. Jack Seward's insane asylum.
In London, Dracula emerges as a wolf-like creature amid a fierce thunderstorm and hypnotically seduces and rapes, then bites Lucy Westenra, with whom Mina is staying while Jonathan is in Transylvania. Lucy's deteriorating health and behavioral changes prompt her former suitors Quincey Morris and Dr. Seward, along with her fiancé Arthur Holmwood to summon Dr. Abraham Van Helsing who recognizes Lucy as the victim of a vampire; he eventually discovers that the creature is Dracula. Dracula, appearing young and handsome during daylight, meets and charms Mina. When Mina receives word from Jonathan—who has escaped the castle and recovered at a convent—she travels to Romania to marry him. In his fury, Dracula transforms Lucy into a vampire. Van Helsing, Holmwood, Seward and Morris kill the undead Lucy the following night.
After Jonathan and Mina return to London, Jonathan and Van Helsing lead the others to Carfax Abbey, where they destroy the Count's boxes of soil. Dracula enters the asylum, where he kills Renfield for warning Mina of his presence. He visits Mina who is staying in Seward's quarters while the others hunt Dracula, and confesses that he murdered Lucy and has been terrorizing Mina's friends. Confused and angry, Mina admits that she still loves him and remembers Elisabeta's previous life. At her insistence, Dracula begins transforming her into a vampire. The hunters burst into the bedroom, and Dracula claims Mina as his bride before escaping. As Mina changes, Van Helsing hypnotizes her and learns via her connection with Dracula that he is sailing home in his last remaining box. The hunters depart for Varna to intercept him, but Dracula reads Mina's mind and evades them. The hunters split up; Van Helsing and Mina travel to the Borgo Pass and the castle, while the others try to stop the gypsies transporting the Count.
At night, Van Helsing and Mina are approached by Dracula's brides. Initially, they frighten Mina, but she eventually succumbs to their chanting and attempts to seduce Van Helsing. Before Mina can feed on his blood, Van Helsing places a communion wafer on her forehead, leaving a mark. He surrounds them with a ring of fire to protect them from the brides, then infiltrates the castle and decapitates them the following morning. As sunset approaches, Dracula's carriage arrives at the castle, pursued by the hunters. A fight between the hunters and gypsies ensues. Morris is stabbed in the back during the fight and Dracula bursts from his coffin at sunset. Jonathan slits his throat with a Khukri knife while the wounded Morris stabs him in the heart with a Bowie knife. As Dracula staggers, Mina rushes to his defense. Holmwood tries to attack, but Van Helsing and Jonathan allow her to retreat with the Count. Morris dies of his wound, surrounded by his friends.
In the chapel where he renounced God, Dracula lies dying in an ancient demonic form. He and Mina share a kiss as the candles adorning the chapel light up and the cross repairs itself. Dracula turns back to his younger self and asks Mina to give him peace. Mina thrusts the knife through his heart and as he finally dies, the mark on her forehead disappears, as Dracula's curse is lifted. She decapitates him and gazes up at a fresco of Vlad and Elisabeta ascending to Heaven together, reunited at long last.
- Gary Oldman as Count Dracula / Vlad the Impaler
- Keanu Reeves as Jonathan Harker
- Winona Ryder as Mina Harker (née Murray)/Elisabeta
- Anthony Hopkins as Professor Abraham Van Helsing/Priest/Principal Narrator
- Richard E. Grant as Dr. Jack Seward
- Cary Elwes as Lord Arthur Holmwood
- Billy Campbell as Quincey P. Morris
- Sadie Frost as Lucy Westenra
- Tom Waits as R. M. Renfield
- Monica Bellucci as Dracula's Bride
- Michaela Bercu as Dracula's Bride
- Florina Kendrick as Dracula's Bride
- Jay Robinson as Mr. Hawkins
Ryder initially brought the script (written by James V. Hart) to the attention of Coppola. The director had agreed to meet with her so the two could clear the air after her late withdrawal from The Godfather Part III caused production delays on that film and led her to believe Coppola disliked her. According to Ryder: "I never really thought he would read it. He was so consumed with Godfather III. As I was leaving, I said, 'If you have a chance, read this script.' He glanced down at it politely, but when he saw the word Dracula, his eyes lit up. It was one of his favorite stories from camp." Ryder also explained that "what attracted me to the script is the fact that it's a very emotional love story, which is not really what you think of when you think about Dracula. Mina, like many women in the late 1800s, has a lot of repressed sexuality. Everything about women in that era, the way those corsets forced them to move, was indicative of repression. To express passion was freakish". Coppola was also attracted to the sensual elements of the screenplay and said that he wanted portions of the picture to resemble an "erotic dream". In the months leading up to its release, Hollywood insiders who had seen the movie felt Coppola's film was too odd, violent and strange to succeed at the box office, and dubbed it "Bonfire of the Vampires" after the notorious 1990 box-office bomb The Bonfire of the Vanities. Due to delays and cost overruns on some of Coppola's previous projects such as Apocalypse Now and One from the Heart, Coppola was determined to bring the film in on time and on budget. To accomplish this he filmed on sound stages to avoid potential troubles caused by inclement weather.
Coppola chose to invest a significant amount of the budget in costumes in order to showcase the actors, whom he considered the "jewels" of the feature. He had an artist storyboard the entire film in advance to carefully illustrate each planned shot, a process which created around a thousand images. He turned the drawings into a choppy animated film and added music, then spliced in scenes from the French version of Beauty and the Beast that Jean Cocteau directed in 1946 along with paintings by Gustav Klimt and other symbolist artists. He showed the animated film to his designers to give them an idea of the mood and theme he was aiming for. Coppola also asked the set costume designers to simply bring him designs which were "weird". "'Weird' became a code word for 'Let's not do formula,'" he later recalled. "'Give me something that either comes from the research or that comes from your own nightmares.' I gave them paintings, and I gave them drawings, and I talked to them about how I thought the imagery could work."
The film's hair and makeup designer, Michèle Burke, recalls: "Francis didn't want the typical Dracula that had already been done in Hollywood. He wanted something different; a new Dracula without the widow's peak, cape, or pale-white skin." Burke says she used her Catholic upbringing and angelic imagery for design inspiration, as well as the 19th-century attire created by costume designer Eiko Ishioka.
Coppola brought in acting coach Greta Seacat to coach Frost and Ryder for their erotic scenes as he felt uncomfortable discussing sexuality with the young actresses. However, he did ask Oldman to speak seductively off camera to Frost while they were filming a scene in which she writhed alone in her bed in ecstasy.[failed verification] She later classified the things Oldman said to her as "very unrepeatable".[failed verification] Winona Ryder found the intensity of Oldman's acting style too much at times; the two fell out early in the filming process and had difficulty working together from then on. Coppola stated, "they got along and then one day they didn't—absolutely didn't get along. None of us were privy to what had happened." Ryder has referred to the "trauma" of the experience and said that she "felt there was a danger" while working with Oldman. However, she has also referred to her friction with Oldman as "teen drama", stating, "He [Gary] was going through a divorce, and I think I can say this because he's pretty open about it, but he's been sober for a long time now, and he's raised three kids, and he's a dream. He's a good friend of mine now..."
In 2020, Winona Ryder also said that Reeves and Hopkins once refused Coppola's direction to verbally abuse her to make her cry during a scene that required an emotional reaction. However, Coppola denied that and described the situation as him instructing Oldman — in character — to whisper improvised words both to her and other actors on set to scare them [for the scene]. Ryder agreed with Coppola and stated that “she loves and respects him and considers it a great privilege to have worked with him."
Gary Oldman himself thinks that Dracula was never a "bucket list" role for him in the first place. He said that about the main reason why his younger self said yes to the role: "It was an opportunity to work with Coppola, who I consider one of the great American directors. That was enough, really. It was my first big American movie, made on a big set with lots of costumes. For a young actor, that was a tremendous experience." Another reason why Oldman wanted to play Dracula was because he wanted to say: "I've crossed oceans of time to find you" and to him it was worth playing the role just to say that line.
Christian Slater was offered the role of Jonathan Harker, but he turned it down (decision he later regretted). As for casting Keanu Reeves in the role Coppola said of his casting choice: "We tried to get some kind of matinée idol for the part of Jonathan, because it isn't such a great part. If we all were to go to the airport... Keanu is the one that the girls would just besiege."
Coppola was insistent that he did not want to use any kind of contemporary special effects techniques such as computer-generated imagery when making the movie, instead wishing to use antiquated effects techniques from the early history of cinema, which he felt would be more appropriate given that the film's period setting coincides with the origin of film. He initially hired a standard visual effects team, but when they told him that the things he wanted to achieve were impossible without using modern digital technology, Coppola disagreed and fired them, replacing them with his son Roman Coppola. As a result, all of the visual effects seen in the film were achieved without the use of optical or computer-generated effects, but were created using on-set and in-camera methods. For example, any sequences that would have typically required the use of compositing were instead achieved by either rear projection with actors placed in front of a screen with an image projected behind them, or through multiple exposure by shooting a background slate then rewinding the film through the camera and shooting the foreground slate on the same piece of film, all the while using matting techniques to ensure that only the desired areas of film were exposed. Forced perspectives were often employed to combine miniature effects or matte paintings with full-sized elements, or create distorted views of reality, such as holding the camera upside down or at odd angles to create the effect of objects defying the laws of physics.
On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 71% based on 56 critics with an average rating of 6.6/10. The site's consensus reads, "Overblown in the best sense of the word, Francis Ford Coppola's vision of Bram Stoker's Dracula rescues the character from decades of campy interpretations—and features some terrific performances to boot." Vincent Canby described the film as having been created with the "enthusiasm of a precocious film student who has magically acquired a master's command of his craft." Richard Corliss said, "Coppola brings the old spook story alive...Everyone knows that Dracula has a heart; Coppola knows that it is more than an organ to drive a stake into. To the director, the count is a restless spirit who has been condemned for too many years to interment in cruddy movies. This luscious film restores the creature's nobility and gives him peace." Alan Jones in Radio Times said, "Eerie, romantic and operatic, this exquisitely mounted revamp of the undead legend is a supreme artistic achievement...as the tired count who has overdosed on immortality, Gary Oldman's towering performance holds centre stage and burns itself into the memory."
Roger Ebert awarded the film 3/4 stars, writing, "I enjoyed the movie simply for the way it looked and felt. Production designers Dante Ferretti and Thomas Sanders have outdone themselves. The cinematographer, Michael Ballhaus, gets into the spirit so completely he always seems to light with shadows." Ebert did, however, voice criticisms over the film's "narrative confusions and dead ends". Jonathan Rosenbaum said the film suffered from a "somewhat dispersed and overcrowded story line" but that it "remains fascinating and often affecting thanks to all its visual and conceptual energy." Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times called the film "not particularly scary, not very sexy and dramatically over the top", criticizing the tone and several of the casting decisions. Tom Hibbert of Empire was unimpressed. Awarding the film 2/5 stars, he said, "Has a film ever promised so much yet delivered so little?...all we're left with is an overly long bloated adaptation, instead of what might have been a gothic masterpiece." Geoffrey O'Brien of The New York Review of Books also had reservations: "[T]he romantic make-over of Dracula registers as little more than a marketing device designed to exploit the attractiveness of the movie's youthful cast...[it] rolls on a patina of the 'feel-good' uplift endemic in recent Hollywood movies."
Criticism of Keanu Reeves' performanceEdit
Empire's Tom Hibbert criticized Keanu Reeves's casting and was not the only critic to consider the resultant performance to be weak. In a career retrospective compiled by Entertainment Weekly, Reeves was described as having been "out of his depth" and "frequently blasted off the screen by Gary Oldman". Total Film writer Nathan Ditum included Reeves in his 2010 countdown of "The 29 Worst Movie Miscastings", describing him as "a dreary, milky nothing...a black hole of sex and drama". Josh Winning, also of Total Film, said that Reeves's work spoiled the motion picture. He mentioned it in a 2011 list of the "50 Performances That Ruined Movies", and wrote: "You can visibly see Keanu attempting not to end every one of his lines with 'dude'. The result? A performance that looks like the young actor's perpetually constipated. Painful for all parties." A feature by AskMen, called "Acting Miscasts That Ruined Movies", expressed a similar sentiment: "It's one thing to cast Keanu Reeves as an esteemed British lawyer, but it's quite another to ask him to act alongside Gary Oldman and Anthony Hopkins. The two Oscar nominees ran circles around the poor Canuck, exposing his lack of range, shoddy accent and abysmal instincts for all to see."
Reeves's attempt at London vernacular has been cited as one of the worst accents, if not the worst, in the history of recorded film.[a] Virgin Media journalist Limara Salt, in listing the "Top 10 worst movie accents", wrote: "Keanu Reeves is consistently terrible at delivering any accent apart from Californian surfer dude but it's his English effort in Dracula that tops the lot. Overly posh and entirely ridiculous, Reeves's performance is as painful as it is hilarious." Salt said that Winona Ryder is "equally rubbish", an opinion echoed by Glen Levy in Time. In his "Top 10 Worst Fake British Accents", he said that both actors "come up short in the accent (and, some might argue, acting) department", and that their London dialect made for "a literal horror show". Conversely, Marc Savlov, writing for The Austin Chronicle, opined that Ryder was more impressive than Reeves and suited the role: "Ryder, seemingly the perfect choice for Dracula's obscure object of desire, Mina Harker, is better by far than Reeves".
The film opened at #1 at the box office with $30,521,679. It dropped off in subsequent weeks, losing 50.8% of its audience after its first weekend in release and exiting the top five after three weeks. It became a box-office hit, grossing $82,522,790 in North America and becoming the 15th-highest-grossing film of the year. Outside North America, the film grossed another $133,339,902 for a total worldwide gross of $215,862,692, making it the 9th-highest-grossing film of the year worldwide.
Awards and honorsEdit
|Bram Stoker's Dracula: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack|
|Film score by|
|Released||November 24, 1992|
|1.||"Dracula – The Beginning"||6:41|
|8.||"The Hunt Builds"||3:25|
|9.||"The Hunter's Prelude"||1:29|
|10.||"The Green Mist"||0:54|
|11.||"Mina / Dracula"||4:47|
|12.||"The Ring of Fire"||1:51|
|16.||"Love Song for a Vampire (From Bram Stoker's Dracula)" (performed by Annie Lennox)||4:21|
In 1993, the film was released on VHS and LaserDisc. The VHS release was a special box set in the shape of a coffin. It contained the film on VHS, which included a behind-the-scenes documentary, and the original Dracula novel by Bram Stoker in paperback. Grey, gothic statue heads (as seen on the original film poster) adorned the front cover of the book against a grey stone background.
Dracula was first released to DVD in 1999 and again as a Superbit DVD in 2001. The DVD included several extra features: filmographies, the original theatrical trailer, a documentary (Dracula: The Man, The Myth, The Legend), costume designs and DVD trailers. The Superbit version did not contain any extra features.
A two-disc "Collector's Edition" DVD and Blu-ray was released in 2007. Special features include an introduction and audio commentary by director Francis Ford Coppola, deleted and extended scenes, teaser and full-length trailers, and the documentaries "The Blood Is the Life: The Making of Dracula", "The Costumes Are the Sets: The Design of Eiko Ishioka", "In Camera: The Naïve Visual Effects of Dracula", and "Method and Madness: Visualizing Dracula".
In 2015, a Blu-ray remastered in 4K was released.
A novelization of the film was published, written by Fred Saberhagen. A four-issue comic book adaptation and 100 collectible cards based on the movie were released by the Topps company with art provided by Mike Mignola and a full script provided by Roy Thomas, using dialogue derived almost entirely from the film's script. In 2018, IDW Publishing collected all four issues and released them in a trade paperback. Various action figures and model sets were also produced. In addition to these items, accurate licensed replicas of Dracula's sword and Quincey's Bowie knife were available from Factory X. Other merchandising for the film included a board game, a pinball game was re-released as downloadable content for The Pinball Arcade until June 30, 2018, and video game adaptations for various platforms.
The film had a considerable impact on popular culture and vampire representation in media. Costume design by Eiko Ishioka created a new image for the Count and for the first time freed him from the black cape and evening wear the character had become associated with since Bela Lugosi's portrayal in 1931. The film was also a landmark in vampire horror as it is the only Dracula adaptation to win Oscars.
The film is seen as a game changer, which established a tone and style that redefined cinematic vampires. It created a host of new vampire film tropes, like retractable fangs, vampires turning into literal bat-men, and a steampunk aesthetic. Bram Stoker's Dracula is significant in the way that The Exorcist and The Shining were significant, in showing that a horror story can be worthy of an A-list cast and production values, and that a truly imaginative filmmaker can take even a story as hoary as Dracula and give it a new lustre.
Coppola's film was the first version to include a character from the Bram Stoker novel, Quincey Morris, a rich American cowboy and explorer, and one of Lucy's suitors. Morris' Bowie knife played an important role in both the novel and the film.
The film was ranked as the best vampire film ever in Forbes' "Top 10 Best Vampire Movies Of All Time" list. The film was also included in Entertainment Weekly's "5 best vampire movies", Esquire's "20 Best Vampire Movies" and "Sexiest Horror Movies Ever Made", IndieWire's "The 100 Best Horror Movies of All Time" and "The 12 Best Vampire Movies Ever Made". Oldman's Dracula featured in Forbes's list of "Hollywood's Most Powerful Vampires", as well as The Guardian's "10 best screen vampires". He also was ranked as best version of Dracula by Screen Rant. In honor of Syfy's 25th anniversary in 2017, the channel compiled "25 greatest" lists celebrating the last 25 years of all science fiction, fantasy, and horror: Oldman's Dracula was included in "The 25 Greatest Movie Performances from the Last 25 years".
- Fox's comedy series In Living Color December 1992 skit "Bram Stoker's Wanda" spoofs the film with Jim Carrey playing Dracula
- The 1993 Simpsons episode "Treehouse of Horror IV" had a segment titled "Bart Simpson's Dracula" which is a parody of this film with Mr. Burns as a vampire
- Japanese manga and anime series Hellsing resembles the movie: the backstory of Alucard (Count Dracula turned vampire slayer in the Hellsing's Universe) in manga includes him sailing to England in search of his love reborn and also makes the direct connection in anime between Alucard (Count Dracula) and Vlad the Impaler
- In Anno Dracula, an alternative history novel series by Kim Newman, where Count Dracula won and spread vampirism across the world – in Dracula Cha Cha Cha, Count Dracula's first wife is mentioned as "Elisabeta of Transylvania"; the name was taken from this movie version (Vlad the Impaler's first wife's name is unknown historically).
- Action-adventure gothic horror video game series Castlevania resembles the movie in several parts. In the game Lament of Innocence (2003)—the origins of the series' premise—Mathias Cronqvist, the man who would be Dracula after the death of his wife, Elisabetha, sought vengeance against God for her death and turned into a vampire, betraying Leon Belmont in the process and igniting the centuries-old war between the Belmonts and the Count Dracula. In the game Symphony of the Night (1997) [the plot of the game chronologically takes places much later than in Lament of Innocence] appeared another character, Lisa, second wife of Dracula and mother of his son Alucard. She was killed and her death sent Dracula into rage and bloody revenge against humanity. Lisa is the spitting image of Elisabetha Cronqvist, her name is also the short form of the name Elisabetha.
- What We Do in the Shadows (2014) heavily references this film. Jemaine Clement based his performance as Vladislav on Gary Oldman's portrayal. What We Do in the Shadows TV series (2019) has a vampire character Baron Afanas (played by Doug Jones), who is also partly inspired by Oldman's Dracula. TV series also has a plotline where vampire Nadja meets reincarnation of her past lover and says she crossed oceans of time to be with him.
- Mexican film director Guillermo del Toro had props from this film as part of his At Home With Monsters public exhibition, including the red Dracula helmet from prologue of the movie. The exhibition toured US and Canada.
- Jessica Chastain said that she incorporated some inspiration from her younger days into her acting (and wardrobe) as Lucille Sharpe in gothic romance film Crimson Peak (2015): "My friend and I used Dracula as our reference—the one with Gary Oldman; we were Winona Ryder and Sadie Frost, she wore black lipstick and I wore a black-red lip color, like dried blood almost."
- Stranger Things season two episode "Chapter Two: Trick or Treat, Freak" (2017) has a scene where Joyce Byers (Winona Ryder) celebrates Halloween with her boyfriend Bob Newby (Sean Astin) dressed as Dracula; the couple share a dance together as an homage to the movie.
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