Monday, October 25, 2010

Dracula (1992)

Of course best known for the Godfather trilogy and Apocalypse Now, Francis Ford Coppola's try at Bram Stoker's classic remains one of his noteworthy endeavors. Though it had some fairly questionable casting decisions, Dracula stuck fairly close to the novel despite what you might think with Winona Ryder and Keanu Reeves starring. Luckily they are buoyed by the chameleonic Gary Oldman, Anthony Hopkins, and some very high quality art design and set direction among other good performances.

First of all, the problems. Keanu Reeves' performance. It seems as if he sat down a night before the first scene and pounded out a rudimentary British accent and, contented, slept. Needless to say it's clumsy and ridiculous, and he does not do much else to bring Jonathan Harker to life. Winona Ryder's is not much better, but she is still much more believable as Mina Harker. The film is riddled throughout with screenwipes and transitions that seem out of place. It is as if a student learning these techniques is just finding excuses to squeeze them into his work but in a film like this they are distracting.

Aside from that, I am a huge fan of Dracula. Do not mistake it for some of the embarassing 'vampire' movies these days that can only be called this in the loosest sense of the term. Gary Oldman's Dracula is what a vampire should be, a ferocious warlord who returns from victory against the Turks in the opening scene to find his wife has committed suicide, only to forsake God and literally become pure evil. He is at turns a London gentleman, garish and yet ominous in his tophat and cane, a disturbing old Count, or a werewolf-like beast, among other forms.

Anthony Hopkins is Van Helsing, giving you exactly what you would imagine Anthony Hopkins would playing a doctor/vampire hunter. A relatively small but important part is nailed by Tom Waits, the former law clerk who loses his mind under Dracula's corruption, Renfield. Jonathan Harker (Reeves) is sent to replace him, finding himself in Transylvania, in a disturbing old castle full of malice. He is trapped by ravenous wolves and the Count, in flowing red robes with his white hair in an elaborate bouffant, without eyebrows and utterly pale.

Count Dracula leaves Harker to his luscious, evil brides and ventures to London where both the plot and the twisted sexuality of the movie picks up steam. The story is fairly complex and does not leave room for much action, but it is more than made up for in eye grabbing sets, terrific detail and not-so-carefully cultivated mood. Dracula is somewhat overwrought in certain ways, but never as a detriment. It is a glorious spectacle for the senses.

Do yourself a favor, enjoy Dracula this Halloween with some good wine in your belly whether you've already seen it or not.

Verdict: Epic Win [9.25/10] (I have crossed oceans of time to find you)

1 comment:

Kiel said...

kinda funny that Branagh also cast Keanu in Much Ado about Nothing, which ended up in a lot of Don John's scenes getting cut.

Now Speed and Point Break are timeless classics, but I have no idea what compelled these guys to cast Keanu in serious roles.