In a recent post, Legends of Urban Fantasy: The Vampire, I mentioned some of the movies about vampires made over the past century. The 1922 German silent film Nosferatu started the genre off. In 1931 Universal joined in with the classic movie, Dracula, starring Bela Lugosi, here in America.
The Hammer films from England brought vampires into full blood-red color. But there is one film among them all that really stands out. In 1992, Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula was released and it is the closest any vampire film has come to fully adapting Stoker’s original novel.
So let’s take a look at what the film got right, what it did not and why it is the best vampire film yet.
Look, any movie with Anthony Hopkins in it is a winner already. (As an aside: whoever decided to cast Hopkins as Odin in the Thor movies made their salary for life.) Add Gary Oldman to the mix and you have a guaranteed smash hit. The pair easily makes the best Dracula vs. Van Helsing duo in the history of Dracula lore.
Tom Waits’ performance as Renfield, the tortured servant of Dracula, was solid as was Billy Campbell’s Quincey Morris. Dracula’s castle and the streets of London were spectacularly put together and it made immersing yourself into the film easy.
I had an issue with casting Keanu Reeves as Harker and Winona Ryder as Mina. I imagine Coppola was banking on their popularity at the time to help at the box office. But I felt both of their performances were very flat and their chemistry was non-existent.
Given a do-over, I would have liked to have seen Cary Elwes, who played Lord Holmwood, in the role of Harker instead, with Julian Sands a nice replacement as Holmwood. As far as Ryder’s replacement I would have tabbed Catherine Zeta-Jones.
Reeves’ accent and his hair. My British accent is a lot better and it sucks. And what was with the hair color that wanders back and forth between black and various shades of grey? His hair would go from very grey, to black, to light grey as the movie progressed.
I’m pretty sure that does not happen naturally and I doubt Harker would be applying Grecian Formula in the midst of a vampire hunt.
Despite the Keanie-Winona issues, this film still ranks as the best Dracula adaptation ever and certainly the truest to the original. Dracula Untold is an intriguing runner-up as it puts Vlad the Impaler in a less evil light with its re-imagining, but it still does not live up to Coppola’s work.
The Next Legends of Urban Fantasy: The Lycans.