Release Date: November 13, 1992
Runtime: 128 minutes
Studio: Columbia Pictures/American Zoetrope
Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Cast: Gary Oldman; Winona Ryder; Anthony Hopkins; Sadie Frost; Richard E. Grant; Tom Waits; Cary Elwes
This is a faaaaaaantastic movie!
Francis Ford Coppola’s opulent 1992 take on the Dracula story is a sumptuous film, oozing with rich colors and eloquent language…a real work of art. Gary Oldman assumes his place alongside Bela Lugosi and Christopher Lee as one of cinema’s most-identifiable Counts.
The film follows Bram Stoker’s novel fairly closely, re-count-ing the story of Count Dracula’s obsession with reconnecting with his one true love, his long ago doomed wife, Elisabeta. This obsession, of course, leads to a battle of the souls between the Count, Mina Harker (Winona Ryder), Jonathan Harker (Keanu Reeves…miscast, but whatever), and all the rest. All of the familiar characters are here. In addition to the Count, Mina, and Jonathan, on hand are Mina’s psycho-slut bestie, Lucy Westenra (Sadie Frost), the loony Renfield (Tom Waits), and everyone’s favorite vampire hunter, Abraham Van Helsing (Anthony Hopkins).
All of the actors inhabit their roles with a heightened bravado that suits the material beautifully. The movie is a fever dream of romantic bombast and the performances match the tone exactly. Especially Oldman, who is obviously having a wonderful time. Sometimes I find Winona Ryder to be a little whiny, but here she is game and looks gorgeous in her Victorian gowns and period wear. Hopkins is great as Van Helsing, playing the role as sort of a mad doctor-type, injecting the movie with bits of humor when needed. Frost is, appropriately, all sexuality and heaving bodice and she is absolutely stunning with her flaming red hair draped around her shoulders. Richard E. Grant, Cary Elwes, and Bill Campbell, as Lucy’s three suitors who don’t know what the fuck is going on with her once she is bitten, are all fine and suitably handle their guns and stakes. Waits has fun playing the wacko Renfield, eating bugs and such.
But this is Coppola’s film. A master director, clearly relishing the opportunity to put his mark on a very mainstream property, Coppola paints the picture with a vivid color palette and populates his compositions with classy performances from actors who are down for whatever he wants of them. The technical aspects of the film are all top-notch, with special mention going to Roman Coppola (Francis’s son), who was charged with creating the visual effects, Production Designer, Thomas E. Sanders, and Art Director, Andrew Precht. Mention must also be made of Costume Designer, Eiko Ishioka, who, along with the entire make-up staff, brought these characters so vibrantly to life. The entire production team, both above and below the line have created a resplendent work of art and a worthy addition to the Dracula cannon.