Bram Stoker's Dracula
directed by Francis Ford Coppola
(Columbia Tristar, 1993)

Bram Stoker's Dracula has gotten mixed reviews. The title leads you to believe the movie will follow, at least roughly, the book by Bram Stoker, but you quickly learn there is very little similarity to the book. The movie takes our beloved Count Vlad Dracula from his home in Romania to London in search of love.

Many have faulted this movie for turning the horror genre into romance. They discredit the entire film because of its romantic nature. I feel this is quite unfair. It has also been cited harshly for opening with a medieval war scene that shows the count impaling Turks on stakes and standing them around his castle. But, in all fairness, that scene is necessary for viewers to understand what happened to the count's beloved lady on their wedding night. It sets up the entire plot and the movie would not have been clear without it. Perhaps director Francis Ford Coppola did a bit of artistic creativity with the facts surrounding Vlad the Impaler, but the effect was stunning. I felt it was a strong, solid introduction to the story -- though I quickly admit that he strayed far and wide from the book.

If you forget the book completely and simply watch the movie for enjoyment, you will be pleased. It delivers enough of the horror aspect. The shadow figure adds a high level of psychological tension, while there is enough blood and gore for anybody. Though I have never been a romance fan, I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. I felt such sympathy for poor Dracula and could not bring myself to view him as a "bad guy." He was just so pitiful in his love and loss.

Gary Oldman carried off the role of Dracula to perfection. He moves through the different changes with total credibility. His lines are believable and are delivered with strong facial expressions and body language. He is simply fantastic in this role.

Winona Ryder is equally fine portraying the love-torn lady, Mina Murray, and Count Dracula's bride, Elisabeta. But Keanu Reeves is dry in his role as her fiancˇ, Jonathan Harker, who has been taken captive by the count. My favorite of all the characters is Anthony Hopkins as Professor Van Helsing. He also plays two other roles, but he steals the show as Van Helsing!

The special effects in Dracula are outstanding. The castle is spooky. Dracula's changes are spectacular. Even the effect of the spiderwebs is eerie. I thoroughly enjoyed this movie, in spite of the added romance and the dissimilarity to the book.

- Rambles
written by Alicia Karen Elkins
published 29 March 2003

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