Found-Again Friday: Bram Stoker’s Dracula—The Coppola Film

Why Found-Again? When I said a few weeks ago I was adding the 2013 Dracula TV series to my Netflix queue, I didn’t wait around. (Capsule review: it’s not perfect, but I never in my life thought I’d sincerely utter the words “I want a Renfield,” either. Wow. Mad Science! Steampunk! Impalers and Van Helsings colluding together! Mass hysteria!)

That said, the show seems to owe a great debt to the 1992 film adaptation, especially in the turning of subtext into opulent text.

The Premise: You’re kidding, right? No? Okay: Slightly dim but decent Jonathan Harker (Keanu Reeves, hitting the first part of that description rather hard) unwittingly brokers one hell of a real estate deal when he sells an English abbey to Count Dracula (Gary Oldman), who in no time goes from elderly nobleman to hot young technophile thanks to the fine English climate and a constant supply of human blood. Sadly for Dracula but fortunately for Britain, he is eventually thwarted by Professor Van Helsing (Anthony Hopkins)—though not before the Count and Mrs. Harker (Winona Ryder) have fallen in love.

If you enjoy the kind of excess this adaptation revels in, it’s quite good. That sounds pejorative, I suppose, but I don’t mean it that way: as a viewer of Dracula movies, there are times when I like to watch a rich, Victorian-Decadent riff on the legend of Vlad Tepes and Stoker’s book, and there are times when I’d just like to see a guy in a cape who owns a spooky castle. (There are also times I’d just like to see George Hamilton and Arte Johnson spoofing the whole enterprise, for that matter; I’m kind of omni-Dracula that way.) The beautiful visuals in Coppola’s film mitigate its cheese factor—the old Count’s double-bun hairdo, slutty Lucy, Van Helsing chewing more scenery than his nemesis ever did necks—and so does its all-star cast.

The Verdict: I was a purist teenager when I saw this in the theater, but I think the Dracula story may be one I’ve grown less cynical about as time goes by. As I said, it’s not always my cup of tea when I need a Count fix, but it’s a very worthy entry among its peers. And Tom Waits as Renfield is not to be missed.

Might go well with: Steak; wine; the Frank Langella Dracula movie from the ’70s. Oh, and garlic bread!



Next time: Mondays are going to be no less weird on this site. They might be a little less pretty, though.


J. A.

It reads. It writes. It watches. It researches. It overdoes many of those things!

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