Count Dracula (alongside fellow Victorian gentleman, Sherlock Holmes) holds the dubious honour of being the Movie World’s hardest working (and most abused) literary character.
Francis Ford Coppola’s 1992 adaptation is a gloriously bombastic mountain of soft-focus eroto-nonsense but a highly recommended guilty pleasure.
Coppola claimed that his version would be the closest ever interpretation of Stoker’s classic novel but his attempts to include every character whilst frequently switching narrative perspective makes for a cluttered and unfocused movie. Dracula is depicted in his numerous evolving guises but the inclusion of a psuedo-historical prologue forces a new reincarnation theme on the tale.
Dracula was released just prior to Neil Jordan’s adaptation of Interview With The Vampire and has too much in common with Anne Rice’s genre-changing interpretation of vampire archetypes as immortal dreamboats. Coppola’s film oozes lush Freudian imagery; sinking suns, blood cells, eyes, nipples and fragrant blooms are everywhere.
Oldman himself admitted to essaying Dracula as “a Fallen Angel” and the beloved actor deserves much credit for creating a tour-de-force (and cohesive) performance with a role that required him to play a medieval relic, a romantic Victorian Prince, a wolfman, a bat and just about every stage in between.
His Eastern European accent is sublime or ridiculous but unforgettable either way. Many have forgotten that he was nominated for an Oscar for this role. As a Fantasy character he was never likely to win (even The Lord Of The Rings failed to gain plaudits for its cast) but his creation is every bit as unique as Depp’s Jack Sparrow.
Rumour has it that Winona Ryder petitioned hard to have her then boyfriend Johnny Depp cast as Jonathan Harker. Depp fans would no doubt love to have seen this but it is hard to imagine how he could have improved or altered the end result. Some films are actually enhanced by unintentional comedy moments. Keanu Reeves is one long comedy moment. It is enough that Reeves is simply awful and memorable (with a grey streak that turns into a continuity nightmare and helpfully distracts from his lack of performance).
Perhaps it is time to watch Coppola’s Dracula again. The set and costume designs are lavish, Lucy’s beheading has genuine chills, Antony Hopkins goes all out to match Oldman’s Method mania and the orchestral score is magnificent.
It’s guilty, yes…but pleasurable.
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* Post revised Monday 18th June 2012. Inflammatory comments deleted in accordance with UK Harassment Law, Malicious Communications Act 1988, Section 1.
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