OK, let's pick apart Coppola's version of "Dracula"

More precisely,
Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula

It doesn’t take a neurosurgeon to figure out that Keanu Reeves acting was appalling - and definately should not have been included. But what was the worst thing he did in this movie? Was it the accent? Was it the hair?

I actually liked the closing few sequences. They weren’t as good as I had originally thought - but the snow somehow captured the essense of emotion.
In short, all the things they got right, all the things they got wrong. Include technical (was that the right time of year to be snowing?), thematic (did it make sense for them to have made the Count a Christian hero?) and thespian (all the actors, including my favourite Ms. Bellucci) details.

Well, like it or not, Vlad Tepes was technically a Christian, and certainly wailed on the Turks, so he’d be a Christian hero in some sense at the time.

What the movie got right: It’s the only filmed version I know of that includes all the main characters from the book. There are a lot of characters, and most films have dropped a couple, or combined two or more.

What it got wrong… I’ll have to think about that and provide a more complete post.

Keanu was the first major mistake.

Winona was the wimpist Mina I’ve ever seen.

Hopkins as Van Helsing… a bad interpretation of a character that couldn’t be saved even by an actor of his caliber.

Ok, overall, I liked it. They pulled some cute camera tricks (the miving shadows were first used in the vampire film Vampyr, back in 1931, even if Sergio Aragones thinks he invented it). Nobody else had the guts to show Lucy’s Texan suitor, or to adhere so closely to the book. Dracula’s brides were made threatening and sexy, for once.

Lepnard Wolf, author of “The Annotated Dracula” and “The Essential Dracula”, thinks Coppola’s version is great. Not surprisingly, Wolf was technical advisor for the film.

David J. Skal, author of “Hollywood Gothic” (the definitive book on Dracula films), as well as “The Monster Show” and “V is for Vampire”, hates it, saying that it took Stoker’s Darwinian villain (with his Lombroso criminal featues), and tried to turn him into a suave ladies’ man and a tragic hero. The subplot about Dracula’s seeing his re-incarnated bride in Mina Murray/Harker does not appear in Stoker’s novel, or any version of Dracula before the version starring Jack Palance, written by Richard Matheson, and roduced by the guy wo did Dark Shadows. Matheson apparently lifted it from the Universal version of The Mumy (they even re-used this in the recent Mummy remakes!) You’d think Matheson would’ve known better, but I guess he wanted to make Dracula’s motions sympathetic and comprehensible. Coppola, too, I guess. Skal, for what it’s worth, thinks the BS version with Louis Jordan the best. I think that version as boring (which, alone, puts Copp0ola’s version ahead). For my money, the best and truest version was Jess Fanco’s 1970 Count Dracula, starring Christopher Lee. The first half, at least, is more faithful than any other version.
Anthony Hopkins’ Abraham van Helsing was over-the-top, but maybe that’s the way to play him. Gd knows Edward van Sloan’s version in the original 1931 version was too reserved. Van Helsing needs to be a "character. Coppola is also the only one I can think of who ignores the image from Nosferatu and has Count Dracula walking around London in daylight. He also tried to duplicate, so far as he could, the novel’s multimedia sense.

Overall, I’m mre tolerant of it than most critics. [BDracula** is a hell of a bok to try to adapt – it’s filled with scene changes and caracters that pop up out of nowhere, for no obvious reason. Plays and films almost inevitably combine characters and telescope events, but Coppola virtually embraced all of this chaos.

Hell, I’ll even live with Keanu Reeves’ acting and disappearing accent.

Unlike a lot of folks, I actually liked the “origin” scenes they made up.

I LOVE THIS MOVIE. . . only not for the reasons you’d think. I really like the scenes between Dracula and Mina, however, the scenes featuring ANYONE else are utterly ridiculous. My friends and I used to watch this movie and crack up at all of Keanu’s dialogue. Here are my “what the hell?” moments from this movie.

  1. The scene where Jonathon is riding to the castle. He looks out the window and sees that the wheels of the carriage are inches from a plummeting cliff. He looks out the back window and sees that there are some kind of horrible beasts chasing the carriage. Instead of freaking out and screaming at the zombie driver, he casually asks, “I say, is the castle far?”

  2. What the hell was Lucy thinking when she chose that horrible wedding dress

  3. Didn’t Jonathon get kind of a gay vibe from Vlad when he shaved his neck for him? Why didn’t he get more concerned about the Count’s motives?

  4. Does anyone else think that Dracula’s out and about wardrobe in London resembles that of a pimp?

I think it’s brilliant. Technically, it’s as virtuosic a piece of filmaking Coppola’s done this side of One From the Heart. I forgive his apathy toward the accents (Reeves’s was bad; Ryder’s was atrocious), because he was obviously trying to devote as much budget and attention to the “bigger picture” as possible.

Breathtaking piece of filmmaking.

Actually, I liked most of the movie, but I disliked the departures from the vampire canon, specifically, the spider-thing made up of two of the vampire girls, and the American Werewolf in London-style wolf-thing.

I liked it a lot. I’ve never read the original Dracula, so I wasn’t bothered by any inconsistencies or deviations from the book. I enjoyed it as a movie. I loved all the auteur film techniques like the shadows.

And of course, it had Winona Ryder in a see-though nightdress. Worth the price of admission right there.

The most amazing thing about atrocious bad acting by Reeves, Ryder & Hopkins (and bad accents by the first two) is how much they draw criticism away from Gary Oldman as Dracula. Oldman is the worst screen Dracula I have seen. (Admittedly, I didn’t bother to see “Dracula 2000” or “Van Helsing”) In the Transylvania scenes, he comes across as an over-the-hill drag queen / Rocky Horror fan. When he gets to London, he looks like a wannabe rock-star who can’t decide if he’s gonna copy Prince, Metallica or the lead singer for Blind Melon. All throughout, he affects a terrible, fourth-rate Bela Lugosi accent.

IMO, aside from uniformly bad acting, every major scene in this movie fell completely flat - being neither scary, gripping, or even campy funny, just simply “there”. The only thing I ever gave the film credit for was the eerie shadow-effect, which I later discovered (as CalMeachem already mentioned) was an “homage” to Dreyer’s Vampyr (i.e. Coppola ripped it off, thinking nobody would ever bother to check out the original flick it occurred in.)

This movie belongs in the same category as the Demi Moore version of “the Scarlet Letter” in which hubristic modern-day Hollywood types mistakenly believe they can “improve” classic lilterature by re-writing it. Yes, the movie has all the original characters from the novel, but based around a hackneyed reincarnated-lost-love theme that doesn’t exist in the book. The original Dracula derived much of his menace from his shadowy, almost invisible presence (he barely even appears at all in the novel, other than as a background figure). He resonated soundly with English readers who recalled the then-recent “Jack the Ripper” Whitechapel killings - a killer who stalked his prey under cover of night and forever remained a mystery.

Dude this is very unfair: Coppola often quotes from other films, and it’s always been clearly worshipful. And in Dracula, he uses a great number of devices and techniques from the silent era; that’s largely what this film was about, on a technical level. I even wonder if he wasn’t going for silent-era-style of acting; the only possible excuse I can offer for his allowing some of that atrocious action to remain on the screen.

I loved his blue glasses. “I’ve crossed oceans of time to find you.” One of my top 10 most romantic lines. I think Gary Oldman did a great job - I mean, Dracula’s supposed to be over the top. I just wish Oldman wasn’t such a rightwing nutjob in real life…

My all time favorite Simpson’s episode is when they do a take off on this version of Dracula (I think Mr. Burns is the count) and the shadows do things like play with yo-yo’s. :smiley:

I thought the costumes and sets for this movie alone were worth the price of admission. Just stunning.

Homer: It sure was nice of Mr. Burns to invite us to a midnight dinner at his country house in… Pennsylvania!
Lisa: Aw, there’s something fishy about this whole setup.
Marge: Lisa, stop being so suspicious. Did everyone wash their necks like Mr. Burns asked?

Lisa: The only way to get Bart back is to kill the head vampire: Mr. Burns!
Homer: Kill my boss? Do I dare to live out the American dream?

Thank you…

…thank you (my thoughts exactly, only I wasn’t articulate enough to say it)…

…and AMEN!

It’s a version of a classic book by someone who never bothered to read the book and who was arrogant enough to think that they could do better.

Normally I would agree completely. However, there’s a difference, IMO, between a work like “The Scarlet Letter” and “Dracula.” For one thing, “Dracula” had been told and re-told and re-told and then told again in films. It has a long cinematic history of interpretation, some of it more ridiculous than others. And it’s not like Bram Stoker made up the story of Dracula. He drew on many old myths and stories and rumors and fears. I think it’s perfectly fair for Coppola to film his interpretation of the film and even put “Bram Stoker’s” in the title, because like it or not, it is closer to the original source than any other movie that bears the name.

Ah, Agrippina, you sound like a true fan. To shamelessly hijack this thread further, you wouldn’t happen to know the season and eppy number, would you? I’d love to see that one again!

I agree with you pretty much up to this point. Stoker did make up the story of Dracula. Nothing like it existed before him. There were vampire stories, of course, most notably Polidori’s, Sheridan le Fanu’s, and “Varney the Vampire”, but the story of Dracula was Stoker’s own. Saying that Vlad Tepes existed as a historic character doesn’t change things – the bits from Tepes, history add very little to Stoker’s narrative, and IIRC, that was actually added fairly late in the game.

You can’t even say that Stoker just took the old vampire myths and wrote them down. Stoker took a rather confused and contradictory series of attributes and for the first time codified them into a “Legend”. Stoker invented the modern vampire. Some of the things we take as ancient folklore about the vampuire were actually invented or first applied to vampires by him – not being seen in mirrors, putting up garlic as a repellant, etc.

It’s the third story on the episode “Treehouse of Horror IV” from Season Five. So, lucky for us, it’ll be on the next “Simpsons” DVD set. That story is one of my favorite parodies.

You beat me to what I was going to post, so I’m left with not much more than a “me too”!

One thing I can add is that when it comes to “making up the story of Dracula”, not only did Stoker almost single-handedly invent the modern vampire, he also made up the story of the book. The plot is not taken from history or folklore, and what elements from these are included are really just background. Unlike the vampire of folklore or the earlier literary vampires I am familiar with, Count Dracula isn’t content to “live” in a rut. He may be a medieval monster, but he’s ready to penetrate the modern world. He’s been learning to speak English, studying current law, and investing in properties in bustling, industrialized London. It’s up to a small band of mortals to beat him back and eventually destroy him. They do this without magic, with little religion, and not much in the way of brute strength either. Their main weapons are modern education, technology, organization, and plain old determination.

Stoker certainly didn’t invent “Superstition vs. Rationality” as a theme, but I think he was the first to put the vampire story in those terms. I believe he was also the first to focus on the vampire hunters and their quest, rather than the vampire itself or the vampire/victim relationship.

J. Sheridan Lefanu might disagree