Bram Stoker's Dracula

USA 1992, 127 mins
Director: Francis Ford Coppola

+ intro by award-winning writer and broadcaster Christopher Frayling, in celebration of his upcoming book Vampire Cinema (Wednesday 19 October only)

Coppola’s version of Stoker’s novel – determinedly different from conventional vampire movies – revels in cinematic trickery and illusionism even as it turns up the feverish eroticism in Dracula’s relationship with Mina Harker, whom he believes is the reincarnation of his late wife. Oldman, in a part decidedly different from his customary realist roles, handles the fantasy and flamboyance with seductive aplomb.

Francis Ford Coppola and scriptwriter James V. Hart have, as the credit that opens the film, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, suggests, indeed gone back to Stoker. In terms of inclusion of incidents and characters, there is more left of the novel here than in any previous film versions with the possible exception of the 1970 Spanish El Conde Dracula (Jesús Franco). To the now well-trod lines of Jonathan Harker’s visit to Transylvania and Dracula’s coming to England to wreak havoc on Harker’s friends and relatives are added elements that have only occasionally appeared in previous versions (the character of the Texan, Quincy P. Morris; the pursuit of Dracula back to Transylvania finally to ensnare him). The one substantial new element added to this, a prologue explaining how Vlad the Impaler became Dracula, gives a particular inflection to the story, but remains true to the project; it is well known that Vlad was an inspiration to Stoker.

Coppola’s Dracula flings itself at all this narrative material, emerging like a music video directed by Dario Argento. As in a video, narrativity comes at you in snatches, more a suggestion of connected incidents across a welter of vivid imagery than a fully presented plot. As in Argento’s Suspiria, say, or some other post-’60s horror movies like Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead, narrative, and with it the pleasures of tease and suspense, are unimportant; it’s the maelstrom of sensation that matters. This means that the story may be hard to follow if you either haven’t read Stoker’s Dracula or have a less than total recall of it (I remembered who Renfield and Quincey were, but it goes so fast that I had a hard time figuring out how and why at the end Mina gets to Transylvania before her menfolk).

As to the feeling, Coppola has certainly achieved something distinctive. Always one of cinema’s great colourists, he has here come up with a symphony in engulfing red and black. The prologue is shot in near-silhouette, black on red, setting the colour key signature for the film. Early sequences in Victorian England are anaemically coloured, gradually to be swallowed by red and black, vermillion and pitch, blood and the night. I am not the first to have reached for ‘engorgement’ as a word to describe the film. It’s not just the redness of the blood swelling the film’s climaxes, but the fullness of the image, bursting to the edge of the frame with thick colour and dense visual texture. Most remarkably, it’s in the vampires’ costuming, most voluminous when they are most needy. They look bloated with lust, and yet move then with greatest speed and ease, gliding not walking, as if motored by the desperate urgency of desire. When Lucy has become a vampire, she is dressed entirely in white, with bridal lace and fold upon fold of silk, and her face too is pale as death; yet her shrouded body rears up so turgidly, the lace ruffs round her neck are puffed like a monstrous lizard, even her cheeks seem fuller. Even without the red, she is the embodiment of engorgement.

The possibilities are endless, and Coppola and Hart know a good few of them. You want the attraction and terror of sexuality, the attraction of the terror of sexuality? Here it is, in Dracula’s metamorphosis from glowering bearded prince to cadaverous old goat to fin-de-siècle dandy, and in the wolf/ape thing that takes Lucy in the night. You want, more specifically, male fears of female sexuality? Here is the engorged, uncontrollable libidinous preference of Mina and Lucy for Gary Oldman’s dandy Dracula over Keanu Reeves’ sensitive but proper Jonathan. Or AIDS is a possibility, flung in here in a few lines ominously connecting sex, blood and disease. There’s even a vegetarian reading, in a cut that has the audience groaning as at a bad pun and which is borrowed from The Hunger, where Van Helsing’s dismemberment of Lucy’s head is followed straight on by him carving with relish into a side of rare beef.
Richard Dyer, Sight and Sound, January 1993

Directed by: Francis Ford Coppola
©: Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc.
Production Companies: American Zoetrope, Osiris Films
Presented by: Columbia Pictures
Executive Producers: Michael Apted, Robert O’Connor
Produced by: Francis Ford Coppola, Fred Fuchs, Charles Mulvehill
Co-producers: James V. Hart, John Veitch
Associate Producer: Susie Landau
Production Accountants: Kenneth J. Ryan, James Turner, Mike Revell
Production Co-ordinator: Pat Chapman
Unit Production Manager: Patricia Churchill
American Zoetrope Technical Supervisor: Kim Aubry
Research: Anahid Nazarian
2nd Unit Director: Roman Coppola
1st Assistant Director: Peter Giuliano
2nd Assistant Director: Kate Davey
Miniature Unit Assistant Director: Dan Coffie
Script Supervisor: Wilma Garscadden-Gahret
2nd Unit Script Supervisor: Mary M. Patton
Casting: Victoria Thomas
Additional Casting: Rick Montgomery, Dan Parada, Dixie Webster
Screenplay by: James V. Hart
Based on the novel by: Bram Stoker
Director of Photography: Michael Ballhaus
2nd Unit Director of Photography: Steve Yaconelli
Miniature Unit Director of Photography: Bill Neil
Camera Operator: David M. Dunlap
1st Assistant Camera: Florian Ballhaus
2nd Assistant Camera: Jeffrey Thorin
Key Grip: J. Patrick Daily
Still Photographer: Ralph Nelson
Visual Effects: Roman Coppola
Visual Effects Supervisor: Alison Savitch
Special Visual Effects by: Fantasy II Film Effects, Matte World Digital, Colossal Pictures
Additional Visual Effects by: 4-Ward Productions, VCE Inc
Edited by: Nicholas C. Smith, Glen Scantlebury, Anne Goursaud
American Zoetrope Associated Editor Montage: Gus Carpenter
1st Assistant Film Editor: John Spence
Production Designer: Thomas Sanders
Design Collaboration: Eiko Ishioka
Art Director: Andrew Precht
Senior Set Designer: Joseph Hodges
Set Decorator: Garrett Lewis
Project Conceptualist: Jim Steranko
Illustrators: Peter A. Ramsey, Mentor Huebner, Mike Mignola
Property Masters: Ray Mercer, Trisha B. Gallaher
Costumes Designed by: Eiko Ishioka
Dracula’s Armour Manifactured by: Global Effects
Make-up/Hair Designed by: Michèle Burke
Head Make-up Artist: Michèle Burke
Special Make-up FX Created/Applied by: Greg Cannom
Head Hairstylist: Mari Bloom
Hairstylist: Josée Normand
Mr Oldman’s Hairstylist/Wigmaker: Stuart Artingstall
Title Design: Gary Gutierrez
Opticals by: Cinema Research Corporation
Colour/Prints by: Technicolor
Music Composed by: Wojciech Kilar
Orchestra Conducted by: Anton Coppola
Music Performed by: Los Angeles Master Chorale
Special Vocal Performances: Diamanda Galás
Orchestrations: Wojciech Kilar
Music Edited by: Katherine Quittner
Sound Designer: Leslie Shatz
Production Mixer: Robert Janiger
Boom Operator: George W. Scott
Supervising Sound Editors: Tom C. McCarthy, David E. Stone
Technical Design: Christopher Gilman
Historical Consultant: Leonard Wolf
Stunt Co-ordinator: Billy Burton
Filmed at: Sony Pictures Studios, Universal Studios Hollywood

Gary Oldman (Count Dracula)
Winona Ryder (Elisabeta/Mina Murray)
Anthony Hopkins (Cesare/Professor Abraham Van Helsing/voice of captain of the Demeter)
Keanu Reeves (Jonathan Harker)
Richard E. Grant (Doctor Jack Seward)
Cary Elwes (Lord Arthur Holmwood)
Bill Campbell (Quincey P. Morris)
Sadie Frost (Lucy Westenra)
Tom Waits (R.M. Renfield)
Monica Bellucci, Mihaela Bercu, Florina Kendrick (brides of Dracula)
Jay Robinson (Mr Hawkins)
I.M. Hobson (Hobbs)
Laurie Franks (Lucy’s maid)
Maud Winchester (downstairs maid)
Octavian Cadia (deacon)
Robert Getz (priest)
Dagmar Stanec (Sister Agatha)
Eniko Oss (Sister Sylva)
Nancy Linehan Charles (older woman)
Tatiana von Furstenberg (younger woman)
Jules Sylvester, Hubert Wells (zoo keepers)
Daniel Newman (news hawker)
Honey Lauren, Judi Diamond (peep show girls)
Robert Buckingham (husband)
Cully Fredricksen (Van Helsing’s assistant)

USA 1992©
127 mins

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