Sunday, August 14, 2011

DRACULA (1992)

(November 1992, U.S.)

By the time 1992 rolls around and you've seen Francis Ford Coppola's version of the legendary vampire, you're bound to reach one of several conclusions; one is that you're sick to death of Dracula and vampires in general (but maybe that's just me). Two is that even despite all of his style, grace, charm and gothic horror, in the end Dracula may not be much more than a really pissed-off grieving widower (at least that's how actor Gary Oldman seems to portray him in this film). Third is that based on the many great computer-generated effects and make-up effects that were used in this version, Coppola just may have been capable of directing the LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy had Peter Jackson not taken it on.

But I'm clearly starting things off here on a negative vibe and you're all likely to think I don't like this version of DRACULA. Clearly, I do or it wouldn't be a part of my film collection, right? No, what I'm really saying is that by this version, I'm of the opinion that a film based on Bram Stoker's original story has taken itself to its maximum capabilities based not only on the modern special effects, but also in the performances of its stars. Gary Oldman not only delivers the romantic charm needed for the character, but the intense horror that's absolutely essential to any story of Dracula. Keeanu Reeves as Jonathan Harker and Wynona Ryder as Mina (whom, by the way, Dracula consideres a reincarnated version of his long lost love, Elisabeta) are just fine, in that I've never truly considered them the most important characters of the story. The real addictive performance in this film is Anthony Hopkins. His rather sick, twisted sense of dramatic humor, in my opinion, makes him the one and only actor whom I feel could possibly portray Professor Abraham Van Helsing.

The man responsible for two GODFATHER films and APOCALYPSE NOW brings the old spook story alive. Dracula is a restless spirit who's been condemned for too many years to interment in crappy, badly acted movies. This luscious film version restores the creature's nobility, giving him his long-needed peace. It's conceptual and visual energy are absolutely fascinating to watch.

So, my friends, after having watched three DRACULA films in a row and also having also never seen any other vampire film since, I've reached this additional and unavoidable conclusion: the character of DRACULA, like William Shakespeare's Hamlet, is one of those literary characters whose story will likely be told on film again, again and again, whether we like it or not. It's just inevitable that Hollywood has nothing better to do than recycle previously-used material as many times as possible. That sucks, doesn't it? A real pain in the neck, isn't it?

Okay, I'm through with bad punning! But let me conclude by telling you that we will not be discussing any more vampire films until we've reached the letter 'N' in my film collection. Have you guessed what it is yet?

Favorite line or dialgoue:

Count Dracula (having just lost his beloved Elisabeta): "Is this my reward for defending God's church?"
Priest: "Sacrilege!"
Dracula: "I renounce God! I shall rise from my own death to avenge hers with all the powers of darkness!"

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