Welcome to Frighten Me and the October Frights Blog Hop, Fiends! From October 10-15 we’ll be examining some of Frighten Me’s favorite horror films. Today, we explore the sumptuous Gothic love story, Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992) is based on the 1897 novel, Dracula, by ( you guessed it) Bram Stoker. It begins in 1462 with Vlad the Impaler bidding his wife, Elisabeta, goodbye. He must leave in order to defend Transylvania from the Turkish army and may not return. Vlad is victorious in battle but, before he can return home, the enemy sends false word of his death to Elisabeta. She throws herself off a tower and into the river below.
When Vlad discovers she is dead and cannot be interred in holy ground because she is a suicide, he goes berserk. He rejects God and gives himself to the darkness, culminating his renouncement by plunging his sword into the church’s stone cross and drinking the blood which gushes from it.
Fast Forward to 1897. Jonathan Harker, a solicitor, is on his way to the Transylvanian home of Count Dracula. He is replacing the Count’s former solicitor, Renfield, who went mad and has been institutionalized in England.
Jonathan is warned about the evil he is headed for but dismisses it as superstition. When he reaches Castle Dracula, he meets an old man dressed in scarlet robes. This is the count and when he sees the picture of Jonathan’s fiancée, Mina Murray, the young man’s fate is sealed. She resembles Dracula’s lost love, Elisabeta and he will do anything to possess her once more.
This adaptation of Dracula is the most faithful I have ever seen. Here are just a few of the ways in which it is similar: The movie is filmed in an epistolary style wherein the story is told in letters and diary entries. Dracula begins as an old man and grows younger during his journey to England on the ship Demeter. He is attended by his brides in Transylvania and creates another vampire in England. And, Mina is scarred by the host (sacred wafer) when Van Helsing presses it to her forehead.
The story deviates in a few areas (the love story between Dracula and Mina, the overt sexuality and nudity, Keanu Reeves’ acting, and the ending.) But, it is a terrific film, on par with the book.
Count Dracula/Vlad the Impaler – Gary Oldman
Mina Murray/Elisabeta – Winona Ryder
Professor Abraham Van Helsing - Anthony Hopkins
Jonathan Harker – Keanu Reeves
Dr. John Seward - Richard E. Grant
Lord Arthur Holmwood - Cary Elwes
Quincy Morris - Billy Campbell
Lucy Westenra – Sadie Frost
Renfield – Tom Waits
LITTLE KNOWN FACTS:
-Winona Ryder brought James V. Hart’s script to Coppola’s attention.
- Gary Oldman spoke to Sadie Frost off-screen during the scene where she writhes on the bed. What he said was, according to Frost, “Very Unrepeatable.”
- Ryder and Oldman argued during the film and could barely work with one another. They have since reconciled.
- No computer generated imagery was used while making the film. Old-style film techniques were implemented instead.
- At the time the film was made, it was suggested that an uncredited Nicolas Cage appeared as the coachman who took Jonathan to Castle Dracula.
Professor Abraham Van Helsing:
She lives beyond the grace of God, a wanderer in the outer darkness. She is 'vampyr', 'nosferatu'. These creatures do not die like the bee after the first sting, but instead grow strong and become immortal once infected by another nosferatu. So, my friends, we fight not one beast but legions that go on age after age after age, feeding on the blood of the living.
When Dracula comes to Mina’s bed and reveals who he is and what he has done.
As a teen, I watched Bram Stoker’s Dracula with my younger sister every Halloween. We enjoyed the love story, though we did find a few things strange. Harker sees Dracula’s hairy palms, catches glimpses of his disembodied shadow, allows himself to be shaved by the strange man, and doesn’t realize anything is wrong until the vampire crawls down a wall. Talk about oblivious! We also found Sir Anthony Hopkins’ Van Helsing hilarious. He has a very dry wit and though he plays the fool, he isn’t stupid.
And, of course, we found Gary Oldman very attractive. His portrayal of Dracula was not only sexy, it was melancholy. He gave new depth to the famous vampire.
HOW YOU CAN WATCH:
Bram Stoker’s Dracula is rated R. It will air on BBC America on October 16, 17, and 21. If you wish to see it uncut, you can purchase it on Amazon.
Tune in tomorrow for our next October Fright, The Exorcist III! And, be sure to share your favorite movie memory in the comments below before hopping to the next blog.