Bram Stoker’s Dracula

Love Never Dies

I remember seeing this movie opening night in 1992.  I was a sophomore in High School and we had been anticipating this movie for months.  It is still one of those classic horror movies that I love, I think, because it was at one of those formative times in my life.  I didn’t realize, until I was re-watching it to write this review, that is is a solid Steampunk movie as well – and potentially the first Steampunk movie that I ever saw..  All you have to do is check out the top hat and sunglasses that Gary Oldman is sporting to see that he is going full-bore-steampunker.

Plot Synopsis (There Be Spoilers)
The movie opens with some backstory on Vlad  Dracula – Vlad the Impaler to his friends – and the lose of his wife.  He curses the earth and says that his curse will never die.  This is the crux of the movie and the plot.  This is the birth of the first vampire (at least for this movie).  Fast forward many years and you have a Victorian age man named Jonathan Harker going to Transylvania to help a Count with the purchase of a piece of real estate in England.  He arrives ay Dracula’s castle to find the count an old man.  He experiences many super natural things while he is there and becomes Dracula’s prisoner.  Dracula, leaving Harker behind, makes his way to England and begins to stalk the citizenry around his new home, Carfax Abbey – this is due to the remarkable likeness of Harker’s finance’s to his long dead wife.  .  He turns, Lucy Westerna, a friend of Harkers fiance Mina and then attempts to turn Mina as well.  Harker and his friends enlist the help of Van Helsing in stopping the Count.  It all ends back at Dracula’s castle in Transylvania with Dracula’s death and Mina turning back to the good.

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

The Good

Gary Oldman – Dracula – Commissioner Gordon, Rev Dimmesdale, Lee Harvey Oswald and of course Sirius Black – Gary Oldman has played it all.  He is one of the best actors around today and always shine sin every movie you see him in.  This might have been my first exposure to him and if you want to take a glimpse into his past – thi sis the movie to see him in.  As Dracula, he goes from warlord of a region in Transylvania, to old man, to steampunker, vampire bat at the end of the film.  He consumes the screen, each and every time the camera captures him.  A tremendous actor that cut his teeth (pun intended) on a good Francis Ford Coppola movie.

The blood is the life… and it shall be mine.

Anthony Hopkins – Van Helsing – Come on, does Anthony Hopkins (excuse me, SIR Anthony Hopkins) ever turn in a bad performance?  He did not i this case, that is for sure. He is so over the top in this performance.  He gets all the good, snarky lines and he adds the little bit of humor that is needed in any truly great horror movie.

No, no, no. Not exactly. I just want to cut off her head and take out her heart.

The Soundtrack – Worciech Kilar did the original music for this film and he may have written one of the best scores for a movie that I have ever seen.  He is up there with John Williams as far as capturing the feel of a movie.  The music is eerie and thought provoking and lends that bit of an edge that a horror movie ought to have without giving everything away.

Vlad’s Armor – Go back to the beginning of the movie.  Get to the shots of Vlad in his armor and pause it.  WOW!  It is fantastical but it is awesome.  It is blood red and curved and almost muscular in texture and I love it!

Count Dracula’s Steampunk-Look – Now, let’s go to the middle of the movie and check out Gary Oldman rocking the steampunk.  He has the suit, he has the top hat and he has the steampunk glasses.  Again, I don’t think that I understood that this was a steampunk movie at the time, in fact that word may not have been in my lexicon, but there is no disputing that a production designer somewhere dreamed of cogs and clockwork and goggles and the such.

The Bad

Winona Ryder – Mina Murray – Not a fan.  She is only ok in this role and as any time that Winona tries to turn out an emotional response, it falls flat. She could have been replaced with almost anybody and it would have been better.  Obviously they were trying to capitalize on her Edward Scissor Hands and Mermaids fame at the time.

Mina Harker: How did Lucy die? Was she in great pain?
Professor Abraham Van Helsing: Yeah, she was in great pain! Then we cut off her head, and drove a stake through her heart, and burned it, and then she found peace.

Vampire-Bat Form – I don’t know why but the look of Dracula as the man-bat-thing just never did it for me.  Even now, going back and looking at it they were trying to get the big scare and it just doesn’t work.

The Ugly

Keanu Reeves – Jonathan Harker – Hate him.  Horrible actor.  His only positive roles are ones in which he has little to no dialogue (Speed & Matrix come to mind).  Again, this was the casting department trying to get some buzz out of popular young stars.  Reeves had just done Point Break and the 2nd Bill & Ted movie so he was a hot commodity but he is worthless as an actor (feel free to disagree).

I have offended you with my ignorance, Count. Forgive me.

All in all, I still like this movie.  A fun watch around Halloween each year, this is a horror classic and one of my favorite versions of the Dracula-vampire genre.

Go watch it!