Francis Ford Coppola consciously harks back to the original
story, much more than many so-called Dracula movies, and the film is a powerful
and well made version. There are variations from the original, of course, but
most are fairly minor, and were probably necessary to fit the whole thing into
about two hours.
The really significant change is the addition of a potted
history of how Dracula came to be; it's a plausible tale (though historically
speaking, twaddle), and it allows Our Villain to be seen as victim, rather than
pure evil. Trouble is, they take that rather too far, and at times he's positively
sentimental, which rather undermines the nastier moments.
The real problem
with this lavish and loving production is the casting. Gary Oldman is fine for
the softer figure they've created, but he wouldn't last five minutes against Buffy
- or, for that matter, against a decent Van Helsing.
Anthony Hopkins really
is hopelessly miscast and is camping it up like a late Hammer Horror movie. In
the book, VH is an educated, gentle, committed man, who spends whole chapters
leaning over backward to spare people's feelings. Here, he's a loutish buffoon,
with all the tact of Eddie Murphy on a bad day.
Winona Ryder, not for the
first time (or the last), was trying to prove that she can do more than Ms Wholesome
America; but she can't. Beautiful though she is, you can't help but conclude that
any decent Van Helsing would be saying "But what does Dracula see in her?";
especially when contrasted with her oversexed Best Pal.
But while watching
the movie, these things are trivia. The direction is excellent, with a (usually)
fast pace, with excellent editing and fine camera work. The sets are just great
for creating the period, and the supporting cast is superb (Tom Waits has found
The supporting documentary is the usual well-rehearsed smarmy
interviews, but there are a few titbits in there. The highlight is the expression
on Anthony Hopkins face; he says all the right things, clearly doesn't believe
a word of it, and is amazed that he's got away with it!
- Starring: Gary Oldman, Winona Ryder, Anthony Hopkins
- Director: Francis
- Encoding: Read more about DVD formats
- Format: Color, Closed-captioned, Widescreen
- Rated: Not
for sale to persons under age 18.
- Studio: Columbia/Tristar Studios
Release Date: September 30, 1997