BRAM STOKERS DRACULA
Of course, any straight adaptation of Dracula has its problems, notably in that after a potent opening Bram Stoker allows the title character to drop off centre stage for the greater part of the story. Screenwriter James V. Hart is aware of this and embellishes the story by turning Mina into a reincarnation of Draculas wife and making the seduction of her into a sensuous romance at the heart of the story. Hart also identifies Dracula directly with Vlad the Impaler (although Hart has clearly not researched the historical Vlad and repeats the common fallacy that Vlad was the ruler of Transylvania rather than Wallachia).
Most previous adaptations of the Dracula story (see below) tend to directorially follow Bram Stokers wake, allowing the story to dramatically carry the film. Here though, Francis Ford Coppola leaps in with a rapturous visual excess that bursts from every frame of the film. The blood comes in explosive gouts and the film erupts with an upfront sexuality that would surely have made Bram Stoker blush. Coppola directs the way artists paint graphic novels every frame is packed with self-conscious effect extraordinary fades, cuts and double-exposures where the eye of a peacock feather becomes a tunnel or bites on the neck change into eyes glowing in the dark. In one extraordinary shot, Jonathans diary becomes the track his train runs along, its shadow moving across the words written below. Francis Ford Coppola makes a conscious effort to break his version of the story away from the dinner-suited vampire film images of cliche. The Transylvanian sequences take place in a Gothic Romantic Twilight Zone Castle Dracula is a dark, twisted edifice built out of nightmare where rats run along the ceiling and water drips upward and in the most unsettling scenes Draculas shadow carries out actions independent of its owner, including reaching out toward Jonathans neck while Dracula carries on a perfectly normal conversation.
There are times where the films artistic ambitions undeniably collapse into the pretentious. The popular youth appeal cast was a major mistake. Winona Ryder fails to convince as a repressed Victorian schoolteacher and her flat performance makes the romantic angle less than it should have been. That is not as bad as Keanu Reeves who woefully fails to evince an English accent or even remotely convince as Jonathan Harker. Bad acting is not solely limited to the teen cast Anthony Hopkins thoroughly overacts and hams up the Van Helsing part. Despite this, there are some good performances buried in the film Tom Waits invests Renfield with a touchingly pathetic quality, making this the most sympathetic screen Renfield so far. Gary Oldman is not the most ready of actors to come to mind when thinking of a romantic figure and his Dracula swims between a wild theatricality and moments of effectiveness. Nevertheless, despite odd moments of excess, Bram Stoker's Dracula is a dazzlingly sensual attempt to breathe a new kind of life into the oft-told story and one that succeeds far more than not.
Other adaptations of Dracula are:- the silent classic Nosferatu (1922); Dracula (1931) with Bela Lugosi; the Spanish language version Dracula (1931) shot on the same sets as the Lugosi version starring Carlos Villarias; Hammers classic Dracula/The Horror of Dracula (1958) with Christopher Lee; Dracula in Pakistan (1967), an uncredited remake of the Hammer film; Count Dracula (1970), also starring Christopher Lee; Dan Curtiss tv movie Dracula (1974) starring Jack Palance; the BBC mini-series Count Dracula (1977) with Louis Jourdan; Dracula (1979) with Frank Langella; Werner Herzogs Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979) with Klaus Kinski; Guy Maddins ballet adaptation Dracula: Pages from a Virgins Diary (2002); the tv movie Dracula (2002) with Patrick Bergin, which conducts a modernised adaptation; the BBC tv movie Dracula (2006) with Marc Warren; the low-budget modernised Dracula (2009); Dario Argentos Dracula (2012) with Thomas Kretschmann as Dracula; and the tv series Dracula (2013-4) with Jonathan Rhys Meyers. Adaptations of Dracula almost invariably are followed by adaptations of Frankenstein or vice versa and Francis Ford Coppola went onto executive produce an adaptation of Frankenstein with Mary Shelleys Frankenstein (1994). Coppola also later produced a frankly bizarre tv movie adaptation of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1999), which resurrected the title character as a martial arts superhero. Bram Stoker's Dracula was also parodied in Mel Brookss Dracula: Dead and Loving It (1995).
Francis Ford Coppola has had a number of other associations with the genre, beginning with reputed directorial work on Roger Cormans The Terror (1963), his pseudonymous re-editing of a Russian sf film for Corman as Battle Beyond the Sun (1963), to the Gothic melodrama Dementia 13/The Haunted and the Hunted (1963), the leprechaun musical Finians Rainbow (1968), the time travel fantasy Peggy Sue Got Married (1986), Youth Without Youth (2007) about a man who miraculously becomes youthful and the ghost story/vampire film Twixt (2011). Coppola has also produced work within the genre from George Lucass debut feature THX 1138 (1971), the alien visitor tv movie The People (1972), the ghost story Haunted (1995), the tv mini-series White Dwarf (1995) set on an alien world, Andrei Konchalovskis epic mini-series version of The Odyssey (1997), the X Files ripoff tv series First Wave (1998), the Hawaiian supernatural revenge film Lanai-Loa: The Resurrection (1998), Agnieszka Hollands Catholicism and miracles drama The Third Miracle (1999), Victor Salvas Jeepers Creepers (2001) and Jeepers Creepers II (2003) and the eccentric Hal Hartley monster movie No Such Thing (2001).