Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Bram Stoker’s Dracula


It’s not like the current glut of vampire books and movies and TV shows is something new. There has been a steady stream of such stories for a long time. Endless variations have been worked on this tired old trope, some of them quite ludicrous. It’s easy to forget that it was all invented by one man, back in 1897. Yes, it’s all there, all totally made up, and often misinterpreted. For instance, the author never said a vampire would catch fire and die if exposed to sunlight. Daytime limited the Count’s powers, sure, but it didn’t kill him.

I am not a fan of the genre. The only reason I decided to look at this is that it was directed by Francis Ford Coppola. His intention was clearly to get back to basics, to film the book as written. I have never read the book and don’t plan to, but a synopsis at Wiki seems to confirm that he did do that, with some alterations at the end, mostly involving Mina’s infatuation with Dracula. And it is beautifully designed and filmed, with arresting imagery and lovely use of fades and other devices. Dracula’s shadow is friskier than anyone’s since Peter Pan, you never know where it’s going to go next.

But in the end … it’s all rather silly, isn’t it? The only one who looks at home here is Anthony Hopkins as Van Helsing. Coppola, probably for considerations of the American box office, cast American Winona Ryder as Mina. She does okay, but one of the most disastrous miscastings in cinema history, even worse than his selection of his own daughter, Sofia, for The Godfather, Part III, was Keanu Reeves as Jonathan Harker. He also has the worst English accent since Julia Roberts in Mary Reilly. He almost succeeds in spoiling the picture all by himself. He has a baffled look on his face in just about every scene. One reviewer I read had the best take on it. He said that Reeves looked as if he were struggling not to put “dude!” at the end of every sentence. Like this was Jonathan and Vlad’s Transylvanian Suckfest. He really should have won the Razzie Award that year.