Starring Gary Oldman, Anthony Hopkins, Winona Ryder, Keanu Reeves, Richard E. Grant, Cary Elwes, Billy Campbell, Sadie Frost, Tom Waits. Directed by Francis Ford Coppola. (1992, 128 min). SONY
It probably goes without saying that Francis Ford Coppola is such a directorial icon that his place in cinema history is all but assured. After all, this is the guy who made The Godfather, The Godfather Part II, The Conversation and Apocalypse Now. Those four films were so groundbreaking that even the staunchest movie nerds of a certain age tend to forget Coppola's glory days ended when the 70s came to a close. Sure, we were sometimes reminded of his former genius during moments in The Outsiders, Peggy Sue Got Married and The Godfather Part III, but none of them held a candle to his crowning achievements.
In fact, it's actually sort of sad Bram Stoker's Dracula remains his last noteworthy film. Released in 1992, it's an elegant, surreal and aesthetically beautiful adaptation of Stoker's novel that, from a technical standpoint, holds up surprisingly well over two decades later, especially on this remastered 4K Blu-Ray edition. But even though it was Coppola's biggest hit in years and his best-crafted film since Apocalypse Now, its glaring flaws keep it from ever being mentioned in the same breath as his classics.
There's little dispute that, from a visual standpoint, this is arguably the greatest adaptation of Stoker's novel ever made. Virtually every scene has an otherworldly - almost artificial - dreamlike quality, which goes a long way in maintaining the viewer's interest. The story's inherent eroticism is also on full display, seldom successfully attempted in previous adaptations. More than any of his films in the 80s, it's obvious Coppola knew what he wanted to achieve.
But like The Godfather Part III, it also felt like Coppola sometimes conceded to studio pressure, setting aside his previously-perceptive casting instincts in favor of actors with marquee value. Hence, we get Keanu Reeves as John Harker, a role clearly beyond his abilities, resulting in a notoriously terrible performance. But then there's Gary Oldman, perfect as the title character, even though no one but Coppola appeared to be confident of his ability to convey Dracula's sympathetic sensuality.
Plotwise, the film is all over the place, with more emphasis on symbolic splendor than narrative cohesion (a criticism sometimes aimed at Apocalypse Now). However, it also seems like Bram Stoker’s Dracula was never intended by Coppola to be anything other than a sensory experience. If that’s the case, mission accomplished, and longtime cultists will surely enjoy this restored version of the film.
NOTE: This film is also being released as part of Sony's Supreme Cinema Series, with Clear-Case packaging and a 24 page booklet.
- New Interviews with Francis Ford Coppola & Roman Coppola (Interviewed separately, with Francis' being the most interesting)
- New Film Introduction by Francis Ford Coppola
- Audio Commentaries by Francis Ford Coppola, Roman Coppola and make-up supervisor Greg Cannon