Today! Because I have crossed oceans of time to find you –
Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)
Directed by Francis Ford Coppola
Starring Gary Oldman (x2), Winona Ryder, Anthony Hopkins, Keanu Reeves, Cary Elwes (x3), Richard E. Grant, Sadie Frost, Tom Waits, Monica Bellucci, Billy Campbell
As I think I’ve mentioned before, 1992 was basically the year I realized good movies existed. I enjoyed movies before then – and some turned out to remain decent afterward – but for whatever reason, I turn 13 and all of a sudden I’m looking for a different level of quality and artistic merit in my entertainments. All this after Batman Returns, though, so let’s keep my 1992 in perspective. I still didn’t really know what good was, I just now had a more serious pursuit of it. And one of the movies that had a definite impact on this quest was Coppola’s wildly over-directed Dracula.
Without much risk, I can definitively state that this was Coppola’s last even remotely good movie. Not that he’s been cranking them out – only five true features over the last 27 years – but it was as though this film took every last thing out of him. And it’s all on the screen – the frenetic editing, the sheets of blood, Anthony Hopkins going completely ape-shit, Keanu Reeves acting – it’s mayhem. Artistic mayhem, sure, but still so chaotic that just imagine if this was your whole exposure to the Dracula character. Like, no Bela Lugosi, no Christopher Lee, just this – how would this character have ever become popular? He’s this age-swapping, hyper-passionate monster who can’t pick a hairdo and go with it?
Not to rag on this movie too hard, though – I still like a lot of what’s going on here. This film purported to aim closer to the book than any previous version – and it sorta does – but really, it’s Gary Oldman’s astounding vampire and the wonderfully gloomy, atmospheric cinematography and staging that make this one tick. But man, the directing is positively intrusive nearly the entire film. I think I said something similar about Scorsese on Cape Fear (right around the same time, too) – maybe this was just the going artsy way of telling stories in the early ’90s, but man, you never get lost in the movie when you have to continually dissect why choices are being made. Still, the fact that these swings are evident throughout the film helped young Joe realize that there was more to movies than just badly staged fight scenes and cat puns (we’ll see you later, Batman Returns).
A movie this visually elaborate was certain to get some accolades, so Costume, Makeup, and Sound Effects Oscars were fair, but little else was lavished on the film. Like, say, Best Perpetually Low Glasses, as the Count just couldn’t help peering over them.
Following his work as Lee Harvey Oswald in JFK the year before, Oldman enters the Two-Timers list with another supervillain! Okay, maybe Oswald wasn’t an assassin (maybe…) but he certainly was a commie stooge! However, more important to what we’re doing, we’ve finally got our second Three-Timer in the acting club, joining that great hammer-wielder Rip Torn. For the second day in a row (#351 Liar Liar), and third overall (with #395 Robin Hood: Men in Tights), Cary Elwes!