Film of the book: ‘Bram Stoker’s Dracula’ (1992)

You’d be forgiven for assuming that a film with the title Bram Stoker’s Dracula might be a faithful adaptation of the 1897 novel. However, there are a number of significant differences, too many to describe here.

Directed by Francis Ford Coppola with a screenplay by James V Hart, the film boasts Gary Oldman as Count Dracula, Winona Ryder as Mina, Keanu Reeves as Jonathan Harker, Sadie Frost as Lucy Westenra, Anthony Hopkins as Professor Van Helsing, Tom Waits as Renfield and Richard E Grant as Dr Seward. Despite this interesting cast, the film failed to entertain or scare me in any way.

The most noticeable change is the character of Dracula himself. He’s not evil. He’s grieving for his wife, to whom Mina bears a striking resemblance. He seduces her in London while Jonathan is trapped in the Transylvania castle. The film ramps up the eroticism and gets rid of the ‘pure woman’ theme. Keanu Reeves’ famously wooden style of acting does him no favours here (he doesn’t seem at all upset to see his wife Mina drinking Dracula’s blood). Anthony Hopkins portrays the genial fatherly figure of Van Helsing as a creepy weirdo without any sensitivity to women’s feelings. Although Gary Oldman’s performance is undoubtedly a passionate effort, he just didn’t seem like Dracula to me. He needed to be more sinister and less broodingly romantic.

There are a few minor things I could praise. The settings are in keeping with the time period (although it’s disappointing not to have included Whitby). The costumes are luscious. Richard E Grant and Tom Waits are good. Some of the erotic sequences are arty. There’s some faithfulness to the narrative concept of the novel, which is told through letters, diaries, notes and phonograph records.

I’d rather read Dracula several more times than watch this film again.

Low-resolution film poster sourced from Wikipedia.

4 thoughts on “Film of the book: ‘Bram Stoker’s Dracula’ (1992)”

  1. Any resemblance to the original work is entirely accidental, it’s a dreadful adaptation and the acting is awful! Having said that, I do like that Copola used original film tricks instead of CGI or special effects, and the costumes and sets are lovely.

    1. I agree with you! It’s a bad film that looks good! It’s just frustrating how Bram Stoker’s name is used to make us think the film is going to be faithful to the book.

  2. I’ve never seen a film on Dracula. Being straight from the heart of Transylvania and having Dracula thrown as a blanket over everything Romanian I was even put off by the book ( one gets tired of all foreigners asking “sooo, are you a vampire?” :)) ). Although I don’t plan on watching any film, from reading the book I can say it sufficed. Somehow its quality was satisfying and I have no other need to dive further into other forms of media.

    1. I totally understand why you’d want to stay away from Dracula! And being asked if you’re a vampire… maybe people think they’re being funny but it must be annoying. I have not yet seen an adaptation that’s very close to the book, but then I don’t go out of my way to seek adaptations – I just wanted to do this one because at the time, I’d re-read the book and thought I’d schedule this for Halloween month! 🙂

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