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This version of Dracula is closely based on Bram Stoker's classic novel of the same name. A young lawyer (Jonathan Harker) is assigned to a gloomy village in the mists of eastern Europe. He is captured and imprisoned by the undead vampire Dracula, who travels to London, inspired by a photograph of Harker's betrothed, Mina Murray. In Britain, Dracula begins a reign of seduction and terror, draining the life from Mina's closest friend, Lucy Westenra. Lucy's friends gather together to try to drive Dracula away. Written by
Opening with his vow to rise from his grave and take revenge on a God who allowed his beloved to die while he defended Him on the battlefield, we see Count Dracula in the 1890's, conducting business with a London firm. When his first consultant goes mad, Jonathon Harker is sent to Dracula in his place, only to find himself trapped in the castle. Meanwhile, Dracula travels to London where he feeds on the lovely Lucy Westenra. Her various suitors try to help her and call for Professor Van Helsing to come and help they realise that this is not a simple battle against a disease of the blood.
Although a little too long for my liking, this film is a very rich gothic telling of a story that has become watered down slightly with the many different versions of stories with the characters. Here the basic plot follows the tale from the creation of Dracula, his love and his confrontation with Van Helsing and the various suitors of the lovely Lucy. The story is told with a real respect for the source, perhaps a little too much as it can be a little to heavy and lacking in spark at times. However, for the most part the gothic telling works very well and feels very lavish and rich.
Visually the film is great rich colours in the scenery and costumes really bring the goth out of the film. Meanwhile Coppola works well with shadows and images in the backgrounds to make the film have the feel of an old silent movie version (eyes in the storm) but with modern standards. It's not really scary, but I didn't need it to be, I was more interested in the overall story, and that worked well.
The cast suffer from a bit too much respect for the material, some of their performances are a little too hammy and heavy. Oldman is good when compared to the better known image of the `Bela Lagosi' Dracula, but I did still find him a little too hammy at times. Likewise Rider is not totally convincing. Hopkins is quite fun to watch and the three suitors (including Ewles and Grant) very much play stiff upper lipped straight men! Of course of their performances tower with majesty above the sheer miscast ineptitude of Reeves. From the start his accent is horrid, but his inability to bring out emotions and character basically kills his character off before the film has even got going.
Despite this the film is actually very enjoyable even if it is a bit too respectful and long occasionally making it feel a little heavy going. The rich presentation and loyalty to the source material makes for a very enjoyable story even if it isn't really what we'd see now as a horror.
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