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Film: Bram Stoker's Dracula

"The Blood is the Life!"

The 1992 movie adaption of the novel directed by Francis Ford Coppola from James V. Hart's script.

It features Gary Oldman playing a vampire, and Winona Ryder playing a Damsel in Distress. Anthony Hopkins plays a hammy Van Helsing.

The film opens with the fall of Constantinople in 1462 [sic; the city actually fell in 1453]. Prince Vlad III Draculea successfully defends Christian civilization from the Eastern threat, but a false message from the Turks leads to the death of his love, Elisabeta. As her death was a suicide, the priests declare her damned to hell. Enraged, Vlad renounces God and vows to drink the blood of men.

Flash forward to England, 1897. A clerk named Renfield (Tom Waits) is gibbering in his cell while his replacement, Jonathan Harker (Keanu Reeves), travels to Transylvania to complete a sale to a certain Count Dracula...who is extremely intrigued when he sees a picture of Harker's bride-to-be, Mina Murray, as she looks remarkably like a certain lost love...

Despite the title, the film strays from the original novel considerably at times, with the most significant alterations made to the nature of the relationship between Dracula and Mina.


This film provides examples of:

  • Adaptational Heroism: Dracula gets this treatment in the film. He becomes a vampire for renouncing God after his bride kills herself (and the Priest declares that her soul would be eternally damned as a result) and then falls in love with Mina because she is her reincarnation.
    • This backstory comes from the fact that Dracula is an Expy of Vlad the Impaler who did oppose the Turks and wage a "Holy War" on behalf of God and protected Europe from Muslim influence. So from his perspective he was punished for doing God's work when his wife died.
  • Adaptational Modesty: Inverted. Lucy and Mina are quite modest in the original novel. This film cranks up the nudity and sex appeal.
  • Adaptation Expansion: Dracula's Back Story as a self-cursed vampire because his wife committed suicide is entirely absent from the original novel. From that comes Mina's resemblance to his wife, Dracula's pursuit of her because of it, and Mina falling in love with him to the point of nearly sabotaging her heroes' attempts to stop him from completely turning her.
  • Adaptation Personality Change: Lucy is an Ingenue, bordering on Purity Sue in the books. This film portrays her as flirty and promiscuous, as well as slightly ditzy.
    • A minor example. The blonde vampire bride is the leader in the book. In this film Monica Bellucci's character is portrayed as the chief bride.
  • Animal Motifs: Dracula is associated with the usual wolves, bats, and rats. Lucy is frequently associated with reptiles: She wears an evening gown with snake embroidering and has a hairdo that resembles coiled snakes, the nightgown she wears when attacked by Dracula resembles a snake's belly, and her wedding/funeral dress was inspired by frill-necked lizards.
  • Award Bait Song: Love Song for a Vampire by Annie Lennox
  • Back Story: The prologue.
  • Badass Boast:
    Dracula: You think you can destroy me with your idols! I, who served the cross! I, who commanded nations, hundreds of years before you were born!
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Mina admits in her diary that she wishes she "were as pretty and adored as Lucy." Dracula certainly sees her as beautiful and someone to adore...Later, after she returns from Transylvania with her new husband, she secretly wonders if/hopes that she'll see her "prince" again. She does, but the consequences aren't pretty.
  • Bedlam House: Dr. Seward's asylum is depicted as one of these.
  • Big "NO!": Vlad has one in the prologue, as he realizes too late what his Rage Against the Heavens has turned him into; later, Harker gets a downplayed (loud, but short and intense) "No!" when he learns that Dracula's successfully claimed Mina as his.
  • Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: Dracula's brides. One brunette receives an Adaptation Dye-Job to become a redhead (there was the blonde and two brunettes in the book).
  • Blood from the Mouth: Plenty of it!
  • Breaking and Bloodsucking: At first Dracula lures Lucy out of the mansion and into the over-large gardens of the estate for sex and blood. From then on, Lucy eagerly awaits him, writhing and moaning in her bed as he approaches. The final night he crashes through the window as a wolf, rips open her throat and laps up her blood, and she dies with cries of agonized pleasure.
  • Byronic Hero: Count Dracula.
  • Captain's Log: Most of the main characters provide voice over narration in the form of journal entries or letters read out loud. In one case, it's played literally with a log written by the captain of the 'Demeter'. As the book is an epistolary novel, this is actually more accurate to the source material rather than just a clumsy job of incorporating elements that were hard to adapt.
  • Chase Scene: The climatic action scene where the Vampire Hunters on horseback pursue the coach carrying Dracula's coffin as it races towards his castle, while engaging in a shootout with Dracula's gypsy mooks.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Quincey's Bowie knife turns up in the scene in which he is introduced. At the end of the movie Mina uses it to finally kill Dracula.
  • Chewing the Scenery:
    • Van Helsing yelling "Feed me!" to his driver because he apparently can't go vampire hunting on an empty stomach. It normally would just be realistic dialogue, since people do need to eat, but it's this trope because he's bellowing it at the top of his lungs while doing an intentionally ridiculous tango with Quincey, screaming about how Lucy is "the Devil's concubine," and laughing like a maniac because he's figured out what Dracula is up to.
    • A lot of Oldman's performance as the older Dracula can be this, although it actually works to his advantage — he manages to be really damn creepy.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Van Helsing falls somewhere between this and Nightmare Fuel Station Attendant.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: The Transylvanian scenes in the early part of the film are tinted a hellish red.
    • If the main color for a scene is orange, it's an almost certain sign that someone is going to be in danger (or just very creeped out). It's not the first time something orange-related meant death in a Francis Ford Coppola movie.
  • Coming and Going
  • Costume Porn: Wonderful and fruitcake, the designs by Eiko Ishioka won an Academy Award.
  • Cross-Melting Aura: Dracula's brides melt Jonathan's crucifix, thankfully without burning him. Dracula causes a cross that Helsing tries to use against him to burst into flames.
  • Cuckold: Jonathan Harker is an especially miserable example. While Mina never has sex with Dracula, their blood ritual late in the film obviously carries the same meaning. While Jonathan is trapped in the castle his fiance, who is the reason he went to Transylvania in the first place, is gallivanting around with his captor. After Jonathan manages to escape Mina only regrets that her affair must come to an end. By the end of the movie his wife is openly pining for the monster who imprisoned her fiance and raped and murdered her best friend. All he can do is tell her that when she eventually becomes a full vampire he won't kill her and by the end of the movie there is no indication that their relationship will heal.
  • Deconstruction: The film deconstructs the Dracula myth by reconstructing many of the Unbuilt Trope of the original, such as clarifying the vampires are not killed by sunlight trope. (Rather, they are depowered.) More broadly, the film expands upon the book as a portrait of Victorian London and the changing mores of sexuality, women and the advances of science that was part of the time and goes on to expand on the sexual subtext of the story, which is what underlies the Mina-Dracula romance.
    • More importantly, it deconstructs Dracula's vampire image by never giving him a fixed human and vampire form, often changing and shifting identities in the course of the movie, never arriving at a fixed classical image unlike Bela Lugosi's or Murnau's Nosferatu who are so Obviously Evil that you wonder why anyone is surprised when they turn out to be vampires. Here Dracula has a different form for different occasions, the iconic traditional Old Dracula look when he greets Jonathan, a younger Londoner appearance when he visits Mina in daylight and a monstrous bat form and so on.
    • Coppola also noted that the story's setting paralleled the birth of film, and one scene shows Dracula and Mina seeing early films. His aversion of CGI for in-camera effects and technology stemmed from a desire to use primitive special effects like Magic Lantern shows and in the films of Georges Méliès to arrive at something different.
  • Dangerously Close Shave: Dracula does this to Harker- Harker is just nicked, but Dracula licking the blood off of the razor is one of the film's iconic moments.
  • Demoted to Extra: Seward, one of the most important characters and principal narrators in the original novel, is relegated to being part of Those Three Guys with Holmwood and Morris.
  • Despair Event Horizon: The false death of Dracula for Elisabeta, and her suicide for Dracula.
  • Dies Wide Open: Happens to Dracula in the finale.
  • Dissonant Serenity: Van Helsing, a couple of times. As he helps himself to some roast beef at a restaurant the night after he and his colleagues defeat vampire!Lucy:
    Mina: Was she in great pain?
    Van Helsing : Ja she was in great pain! Then we cut off her head and drove a stake through her heart, and burned it, and then she found peace!
  • Dracula: What, did you think this trope page was going to be about Freddy Krueger?
  • Dull Surprise: Keanu Reeves, as always.
  • Eats Babies: Dracula's brides and the vampirized Lucy.
  • Evil Sounds Deep: Dracula in his bat-creature form.
  • Faith Heel Turn: "I renounce God!"
  • Fallen Hero: From the Christian perspective. Dracula was once a servant of the cross, defending Europe from Muslim influence.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Contemporary Dracula's very first lines are polite and inviting. The masquerade doesn't last much longer than that.
    Dracula: Welcome to my home. Enter freely of your own will and leave some of the happiness you bring.
  • Game Face: Dracula turns into a giant bat thing when confronted by the heroes. He also changes into his wolf form when he's about to attack the crew of the Demeter.
  • Glamour Failure
  • Gorgeous Period Dress: With the possible exception of medieval Dracula's armor.
  • Gothic Horror: More than most adaptions.
  • Ham-to-Ham Combat: Hopkins and Oldman had way too much fun with their parts. It's a shame they didn't have more scenes together.
  • Haunted Castle
  • Hemo Erotic
  • Heroes Want Redheads: Lucy is a redhead, and three heroes want her. (Four, if you're that sympathetic to the villain.)
  • Hollywood Costuming: The ladies' outfits follow the basic tenets of late-1890's fashion, but some details are just a bit off, like Lucy's unusually low neckline. Mina's decade-out-of-style bustle dress is actually an aversion as it was intended to show that Mina couldn't afford the latest fashions, since she is "only a schoolmistress".
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: During the battle montage early on. Well Dracula IS Vlad the Impaler...what did you expect?
  • Impossibly-Low Neckline: Lucy's "snake dress".
  • In Camera Effects and Practical Effects: Every special effect in the movie. There was no CGI. That shot of the train moving across the horizon over a closeup of a diary was actually done with a model train and an over-sized book. Another simple trick that pays huge dividends is film reversal, used for such scenes as Dracula forcing the brides off of Jonathan and vampire!Lucy being forced back into her coffin.
  • In Case You Forgot Who Wrote It: One of the most awkward examples of this trope, starting with the fact that the core romantic plot between Dracula and Mina isn't in the book. The Internet Movie Database notes, "Director Francis Ford Coppola claims that Bram Stoker's name was included in the title because he has a tradition of putting the author's names in the titles of his movies that are adapted from novels, such as Mario Puzo's The Godfather (1972) and John Grisham's The Rainmaker (1997). Others have claimed, however, that Stoker's name was included in the title to avoid legal action from Universal Studios, who claimed to own the rights to the simple title Dracula (1931)."
  • In Name Only: It was promoted as 'The Most Accurate Retelling of the original Dracula ever done' ...but departed so drastically from the original novel that it needed its own Novelization! Especially making the Mina-Dracula romance that was at best subtext in the original and certainly not part of the plot into the central narrative.
    • The film may not be faithful to the original story but it is faithful to the style of the book, in presenting the different epistolary viewpoints on screen and bringing a Dracula closer to the Stoker original than many prior adaptations, most of which were closer to the Lugosi movie and the play that it was based on.)
    • A fan-edited version exists, which cuts out the love story completely. Without the love story, it genuinely is the most faithful adaptation of Stoker's original novel.
  • Innocent Innuendo: Averted by the not-so-proper Lucy.
    Lucy (to Quincy): Please let me touch it? It's so... big. (pulls out Quincy's knife)
  • Last Guy Wins: Lucy ends up picking Arthur as a husband - the last of her suitors to enter the room at the ball.
  • Last of His Kind: Dracula calls himself this, as the last of the Draculs.
  • Licensed Game: Interesting in that the available versions barely resemble each other. The NES version plays like a horror-themed Mario (complete with ? blocks!), the SNES/Genesis version is a more generic action platformer, and the Sega CD version injects the previous with at-the-time high tech 3D rendered backdrops... along with context-less clips from the film that suffer from house-sized artifacts. There is also a PC game played from the first person perspective as well as an Amiga version that fell somewhere between the Megadrive/Genesis, SNES and Sega CD versions gameplay-wise.
  • Licensed Pinball Table: Right here.
  • Living Shadow: Dracula's shadow often moves independently of its owner, entering scenes from the opposite direction as the vampire, making threatening gestures at other characters, and at one point, knocking over an inkwell.
  • Locked into Strangeness: Harker's suffering as a captive in Dracula's castle turns his hair prematurely gray.
  • Looks Like She Is Enjoying It/Kiss of the Vampire
  • Love Redeems: In the ending Mina's love softens Dracula's heart and he asks her to end his torment. The final shot of the movie implies that Dracula and Elisabeta have been reunited in heaven.
  • Malevolent Architecture: Normal laws of physics don't quite seem to apply in Castle Dracula, most notably seen when Harker opens a perfume bottle that starts dripping upwards into the ceiling. For extra creep factor, the castle itself vaguely resembles a ghoulish figure crouched on a cracked throne, owing to its decay over the centuries.
  • Match Cut: Many, to the point that the MAD Magazine parody made a joke about it. Examples:
    • The "eye" of a peacock's tail feather in a garden becomes a tunnel that Harker's train to Transylvania emerges from.
    • Bite marks on Lucy's throat become the eyes of the escaped zoo wolf.
    • An extreme close-up of Mina's eye becomes an absinthe glass as viewed from above.
    • Lucy's just-severed head twirling through the air is matched with a platter of rare roast beef Van Helsing enjoys at dinner the following night.
  • Ms. Fanservice:
  • Nipple and Dimed
  • No Sense of Personal Space: Dracula and Van Helsing share this trait throughout the film. Amusingly both manage to freak out Mina with it in their first meetings.
  • Off with His Head!: No less than five decapitations.
  • Ominous Latin Chanting: SANGUIS VITA EST! (The Blood is the Life!)
  • One-Winged Angel: Dracula does this twice: first as a werewolf-like creature, then as a humanoid bat.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Good Lord, where do we start?
  • Our Vampires Are Different: Somewhat. The undead here are portrayed as much more monstrous and making growling and otherwise inhuman sounds. Dracula also never fully changes into animals when he shapeshifts, keeping a humanoid form when he goes wolf or bat. These vampires also have more supernatual powers — they can send people flying with an invisible force and, if powerful enough, burn or melt crosses. Lastly, while it's stated that vampires are weaker during the daytime (but can go out in it if they choose), Dracula hypnotizes and nearly bites Mina during their first day together — though it's late in the day when they headed to the cinematograph, so it may already be after dark when he tries to turn her.
    • Although this last one is consistent with the orignal novel, in which the Count does go about during the daytime.
  • The Ophelia: Elisabeta. Coppola even referred to her as such on the set.
  • Pet The Escaped Zoo Wolf: At first, Dracula makes to bite a hypnotized Mina, but hesitates, just as the crowd in the theater panics over said wolf wandering in. Instead, his ability to calm the animal impresses and fascinates the no-longer-entranced Mina, and she easily forgets that he attacked her minutes before.
  • P.O.V. Cam: The film switches to Dracula's POV whenever he's about to attack Lucy.
  • The Power of Hate: How Vlad became Dracula, via a Rage Against the Heavens.
  • The Power of Love: In the final scene, as Mina tends to the dying Dracula, she realizes that "Our love is stronger than death." It's out of her love that she finishes him off at his request, and this not only ends his evil on Earth, but allows him to be redeemed and reunited with Elisabeta in the afterlife.
  • Pimped-Out Dress: Both Mina and Lucy have a few in their wardrobes.
  • The Professor: Van Helsing.
  • Rage Against the Heavens: This Dracula somehow became a vampire with nothing but his own hatred of God.
  • Religious Horror: Vlad's Faith Heel Turn.
  • Reincarnation: It's all but directly stated that Mina is the reincarnation of Dracula's first love Elisabeta. She even carries some of Elisabeta's memories.
  • Ring of Fire: Van Helsing creates one to protect himself and Mina from the bad guys, rather than the standard final duel setup. He also manages to do it simply by chanting Latin and drawing a circle around them on the ground with a flaming brand.
  • Rule of Three: After Lucy is initially attacked by Dracula, the progression of her vampirism is reflected in what happens when she asks each of her three suitors to kiss her. First is Jack, as he attends to her as she tells him of her increasing sensitivity and nightmares; he is able to reciprocate without being harmed. Second is Quincey, but this time it's a lure so she can have a go at his throat. Finally, when she is confronted in her tomb, she asks her fiance Arthur to come to her for a kiss; only Van Helsing driving her back with a cross prevents disaster. (Subsequently, Arthur is the one who stakes her.)
  • Scenery Porn: The studio sets, from rose-filled gardens to Hammer-style taverns. Bound to happen with Mike Mignola involved with the art design.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The thrusting of a crucifix into the foreground (as Van Helsing faces down vampire!Lucy) is a direct reference to Hammer Films' Horror of Dracula.
    • Dracula's independent shadow and his rising from the coffin are taken from Nosferatu, while many famous quotes are included from the Lugosi version. Coppola also included a lot of Shout Outs to his old mentor, Roger Corman, with the film's style similar to Corman's Edgar Allan Poe films.
    • The Living Shadow sequences also owe something to the Carl Dreyer film Vampyr (1932).
    • "I never drink... wine" is used verbatim in a shout out to Lugosi's Dracula (1931).
  • Sickly Green Glow: Dracula's mist form has this.
  • Staking the Loved One: Twice — Arthur stakes his fiance Lucy, and in the final scene Mina finishes Dracula off. Mina also asks Jonathan, in the climax, "When the time comes will you do the same to me?"
  • Tag Team Suicide: Played with. At the beginning of the film, set in medieval times, Dracula's noble love throws herself off a tower when she hears false news of his death in combat. When Dracula returns, the bishop tells him that she is damned to hell for her suicide. Enraged, he renounces God and becomes a vampire, technically committing suicide.
  • Together in Death: Implied in the final shot. Dracula dying at Mina's hand allows him and Elisabeta to be reunited in Heaven at last, as seen in the fresco of his castle.
  • Tragic Monster: Dracula is portrayed as one in this version due to his backstory. While he away at war, his love kills herself based off a lie his enemies wrote in a letter. Since she committed suicide she can't go to heaven; he renounces his faith as a result and becomes a monster.
  • Transhuman Treachery: Vlad as explored in his backstory (though in this case he turned himself into a monster). Lucy seems to actively accept becoming a vampire as she fights against Helsing's healing methods and smiles when Drac comes to complete her transformation. Mina likewise practically tries to rush into becoming a vampire so she can be with Dracula.
  • Truer To The Text: The intent was to make a more faithful adaptation of the book than previous films had been (hence the In Case You Forgot Who Wrote It title). Intentions and execution are two different matters, though...
  • Überwald: Although this is subverted in Mina's description of the Count's homeland.
  • Ultimate Universe: Gary Oldman's portrayal of Count Dracula incorporates both Bela Lugosi's distinctive accent and Max Schreck's "creepy and clawed" comportment from Nosferatu. As well, the romantic approach given to his and Mina's relationship was presaged by the 1979 version that toplined Frank Langella (in that version, the heroine doesn't feel shame for her longing to be with Dracula and is even nastier to the good guys who want to save her).
  • Unlimited Wardrobe: Lucy can get away with having lots of different outfits since she's an aristocrat, but Mina has too many nice dresses for a school teacher. (They're probably Lucy's hand-me-downs — as noted above, they're out of style.)
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: Harker is remarkably blasé about Dracula's habit of extending his limbs beyond their natural reach, moving out of sync with his shadow, teleporting from one side of the room to the other and gliding across floors like he was floating without legs. Ironically these tricks stop almost entirely after his true nature has become apparent to the characters.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: The priest who says Dracula's wife's damned.
  • Vampires Are Sex Gods
  • Vein-O-Vision: When Dracula (in his wolf-creature form at the time, feeding upon Lucy) first sees Mina in the flesh, he can see through to her veins and heart.
  • Victorian London
  • Villainy Discretion Shot: According to Dr. Van Helsing, Dracula has killed and tortured thousands of people. But of course we only get to see this through old medieval pictures, otherwise Dracula wouldn't be half as sympathetic.
  • Villainous Crush: Dracula for Mina.
  • Voluntary Shapeshifting: Dracula retains this ability from the novel, turning into a wolf, a wolfman (or some hairy creature that bears a resemblance to one), a giant bat, green mist, and a horde of rats.
  • Wall Crawl: Dracula does this in the iconic scene of Harker spotting him crawling up a castle wall. One of Dracula's brides also does this when the Count stops them from feeding on Harker and flings one of them to a wall.
  • What the Hell Is That Accent?: Keanu Reeves' laughable attempt at a British accent.
  • Woman in White: Vampire!Lucy, as she was buried in what was to be her wedding gown.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Both injected into the story and Lampshaded, with Dracula only becoming a villain because he was enraged by a priest telling him that his suicidal love interest was in Hell. Mina even pities the count, which naturally disgusts the other characters. (This is before she learns that he's the "prince" she fell in love with while her fiance was away!)
  • World of Ham
  • The Worm That Walks: Dracula turns into a pile of rats to escape the vampire hunters after he claims Mina as his "bride".
  • Worthy Opponent: Van Helsing has a certain degree of respect for Dracula, even while acknowledging that it's necessary to destroy him.
  • Your Cheating Heart: Mina finds herself torn between staying true to Johnathan or being with Dracula. Even finding out that the latter's the monster who killed Lucy doesn't seem to sway her, so much so that she nearly becomes a vampire herself...willingly.

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