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Film / Bram Stoker's Dracula

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"The Blood is the Life!"

The 1992 movie adaptation of the novel directed by Francis Ford Coppola from James V. Hart's script. Even though it follows the book much more closely than previous Dracula movies as well as many later ones (among other things, it's the only film adaptation to this day to actually maintain the book version of the titular count's death), one of its most obvious features is a romance plot that's not in the book.

The film opens in Transylvania (Romania), 1462, after Constantinople was captured by the Turks in 1453. Prince Vlad III Draculea (Gary Oldman) successfully defends Christian civilization from the Eastern threat, but the Turks take revenge by sending a false message of his death to his wife, Elisabeta (Winona Ryder), whom he loves dearly. In her despair, she throws herself from the castle's walls to her death. Vlad's priests declare that, as her death was a suicide, she is now 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 asylum cell while his replacement, Jonathan Harker (Keanu Reeves), travels to Transylvania to complete the sale of various properties around London to a certain Count Dracula who is extremely intrigued when he sees a picture of Harker's bride-to-be, Mina Murray (Winona Ryder), as she looks remarkably like a certain lost love...

Other actors in the cast include Anthony Hopkins as Van Helsing, Richard E. Grant as Seward, Cary Elwes as Arthur, Billy Campbell as Quincey Morris and Monica Bellucci as one of Dracula's brides.

Among fans of the horror genre, the film is considered rather notable for helping to spark a brief wave of adult-targeted classic horror revivals in the 1990s, many of which tried to replicate its relative faithfulness to the source material and period drama aesthetics. The film's similarly-titled Spiritual Successor Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (which Francis Ford Coppola produced, but didn't direct) was the first of them, soon followed by Tristar Pictures' 1996 Jekyll and Hyde adaptation Mary Reilly. That trio of films may have also indirectly led to Universal Pictures choosing to revive their Mummy franchise in 1999—although the critical and commercial failure of Mary Reilly may have influenced their decision to take it in a Lighter and Softer direction, framing it as an action-packed pulp throwback rather than a "serious" period drama.

This film provides examples of:

  • Adaptational Badass: Dracula is still alive when Jonathan slashes his throat and Quincey stabs him, even throwing both of them across the courtyard. Though this may be attributed to the fact that he manages to get out of his coffin before they reach him.
  • Adaptational Consent: In the original book, vampire attacks seemed to be metaphors for rape, so while this trope is averted with Lucy it is played straight with Mina as she is Promoted to Love Interest.
  • Adaptational Context Change:
    • Dracula's biting Lucy and Mina in the original book parallels rape on account of Victorian London's fears about "swarthy decadent foreigners who want to steal our women". Here in the film, the attacks are far more seductive, and the scenes come across as Lucy and Mina giving into their forbidden desires.
    • Mina's forehead holy-wafer burn in the book was a shocking moment that revealed she was further gone in her transformation than anyone believed and occurred in London. In this film, it occurs during the scene where Van Helsing wards off the Brides in the snow, with the wafer burning Mina and snapping her out of her frenzy.
  • Adaptation Expansion: Dracula's Back Story as a self-cursed vampire because his wife committed suicide is entirely absent from the original novel. From this Back Story 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 the heroes' attempts to stop him from completely turning her.
  • 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 patterned on 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.
  • Adaptation Origin Connection: In the original book, Mina Harker was a major supporting character who became a victim to Dracula before joining the mission to destroy him, but had no connection to the Count's backstory. In this version, she's reimagined as the reincarnation of Dracula's former wife who was the cause for his turn to darkness.
  • Adaptation Personality Change: Lucy is an Ingenue in the books. This film portrays her as flirty and promiscuous, as well as slightly ditzy. Of course, given that the novel is an epistolary, and told via multiple characters writing the events in journals, letters and so on, it's possible to interpret some of the book's portrayal of Lucy as Victorian euphemism, especially given Mina's awareness of the Interclass Friendship between her and Lucy, which would prevent people of her generation and background (i.e. upwardly mobile middle-class educated working woman) from being entirely critical of her "social betters".
  • Adaptational Skimpiness: Lucy and Mina are quite modest in the original novel. This film cranks up the nudity and sex appeal.
  • Adaptational Wimp:
    • Renfield went down fighting Dracula in the book and came close to killing him (in his mist form no less) with his bare hands.
    • Instead of killing Dracula, Harker and Quincey are unable to get to Dracula before the sun sets. So when it does, he gets out of his coffin and pummels them when they cut his throat and stab him.
  • Adapted Out:
    • Mrs. Westenra, Lucy's mother, has a significant role in the first half of the book. She stupidly removes the garlic protection around Lucy on the night Dracula turns her - allowing him to break into the house. An older woman is seen crying by Lucy's coffin - and if this is her then it's also Spared by the Adaptation as she dies as Dracula turns Lucy.
    • Some time is devoted to an old man Lucy and Mina befriend in Whitby in the book. He doesn't appear in the film.
    • Whitby itself is adapted out - as Mina is visiting Lucy at Hillingham instead.
  • Alcohol-Induced Idiocy: Played with; Arthur's choice to drink alcohol while guarding Lucy proves to be a mistake, as he's drunk enough that he is in no state to fight back when Dracula comes to drain Lucy for the final time.
  • All for Nothing: Dracula's Faith–Heel Turn and vampirism due to despair and rage over Elisabeta's suicide, which - according to their clergy's Suicide Is Shameful belief - means no Together in Death in Heaven. But in the end, she's seen in Heaven after all (and he's apparently had enough Death Equals Redemption/Redemption Equals Death to be able to rejoin her).
  • And I Must Scream:
    • Jonathan, who is held captive in Dracula's castle and Dracula's Brides feed off him, leaving him in a very weakened state. He notes in his letters how Dracula keeps him alive rather than killing him so that Harker can be food for his brides.
    • When Dracula morphs into a werewolf and lures Lucy into the gardens so he can rape and bite her, Lucy tells Mina she was in such a semi-paralyzed state because of Dracula's apparent hypnosis. She couldn't run away, and she couldn't scream.
  • 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 embroidery 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.
  • Antagonist Title: Dracula.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: Vamp!Mina delivers one to her husband Jonathan when he attempts to stake Dracula and she asks him if he will drive a stake through her heart like he is to Dracula. He doesn't say anything back.
    Vamp!Mina: When my time comes, won't you do the same?
  • Art Imitates Art:
    • Dracula's castle is modeled after the painting "The Black Idol" (1903) by Frantisek Kupka.
    • Dracula's golden robe was based on the colors and patterns in Gustav Klimt's painting The Kiss.
  • Artistic License – History: Although Vlad was in Transylvania in 1462, he was in fact the Prince of Wallachia/Romania. The ruler of Transylvania at the time was Mattias Corvinus, King of Hungary, who later captured Vlad to avoid getting into a war with th Ottomans.
  • As the Good Book Says...: "The Blood is the Life" is paraphrased from Leviticus 17:14.
  • Award-Bait Song: Love Song for a Vampire by Annie Lennox.
  • Back Story: The prologue detailing Prince Draculea's war in the name of God, only to renounce Him upon his wife's suicide.
  • 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!
    • Upon learning his lover has committed suicide, a sin apparently great enough to damn Elisabeta's soul for eternity:
  • Badass Cape: Dracula wears one that's nearly ten feet long!
  • 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.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Elisabeta kills herself by jumping from a precipice high enough that she falls through clouds/mist. Considering that she probably landed on her front and face, the only sign of the resulting damage is a dainty trickle of blood from her corpse's mouth. It's also mentioned that she "flung herself into the river", so there should also be some water damage, depending on how long it took to find and fish her out, yet she's dry as a bone.
  • Bedlam House: In an inversion from the book, Dr. Seward's asylum is depicted as one of these.
  • Beethoven Was an Alien Spy: This version of Dracula is explicitly confirmed to be Vlad the Impaler, something the original novel only vaguely implied.
  • Behind the Black: Van Helsing, Harker, and the others somehow manage to miss Dracula hanging upside down from the ceiling in his giant bat form until he shoots into the frame screaming at them.
  • Berserk Button: When the brides kill his and Mina's horses, Van Helsing is so outraged that the next day he coldly walks into Dracula's castle while they're asleep, kills them, and tosses their heads into the river.
  • Bestiality Is Depraved: Dracula is into a lot of weird things, like when he takes the form of a sort of monstrous bear thing when raping Lucy in the mansion's garden. He later becomes a wolf creature with Mina.
  • Big Bad: Count Vlad Dracula, a vampire lord relentlessly pursuing the reincarnation of his lost love.
  • 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.
    • Mina does one when Quincey stabs Dracula in the courtyard.
  • Bilingual Bonus: The prologue has Vlad conversing with the Priest (played by Hopkins) in Romanian.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Lucy and Quincey are dead, Mina and Jonathan's future relationship is on rocky ground and Mina has to kill the man she loves but Dracula's soul is implied to have been redeemed and reunited with his beloved Elisabeta in Heaven.
  • 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!
    • Elisabeta's body has a trickle of blood from her mouth.
    • Vampire!Lucy vomits a stream of blood from her mouth when Van Helsing pulls a crucifix on her.
    • Dracula himself when he's stabbed at the end.
  • Bloody Horror: Dracula's initial transformation into a vampire comes when he enters the church where Elisabeta's body lies, renounces God and then stabs the crucifix on the altar. It bleeds, and he laps up the resulting fountain of blood like an animal as all the other statues in the room start bleeding as well.
  • Blunt "Yes": When Seward questions Van Helsing's theory that "something snuck in, stole Lucy's blood and just flew off", we get this dizzying answer:
    Van Helsing: Ja, why not?
  • 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 goes from being a Holy Warrior of Christianity to a Demonic servant upon the death, and supposed damnation of his beloved wife, believing that God forsaked and punished him simply because he was acting as the culture and society of his time expected a good Christian King should have behaved. In the late 19th Century, he's a decadent aristocrat living a cursed, desperate, existence simply for the chance to reunite with his beloved with his magic rituals competing, poorly, against the scientific, modern, advanced world of London in the British Empire. It's been noted by many critics that had Dracula been written in the early 1800s during the Romantic era, he would undoubtedly be made sympathetic by the likes of Byron and Shelley (Percy and Mary), and Coppola is very much a Romantic in the same mold.
  • Captain's Log: Most of the main characters provide voiceover 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, and it (largely successfully) helps to portray the Count as someone who is unaccustomed to being around or dealing with people in any meaningful capacity.
  • Christianity is Catholic: Averted, despite the fact that the director came from an Italian-American Catholic background. Most of the Christianity we see is very Orthodox influenced since it's set in Romania, and Mina and Jonathan's wedding is very much an Orthodox-flavored wedding. Count Dracula's castle likewise also has a lot of Byzantine-inspired murals and mosaics.
  • Classy Cane: Dracula has a gorgeous one in his youthful form.
  • 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.
  • Color Motif:
    • Green is used to code sexual excitement. Many of Mina's early dresses in the film are pale greens to show her repressed sexuality and desire to cut loose. Lucy's snake dress when she openly flirts with her three suitors is a vibrant green, contrasting with Mina's pure white gown. When Dracula enters Mina's room to turn her, the mist he takes the form of is bright green.
    • Red is used to symbolise dangerous passion. Dracula's armor worn when he renounces God is completely red, as is Lucy's nightgown when she's seduced by Dracula. When Mina starts actively seeing Dracula, she wears a deep red evening gown
  • Comic-Book Adaptation: Topps released a four-issue comic and 100 trading cards. The comic was scripted by Roy Thomas and had art by Mike Mignola. IDW Publishing collected it into a trade paperback in 2018.
  • 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.
  • Dance of Romance: Dracula and Mina share a brief one in a dark room full of candles.
  • 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.
  • Daywalking Vampire: See Our Vampires Are Different. Played with in that this is faithful to the book, as vampires were not thought, at the time the original novel was written, to be unable to come out in sunlight. However, it runs counter to the more familiar vampire lore and expectations of the present.
  • Death by Adaptation: The gypsies. In the book, most (if not all) survive the fight with Jonathan, Arthur, Seward, and Quincey, fleeing when Dracula is killed. Here, half are killed in a chase to Dracula's castle and the rest cut down in a fight in the courtyard.
  • Deconstruction:
    • The film deconstructs the Dracula myth by reconstructing many of the Unbuilt Tropes 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 which were 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 practical effects in the mode of Georges Méliès. In terms of visual effects, the movie is an encyclopedia of the history of the gothic horror-fantasy film genre itself, alluding to everything from Melies to German Expressionism to Val Lewton, to Beauty and the Beast, to Alfred Hitchcock, Roger Corman, to The Exorcist (Van Helsing treating Lucy). The characterization of Lucy Westenra and Mina Harker in the film also explores the Final Girl trope in horror, with Lucy's victimization heavily focused on her sexuality, while Mina more or less commits adultery with Jonathan and willingly encourages Dracula's affections and returns it, and ends up defeating and redeeming the Count, presumably surviving the film's events.
    • Coppola was also alluding to the fact that Victorian Britain was the era when Psychology first became a major field. Lucy Westenra's condition and illness is directed in a manner similar to cases of hysteria in the Victorian age, and Van Helsing's weird attitude to sex and vampirism, (i.e. civilization and syphilization proceeds in parallel to each other) is a parody of the patriarchal nature of conventional Freudian psychology, with women's sexuality being controlled, policed and punished by men. Renfield is imprisoned in a Bedlam House symbolizing the more inhumane ways mentally ill people were treated in that time and place. Mina repeatedly asks Jonathan and Van Helsing if they would chop her head of like Lucy, or treat her like a beast too. Likewise, the heavy focus in the film on blood-transmitted vampirism aludes to '90s fears and anxiety about sex in the post-AIDS world.
  • Decoy Protagonist: The film makes it seem as if Jonathan Harker is the main protagonist set at odds against Dracula as the antagonist. Once Dracula arrives in London, it becomes clear that both he and Mina are the film's true protagonists. Dracula begins the plot, while Mina finally resolves it. It was essentially this way in the original novel too, where the majority of the second and third acts revolve around Mina.
  • Despair Event Horizon: The false report of the death of Vlad Draculea for Elisabeta, and her suicide for him.
  • Dies Differently in Adaptation: In the novel, Quincey Morris was the one who fatally stabbed Dracula, while Jonathan Harker cut Dracula's head off. In the film, Quincey also stabs Dracula, but Jonathan only slashes Dracula's throat and Mina is the one who finishes their job by fatally plunging knife through Dracula's heart. Then she decapitates him.
  • Dies Wide Open: Happens to Dracula in the finale.
  • Disney Villain Death: Happens to one of the Gypsies in the climax when Quincy shoots him in the back and Harker throws him off the cart... and off a cliff.
  • 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!
    • He also remains quite calm when Arthur is pointing a gun into his face when Lucy is not found in her coffin.
    Arthur (drawing gun): WHERE IS SHE?! WHAT HAVE YOU DONE WITH HER?!
    Van Helsing (calmly): She lives beyond the grace of God, a wanderer in the outer darkness. She is "vampyr," "nosferatu."
  • Dracula: What, did you think this trope page was going to be about Freddy Krueger?
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: The entire scene where Dracula turns Mina is basically a sex scene, complete with The Immodest Orgasm.
  • Double Standard Rape: Female on Male: Subverted. Dracula's brides seducing Jonathan is at first presented as a sensual scene, but quickly turns horrific as they start feeding on him. The parallels to rape are clear.
  • Dual Age Modes: Dracula can morph from an elderly vampire into a dashing young man at will.
  • Dull Surprise: Keanu Reeves, as always.
  • Dying as Yourself: Dracula reverts to his young self before dying.
  • Eats Babies: Dracula's brides and the vampirized Lucy. Dracula brings the brides a baby for dinner, and Lucy is leading a terrified child into her tomb when the good guys intercept her.
  • Eldritch Location: Dracula's castle, where the Count is at his most powerful and reality itself seems to bend to his will.
  • Elite Mooks: The Gypsies, as claimed by Jonathan Harker.
    Jonathan Harker: The Count's gypsies, fearless warriors who are loyal to the death to whatever nobleman they serve...
  • Epic Flail: In the prologue, one of the Ottoman soldiers is briefly shown wielding a flail against a Transylvanian soldier.
  • Evil Plan: Dracula is buying real property around London in order to move to England and spread vampirism there. Then he sees a photo of Harker's fiancee...
  • Evil Sounds Deep: Gary Oldman worked with a singing coach to lower his voice by a full octave. Dracula in his bat-creature form has an even deeper voice.
  • Faith–Heel Turn: Dracula renounces God after Elisabeta kills herself - thus becoming an all-powerful vampire.
  • Fallen Hero: From the perspective of Christianity and the times. Dracula was once a servant of the cross, defending Europe from Muslim influence, and then he became a vampire. Van Helsing hangs a Lampshade later on how he was a terrible person, even by Victorian standards, when he was still a hero as per the norms of his culture.
  • Fanservice: Lots and lots of naked boobies. Also, Gary Oldman in full on "evil sex demon" mode.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Contemporary Dracula's very first lines are polite and inviting. The masquerade doesn't last much longer than that. Spoiled somewhat in that his delivery is awkward and creepy, underpinning how unused to even the pretense of social interaction he is.
    Dracula: Welcome to my home. Enter freely of your own will and leave some of the happiness you bring.
  • Final Girl: Mina is the survivor of the unfolded events. She also gets to finish Dracula off.
  • Flower Motifs: Mina and Elisabeta's gowns have leaf designs embroidered on them, seemingly rosemary which were symbolic of love and faithfulness as well as mourning and death.
  • A Form You Are Comfortable With: Unlike earlier films, Dracula does not have a single fixed form - i.e. opera-cape, suit and slicked-back hair/little bat. He keeps shifting his forms, none of them consistent with his classic image. This was deliberately done as per Coppola to respect how in the original book, Dracula has different mutations and also to show how Dracula has been variously interpreted as a decaying count, a seductive young dandy, a Giant Half-Bat Half-Man thing, a wolf form and so on.
  • Freudian Excuse: The reason Dracula went from Christian Crusader to vampire was because of the unfairness of his wife's death. She only committed suicide because of a false message stating that her husband had died. Yet suicide is suicide, and she was deemed unworthy of going to Heaven. Thus, Dracula renounced the Cross and became the monster he is today.
  • 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.
  • Ghostly Glide: Dracula's fluid gliding around his mansion.
  • Girl on Girl Is Hot: For a brief second, Mina and Lucy share a kiss onscreen.
  • Glamour Failure: Jonathan can still recognise Dracula even in his younger form.
  • Gorgeous Period Dress: With the possible exception of medieval Dracula's armor, which does look rad as hell. The film's costumes were designed by Eiko Ishioka and has a very strong avant-garde approach, to make it look different from the usual period pieces.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: In the cutaway scene to the ship that transported Dracula, blood is splattered on a sail during the creature's spree.
  • Gothic Horror: More than most adaptions, this plays up the Gothic architecture of Dracula's castle, the asylum, Hillingham and Carfax Abbey.
  • Groin Attack: When Jonathan is seduced by Dracula's brides, he is actually bitten down there. Ouch.
  • 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: Dracula's of course.
  • Hemo Erotic: This is probably the most sexualized depiction of Dracula since the Hammer Horror period. In particular, the scene where Mina drinks Dracula's blood is very reminiscent of fellatio. Mina is well north of that area, drinking from a cut on Dracula's upper chest, but the way the actors move and Dracula's orgasmic shout at the end suggests that in all other respects.
  • Heroes Want Redheads: Lucy is a redhead, and three heroes want her. (Four, if you're that sympathetic to the villain.)
  • Hitler Cam: The scene in Lucy's Tomb was not going to be very scary if three big and strong men, all over 6ft, brandishing rifles and handguns, are reeling back from a small delicate woman as Sadie Frost is in Real Life. So Coppola employed the camera trick by always filming vampire!Lucy from the typical lower angle. While Cary Elwes, Richard E. Grant and Bill Campbell are filmed from a slightly elevated angle, a bit sideways, and their silhouettes are part shadowed.
  • 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. However, 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". Also, how 'bout that awesome-looking "skinned jackal" armor that Dracula wears in the prologue?
  • Iconic Outfit:
    • The armor that the Count wears in the prologue, a full body red suit with ribbed skin textures resembling a flayed man, complete with a draconic helm, is quite famous and memorable despite appearing in just one scene. It was alluded to in A Clash of Kings where Ramsay Bolton appears at the end wearing an armor described to be similar to this, and it also inspired two armor designs in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt DLC Blood and Wine, a red one that's almost a dead ringer for this armor, and a black variant.
    • The strange kimono-like outfit that Dracula wears when he meets and hosts Val Helsing is also quite famous, worthy of parodies in a Mel Brooks spoof, and The Simpsons episode.
  • I Do Not Drink Wine: Dracula says this word-for-word in an homage to the 1931 Bela Lugosi film.
  • The Immodest Orgasm: When Mina is licking Dracula's blood from a wound on his chest.
  • 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" would probably need a lot of double-sided tape to stay in place. It's also quite anachronistic for the time period.
  • In Case You Forgot Who Wrote It: A classic Coppola tradition, this time emblazoned into the very title itself, similar to Mario Puzo's The Godfather (1972) and John Grisham's The Rainmaker (1997), albeit on the posters rather than the credits itself. 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). Some critics noting how Coppola wanted to explore the subtext and the Unbuilt Trope of the book was emphasizing the literary nature of the original to distinguish his film.
  • 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.
    • Additionally, the film retains a retro, turn-of-the-century approach to its special effects not just in terms of the effects themselves but in the ways that they are deployed. Although Dracula has multiple different (and highly elaborate) forms, his actual transformations between them almost always take place offscreen, in the shadows, or between camera cuts. This is intended as a parallel to the special effects of emerging cinema and early vampire movies, particularly the Stop Trick, which is one of the oldest special effects in the history of movies and was first used in films around the time period this movie takes place.
  • Jump Scare: Dracula is about to bite Mina when Van Helsing and the other men break into the bedroom, only to find Mina alone. Suddenly, Dracula pops down into the frame while hanging upside down, transformed into a giant bat and snarling.
  • Kick the Dog: Despite Dracula's more sympathetic nature, he retains these moments from the books to remind the audience that he is the movie's villain.
    • Feeding a baby to his brides.
    • Locking up Jonathan and abandoning him to his Brides.
    • The first thing he does upon reaching England is attacking and seducing Lucy.
    • After learning that Mina had married Jonathan, he pays Mina back by tearing out Lucy's throat.
    • He also kills Renfield in his cell for betraying him.
  • Kukris Are Kool: Van Helsing uses one to decapitate Dracula's brides, and Jonathan to slit Dracula's throat.
  • Large Ham: Gary Oldman, as usual. Watch how he orgiastically licks the bloodied 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.
  • Letting Her Hair Down: Mina has her hair done up in a prim Victorian manner at the start of the film. She wears it down for her absinthe date with her "prince" and then pretty much continually for the rest of the movie as Dracula triggers her sexual awakening.
  • 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 Orlok: At one point Dracula himself turns into a bat monster that has many Orlok-like characteristics, such as huge bat-like ears, claws and fangs.
  • 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.
  • Love Triangle: Dracula/Mina/Jonathan.
  • 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 upward 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.
  • Mayfly–December Romance: With Mina. He's 400 years her senior and a vampire.
  • Ms. Fanservice:
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Dracula himself has this moment when he first tries to bite Mina, realising that he was ready to treat the reincarnation of his great love as just another piece of meat to consume.
  • My Grandson, Myself: When Jonathan meets the older Dracula, he briefly mistakes a portrait of the Count for an ancestor.
  • Mythology Gag: Several references to past cinematic takes on the Dracula story.
  • Never My Fault:
    • Dracula seems to have forgotten that he brought his transformation on himself.
    Dracula: I was betrayed. Look what your God has done to me!
    • From his perspective, the loss of his wife is a punishment after all the things he did to protect Christendom from Turkey. Dracula also doesn't regret all the impalings he did when he was Vlad.
  • 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.
  • Novelization: Fred Saberhagen wrote one.
  • 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:
    • Keanu Reeves struggles to maintain an English accent most of the time. The man himself claims he was exhausted from other films and "didn't have anything left to give".
    • Winona Ryder fares better, though slips do show - particularly as she rolls her rs when saying "I'm so terribly worried".
  • The Ophelia: Elisabeta who commits suicide by jumping into the river. Coppola even referred to her as such on the set.
  • 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 original novel, in which the Count does go about during the daytime.
  • 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 (though it's implied this might be because she is the reincarnated soul of his wife and so subconsciously trusts he won't hurt her).
  • Phallic Weapon: Deliberately invoked by the not-so-proper Lucy.
    Lucy (to Quincy): Please let me touch it? It's so... big. (pulls out Quincy's knife)
  • 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. When he desecrates the chapel by stabbing the cross with his sword, blood starts flowing out of it, which Vlad proceeds to drink and become forever damned.
  • 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.
  • Prematurely Grey-Haired: Happens to Jonathan after he escapes the castle, presumably as an effect of being used as a food source for a prolonged period by the brides.
  • The Professor: Van Helsing, who is introduced teaching a medical class, and was Jack's mentor at university.
  • Promoted to Love Interest: Famously there is a love story between Dracula and Mina, where she is now the reincarnation of his dead wife.
  • Rage Against the Heavens: This Dracula somehow became a vampire with nothing but his own hatred of God. After hearing his wife is doomed to Hell for committing suicide, he lashes out against the God whom he fought for in defense of his homeland.
    • That, and drinking the blood of Christ flowing from the cross he stabbed.
  • Red Is Heroic: Zigzagged, Dracula, Mina, Quincy and Holmwood all wear red clothing at least some of the time (Quincy and Arthur wear red jackets most of the time).
  • 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.
  • Reincarnation Romance: Mina is the reincarnation of Vlad's wife Elisabeta.
  • 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 Cool: Most of the costumes are at least somewhat close to actual period dress - except for Dracula's completely ahistorical armor, which is bright red, has ears like a wolf, and is textured like a flayed human body, but it looks so totally badass that most people don't care about its relation to "realism".
  • 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 and 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.
  • Sex Signals Death: Subverted. Lucy is very flirty and likes to make risque jokes. Yet she never actually has sex with anyone before Dracula comes and turns her into vampire. Mina, on the other hand, gets married, basically commits adultery with Dracula (thus breaking Victorian conventional norms), yet survives and doesn’t become a vampire in the end.
  • Shadow Discretion Shot: The depiction of the opening battle against the Muslim turks.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The idea of Dracula lusting after his reincarnated lover is absent in the book but it is a major part of The Mummy (1932), which was otherwise an Egyptian-flavored remake of Dracula (1931).
    • Lucy wearing a red cape and outfit during her encounter with the werewolf Dracula in the garden is a nod to Little Red Riding Hood.
  • Sickly Green Glow: Dracula's mist form has this.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: While there is still an excerpt from the Apocalyptic Log of the ship's captain from the book indicating Dracula did cause trouble and kill crew members, here it's implied that he didn't kill all of them before leaving the ship.
  • 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?"
  • Swarm of Rats: In one scene Dracula escapes from Van Helsing and his vampire-killing posse by transforming into a man-shaped pile of rats, which collapses to the ground with the rats escaping out the window.
  • Tag Team Suicide: Played with. At the beginning of the film, set in medieval times, Dracula's wife 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.
    • The belief that this would be averted in Heaven - and that Dracula could at least be reunited with his wife in Hell - caused his Faith–Heel Turn in the first place.
  • Tragic Monster: Dracula is portrayed as one in this version due to his backstory. While he away at war, his wife kills herself in despair over 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 Dracula 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 (hence the In Case You Forgot Who Wrote It title).
    • In general, Coppola's film is far more faithful to the novel than the majority of Dracula adaptations, both in tone and in structure.note  The film also gets the location and time period right - outside of Transylvania the plot takes place in Victorian England like in the novel note 
    • For example, Coppola's film is the only adaptation that does not composite the characters of Lord Arthur Holmwood, Dr. Seward, and Quincey Morris into a single man or doesn't axe any of them from the narrative. All three in this movie are Lucy's suitors with Lucy choosing Arthur as her husband. Arthur Holmwood is the one who has to stake vampire Lucy, like in the novel.
    • Mina here is a schoolmistress who uses a typewriter, fiancee of Jonathan Harker and is the second victim of Dracula in England. Lucy here is a wealthy socialite, Mina's childhood friend and the one who becomes the first victim of Dracula in England and turns into vampire.
    • Jonathan Harker is the one who goes to Transylvania to meet Dracula and survives to the end of the film.
    • When Jonathan Harker comes to Dracula's castle and meets his host for the first time, Dracula is an old man, with hairy palms and long claw-like nails, like in the novel. Dracula gets younger after he feeds on blood and appears in England rejuvenated, just like in the novel.
    • Dracula in his young form has a mustache. Almost all adaptations usually ignore that Dracula in the novel has a mustache.
    • The film version largely does follow the general plot outline and story dynamic of the novel. Its portrayal of Dracula restores most of the Unbuilt Trope from the original book, and most importantly, like the novel, it doesn't fully give Dracula a single final form, allowing him to take multiple shapes like wolf, mist or bat, as well as travel in sunlight without withering like paper (a motif introduced by Murnau). Though the movie shortens the ship massacre sequence that was an iconic part of the novel in Murnau's film, Coppola did this out of love for the Murnau film and a desire to not repeat or compete with it.
  • 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).
  • Undead Barefooter: Dracula's Brides are always shown barefoot to add to their seductive nature.
  • Ungrateful Bastard: Dracula expresses this view of God himself in the opening for allowing Elisabeta's suicide, as by defeating a Turkish invasion, Dracula had ensured the continuance of Christian rule in Europe.
  • 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: Jonathan 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 Lawful Stupid priest who casually says that Dracula's suicidal wife is damned - while Dracula is still an emotional wreck over her corpse.
    • Also the Turkish soldiers who shot the arrow into the castle with false news of Dracula's death, which causes Elisabeta's suicide.
  • The Vamp: Dracula's brides.
  • Vampire Hickey: We see Drac first bite Lucy in werewolf form earlier in the movie. Later when Lucy's suitors (Seward, Quincy and Holmwood) come to visit her and leave her to rest, she undoes the collar around her neck and we see the puncture wounds from where she was bitten.
  • Vampires Are Sex Gods: The bloodsucking is played very erotically, Dracula's brides pleasuring Jonathan like a threesome. Lucy's death ends in a parallel to The Immodest Orgasm, and vampire!Lucy tries to seduce Arthur.
  • 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: As in the book, the film takes place in 1897. The film notably cuts out Mina and Lucy's trip to Yorkshire for the summer, instead focusing on their time at Hillingham (which is closer to London).
  • Villainous Crush: Dracula for Mina.
  • Villainy Discretion Shot: According to 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.
  • Visual Pun: After Mina essentially breaks up with Dracula by letter, we cut to a shot of Dracula sobbing uncontrollably whilst in his disfigured demon-faced form. This gives a whole new meaning to "ugly cry".
  • 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 face-first down a castle wall. One of Dracula's brides also does this when the Count stops them from feeding on Harker and flings her to a wall.
  • Wedding/Death Juxtaposition: Jonathan Harker escapes from Dracula's castle and the three brides of Dracula, taking refuge in a nuns' convent in Romania. Mina Murray, his fiancée, gets a letter informing of his whereabouts and goes to marry him in an Romanian Orthodox Church. Meanwhile, back in London, Dracula decides to make Lucy Westenra one of his vampiric brethren: he invades the Westenra household and drains Lucy of her blood. Scenes of Mina's wedding are juxtaposed with Lucy's blood draining. The next scene is Lucy inside a coffin, wearing what was supposed to be her wedding gown.
  • What the Hell Is That Accent?: Keanu Reeves' laughable attempt at a British accent.
  • Why Don't Ya Just Shoot Him?: No reason is presented as to why Dracula leaves Jonathan Harker alive and imprisoned at his castle while he goes to London. Killing Harker after the purchase of Carfax Abbey would have allowed Dracula to seduce Mina without interference, especially if Mina had received word of Jonathan's death in the Transylvanian wilderness.
    • Most likely, this was to keep the vampire brides fed while Dracula was away. They seemed to rely on Dracula for food, such as when he gave them the infant. ("Are we to have nothing tonight?") Harker notes during his captivity that the brides kept him drained and weak, which meant he served as a self-regenerating source of blood until Drac returned.
  • Wight in a Wedding Dress: Lucy was buried in what was to be her wedding gown, so she's this upon becoming a vampire.
  • 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 wife was in Hell. Mina even comments she pities the count as a creature damned to be so relentlessly hunted.
  • World of Ham: The film has a very operatic tone, with Dracula and Van Helsing in particular being quite hammy.
  • 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.
    Van Helsing: He was in life a most remarkable man, his mind was great and powerful. But greater is the necessity to stamp him out and destroy him utterly.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Bram Stokers Dracula


Dracula '92 [Helsing Fends Off Lucy]

WARNING: SLIGHT SQUICK SCENE! Scene from the 1992 film, Bram Stoker's Dracula. Van Helsing takes Seward, Arthur and Quincy into Lucy's crypt to showcase that she's now a vampire. First by revealing there's no body in her casket and then confronting her when she arrives to feed on a child. Just when she uses her power to entrance Arthur to join her, Helsing whips out the cross to force her back.

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