I have often wondered why it is seemingly so difficult to make movies based on classic literature that are faithful to their original works. For example, The Wizard of Oz is a considerably darker and grader tale than what we saw in the 1939 film complete with multiple decapitations and even a giant spider that stalked the forest which ate lions and tigers in a single gulp. I perfectly understand that such a film would have been impossible to make back then but it is curious that no other studio attempted to make an accurate depiction of The Wizard of Oz. The same holds true for most of our classic literature though to be fair, Bram Stoker’s Dracula remains fairly true to the original book. Tonight we will look at the movie; please bear in mind there will be spoilers for a 25 year-old film and a 120 year-old book.
For those of you who may not be familiar with the story of the iconic vampire, here is a very brief synopsis of the novel. Jonathan Harker travels to Transylvania and is prepared to act as an agent for Count Dracula. It seems that Dracula is interested in purchasing several estates throughout England. Harker experiences several supernatural encounters and realizes that Dracula never intends to let him return home. Harker manages to escape and eventually makes his way back to England and his love, Mina. Meanwhile, Dracula has also come to England with several dozen boxes of earth from Transylvania so that the vampire has several places in England where he can rest throughout the day. A small group of friends led by Doctor Van Helsing trace the rise of vampiric activity to Dracula and systematically begin attacking his estates and leaving holy wafers in his coffins which renders them useless to the vampire. Dracula retaliates by attacking Mina and transforming her into something between human and vampire. The team follows Dracula back to Transylvania for a final confrontation.
As noted above, Bram Stoker’s Dracula is reasonably close to the novel but there are a few drastic changes. One example would be Mina’s connection to Dracula. In the movie she is thought to be the reincarnated form of Dracula’s love from centuries prior. The two share a bond that simply never happened in the book – to the point of being intimate whereas in the book Dracula attempts to forcibly rape Mina.
Bram Stoker’s Dracula uses a lot of practical special effects as Francis Ford Coppolla was said to be vehemently opposed to CGI technology at the time of production. Even effects such as Dracula’s eyes in the sky during the train scene were done with projectors. As a result of Copolla’s stubbornness, the film holds up reasonably well today despite its age.
One of my favorite scenes deals with a young woman named Lucy who has recently been turned into a vampire. She brings a young toddler into her crypt to feast upon it when confronted by our heroes. It is said that the young child in the scene was truly terrified of Sadie Frost in the vampire makeup and refused to do any more takes until a considerable amount of sweet talking and cajoling from the actress and Copolla himself. Check out the scene below. For the record, the shot of her getting back into the coffin was shot in reverse so as to give it a more unnatural feel.
If you are looking for something scary to watch during the Halloween season you might reconsider becoming reacquainted with Bram Stoker’s Dracula.