Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski) and Tuna

Two thumbs down.

Scoop's notes in white:

I'm of the firm belief that all movie criticism should be written in blind tests, like wine-tastings. Make the reviewer submit the review before they let him see the label. How many times have you seen unjustifiable praise for a bad or mediocre work from a great director? Probably too many to count. If I make a movie, I think I'm going to claim it was directed by Stanley Kubrick, from a script by John Sayles. I guarantee that if it is worse than Barn of the Naked Dead, some people will hail it as genius.

Eyes Wide Shut (Kubrick) is the ultimate example. Yes, there were some critics with the cojones to point out that it was a beautifully filmed mess, but many people actually praised it. Moviegoers had other ideas. While the film is rated 87/100 by Apollo's critic, it is rated 19/100 by their voters, probably the lowest score of any film in their database with more than 1000 votes. I would guess it is not only the lowest, but the lowest by a wide margin.

I call this the Men of War Syndrome, named after the ludicrously inept 1994 Dolph Lundgren film which is actually praised by many people who believe that it was written by screen legend John Sayles. (Most IMDb viewers correctly perceive the emperor's nudity, however, and grade it 4.6/10). 

Following up on this thought, there wouldn't have been a lot of praise for Coppola's Dracula if the studio had told people I directed it, but because it was directed by Francis Ford Coppola, people were swayed by his alleged genius, or unwilling to attack a great film figure, or unwilling to anger the powerful muckity-mucks in Hollywood.

Here's a question from the Cultural Aptitude Test. Warren Spahn is to Casey Stengel as Tom Waits is to Francis Coppola. Why ........???

Warren Spahn pitched for Casey Stengel in the 1940's for some woeful Boston Braves teams in the years before Mathews and Aaron showed up. He also pitched for Casey in the 1960's for some woeful Mets teams in the days before Tom Seaver showed up. In between, from 1949 to 1960, Casey won ten pennants in twelve years, including five consecutive World Series. Spahnie was fond of pointing out that he was the only man who worked for Casey before and after he was a genius. My analogy doesn't work perfectly for Tom Waits and Francis Ford Coppola, because the chronology is off, but Waits only seemed to show up for the movies where Coppola checked his genius at the door. Name a great Coppola movie, no Waits. Name a lesser Coppola, and Waits appears from the mist. Most glaringly, he was Renfield in Dracula.

Don't think the movie is without value. You can't compare this film flippantly to Men of War as I just did implicitly. Dracula has some major strengths. 

  • If you nominated this as the most visually splendid movie in your knowledge, you'd have a fine case. The recreations of Gothic Transylvania and Gaslit Victorian London are splendid - sometimes beautiful, sometimes chilling. 

  • The first five minutes of the movie, located in the 15th century, are just brilliant. 

But what possessed Coppola to cast this cast?

First there is Dracula. We need the most over-the-top actor in the business. Shatner is too old and fat, and Larry Storch is too silly - how about Gary Oldman? His fag-hag movements and monologues are so exaggerated and campy as to make Burt Ward look like a master of subtlety. I laughed out loud twice when I watched the tape, when he took Keanu's shaving razor and licked the blood off of it, and when he was doing that hand thing while talking to his wives. Tom Waits, the skid row Sinatra, matches Oldman measure for measure, an overacting symphony unmatched since Shatner himself went toe-to-toe with Montalban in The Wrath of Khan. 

The rest of the cast is equally uncomfortable. Keanu Reeves is Harker, the brilliant young London attorney. OK, let's pause on that one. 

You want to cast an actor who can be convincing as a brilliant young 19th century English attorney, and you want him to speak with an aristocratic accent from Victorian London? Who would you hire? I'll bet not one of you out there would have hired Keanu Reeves, but that's exactly who the genius Coppola came up with. Cary Elwes was right there on the set, in the cast in a minor part, and could easily have handled Harker in a workmanlike and professional way, but no-o-o-o-o, get me Keanu. Whoa, bitchin', vampire dude! It was like Joe Don Baker playing Hamlet. And what was the deal with that Cowboy guy? "Now jes' hold on there, Dracula, you orn'ry sidewindin' bloodsuckin' whippersnapper, or I'll blast ya to kingdom come, buckaroo".

The movie is worse if you watch it again, because you realize how badly it was truncated. For example, they must have planned a plot element about why Dracula wanted to buy such specific pieces of land in London - they discussed the logic - then dropped the thread and never picked it up again. There are even continuity errors. Keanu's hair was supposed to gray as the movie progressed, until he was completely free of the vampire's power, I guess. Or maybe it got lighter as he got nearer to Vampy. Unfortunately, it would get lighter in one scene, then darker, then lighter again without logic. Keanu's accent, such as it was, followed the same course. Sometimes the hair changes color in the same scene with different camera angles. No excuse for that. I guess scenes were re-edited from the planned sequence, or maybe they just plain lost track of the details. They simply dropped Renfield at one point, for example, and forgot about him. 

You know what happened, don't you? It was the emperor's new clothes. Hundreds of smart people involved in the movie knew the parts that sucked and exactly why, but nobody had the balls to look the great genius in the eye and say so. Who could presume to question the guy who did "Apocalypse Now" and the first two "Godfather" films? Same thing happened to Tarkovsky when he made "Nostalghia".

The plot centers around Dracula's search for the reincarnation of his centuries-ago true love. Of course, he was looking a little better back in the 1400's, when she committed suicide, thinking him dead. A sweet love story amid the Gothic wreckage? Phantom of the Soap Opera? Well, I suppose Winona isn't going to get a lot of action from Keanu Reeves, so why not take on Drac? Say, maybe that explains why they cast Keanu.

The movie won the great genius three statuettes, for things like make up and costumes and sound effects. Talk about damning with faint praise. How many sleepless nights have you passed wondering who would win the Oscar for best Sound Effects Editing? The movie did NOT win any f/x awards, and I'm not surprised. All the castles and mountains were painted backdrops, and obviously so. It is easy to fall in love with digitized images, as we all know. 


see the main commentary
I could have forgiven the comic opera acting and the painted frames because of the movie's strengths, except that the movie has one unforgivable element.

It is boring. 

Tedious. Seems infinitely long. Stylish, but not scary. 

In the entertainment field, boredom is the only true sin. I loved the first 15 minutes, especially the symbolic and minimalist scenes from the 15th century, then I had to fight off sleep except during the unintentionally comic interludes. My friend Count Floyd sent over these tips for you youngsters who want to make scary monster chiller horror films 

(1) Speeches aren't scary, unless Ted Kennedy makes them and they use a lot of close-ups. 

(2) Monsters that can be clearly seen and defined aren't scary. People fear the unknown, the unseen, the shadowy, the unexplained. When you show things too clearly, they start to seem familiar, or comical, or trite. Oldman's haircut might have been scary if kept in shadow, but when you see it, well it's just plain silly, and not a little bit perplexing.

DVD info from Amazon.

  • Widescreen anamorphic, 1.85:1, plus a fullscreen version

Another strange element of the movie is that Winona Ryder and Sadie Frost kissed each other in the rain. This kiss looked like it was supposed to go on for a longer time. All of a sudden they started a passionate kiss, and then the camera cut away immediately and it didn't relate to any other plot element. No idea whether they were turned on or embarrassed or what? We don't know if this was a one-time thing or a part of their relationship. Looks like there was a subplot lost on the cutting room floor. I don't know why they left the kiss in at all, except Winona was wet and we got to look, which wasn't a bad reason.


Dracula (AKA, Bram Stoker's Dracula) is a critical and popular favorite by Francis Ford Coppola. It is rated high at IMDB, and won three Oscars. 

Dracula tries to seduce the reincarnation of his lost love, Winona Ryder, and fails.

So much for plot.

So what fills the 130 minutes of running time if it isn't plot? Pretentious but dark and overly artsy imagery. To give you an idea, Ryder and her boyfriend kiss before he leaves for Transylvania. Peacock feathers are waved in front of the camera, then the eye of one of the feathers fades into a train tunnel, and the boyfriend is then in Transylvania. Why the peacock feathers? I have no idea whatsoever, but then I saw nothing of merit in this entire snooze-fest, except breast exposure from Monica Bellucci, Sadie Frost, Michaela Bercu and Florina Kendrick, full frontal from Honey Lauren and Judi Diamond, and clear see-through breasts from Winona Ryder.

I have to believe the reviews and ratings were based on a lifetime achievement award for Coppola rather than an honest look at this film. Ed Wood's worst effort was more entertaining than this one.

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: three stars. Maltin 3.5/4, Ebert 3/4, Video Guide 2.5/5 

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 7.1
  • With their bucks ... it grossed $192 million worldwide, $82 million of that in the USA
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a C- (both reviewers). Scoop says, "Almost unwatchable, even for genre fans."  Tuna adds, "I suppose it qualifies as a marginally acceptable Gothic horror."

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