Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula has served as source material for numerous cinematic adaptations over the years. Each adaptation puts its own spin on the story. Some keep close to the words on the page. Some focus on the real historical aspects surrounding the Dracula legend. Some seem hell bent on being as lame as possible.
None of the many Dracula adaptations are as crazy, as baffling, or as downright weird as Francis Ford Coppola’s 1992 version appropriately titled Bram Stoker’s Dracula. The casting was odd, the actors make strange decisions in their performances, the script emphasizes sex and the emergence of the modern world in a way that feels at odds with the more traditional, gothic source material, Coppola uses directorial techniques not seen since the silent era, and gallons of blood are spilled (some of it even from inanimate objects). Few movies before or since contain such a unique blend of insanity.
If the normal sexual content pushes the envelope, the film’s use of bestiality rips the envelope to shreds. When Mina walks in on Dracula, in werewolf form, on top of a writhing Lucy, it’s a truly shocking moment.
Even Dracula seems embarrassed by the predicament at the time.
Anthony Hopkins has way too much fun portraying vampire hunter Doctor Van Helsing. He sports a campy Dutch accent, a gigantic facial scar, and a wide variety of capes. This Van Helsing is far from the severe doctor in most stories.
He employs gallows humor, patronizes other characters, and is more than once covered in blood. It’s quite the departure from mannered iciness of the role that made Hopkins an icon the year before: Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs.
Following his early string of successes in the 1970s (from The Godfather to Apocalypse Now) Coppola had seen his star dim over the course of the next decade. Rumors from the set brought about questions on casting, set design, and special effects.
It even earned the derisive pre-release nickname “Bonfire of the Vampires.” Despite the dire outlook the film turned out to be good. It’s exceedingly watchable, delightfully weird, and ridiculous in the most memorable way.
The presence of Keanu Reeves as British estate lawyer Jonathan Harker was a left field choice. It’s particularly odd because Reeves was not yet perceived as a box office champion (that changed after the release of Speed in 1994).
At this point in his career, Reeves was best known as one half of Bill and Ted and the guy who was upstaged by Patrick Swayze in Point Break. It's baffling that Reeves was cast over someone who could more comfortably speak with a British accent.