Bram Stoker's Dracula (R)
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This movie came out in 1992. I'm sure I saw it on TV sometime in the 90s (possibly on Halloween), but I don't really remember anything specific from that viewing except that it was late at night and I was too tired to really follow the story very well, and I think I found it kind of boring. Of course, that was many years before I actually read the original 1897 novel, which I did in 2017. And I finally got around to re-watching this movie on DVD in 2019 (a couple of weeks before Halloween). I probably liked it better this time, because I was more awake, and because I was able to compare it to the novel while watching it. (And possibly because I'm older now, but I can't really be sure that made much difference.) I still didn't think it was great, but I didn't really find it boring. Anyway, aside from a few plot elements, it's generally considered one of the most faithful adaptations of the novel. Although I must say, a lot of the familiar plot points were very much condensed, which is probably for the best.
It begins with some backstory for Dracula (Gary Oldman), which wasn't in the book, though it wasn't entirely unlike backstories for him that I've seen in other adaptations (which I suppose came out after this). In 1462, Dracula was a knight who fought against the Turks who were invading his homeland. When he returned home from battle, he learned that his wife, Elisabeta (Winona Ryder) had committed suicide, because the Turks had sent a letter claiming Dracula had been killed in battle. When a priest tells Dracula that his wife has gone to Hell for the sin of suicide, Dracula renounced God... and um... drank some blood from a stone cross, apparently because he wanted to become a vampire. I guess. I didn't really understand that part.
The story then flashes forward to 1897, when Jonathan Harker (Keanu Reeves) is sent by his employer in London to visit Count Dracula in Transylvania, to oversee the sale of some London property to the count. Meanwhile, back in England, his fiancee, Mina Murray (also played by Ryder) awaits Jonathan's return, so they can be married. She spends some time with her best friend, Lucy Westenra (Sadie Frost), who entertains three suitors. One is Dr. Jack Seward (Richard E. Grant), who works in an insane asylum. One of his patients there is a man named Renfield (Tom Waits), who had previously worked for Jonathan's employer, and went mad after his own visit to Transylvania. (That bit of backstory for Renfield wasn't in the book, but I guess it makes sense.) Another of Lucy's suitors is a Texan named Quincey P. Morris (Billy Campbell). But the one she finally decides to marry is Lord Arthur Holmwood (Cary Elwes).
While Dracula travels by sea to England, Jonathan is left trapped in his castle in Transylvania, where he's basically a plaything (and source of blood) for Dracula's three brides (one of whom was played by Monica Bellucci). None of the brides really had any personality, beyond just displaying both bloodlust and regular lust. (And there was some nudity, which I definitely don't remember seeing on TV.) Meanwhile, in England, Dracula has transformed from an old man to a young one (rejuvenated by the blood of the sailors on the ship that unwittingly transported him, along with crates of soil that was being sent to his new property). He meets Mina (having previously seen her picture among Jonathan's belongings), and begins a relationship with her, without revealing his true identity. He also maintains his youth by feeding on Lucy's blood. This leads to an inexplicable illness that causes Jack to summon his mentor, Professor Abraham Van Helsing (Anthony Hopkins), in the hopes that he could help Lucy. But of course, his efforts ultimately fail... and he must convince Jack, Quincey, and Arthur of the existence of vampires. And... that's all I want to say about that (except that Van Helsing is rather amusing). Meanwhile, Jonathan finally escapes from the castle and tries to make his way home. But he has an illness, and sends for Mina to come marry him in Romania. Then they return to England and help the others in their efforts against Dracula.
Well, there's more to it than that, but I think that's enough details from me. Anyway, I liked the movie's early efforts to maintain some of the epistolary nature of the novel, though that kind of peters out after awhile. And I guess some of the divergences from the novel were reasonably interesting. (Some of them I thought were just confusing, and others I thought actually made more sense than the book.) And even the things that were more or less the same as in the novel were a bit more interesting (for me, anyway) to see than to read about. But I still think the book was better.
Oh yeah, and Annie Lennox did a song for the movie.