Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)
I don’t know how you fine folks feel about Francis Ford Coppola’s gothic epic but I always loved it and I recall how monumental this movie was. It was the Batman (1989) of horror movies. Like Batman, I suppose, Dracula is the archetypical horror icon. Or maybe it’s because of bats. America has a bat fetish perhaps. I don’t know but this film revived the tired horror genre from the cookie-cutter slashers of the late 80s back to the gothic and creepy roots.
The casting is a bit of a weird time capsule of mixed-matched actors of the time. Winona Ryder was on a hot streak and now is nowhere to be found. Keanu was up and coming and still basically Ted “Theodore” Logan, from Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure and wasn’t taken seriously as an actor yet. Anthony Hopkins could and probably did play Van Helsing in his sleep. But Gary Oldman was propelled into the upper echelon of cult status with his riveting performance of the Transylvanian Count. It was probably the 114th version of Dracula at that point but Oldman made him seem, well, more human than the previous incarnations. This is one of the few Dracula’s that you actually sort of root for or at the very least feel sorrow for. Also giving him a short prologue as the war hero denouncing his religion and becoming an agent of the devil after losing his wife gave it a nice touch. Also the music is top-notch, the cinematography superb and the special effects, which were all done in-camera as if it was practically 1904 filming techniques, gave it an outstanding other-worldly kitschy charm.
But on to the chase. I always enjoyed the final chase scene for numerous reasons. First, I can’t stress enough how good the music by Wojciech Kilar is. The whole score is awesome but in this chase scene his music is pulse-pounding. It’s also a horse and wagon chase and the fact that it’s up on a rocky cliff to Dracula’s castle just heightens the thrills. And lastly, because the villain that is pursued is hidden in a crate, weak and in agony just waiting for the sun to go down for his powers to return. It’s uncommon for the villain (or anti-hero in this film’s case) to not only be pursued by the good guys in a chase but also being completely hopeless. Jonathan Harker and company have very little resistance from Dracula’s gypsy minions. At one point Dracula telepathically controls Mina Harker to do some magic that, quite frankly, I’m still not sure what she does—it shows that she conjures blue rings up to the sky and it starts to get dark but then the next sky shots still show the sun descending as usual so I’m not sure what she did. However, the fact that the editing shows such a break-neck heightened pace of the sun descending is great as well as the sense of urgency is critical for the heroes to get Dracula before he reaches his castle before his powers return. So it’s also not a race against distance but also a race against time which, again is unique and great. I’ve never read the original Dracula novel from Stoker but I’m guessing that this chase scene was not really not in the book so kudos to Coppola for injecting a fine action sequence into the plot.
I apologize for the lame and pitiful youtube video that someone else posted by filming his/her TV but it’s the only instance of that clip and I’ve been waiting to post about this particular chase for months. However, it’s worth a look anyway if you never seen Coppola’s Dracula or need to remind yourself why it’s one of the best horror flicks in the last 25 years.