For the next couple of weeks, I am going to be writing posts discussing various film remakes. The IMC is hosting a display right now featuring film remakes which is very interesting to me. There happen to be several of these films or remakes on my list, so it is also an excellent opportunity for discussion. This week I’ll be talking about the original Dracula (1931) [IMC DVD 791.4367 D757 2006], directed by Tod Browning (which I discussed in a blog post on August 2nd 2018) and comparing it to the Bram Stoker’s Dracula remake [IMC DVD 791.4367 B815 2007], directed by Francis Ford Coppola in 1992.
As a quick recap on the original Dracula, this version was actually based on the 1924 play written by Hamilton Deane and John L. Balderston, who based their play loosely on the original novel Dracula by Bram Stoker. In this version, we are given the backstory of Renfield’s trip to Transylvania and his descent into madness as a result of his interaction with Count Dracula. We then see Dracula in London, where he meets Mina, John Harker, and Lucy. Lucy is attacked that night by Dracula, and shortly after dies. Mina is also bitten, and later attacks Harker, her fiancée, but he is saved by Van Helsing. Things are eventually solved when Van Helsing and Harker hunt for Dracula and kill him, which restores Mina to her original self.
The remake of Dracula, titled Bram Stoker’s Dracula, follows the book much more closely which I appreciated. The screenplay is written in much the same manner as the book, with journal entries from Jonathan Harker and Mina. However, the beginning of the novel illustrates Dracula’s life in 1462 before he became a vampire. I don’t remember the backstory from the novel, but I could be mistaken. Our next scene is Jonathan Harker traveling to Transylvania to take over Dracula’s case from Renfield, who has gone insane. The part that follows very closely matched the book: Harker arrives and becomes a prisoner in Dracula’s home while Dracula himself leaves to go to London to chase after Mina, who has an eerie resemblance to his wife in his previous life. Mina begins to have a fascination with him as well, and soon begins to waver between Harker and Dracula in her affections. The movie ends with a chase ending in Transylvania to try to kill Dracula. He is killed in the end, but Mina is by his side to give him final peace. To me, this was the most interesting part, how Mina continued to have a connection with him, even after she had reverted back to her former self with his death. Gary Oldman played Dracula and was absolutely wonderful. Anthony Hopkins as Van Helsing and Winona Ryder as Mina also played their parts very well, but Keanu Reeves as Jonathan Harker was slightly disappointing. This film ended up winning an Academy Award for Best Makeup and Hairstyling, but since it was made in 1992, it doesn’t seem to translate as well, given what prosthetics and makeup can do now.
Obviously these films are extremely different, in part because they are based on slightly different original screenplays, but more so because of when they were made. Browning’s Dracula is black and white, but Dracula himself is portrayed how most of us think of him: black cape with high collar, dark slicked-back hair, pale face. Coppola’s Dracula, on the other hand, is in color and makes more use of prosthetics and color/texture in costume and set design, red being a dominant color. Coppola’s version of Dracula also seems to incorporate more overly-sexual themes, while Browning’s version is much more classic seduction. I think I ended up preferring Browning’s version, but I did enjoy seeing a more accurate representation of Bram Stoker’s book adapted for film.
If you have seen both movies (or even one!), feel free to tweet us @FHGLibrary with thoughts and/or comments. Don’t forget to come to the IMC to check out our new DVD display featuring Remakes and continue on your own film travelogue journey at https://letterboxd.com/peterstanley/list/1001-movies-you-must-see-before-you-die .