Francis Ford Coppola almost did it.
He almost made a Dracula movie that was an accurate interpretation of the book.
He nailed the atmosphere. The setting was correct. The characters were right. Gary Oldman’s performance was nothing less than spectacular. Anthony Hopkins was brilliant as Van Helsing. The movie was creepy, artistic, and fun. If you can forgive the ridiculous haircut in the early scenes, it is the best film interpretation of the book to date.
So why did I say he almost did it?
Sadly, Coppola fell victim to the curse of Dracula.
And, no, I’m not talking about the curse of being a vampire.
Dracula’s real curse, in my opinion, is the fact that filmmakers feel some inexplicable need to turn Bram Stoker’s horror classic into a romance.
This confuses me, because… well…
The novel is not a romance.
Let me be clear here…
In Bram Stoker’s novel, Dracula is pretty much Satan. He’s pure evil, personified in a creature of the night. He didn’t come to London to find a lost love… he came to London because he could thrive there. He planned (according to Van Helsing) to populate the world with vampires, starting with London. He turned Lucy into his minion, then moved on to Mina. In the novel, there is no mention of a reincarnated lover. There is no indication that Dracula is a tortured soul. He’s a monster. He preys on the innocent, manipulates the insane, and kills anyone who gets in his way.
Dracula is a great horror novel. With the possible exception of Matheson’s I Am Legend, Dracula is my all-time favorite vampire novel. It’s a story of good vs evil, where a team of heroes band together to rid the world of one of the most powerful vampires on Earth. If you’ve never read Dracula, I highly recommend it. If your only experience with the Count is what you’ve seen in movies, I promise you haven’t actually experienced the story. Like I mentioned at the beginning, Coppola came very close… but he just couldn’t resist the temptation to make it a romance. Which, in my opinion, means he should have called that movie “Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula.”
Don’t get me wrong. I think most adaptations of Dracula were good. I’m a fan of Coppola’s version. I’m also a fan of the 1931 Bela Lugosi movie. I greatly enjoyed the 1979 version starring Frank Langella.
But once… just once… I’d love to see Bram Stoker’s book faithfully adapted to the big screen…
Without adding a romance.
Spielberg, hook us up. You rocked Jaws. You can do this.
For more vampire (and werewolf) fun, be sure to check out Brandon Hale’s newest novel, Day Soldiers. You can get it at Amazon for the kindle or in paperback, or you can pick it up for the Nook at Barnes & Noble.