The blood is life: Bram Stokers Dracula, an old school masterclass


The life of this adaptation began with The Godfather 3. Winona Ryder, originally cast to play Michael Corleone’s daughter had brought a script for an adaptation of the Bram Stoker novel to her Director, Francis Ford Coppola as an apology for dropping out of the role at the last minute as she thought the job perfect for him, he took it.

Coppola had become quite infamous for bringing his films in over budget and had vowed that not to be the case with Dracula which lead to a decision that would sculpt one of the most unique takes on the Count ever put on screen.
It began fairly typically with Coppola assembling his company, a truly intimidating cast featuring Gary Oldman, Anthony Hopkins, Winona Ryder, Richard. E. Grant, Cary Elwes, Keanu Reeves and Tom Waits. The whole cast would assemble on team building exercises such as hot air ballooning and classic theatre warm up techniques and culminate in a round table read through of Stokers novel so as to absorb the story.
To meet Coppla’s wishes of keeping his films budget at a low, a modest $40 million, the film was shot entirely on sound stages so as to avoid inclement weather and the delays that comes hand in hand with location filming. Coppola also insisted that the film would be shot using traditional cinematic techniques to achieve its memorable visual effects.

Hiring his own son, Roman, to oversee the pictures visual effects which he achieved using only on-set or in-camera methods. You name the method, it was probably at some point utilised, be it rear-projection, forced perspective, multiple exposures, miniature work, matte paintings, it was an old school masterclass that harked back to the golden age of cinema, completely in keeping with the aesthetic and period in which the film was set.
Coppola spent the lions share of the films budget on probably one of it most memorable points, the costumes, a choice justified by Coppola as to showcase the actors. Designed by Japanese designer Eiko Ishioka and rightfully a recipient of an Academy award.
Rounded up by a powerful score by Polish composer, Wojciech Kilar (lamentably impossible to find on vinyl) and you have a film that eschewed trend at the time of taking the easy route of the new advent in computer generated trickery and instead came up with a much classier finished picture that stays in the memory long after it is watched.

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