Bram Stoker's Dracula
This latest and most spectacular version of the mythic vampire tale is faithful to the original Bram Stoker classic published in 1897. The Gothic horror film is also a romantic and erotic love story, accented with touches of skin-tingling terror and bloody gore and violence, much of which is accomplished with elaborate illusionary effects. The legend is born in 1462 when Transylvanian nobleman, Dracula, defends his land against invading Turks. Dracula's enemies falsely send word back to his beloved Elizabeth that he has been killed. Vowing she cannot live without him, and hoping they'll be united in heaven, Elizabeth commits suicide. However, a monk tells the returning Dracula, taking one's life is against God's law and her soul is damned and she cannot go to heaven. In anger, Dracula renounces God and vows that he will arise from his own death to avenge Elizabeth's. The story then shifts to turn of the century London, where handsome young Jonathan Harker is preparing to leave for Transylvania to close an important deal for his law firm. He is replacing his superior, Mr. Renfield, who went mad and had to be locked up in a lunatic asylum after he went to Transylvania. Harker bids adieu to his fiance, Mina, promising that when he returns they will be able to afford an expensive wedding. Night has fallen when Harker arrives at the isolated, eerie, and ancient castle and is welcomed by an equally eerie and ancient Dracula. Later that evening, after Dracula has signed the papers to purchase some valuable London real estate, his eyes become riveted to a photo of Mina which Harker accidentally mixed with the documents. To Dracula, Mina is the reincarnation of Elizabeth. Harker tells Dracula that he and Mina will marry when he returns. Dracula shows Harker to his room, but when Harker sleeps he begins having strange erotic nightmares. Before long, he realizes he is a prisoner and begins making plans to escape from the fortress-like castle. In the meantime, back in London and transformed into the dashing man of his youth, Dracula arranges a chance meeting with Mina on a London street and introduces himself as Prince Vlad. Mina is at once frightened by, but charmed and attracted to the exotically handsome prince. Dracula begins his unique courtship of Mina. Mina's closest friend Lucy begins exhibiting bizarre behavior. She confesses to having erotic nightmares and odd fang-like marks have appeared on her throat. Professor Van Helsing, a doctor specializing in diseases of the blood, is brought in to see what is wrong with Lucy. It doesn't take Van Helsing long to confirm that what ails Lucy goes beyond human experience. Dracula has a formidable foe in Van Helsing, who knows how to deal with vampires. Exciting chills and action abound in the ensuing conflict between good and evil.
- Starring: Gary Oldman, Winona Ryder and Anthony Hopkins
- Director(s): Franic Ford Coppola
- Producer(s): Columbia Pictures and American Zoetrope
- Screenwriter(s): Richard Matheson
- Distributor: Columbia Pictures
- Release Date: Wednesday, October 07, 1992
Featured Animal Action
There's animal action throughout this film, shot entirely in Hollywood. American Humane was there from training, through filming, through "pick-up" shots (filmed after filming had officially wrapped). Horses, wolves and rats are the animals that are seen most prominently. Horses are seen at various times either being ridden or pulling coaches. The scene in which Harker's horse-drawn coach approaches Dracula's castle along a steep and winding narrow road was filmed entirely on a sound stage. Upon cue, the horses would go around a dirt track of approximately one hundred yards, which had been built on the sound stage. The coach was driven by trained wranglers in period wardrobe. Two wolves observe the coach. This was achieved by two wolves being placed on a mark and looking downward. To keep the wolves attention focused in the right direction, a trainer was strategically placed and made noises that attracted the wolves. A wolf's head on a sign was a fake prop. The area was dressed to look like a forest and any other visuals were added by way of special effects. The wolf area was separated from horses and people and both horses and wolves had been properly prepped to avoid any possible "spooking". When working long days with carriage horses extra horses would be brought in to switch and allow horses resting periods. In a scene in which horses are led off a rail car by actors, wranglers were close-by off camera for any emergency that would arise. The wooden ramp for the horses had wooden cross pieces on the surface for extra footing and safety. During the film's exciting climax, Dracula's brides rush at Van Helsing and we see a shadow of a horse rearing in the firelight as the three evil women beat the horse to the ground. This is all done in shadow and you don't actually see any details. To achieve this effect, a trained rearing horse responded to his trainer's cue, which was a gentle nudge and verbal cues. The horse then did a "lay-down" in a predetermined safe area, again in response to his trainer's cues. The actresses were near-by, but there was no contact between actresses and horse. Next there is a chase scene in which two horsemen pursue a horse-drawn carriage amid falling snow. The snow was, of course, artificial, and a smoke machine was also used to create the proper effect. Horses were taken off stage and rotated with look-a-like horses every half hour to allow the horses fresh air and a break from the smoke machine. Guns fired during this chase sequence used one quarter load to protect the horses' ears, which were also stuffed with cotton for further protection. Added to this pursuit scene were dogs which followed behind the riders. The dogs were released by one trainer as a second trainer called to them and they ran to the second trainer. This very complicated scene was filmed over a period of days and several different cameras and many set-ups were used. There were two stunts in this scene in which a stunt man was a photo double for the actor. In one, the stunt man is shot off his horse and dragged by the horse. This is called a saddle drag in which both horse and stunt man were trained for the stunt and there were no problems nor injuries. In the second stunt, both the stunt man and horse fall and the horse rolls over. A trained falling horse was used for this stunt. The stunt man and horse rehearsed it three times without a fall. When they did the actual fall, they achieved the desired effect on the first take and no additional takes were filmed. There were no injuries nor problems with this stunt. Rats are present in various scenes. The rat action primarily consisted of their moving from point A to point B, cued by a buzzer and motivated by the food they would find when they reached their destination. In one visually effective stunt, the monster, Dracula, disolves into a form which is composed completely of rats. This was accomplished by the use of a mock-up dummy of Dracula composed of black cloth and chicken wire. The dummy was actually a smaller and shorter version of Dracula, about four feet tall. The arms could be opened and closed. The rats were positioned on the dummy and as the rats cling to the dummy, the arms open and then the dummy falls to the floor. A buzzer is sounded and the rats go from point A on the dummy to point B, where they will find food. Foam and furniture pads had been placed under the dummy, to protect the rats when the dummy fell. A separate shot showed the rats after the dummy had fallen without any padding visible. The balance of the illusion was created with a two camera special effect. No film about Dracula would be complete without the inclusion of wolves which are present in numerous scenes. Much of the wolves' action was to cross A to B or to sit as the camera took extreme close-ups of the wolves' eyes. While Dracula and Mina are in a crowded theater, a wolf mysteriously appears and scares the people. Mina runs and the wolf snarls at her. Dracula subdues the wolf and it becomes gentle, he hugs it and Mina pets the wolf. This scene was shot in numerous cuts. Four wolves played the part of the single wolf. Most of the action was basically A to B with the wolf being released and called simultaneously by his trainers. The wolves were filmed separately and only key people were allowed on the set while the wolves worked. Quiet was extremely important. The trainer was a photo double for the actor, so that the wolf could be held while the actress playing Mina petted him. To get the wolf to snarl, the trainer gave the wolf a snarling command by hissing and the wolf responded. A second stunt involving a wolf required extensive training and preparation. It is a scene where a wolf crashes through Lucy's bedroom window and attacks her. Again, this scene was filmed in many cuts. Four wolves were trained to do the same stunt of jumping through the window. To begin with, the wolves were taught to jump from one raised platform, across a span, to another raised platform of similar height. After they mastered that, a frame was added to the span between the two platforms. Eventually, a thin plastic which had its center scored for easier penetration, was added. One trainer would release the wolf onto the first platform and the wolf would jump through the plastic to the second platform and down the ramp to a second trainer who would catch him. The wolf would be rewarded with food. The final step was to replace the plastic with candy glass which was used when the scene was eventually filmed. For the attack, the wolf's trainer photo-doubled for the actress. Off camera, trainer number one would release the wolf and give verbal commands to the wolf while trainer number two , who was the photo double on camera, would call the wolf while hiding food in one hand and then eventually giving food to the wolf. While Van Helsing is lecturing to his medical class about diseases of the blood, as part of a demonstration, he puts his hand into a cage containing a bat and allows the bat to bite him. The trainer placed the bat in a cage on a table and the actor merely opened the cage door and put his hand inside and then removed his hand and closed the cage door. For a close-up shot of the hand being put in the cage, the trainer's hand was substituted for the actor's and the trainer put his hand in the cage. Fake blood was applied to the trainer's finger as if the bat had really bitten him, but at no time was anyone bitten by a bat. The demented Renfield has an appetite for insects. A scene where Renfield eats a bug was shot in cuts and a candy beetle was substituted for a real one when the actor put the bug in his mouth. In all other scenes involving insects, the insects were placed in the desired position and then filmed crawling. In a scene intended to build suspense, zoo animals become restless and pace in their cages during a rain and lightning storm. Trainers placed each specie of animal such as baboons and ring-tailed lemurs in their own cages. Trainers gave verbal and visual cues off camera with food rewards. A special effects crew created the rain and lightning and the animals never got wet. Other animals seen in very basic action or purely as atmosphere, were dogs on leashes, snakes, and birds.