"DRACULA: Then - I give you life eternal. Everlasting love. The power of the storm. And the beasts of the earth. Walk with me - to be my loving wife. . .forever." - From the screenplay Bram Stoker's Dracula.
This thesis can only really be dedicated to one person. He's been a great friend over the past year and, ironically enough, our friendship stemmed from the first thesis I wrote. Ladies and gentlemen, the one, the only Mr Giso Schouten!
"DRACULA: Welcome to my house. Enter freely of your own will - and leave some of the happiness you bring!" - From the screenplay Bram Stoker's Dracula.
I decided to do my second year thesis on the 1992 film Bram Stoker's Dracula. Why? I hear you ask. Three words: Gary, Oldman, Vampires. Gary Oldman has been my favourite actor for a long time but I did last years thesis on him and found out that I couldn't hand in the same thesis for my second year. Oh well. Also, for as long as I can remember, I've been a huge vampire fanatic. But anyway, there's a billion other reasons why I chose this subject for my thesis. It's a beautiful film that's well shot, well directed and well acted. Plus there's hundreds of other little things that make it really special. If you haven't seen this film, I highly recommend you try and get hold of it. And if you have seen it, watch it again!!
"VAN HELSING: From Transylvania arose a Roumanian knight of the Sacred Order of the Dragon - Vlad The Impaler, known as Draculea." - From the screenplay Bram Stoker's Dracula.
The legend of Vlad Tepes aka Vlad The Impaler is almost as old as time itself. Bram Stoker used the image of Vlad The Impaler as his inspiration for Dracula. Vlad Tepes was a 15th Century Wallachian prince who was famed for his military exploits and cruel punishments against the Turks. He was known as 'Tepes' which means 'impaler', his favourite form of punishment (he would impale his enemies on huge stakes.). But it didn't stop there. Other cruelties that he used included dismembering, skinning, blinding, castrating, boiling them alive and exposing them to wild animals. His father Vlad II was also known as 'Dracul' or 'devil'. Vlad Tepes was known as 'Dracula' meaning 'son of 'Dracul.' Dracula's youthful experience of slavery in Turkey taught him a lot about the enemy. He learnt the language, their politics and their cunningness in battle. It also gave him a taste for the harem and shaped his main characteristics: suspicion and vengefulness. He may have seemed cruel to us but in Romanian peasant folklore his was a brave warrior defending his country, ruthless to the rich but a friend to the poor. According to many books, Dracula was married twice. His first wife apparently committed suicide which the screenwriter of Bram Stoker's Dracula, James V. Hart, used as his inspiration. Vlad Tepes died in battle in 1476 aged 45. It varies from place to place on how he died but many accounts agree that he was decapitated. He is buried at the Monastery of Snagov near Bucharest. Yet, a few years ago, his tomb was opened and found to be empty. Peasants claim to see his ghost rising from a neighbouring lake.
In the film, Dracula's wife commits suicide. Screenwriter James V. Hart came up with a fascinating story which is also part of the Dracula legend. In 1462, the Turks were in danger of killing of Dracula and his family. So, Dracula, his family and a few followers took shelter in his mountain retreat on the Arges River. Castle Dracula is located at the source of the river. According to legend, a Roumanian slave in the Turkish army managed to climb up to the castle and fire an arrow through a window. Attached to the arrow was a note telling Dracula to escape while he could. His wife found this note and took it to her husband. She told him that she would rather be eaten by the fish in the rive than be captured by the Turks. It is rumoured that she then ran up to the tallest tower and hurled herself to her death in the raging river below. There are many versions of the story and the one that was used in the film is this one. Dracula was away at battle, and the message falsely told his wife that he'd been killed. She then threw herself to her death. Apparently, the river in that area stills run red and local folklore believe that it is the blood of the dead princess. (The real cause of the river's redness is that bricks from the decaying Castle Dracula have fallen into the river causing it to turn red.)
"VAN HELSING: I take it that we are all acquainted with the extra ordinary facts in these most incredible journals?" - From the screenplay Bram Stoker's Dracula
Bram Stoker was the author behind sixteen books but it is Dracula which has stood the test of time (there's the 'lost' chapter of Dracula called Dracula's Guest. It can now be found in most copies of Dracula). Stoker was born in Dublin in 1847. He was a sickly child and, though out his childhood, his mother entertained him with Irish ghost stories. While at Trinity University he compensated for his sickly childhood by becoming a star athlete and honour student. After graduating, he took a civil service job but was later to become fascinated with the theatre. For a time he was the drama critic for the Dublin Mail and loved Walt Whitman's poetry. Eventually he met Sir Henry Irving, "his real life vampire," as George Stade notes. Stoker eventually became the manager of Irving's Lyceum Theatre in London. He worked at this job tirelessly fot 30 years. In that time, he still managed to find time to write his fiction and earn a degree in law.
"DRACULA: I have offended you. I am only looking for the cinematograph. I understand it is a wonder of the civilised world." - From the screenplay Bram Stoker's Dracula.
Bram Stoker's Dracula was released in 1992. It took nearly $200 million world-wide at the box office. This was impressive seeing as it was made for $40 million. The story behind the film was that while he was out at battle, Dracula's wife received a note from the enemy saying that he had been killed. Unable to live on without her Prince, she had leapt to her death. Dracula had arrived back at his castle to find his wife dead. In the madness of it all, he renounced God and became determined to avenge her death. Four hundred years later, Jonathan Harker is sent to Castle Dracula to secure a deal. The deal is secured and Dracula goes to London where he finds the lady he believes to be the reincarnation of his dead wife, Jonathan Harker's fiancée, Mina. This chapter aims to look at the director and the actors behind the film.
Francis Ford Coppola first came face to face with Dracula with the John Carradine film House Of Dracula. When he was fourteen he saw the 1931 version of Dracula staring Bela Lugosi. While working at a children's holiday camp, he read the original Dracula to a bunkhouse of eight and nine year olds. The boys adored the book especially the part where Jonathan Harker sees Dracula crawling down a wall like an insect. Of Francis Coppola, James V. Hart says "Francis is a writer. He is steeped in literature. He's a historian, an inventor, a man who has one foot in the nineteenth century and another in the twentieth century. He understands structure - how hard it is to get those scenes to work on paper and that they don't just show up the first time." Bram Stoker's Dracula hails Coppola's return to the horror genre that marked his entry into the world of feature films. In 1963 he wrote and directed Dementia 13. Of Coppola, actor Gary Oldman says "I've enjoyed working with Francis tremendously - on the floor, in the moment, he's at his best. Someone once said, and it's true, that it's like he knows what the characters are thinking."
James V. Hart was the writer behind the screenplay. Hart's first exposure to Dracula was through the campy Dracula films from England's Hammer studios. He says that his first attempt at a vampire script was titled Pom - pom Girls Meet the Wolfman and was about a squad of voluptuous vampire cheerleaders who encounter the Wolfman during homecoming weekend. When he began writing Dracula in 1977 his first move was to seek out Leonard Wolf, a well known expert on the subject of Dracula and then head of English at the San Francisco State University. As his career 'sputtered and flashed' as he puts it, agents would ask him what he was interested in. When he said "Dracula", doors would slam shut in his face. Then Winona Ryder passed his script onto Coppola who then called Hart's agent. Coppola and Hart began working on it in March 1991. And the rest, they say, is history.
Gary Oldman hails from Britain and was cast as Dracula. His first encounter with the vampire was at the age of five when he entered a fancy dress contest as Dracula. He came dead last! Oldman is known for his intense preparation and, in preparing for the role of Dracula, he read many books including Anne Rice's Interview With The Vampire. The book left him with a sense that vampires do exist but are not happy with their immortal fate. Oldman came to see the character of Dracula as a fallen angel and a tortured soul. He enjoyed the cocktail behind it all, showing the parallels between good and evil. He didn't want to play him as out and out evil. Associate producer Sushi Landau recalls the screen tests "As we were watching Gary's playback, we got chills. It was singular and mercurial. He had a tremendous weariness, which none of the other actors who read for the part had. Dracula has been around for four hundred years. He's totally isolated and lonely, and Gary made that real."
Winona Ryder played a key role in bringing James V. Hart's script to the silver screen. She had been reading scripts, looking for a character which went beyond the teenage characters she had been portraying for so long. She was looking for something stronger and found it in the character of Mina, the woman who finds herself drawn to Dracula but who winds up joining the Vampire Killers in tracking him down. Ryder had been destined to have a part in another of Coppola's films but had to turn it down. While at a meeting with him, she left him the Dracula script and was surprised and delighted when he said that he wanted to direct it. She says "I think Francis and I liked the same things about the script, which was very romantic and sensual and epic. . .It's not really a vampire movie. To me it's more about the man Dracula, the warrior, the prince. He is unlike any other man - he's mysterious and very sexual - attractive in a dangerous way." Winona was named after her birthplace, Winona in Minnesota. She read Dracula in junior high school and says that she's kept a journal pretty much through her whole life (the book Dracula by Bram Stoker, takes the form of journals). For her role as Mina, she had to master an English accent and proper Victorian etiquette. On her character, she says "She's (Mina) very independent for her time. She has strength and intelligence, but her connection with Dracula is uncontrollable."
Anthony Hopkins played Dr. Abraham Van Helsing, the head Vampire Hunter. The character of Van Helsing was created as Dracula's nemesis and Hopkins was perfect casting. When asked to play Van Helsing, Hopkins said yes before he'd even read the script because he wanted a chance to work with Coppola. When talking about the character of Van Helsing, Hopkins says, "I think he's been down into the depths. He's done everything and seen the face of terror and death, and then comes out on the other side; he knows the nature of evil."
Other people included in the film were Keanu Reeves who played Mina's fiancee Jonathan Harker, Richard E Grant who played Doctor Jack Seward, on of Lucy's three suitors, Bill Campbell who played Quincy Morris (another of Lucy's suitors), Cary Elwes who played Arthur Holmwood (the last of Lucy's suitors) and Tom Waits or played the lunatic, Renfield.
THE MAKING OF BRAM STOKER'S DRACULA
"DRACULA: Astounding. There are no limits to science.
MINA: How can you call this. . ."science"? Do you think Madame Curie would invite such comparisons? Really!" - From the screenplay Bram Stoker's Dracula.
Bram Stoker's Dracula used a lot of 'old fashioned' techniques, especially in the area of special effects. Coppola really didn't want to use modern technology to help make the film. Instead, he wanted the costumes, sets and most of all, the actors to tell this story. Some of the most fantastic special effects used was the prosthetic make up which, for Gary Oldman, makes up at least seventy five percent if his character. In some scenes he would be seen as a wolf, in others as a bat or an old man. Admittedly, after the first day in both the bat suit and the wolf suit (an attack of claustrophobia in the bat suit resulting in make up guy, Greg Cannon, ripping him out of it), he handed it over to a stunt double. The old age make up took four hours and consisted of 12 pieces on the face and five on each hand. At one point, Oldman suffered an allergic reaction to the make up and was rushed to hospital. Today, as in the film Lost In Space with the character Spider Smith (also portrayed by Gary Oldman, ironically enough!), this would all be done by computer. But Coppola didn't want to let modern technology get in his way. About the effects Coppola said "We didn't have the budget to compete with the big movies (Bram Stoker's Dracula was made for $40 million) that use electronic and computer effects. So we decided to use our own naive effects, and that would give the film almost a mythical soul." This included using such effects as running the film in reverse, manipulating the frame of gravity and multiple exposures. Also explored were mirror effects, using 50 - 50 mirrors and angled mirrors, with images controlled by lighting. This, explained second unit director, Roman Coppola (Coppola's son), all went back to the patented stage illusion of Pepper's Ghost.
Another aspect of the film was the magnificent sets. Originally Coppola wanted to shoot the entire thing with black drapes, minimal sets and clever lighting. But the whole thing turned into broken castles, winding corridors, Victorian London and country mansions. Incidentally enough, at the same time that he was creating the Dracula sets, Tom Sanders was also destroying the sets to the previous film he had designed for, Stephen Spielberg's Hook. They had 58 sets on 9 soundstages. All were based at Sony Studios (the legendary former MGM lot.) Because Coppola hadn't liked the ideas of earlier set designs, Sanders had a late start. He says that they didn't have much time for preliminary drawings but the sets that he created were magnificent. Perhaps the most his most important creation. Coppola had strong ideas about the set: "What if Dracula's castle is partly ruined - if parts of it had crumbled and were shored up with some more modern structure? Maybe Dracula, who was in touch with the scientific innovations of his day, hired someone like Gustave Eiffel to prop up his castle with steel?" This idea was translated into the film, creating Dracula's crumbling yet forboding castle. Sanders says that he benefited from Coppola's experimental ways. One day, the director stopped by Sanders office with a book of Japanese origami and said, "Can we make sets look like this?"
Something that Coppola wanted to stand out and make his film unique from any other Dracula made was its costumes. He hired Japanese costume designer Eiko Ishioka to design the magnificent that appeared in the film. For the character of Dracula she came up with the basic colour scheme of red, white, black and gold. Each and every costume was designed to be totally unique and to have never been seen before. . .ever. She wanted to cause a fresh sensation every time Dracula was seen. One of the hardest costumes to create was the man - beast which is seen right at the beginning of the film. She created an armour which had the apperance of a wolf which she says would reflect the military genius in him. The armour was made to look like muscle as seen in anatomy books. The colour of it was red, the colour that signified Dracula (with one exception; Mina wears a red dress later on in the film.). Gary Oldman's first fitting in the armour was also the day that they were to shoot one of the scenes with it. No - one knew how it would react under the stress of action and, obviously, pieces flew off from time to time. As Gary Oldman says, "They kept coming in with the soldering iron and welding me back together." Of the costumes, Eiko Ishioka says, "Costumes must have enough force to challenge the actors, the cinematographer, scenic designer, and director. And at times, the costumes should challenge the audience and make them think about why the actor is wearing that costume." Of course Eiko was able to bring to a unique Oriental feel to the costumes, mingling East and West perfectly. For example, some of the Victorian dresses made with Japanese obi (sash) fabric. Like the director, she uses a lot of visual sources for reference. But, as she says, "reference is only reference. I never use a design element straight from the source." The costumes she created also represented different things about the characters. Red, as I've mentioned before, is reserved for Dracula. It symbolises blood and passion and the only other exception is when Mina wears a red dress when she dances with Dracula at Rule's Cafe. Mina's clothes are mainly green, reflecting her youth, simplicity and naiveté. During the party scene Mina and Lucy wear similar green dresses. The only difference is the embroidery. Mina's is of leaves and Lucy's is of snakes. Every costume used in the film is one - of - a - kind and Eiko knows that they should have had duplicates of everything but they didn't have the budget.
To me, it's little things, like they way they shot the special effects, using such naive ways, that makes the film that little bit more special and magical. In today's world of big budget movies, where computers are used, Bram Stoker's Dracula would properly be considered as low budget. But that's what makes it so special is that what seems like such a small budget now a days made a beautiful, creative and overall thoughtful movie. I was also blown away by the costumes. They were so unique and beautiful that I felt drawn into the movie.
THE CURSE OF DRACULA
"DRACULA: I am nothing. Lifeless, soulless - hated - feared. I am dead to all the world. Hear me: I am the monster the breathing men would kill! I am Dracula." - From the screenplay Bram Stoker's Dracula.
In 1997 Bram Stoker's book, Dracula, was one hundred years old. Celebrations were held all over the world but mainly in the port town of Whitbury in Yorkshire, home to both Dracula and Bram Stoker. Over those one hundred years the character of Dracula has inspired many books, films, TV shows and other strange and wonderful products. In America there is a cereal called Count Chocula and on the popular TV show, Sesame Street, The Count has taught many a child to, surprise, surprise, count. For young children, who aren't aware of what Dracula does in his spare time, he can easily be turned into a cartoon image. Make him tall and very pale with a long black cloak lined with silk and have him say, 'I vant to drink your blood' and kids have a bad guy who is part comic and part scary. But for the adults among us, explaining Dracula and vampires in general is a little more difficult. We want to know where they come from, how they're created and why they have a persistent hold on our psyches. Concerning Dracula, we want to know how a character described by the author as an old man with grey hair, bad breath and hair on his palms has been transformed into a dashing aristocrat who steps out of his coffin to seduce desirable young women. But most of all, we want to know why Dracula and vampires continue to fascinate us. A very good place to start would be the book Interview With The Vampire. Not about Dracula but it concerns a man called Louie who is brought into the world of the vampires by another vampire called Lestat. It describes, in detail, the life of a vampire in Victorian New Orleans. If you don't have the patience to read the book (like me!), watch the film which is a fabulous retelling of the story. One film, which I should mention (although I haven't seen it, just read a lot about it) is the 1922 film, Nosferatu. This film was an unauthorised adaptation of Stoker's novel. If I remember rightly, shortly after this film was released, Stoker put on a stage play of Dracula so that he could claim rights to it. But, there are a number of books and films which are worth watching. Some of the best, in my opinion, vampire films were the Hammer Horror films. Filmed in the 60's and 70's they mainly stared Christopher Lee as the dashing count and some buxom beauty as his love interest. From what I can gather, from the few that I've seen, the story line is basically the same. They all seem to be wound around the Dracula theme, obviously. But what makes them great is the way that they were made. You can blatantly see where it was shot on a sound stage and you can tell when night was shot in the middle of the day. The special effects aren't up to much which is what makes them such a great series of films. Obviously, other people have other opinions. Anyway, I should properly talk about the book behind this entire piece, Dracula by Bram Stoker. Dracula is what is known as a Gothic novel. Gothic novels became fashionable in the late eighteenth century and were meant to scare their readers. Dracula is classed as on of the last Victorian Gothic novels, being published just before the end of the Victorian era. All Gothic novels had one thing in common and that was the fact that erotic experiences were linked with fear. Gothic novels covered the themes of incest, perversion and sexual violence that were either missing from or dealt with at arms length by mainstream novels. Also, Gothic villains or villianesses were always members of nobility or people of wealth and power. Stoker covered both of these. Dracula came from a very wealthy and also noble background. The eroticism of the book is tame by today's comparison's and you really have to read between the lines to find it. But the book is beautifully written, taking the form of journals and letters written by Jonathan Harker, Mina Murray, Van Helsing and Jack Seward. If you ever get the chance to read it (not watch the film!) do so as you won't regret it. You will have read one of the most important books of the 19th (and 20th) Century. Ever since it first came to print in 1897, Dracula has never been out of print. You can find any version in any high street bookstore and it has been translated into hundreds of different languages.
"We want no proofs. We ask none to believe us. God be thanked that all has not been in vain - the curse has passed away." - Dracula by Bram Stoker.
When I started writing this thesis, I had no idea what to write as a conclusion. I still don't! I hope that somehow I've helped you to appreciate the work that went into the film and also the history behind it. I've been a history fanatic for as long as I can remember but I had no idea what I was going to write. Luckily, there are a few people out there who went out of their way to give me a hand. They've all been listed in the thank you section. Once I put my mind to it, I found it easy to write, partly because I've seen the movie about fifteen or twenty times. I looked all over the world for information. A box of stuff concerning the movie (including production notes, stills and a copy of the second draft of the script) was mailed to me from the USA. Some of the information came to me via my friend in The Netherlands. And some of it I knew already. This movie inspired me to write screenplays of my own and I suppose I wanted to give something back by writing about it. But most of all, I love the film. When I first saw it, I was blown away by the work that had been put into it. Everything from the acting and directing and costumes down to the little things like props and visual effects, everything held something for me. I felt like I was being taken away to another world and another time. I remember writing some thing based on the film for an English class a few years ago. It also fired my own interest in vampires and the uniqueness of their world, a world which I myself have wished I could live in. Once I had seen the film for the first time, I began to research it and collect information. This was a long time before I started to use the Internet. Not only that, but I also started to collect things to do with the Victorian era (both the film and the book are set in the 1890's) and to do with vampires. My bookshelves are now lined with books on both subjects and my computer is filled with files and e-mail messages concerning everything to do with the film, the era and the subject matter. The film (and a friend, who knows who they are!) was also the inspiration for the name of my Gary Oldman mailing list. While at school, I used the designs of the costumes as an motivation for some work in an art class. So, as you can see, it changed my life. Just a little! It still has a special place in my heart as one of those movies that you never really forget but when you see it again you see new things. That's what I like about it. Whenever I watch it, I'll always find something new in it, something I've never seen before. And the film is also unique. It is said to be the most faithful adaptation of Stoker's book even though, when you've read the original book, they seem nothing alike. But I love it and I just wanted to share what I have seen, learnt and experienced through this film with others. I know that it may be published on the Internet for other fans of the movie to read. Anyway, I hope that I have brought a little of my world into yours.
Bram Stoker's Dracula - The Film and The Legend Francis Ford Coppola and James V. Hart Newmarket Press
Dracula Bram Stoker. Wordsworth Classics
Bram Stoker's Dracula - The Novel Fred Saberhagen and James V. Hart Pan Books
The Essential Dracula - The Definitive Edition of Bram Stoker's Classic Novel Leonard Wolf, Editor. Plume
Bram Stoker's Dracula Gary Oldman, Winona Ryder, Anthony Hopkins, Keanu Reeves 1992 American Zoetrobe
Bloodlines - The Making Of Bram Stoker's Dracula
Dracula Bela Lugosi 1931 Universal
The Dark Side Of Gary Oldman http://home.worldonline.nl/~giso/oldman.htm
Lost In CyberSpace (My website!! Can you believe I'm taking information for my thesis from my own website?!) http://members.tripod.com/~Queen_Paradox/oldman.html
Images and all other information courtesy of Giso Schouten: firstname.lastname@example.org
There are a number of people I'd like to thank:
KC Lancaster for the box of Dracula stuff she sent me from the States.
The members of my Gary Oldman mailing list, The Vampyre's Kiss, for putting up with me for the past few months.
My close friend, Giso, for the past year of friendship and for being there to catch me when I fall. My "real life vampire."
Mum and Dad for letting me fill my head with rubbish!
My close friend, Renee, for letting me whinge and for all the girlie chats!
My face to face (as opposed to computer) friend, Helen for the past 6 or so years of friendship.
Medea, Sarah (jerklady), Joyce (joyce1976), Jules (jules349), Isa, Chia (nadja), Mollie, KC and Doug - my on-line Gary Oldman friends.
Also thanks to the following bands for keeping me awake!: Garbage, Gin Blossoms, Better Than Ezra, Fun Lovin' Criminals, The Offspring and the Beastie Boys (thanks Andy!).
And of course, I couldn't forget Gary himself - for being the inspiration behind this piece because I couldn't submit another thesis on him!
(Copyright - Rachael Gilliver 1999)