Bram Stoker’s Dracula – tape 1801

This tape starts with the end of an Armand Assante movie called Fever. 

Then, we get a movie that everyone remembers, and got well reviewed, but which I remember not liking very much, Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

It starts with a prologue showing how Gary Oldman’s Vlad the Impaler turns his back on God after his wife dies. I do like Oldman’s armour, bright red and textured to look like exposed muscles.

Body Armour

The shadow puppet representation of Vlad’s battle is slightly less successful, though. It really does look like an ‘artful’ solution to a lack of budget to stage a decent ruck.

But there’s some gorgeous matte paintings on show – not that the Sky broadcast and VHS recording does it particular justice. They’re from Mike Pangrazio, one of the masters of matte painting, who worked a lot for Industrial Light and Magic before starting his own company, Matte World, and now, I believe, works for Weta Digital. I think he did the famous painting that ends Raiders of the Lost Ark, the huge factory full of crates, along with many others.

Matte Painting

Fast foward four hundred years, and we meet the mad, insect eating Renfield, played by Tom Waits. I’ve never liked Renfield as a character, but at least by getting Tom Waits to do it, you’ve got something out of the ordinary.

Tom Waits

Then, for contrast, we meet Jonathan Harker, played by Keanu Reeves. He makes a game try at the English accent, but it’s off just enough to strike a very false note.

Keanu Reeves

His fiancee Mina is played by Winona Ryder.

Winona Ryder

Jonathan has to travel to Transylvania to help with the business dealings of the mysterious Count Dracula, a journey he undertakes by means of montage and journal entries read out. I guess this isn’t bad, since the original novel was presented as journal entries, and this is purporting to be ‘faithful’ to the book, but it still feels a bit clunky, although a bit more honest than having exactly the same exposition spoken in redundant dialogue between characters.

I’m quite enjoying the deliberate artifice of a lot of the film’s effects, like this lightning that’s clearly hanging just behind the characters.

Thunderbolts and Lightning

I don’t think I’m seeing this movie to its best effect on a muddy, pan & scanned VHS copy, though.

When Harker arrives, we finally meet Dracula. He’s not looking bad for a man who’s 400 years old.

Gary Oldman

He’s rather taken by Harker’s photograph of Mina – because she looks remarkably like Dracula’s own dead wife.

Richard E Grant plays Seward, the doctor who is looking after Renfield at the asylum.

Richard E Grant

His security guards appear to be minecraft characters.

Seward Security

In Dracula’s castle, Jonathan is visted by some female vampires, and sees some rather nasty baby-related goings-on.

Mina’s friend Lucy goes for a midnight stroll in a wispy scarlet nightdress and meets with a wolfish Dracula, newly arrived.

In this version, Dracula can walk around in the daytime. I wonder if that’s from the books (I confess I never read the book). He’s also looking a lot younger.

Young Oldman

Anthony Hopkins plays Van Helsing

Anthony Hopkins

When Mina writes to Dracula to tell him she’s going to Romania to meet Jonathan, and will never see him again, he doesn’t take it well. He does more snotty crying than Juliet Stevenson in Truly Madly Deeply.

Snotty Crying

So he goes back to Mina’s friend Lucy (Sadie Frost), and she goes full vampire.

Sadie Frost

Then he turns his attention to Mina, and seduces her, but Van Helsing and team interrupt him. He turns into a large bat thing, then into a lot of rats.

There’s more running around, until finally Dracula and Mina are together, and it’s Mina who kills him in the end.

After the movie, recording switches, and there’s the end of the Nine O’Clock News. Then a trailer for Common as Muck.

Then, we have a programme not listed in my database, Paul Merton Live at the London Palladium.

As well as Merton, it features Richard Vranch.

Richard Vranch

And another familiar Merton character.

Dolphin Chicken

BBC Genome: BBC One – 27th September 1994 – 22:20

Incidentally, this was recorded on my 30th birthday, my last birthday before I met my future wife.

There’s a trailer for The Three Tenors 1994.

Then, the 1994 Come Dancing international final, in which the UK was beaten by Holland.

BBC Genome: BBC One – 27th September 1994 – 23:20

There’s a trailer for Inside Story and one for Victim of Love.

Then the start of The Drug Wars: Camarena. The tape ends during this programme.


  • trail: Tomorrow on Sky
  • trail: Ordeal in the Arctic/Midnight Heat

One comment

  1. I think it was Kim Newman who pointed out how tone deaf Bram Stoker’s Dracula was because Coppola made it a love story, whereas the original book is about lust. Scary lust. Looks nice, but for a horror movie it’s a bit drippy.

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