If you want a feast for the eyes and a heartbreaking storyline intertwined with an epic adventure, ask Francis Ford Coppola. A director with an eye for detail and a passion for literary adaptation, Coppola has given us films like The Godfather, Apocolypse Now and Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992).
The latter is one of the best known, winning three of the four Oscars for which it was nominated and featuring a stellar performance from Gary Oldman as the title character. The sets, costumes and special effects recalled a much earlier time with their rich details, most of which you probably didn't even see because you were so interested in the story. Here are eight things you didn't notice about Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
8 The Color Scheme
This is an interesting feature of the film once you take note of it, but you probably didn't initially. Few strong colors are used in the film, with a few exceptions. Most of the colors are from a basic black, white and primary color palette with nary an orange or purple in sight, although green makes a few interesting appearances.
Red is reserved almost exclusively for Dracula with a few deliberate exceptions. Each color is strongly symbolic and has unmistakable connotations the viewers will recognize. Red is the most obvious, as the color of blood and lust, as white is for brides everywhere, even Dracula's.
7 Classic Effects Techniques
You can still watch this movie and not really notice that all the effects are practical, even antiquated. Coppola was adamant that only vintage effects techniques could be used in the film, and that included editing and sound.
He was so determined that he fired the whole special effects team when they told him it couldn't be done and hired his son instead. The result is that in the final cut of the movie, only the blue flames that seem to protect the road leading to Dracula's castle are CGI. Of all the criticism the movie received, nobody complained about the old-school special effects.
6 Exotic Languages
The scene that included Dracula and his brides torturing Jonathan Harker in the castle was chilling enough, so maybe you just assumed the language the women were speaking with Dracula was fictional or an exotic dialect of a modern language.
It's Romanian, which isn't as widely spoken as other Romance languages like Spanish, so it was an easy thing to miss. It's even accurate to the time period, thanks to some research done by the actresses themselves. Beyond that, did you notice that this isn't the same language spoken at the beginning of the movie, which is supposed to take place in the same castle centuries ago? That was actually modern Romanian using medieval English syntax.
5 The Use of Original Text
You don't have to be familiar with the book to understand everything that's happening in Bram Stoker's Dracula, but you might miss some interesting tidbits. If you do know the book, then you can appreciate how often the original text is integrated into the script and storyline.
Virtually all of the diary entries could have been read right off the page, including much of Jonathan's harrowing ordeal escaping the castle and the last days of the Demeter, the unfortunate ship that was carrying Dracula's crates of unholy soil. The letters are also right from the book. Bram Stoker was one of the first people to use the "found footage" technique to tell a literary story, an idea way ahead of its time.
4 The Pillow Talk
You weren't supposed to notice this, but you might have suspected something like it was going on. During the scenes in which Lucy is writhing in what seems like an erotic nightmare, she can hear a voice that we can't. He's not on a mike, but Gary Oldman, the actor who plays Dracula, is sitting nearby.
Coppola asked him to speak to Sadie Frost, the actor who plays Lucy, in a seductive way while they were filming. Apparently he said some stuff that Frost doesn't dare repeat.
3 Lucy's Head
This is a weird moment of pathos that flashes across the screen for literally a second, so if you were looking at your watch or reaching deep into the popcorn bucket, you could have missed it. The last scene we see in Lucy's tomb is an intense one. Arthur is hammering a stake into her heart as Van Helsing chops off her head. Even Quincy is having trouble with it. Dracula screams in rage.
Then we get a sudden cut to van Helsing vigorously cutting through a roast as he is sitting at dinner with Mina and Jonathan. Mina asks how Lucy died, and just before Van Helsing briefly and bluntly describes her death, we get a single last shot of the tomb, with Lucy's head sitting on the stone coffin with the four men nearby, heads bowed. In case you wondered what everyone was nervously laughing at, that's what it was.
2 A Real Wedding
Winona Ryder is never going to let anyone forget this, and we can't say that we blame her. Well, you didn't see this because you assume that what you see in a movie isn't really happening. Those aren't real vampires, bustles were actually out of style in 1897, and that isn't a real wedding.
Or is it? In one of the very few sets in the film that's not a sound stage, the wedding scene in the movie was a re-shoot that was done in a real Greek Orthodox Church, with a certified and totally authentic Greek Orthodox minister. Sorry ladies, it looks like Keanu was taken the whole time.
1 The Sound Stages
This wasn't just done because Coppola wanted to give the film an authentic vintage look, although that was a convenient excuse. Coppola fans were used to epic, on-location sets, like the ones they had seen in Apocolypse Now. However, movies like this had given him a bad name.
Local authorities often refused to let him shoot in many locations after the piping hot mess that was the set of Apocolypse Now. Movies like Tropic Thunder lampoon this story, which is legendary in cinema history. The result is the real reason Coppola opted to used sound stages for virtually every scene - he didn't have a choice.