Bram Stoker's Dracula Movie (1992) Synopsis Pt. I

Going back a little further here on the movies that I feel are now 90's classics, I definitely want to review this movie that I felt had good acting, really good special effects, perfect actors that matched the characters in the novel, and of course the beautiful costumes that surprisingly carried cultural and religious symbolism. I'll also talk about the comparisons between the movie and the novel itself. While the movie is tightly based on the novel, there are some contrasts that I'm sure you will find just as surprising.

(Spoiler: This is a synopsis)

The movie opens up with Keanu Reeves as Jonathan Harker, a solicitor, embarking on a long and arduous journey into the Carpathian mountains of Transylvania to meet the elusive and mysterious Count Dracula. . . . I'm sorry, that's not how it began. That was in the book.

The movie actually opens up with a viscous war going on in 15th century Transylvania, with Prince Vlad Tepes (played by Gary Oldman), killing off the enemy Turks mercilessly. Meanwhile, his young and beautiful wife Princess Elisabeta (played by Winona Ryder), receives a false report that he has died in battle and that their enemies were on their way to overthrow the castle. Mourning of the loss of her husband and fear of being captured, she takes her life by jumping out of a window and drowning into the Arges River below their Poenari Castle where they resided. When Prince Vlad returns and hears word of the death of his wife, he is enraged and blames God for her demise. As a result, he renounces his faith and declares revenge for her death by stabbing the stone cross belonging to the castle's chapel. Blood starts to pour out of the cross, and he drinks it turning him into a vampire.

I love how they collaborated both the actual history of Vlad "The Impaler", with the vampire folklore of how he became what he is well known as for today. While it's not exactly true that he renounced his faith over the death of his wife, the story of his vampirism was actually based off of negative propaganda by the Germanic tribes and other enemy territories because of how ruthless he was when it came to impaling his victims, even as far as to say that he drank their blood.

The Cetatea Poenari in Romania. The remaining castle/fortresses of the Vlad III

Fast forward to 1897, we finally meet Jonathan Harker, who is taking the place of his superior, Renfield, is on his way to Transylvania to meet the elusive and mysterious Count Dracula to close a sale on 10 London properties that he had purchased. On his way though the Borgo Pass, he meets the villagers who are kind and , but warn him of the evils dwelling in that castle and to not travel at night. Despite their warnings, he is given a cross to protect him. As the sun is setting, he transfers to another coach driven by a very strange driver. Things get rather peculiar as the driver speeds the coach though the woods like a bat out of hell and make it to the castle. He also sees a pack of wolves and hears them calling out in unison, and even stranger, blue flames that appear out of nowhere. When he finally meets the Count, he also noticed how similar he looked to the coach driver, but dismisses it and continues to work on their business agreement over dinner.

Over the next few days of staying with the Count, Harker realizes that he should have taken the villagers warning seriously. He takes notes in his journal of the castle's old interior and the lack of people walking around (save for him and the Count) as well as the strange occurrences such as water running upwards as if there were no gravity, howling wolves, shadows dancing and stalking him, and rats walking around the ceiling upside down. He also takes notice of the Count's strange behavior; not being present during the day, not having a reflection int he mirror, eating or drinking, and scaling a castle wall like a lizard! He also asks him personal questions about his love life, when he sees a picture of his fiancé, Mina Murray (who looks just like Elisabeta),  in which Harker later writes in his journal. that he began to feel conflicted.

While some of these accounts are present in the novel, there are a few things that were just made for the movie to give the viewer a great sense of how scary it was in the castle. For example, Jonathan actually keeps these observations in a personal journal and letters to Mina whereas in the movie he only writes in the Journal. The observations about the rats, shadows, and the water were mostly for special effects, and the Count seeing Mina's picture and recognizing her as Elisabeta was definitely for the film. In the novel, he knows nothing about Mina's existence or connection with Harker until much later. Also in the novel, Dracula seems to be more than excited to talk about his Transylvanian culture as well as to tell Harker everything he knows about England and even went as far as to show him his library that was full of British books he acquired. Sadly that's not shown too much in the movie. But regardless, it was definitely creepy and kept me at the edge of my seat wondering what was going to happen next. There were also other scenes in the movie that jumped back and forth such as the introduction of Mina Harker  and Lucy Westernra, as well as the introduction of Mina's suitors and the introduction of Renfeild.

One night while Jonathan was shaving with a mirror, he hears the Count but Dracula warns him to not venture freely around the castle, especially where the doors are locked, unless it's his own bedroom because of the castle's "painful memories." After a week of strange occurrences, Harker wants to find out what exactly is going on, and decides to venture the castle anyway while Dracula was "away". He comes across a door that's locked, and breaks into it. The room turns out to be a huge salon or boudoir. While searching around the room to get more of an idea of who the room belonged to, he suddenly becomes sleepy and falls into a deep sleep on the duvet. Hours later, it's night time and he wakes up to the sounds of feminine laughter and cooing. In front of him are three very beautiful and mortally frightening women.

If you look closely at their costumes, the bride on the far left has an ancient Greek style, the bride in the middle is ancient Transylvanian/Turkish, and the bride on the far right has an Arabian fashion style. 

Before Harker can comprehend what's going on, the women began to seduce him like sexually charged succubi, and rape him. To his horror, the three women turn out to be vampires! With no way of escape, he is trapped and is as good as dead. Suddenly out of nowhere, he is rescued by Dracula who tosses the blonde haired leader against the wall (the leader of the brides also known as "The weird sisters" is actually blonde in the novel and my gosh, the visual freaked me out). After a slight verbal altercation between the vampires and the Count, he tells them to bugger off and gives them a "wiggling bag" with a crying baby for the women to feed on. He also tells them that as soon as he's done with Harker, the women are free to do as they please with him. The women agree and take off with the poor child leaving a horrified Harker alone with the Count. He is told that he must remain in the castle a "little longer than a month" and to write letters to his employer, his family, and to his fiancé on specific dates. Each date and each content of the letters all being false. While Jonathan is slowly losing his mind and the fight for survival, Dracula is packing boxes of earth and having it shipped to England. The night Dracula leaves, Jonathan is told to write one final letter dating a week later than when he was writing it. Mina picks up on this and realizes something is wrong.

She finds consolation through Lucy, when suddenly a terrible storm shows up out of nowhere. Meanwhile on the Atlantic Ocean, a ship called "The Demeter" is on its way to England to deliver the boxes and other cargo from Eastern Europe. Suddenly they suffer from strange and horrible experiences, such as the disappearance and murder of many sailors. When the Demeter finally arrives to  London, a beast-like dog jumps off the the ship, leaving it completely abandoned with just the Captain of the ship tied to the steering wheel, murdered. This aspect is shown slightly in the movie through newspaper spirals (even the news report of a wolf that escaped the London Zoo is mentioned.) In the midst of the story spanning out (or speeding up), the scene quickly transitions to Lucy sleep walking in the horrible storm (that had not left) through the gardens behind her mansion. This happens a lot with Lucy, as she is prone to walking in her sleep, even in the novel. Anyway, much to Mina's concern, she follows her through the labyrinth, calling out her name when she discovers Lucy being raped by the same beast-like dog that escaped the Demeter. The "beast" then sinks its teeth into Lucy's neck and drains her, only to become distracted by the sight of Mina. The beast releases its victim and takes off to hide. When Lucy wakes up, she is bewildered of the incident, and with help, goes back to bed. Over the course of a few days (for the sake of the movie's time, the next day) she shows signs of being very pale, wan, and gasping for air. Doctor Jack Seward, who is already occupied with Renfeild's peculiarity, immediately comes to Lucy's rescue and takes her on as a patient. After close observation, he is at a loss for words of her condition and calls his former mentor, Dr. Abraham Van Helsing (Played by Anthony Hopkins) who is a metaphysician, a philosopher, and specializes in blood disorders. When Helsing arrives, he sees how grave a condition Lucy is in, and immediately does a blood transfusion.

This is an actual 1890's blood transfusion bottle. You can only imagine how large and painful the needle was.

Meanwhile, during the day, Mina is out and about in downtown London when a tall and strangely handsome Eastern European man in a gray suit and top hat, is drawn to her. As he approaches her to ask where the cinema, she shows disgust and is rather rude to the foreigner by telling him to beat it… Back then, during the late Victorian age, immigration was a big thing. While America was becoming a "melting pot", England was also experiencing change in their population. Many people were not too happy with the idea of people coming from a different country to England, and they'd often express bigotry and racism. I won't get too much into that part of history, but keep in mind that it did exist back then and consists of what this novel & movie is all about.

Anyway, realizing her error, she apologizes to the handsome man and offers to escort him to the cinema. The man of course introduces himself as Prince Vlad from Szekley. During their time together at the cinema she admits that she feels as if she knows him from somewhere before. Before Vlad can respond, he grabs Mina and inappropriately pulls her away into a secluded area where no one can see her. Mina tries to struggle to get free, but is left powerless due to Vlad's inescapable strength. He reveals to her that "he's crossed the oceans for her", and attempts to bite her neck to make her his bride (thinking she was the reincarnation of his long lost Elisabeta). Suddenly, a white wolf appears and crashes the cinema. Suddenly, everyone is running around screaming and trying to get away. To add insult to injury, the wolf spots Mina and tries to attack her, only to be rescued by Vlad who, orders the wolf to stand down and be dominated. This entire scene does not happen at all in the novel. In fact, Mina and the Count do not interact at all until much later. Regardless, I liked it mostly because it added more to Stoker's storyline, by giving  Mina more to work with. Actually giving her a conflict such as a trial of emotions that make up a love-triangle relationship between her, Jonathan, and the Count.

Going back to Lucy's condition, it's getting worse, as Dracula/Vlad visits her again, this time in human form, and drinks from her. She screams alarming both Van Helsing, and Seward downstairs, causing Dracula to escape though the window leaving droplets of blood on the white carpet. Again, the doctors conduct another emergency blood transfusion, only this time Lucy's fiancé Arthur Holmwood is involved. Helsing does another investigation and notices the bite marks on Lucy's neck, and prepares to tell the men what is the cause of her devastating illness. The men of course accuse him of being crazy, but with a sudden change of Lucy's behavior and physical health (i.e. her fangs cut into her gums, and her restlessness), they take his word for it and places more garlic around her room, bed, and her neck.

Back in Transylvania, Jonathan Harker is in a very bad situation as well as in bad condition. Alone in the castle with the "weird sisters", they continue to have their way with him and drain him of his blood to the point where he cannot run away. One morning, while they slept, Jonathan musters up all of the energy he had left, and managed to escape the castle and after a whole day of running, managed to find sanctuary at a convent called the "Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament". They contact Mina via letter saying he was safe and being taken care of, however he has suffered a violent brain fever (suspecting PTSD), and he wants her to come to him ASAP to get married. Mina of course has conflicted feelings because she is now in love with the Count. She goes to find comfort and guidance in the dying Lucy, who tells her to go to Jonathan and marry him before she loses him. As a wedding gift, she gives Mina her own engagement ring and says she won't be needing it. When Mina turns to leave, she accidentally knocks over the garlic flowers near Lucy's bed, causing her to go into a fit of rage, startling everyone. Going between being frustrated and begging for mercy, she calls on Quincy for comfort and asks him to kiss her. Before he does, her fangs elongate and she prepares to strike. Helsing pulls Quincy away and tries to sedate Lucy before she does anymore damage. Realizing how bad her situation is, he asks the gentlemen to watch after her once more for the night. Still frightened for Lucy's sake, and relieved to hear that Jonathan is safe, Mina takes the first ship to Transylvania to see Jonathan. They are married.  The Count receives a letter from Mina, breaking up their relationship. In a fit of rage and heartache, he goes after Lucy once more, killing her in what could only be described as a blood bath done by Quentin Tarantino! (Seriously, there's drums of blood splashing everywhere, and screaming and... SYMBOLISM!!!!)

After Lucy's funeral, Helsing informs the group that Lucy is not actually dead but has become a vampire herself, and they must destroy her before she resurrects from her grave. The men argue, but he reassures them that this is what would give her eternal peace. When they reach her grave in the middle of the night, they frightfully discover that her coffin is empty. Suddenly they hear someone singing accompanied by a crying child, and come face to face with this!

For the record, this is something I'd expect to see in Star Wars or the 5th Element

After they set Lucy free from damnation via steak though the heart and cutting off her head, they go back to Arthur's home to come up with a plan to destroy the head vampire. Meanwhile, Mina and Jonathan return to London only to learn of Lucy's death. One night, while having dinner with Van Helsing, he explains to the newlyweds what caused Lucy's illness and demise.

An interesting fact that, the movie left out is that over the course of a week, both Seward and Mina had given Helsing all of the written and recorded accounts that lead up to Lucy's demise. This included Jonathan's journal from his trip to Transylvania, Seward's recorded records, Lucy's journal, and Mina's transcriptions of Jonathan's journal that were illegible (short hand). The fact that Mina was on top of things, much to everyone's surprise, was pretty awesome. Even Helsing himself praised her for it, and considered her as an equal, as well as a tool that would help them destroy Dracula.

Anyway, when Jonathan realizes the vampire they're looking for is actually the Count, and tells them of Carfax Abbey, where he sleeps and where the unearthed boxes are being kept. Excited, Helsing goes to notify the rest of the group and they go on a head-hunt for both the boxes and Dracula. Meanwhile, Mina is staying at the Seward's sanitarium for safe keeping. While on a tour, she comes across Renfield, who to Seward's surprise, tells Mina that he already knows of her because of his connection to the vampire. Both uncomfortable but relieved that they have this piece of information, they thank him for his help. Before they part ways, Renfield bids her farewell and in all seriousness tells her, "I hope that we shall never meet again." Who knew, that there would be foreshadow in his words.

While the 5 are at Carfax Abbey to bless/sanitize the boxes and find the Count, Mina hears a horrible commotion downstairs in the sanitarium, as if someone (Renfeild) was in a fight with someone much stronger than him, and lost; this of course frightens her. While hiding under the covers, a mist creeps though the window and takes form of a man. The Count greets Mina which causes her to feel relieved, and yet confused as to how he got into her room. He reveals to her that he is the vampire that killed Lucy, which upsets Mina very much but still has romantic feelings for him. As if nothing else mattered to her, she confesses that she wants to be with him and live with him as a vampire. They embrace in a passionate kiss, and he sinks his teeth into her neck. He then makes an incision into his chest and gives her the choice to drink from him--in which she does. He suddenly stops her, and begs her not to, because of how much he loves her and does not want to condemn her to eternal damnation. Suddenly, they are caught by Harker,  Helsing, and the other men. Dracula escapes leaving behind a horrified and emotionally upset Mina. When Mina told the men her story, she mentions the horrible commotion that Renfield was making, and they go downstairs to investigate only to discover to their horror, that Renfield had been murdered by the Count for trying to protect her from him.

Dracula realizes that he cannot stay in England with the group after him, so he returns to Transylvania; only to have the group follow him with the help of Mina's resonance (attachment) to the vampire. When they reached Transylvania, they split up into groups. Harker, Quincy, and Seward go one way to the Borgo Pass by horses, and Helsing and Mina go another way to Varna via coach, to cut Dracula off from arriving at his Castle. While so close, Helsing continues to write in his journal and check on Mina through hypnotism and the same observation he made with Lucy; Mina's breathing becomes shallow, and her fangs are starting to come though. They decide to stop for the night and camp out, to give the horses a break. Suddenly, Mina goes into a fit of rage as she hears telepathic chanting and laughter from  the "weird sisters" who are close by; they coax her to join them as their addition. She is at first disgusted by them and resents, but as if she is under their trance tries to join them by attempting to kill off Helsing. He saves her by placing a blessed wafer on her head, instantly burning her and breaking the trance. To keep the female vampires at bay, he draws a circle and sets it on fire. Out of anger, the brides, go after the horses and kills them instantly.

The next morning while Mina is still asleep in the safety of the circle, Helsing pays a visit to the castle and takes his revenge on the sisters by beheading them and dropping their heads off the bridge, into the cliffs.

Meanwhile, the band of Gypsies who are harboring the remaining earth box carrying Dracula, are racing to the castle before sundown, with the heroes following in close behind, neck and neck. Mina sees Dracula with a set of binoculars and quickly summons a blue flame to protect her prince. As the wagon finally enters the courtyard, a Gypsy stabs Quincy in the back, instantly killing him. With the sky finally reaching dusk, Dracula raises from his box only to get his throat slit by none other than Jonathan Harker. To add insult to his injury, he is stabbed in the heart, but not enough to kill him. With Mina's help, they escape into the old chapel. Arthur tries to follow them, but is stopped by Jonathan, exclaiming that "Let them go! Our job is finished…her's is just begun."

At the resolution of the movie, Mina is sitting down with her prince who is at that moment in a bat/human/demon like creature form, profusely bleeding. As he breathes his last few breaths, he reverts back to his former self where he was once the proud Prince Vlad III from centuries ago. He looks at Mina with loving eyes, and begs for her to give him peace. She kisses him once more, and drives the sword all the way into his heart and towards the ground, instantly killing him. The burn on her forehead from the wafer disappears, setting her free. In return, she sets Prince Vlad free by beheading him with the same sword. After the deed is done, she looks up and sees a mural of Prince Vlad and his beloved wife Elisabeta together as if they both were ascending into Heaven.

The End.

Part II which is just the review will be up soon, and I promise it'll be much shorter.


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