Bust out your corsets and button up your pinafores because we’re going back to the 19th century… by way of the 1990s. In this episode, Alex and Andrea examine conflicting authorial intentions, monsters and their makers and what happens when love won’t stay dead.
Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Dir Francis Ford Coppola, 1992.
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Dir Kenneth Branagh, 1994.
Dracula Making-Of Documentary (Parts 1, 2 and 3) – Everything you could want to know (and more) about the making of Dracula.
De Niro Meets Frankenstein – Kenneth Branagh, in character as Victor Frankenstein (or so we think), interviews Robert De Niro about his career and approach to playing the iconic monster.
THE BATCAVE – Andrea’s new YouTube channel is alive… ALIVE!
BLOOD IN FOUR COLOURS book giveaway – Comment on our blog with your favorite horror movies based on comic books, and you’ll be entered to win one of 3 copies of Rue Morgue’s BLOOD IN FOUR COLOURS!
Intro song: Nail Ballet from Nightmare Picture Theatre, courtesy of James Zirco Fisher.
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Not does this episode feel like it was made FOR ME (I graduated high school in 1992, so I anticipated both of these films greatly, and was horribly let down by each, in all the ways you describe), but your announcement of next month’s movies fills me with delight. Rest assured, I’ll be talking to “you” (read: myself) in my car the entire time I listen. So excited!
Ive been listening for a little while and finally decided I might as well start commenting after the announcement about a comics-based episode (comics are my heart and soul), as well as you two delving into The Babadook next month.
I found Faculty of Horror after having decided to watch the entire Hellraiser series (having only seen the first two) last Halloween. After that quality rollercoaster I went looking for analysis of the series, in general or at least just the first two and came across your Hellraiser episode, and have been hooked ever since. I really dig the academic analysis from both modern and contemporary cultural points of view, on top of just being a celebration of horror. Just wanted to say thanks to you both for being awesome.
My parents were pretty open with the movies they allowed me to see, so I saw both the 90s Dracula and Frankenstein when they came out (I was 10 and 12 respectively), and I remember being terrified of yet fascinated with Dracula, but not understanding and barely remembering Frankenstein. Looking back, I think you hit it on the head, with Dracula being such a visual treat on top of whatever else it might be looking at it with adult eyes, and Frankenstein being almost joyless in its execution. I plan to rewatch both tonight after having listened to this episode, and see how they both stack up for me.
But yeah, excellent episode as always, cant wait for the next one!
The assessment of “Dracula” was spot on. The film was beautiful, but the acting and script were painfully bad in places. I’ve also always thought Anthony Hopkins was terrible in that film. He overacts.
I think Coppola’s film was a victim of the style-over-content trend that began in the early 1990s with Tim Burton’s “Batman,” another film with a plot that is almost incomprehensible.
As much I like gothic horror, I’ve never liked Branagh’s “Frankenstein.” I think what really spoiled this film for me was the pacing and the cinematography. Every time I watch this movie, I feel like I’m watching a feature-length MTV music video. The camera is constantly flying in and doing other erratic things that were a constant distraction.
Though Frankenstein is one of my favourite novels. Putting the book aside, Peter Cushing as Baron Frankenstein from the Hammer films is pure gold!
I saw Bran Stoker’s Dracula five times in the theatre when I was twelve, a few times on video, then didn’t see it again for twenty years until revisiting it in 2015, whereupon I bombastically declared it even better than I’d remembered. The glut of CGI in the intervening years helped renew appreciation for the in-camera trickery. And the relative integrity of the narrative makes the Hollywood horror movies of today burn into nothing in comparison. (Does anyone even remember that Dracula Untold exists?) Since the worst crime a movie can commit is to be boring, Bram Stoker’s Dracula is still a powerful success. None of the bad acting bothers me in the slightest, except Hopkins, who I want to get the hell off screen every time he appears.
By the way, what “super shitty CGI sequence” of green concentric rings were you talking about? I think you’re flat out wrong about this. There are some blue fiery rings when Harker is on the way to Dracula’s castle, which are clearly a superimposed optical effect, not CGI, and it was so brief it’s not even worth mentioning. But you guys were really bothered by it. I don’t see the problem. This effect did allow for one of Keanu’s greatest line deliveries: “I’ve seen many strange things already. Bloody wolves chasing me through some blue inferno!” Sure, he’s bad in this. But he’s a young actor trying to pull off something far outside what’s familiar. What’s Hopkins’ excuse for being so bloody awful?
I saw Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein once in the theatre in 1994, during a time when, as Andrea said, I was a BIG Kenneth Branagh fan, and hated it so much I haven’t gone back, and will not be going back. That movie and Stargate were the two big films from 1994 that were a rite of passage, making me realise that movies could be horrible nightmares of awfulness. Before then, I was a cinematic omnivore, soaking up everything. So in a way I can thank them for introducing discernment.
As far as wanting more movie versions of these stories, both Dracula and Frankenstein are such saturated ur-texts that it’s hard to imagine we’ll ever be without them in some form. However, Dracula is surely one of the most overexposed characters and should be retired for a few decades. Maybe a new Frankenstein in a modern or futuristic setting taking on board new ideas, as Andrea mentioned, such as genetics and cloning, could work. Frankenstein Unbound (1990) kind of tried something different, with a scientist from 2031 time-traveling to 1817 and meeting a real Dr Frankenstein (Raul Julia) and decidedly one-upping him in the ‘playing god’ stakes. “My meddling with forces we don’t understand is way more destructive than yours”.
I know this is already an essay, but finally: the music in these films is worth noting. Wojiech Kilar’s score for Dracula is incredible and unique, while Patrick Doyle’s score for Frankenstein is appalling and helps kill the film. Even hearing snippets of it in the clips you played made me feel ill.
I laughed out loud in my office when hearing “I couldn’t get him to stand up” Fuck this creature” in relation to Frankenstein’s rejection of the creature. So much for covertly listening to my podcast.
You talked a lot about Mary Shelley’s original work (as you should), and you even touched very briefly on her mother. If you are into historic rabbit holes, you should check out “Romantic Outlaws” by Charlotte Gordon. It is a dual biography of both Mary Shelley and her mother, Mary Wollestonecraft, that highlights the way their lives intersected despite not overlapping and the differences that made them both shockingly similar and noticeably unique. It is delightfully compelling – it has Frankenstein and feminism! And it sheds a lot of light on Ms. Shelley and how she lived her life in a way that colored her world view and led her to write such an amazing novel. Non-horror book recommendations might not be normal on here, but it’s at least worth perusing the synopsis.
I did extensive study on the novel Dracula for my Master’s Degree and I definitely love the film, so I was very excited when you announced you would be covering it on the podcast. Those blue rings Mina conjures at the castle are total crap! One might argue that those rings are a call back to the blue flames that appear in the source material and in the beginning of the movie, when Jonathan Harker is traveling in the coach to Castle Dracula.Vampires = blue flame ring powers. It is probably too generous to posit that anything that shitty was an intentional reference, but hey, the man made the Godfather so, I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.
Always a happy treat when a new episode comes out, love your show!
Ah yes, Bram Stokers Dracula. Such a pretty movie, such a guilty pleasure. (Like most things with Keanu Reeves in it.) 🙂
In my opinion, Coppola’s Dracula is maybe the most lavish cinema fairytale since Cocteau’s “Beauty and the Beast”…Or “Legend” at the very least. I simply adore Dracula’s sets, the costumes and the ingenious trickery of the old school effects and miniatures. The costume designer was an artist I admire, the late Eiko Ishioka, who among many interesting projects also worked on another horror film, “The Cell”. Eiko had some really awesome, theatrically abstract ideas which resulted in striking outfits like Dracula’s blood red armor with the bat-shaped helmet.
I also find it interesting how Gary Oldman’s appearance is always changing in the film. Constantly switching from one form to another, making his appearance seem like a vague, fluid thing. This makes Oldman’s Dracula more of a personality than a set look, which I find fascinating. I can’t think of too many other films featuring such a shapeshifting character.
As far as the plot goes. Coppola basically combines the plot of Dracula and the original Universal Monster feature “The Mummy”, the one with Boris Karloff. In that film Karloff’s Imhotep is trying to resurrect his ancient love who has been re-incarnated as a british lady.
While we talk Dracula, I think it’s also worth mentioning the beautifully melancholic soundtrack by polish composer Wojciech Kilar. Very sombre and un-Hollywood.
Rather than the dull “Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein”, I like to compare and contrast Coppola’s Dracula with Werner Herzog’s beautiful Nosferatu remake from the 70s. It’s also a stunningly pretty version of Dracula, but in a completely opposite manner. Both films share the same basic plot, but Herzog’s picture is all shot on location instead. They make for a really fun double feature. 🙂
Anyways, keep up the great work!
OK, we really need to talk about that making-of documentary for Dracula. I usually love behind-the-scenes footage for movies, and when we’re talking movie-making there’s usually going to be a certain level of pretentiousness as they talk about their “process.” But good lord I’ve never seen it this bad. Francis Ford Coppola somehow managed to not only shove is own head up his ass, but he managed to take Gary Oldman, Anthony Hopkins, and company on a ride up there as well. The highlight for me was when Bill Campbell refers to “Tony” Hopkins. Clearly they’re old chums from way back.
Pissy rant aside, I’ve been a fan of this version of Dracula and appreciate the way it seems to have weaved the Mina/Dracula love angle into the horror lexicon. It seems as though future adaptations of Dracula have incorporated that aspect to the extent that those who haven’t read the book may think that’s actually part of the source material.
As for Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, I remember seeing it about ten years ago but don’t recall much from the movie at all. Judging by this episode I’m not missing much so I may just have to go back and read the book, which I haven’t read since high school.
A year before Dracula was released, Coppola’s wife released Hearts of Darkness, about the making of Apocalypse Now, using mostly her own footage from the time. I came away with a profound respect for Coppola after seeing the struggle it took to make that film (a fave of mine, The Godfather I can take or leave). So imagine how stoked I was to see Coppola’s take on Dracula the following year. Ugh…. I had to apologize to the friends that I insisted come with me because, I told them, Coppola is a master! That still stings. It’s a beautiful-looking film but no set-dressing can hide the wretchedness of Keanu and Winona playing Brits.
I agree with your take on Branagh’s misfire with Frankenstein. He seems to have missed the entire point of the flipping book. I suppose he was too busy getting his abs in every shot.
Great job, guys! Can’t wait for next month. Cheers!
Blood In Four Colors is a great book. I’ve only just begun it.
At the 16:00 mark, Andrea mentions a “super shitty CGI” sequence that occurs twice in the film. Every single effect in the film was done practically.
I just wanted to say thank you for talking about Penny Dreadful’s version of Frankenstein. The end.
Nnnnnyeah, I just don’t see how Hopkins chews the scenery any more than Oldman. I think you really have to go into high camp mode with BSD and just roll with it. Part of what made it interesting and original was the way it channeled so many of the character’s iterations, the archest excesses of Hammer Dracula amongst them.
Know I missed the main surge of comments…but I would like to defend Anthony Hopkins’ performance. Having read Stoker’s novel numerous times, it was pretty clear Van Helsing’s character was the antithesis to Dracula in more ways than one: He was a slob, spoke badly broken English, and had no bed side manner. The Annotated version and A Dream of Dracula (both by Leonard Wolf) point out these ironies. I felt Hopkins’ performance was intentionally annoying, which explains some viewer’s strong dislike and accusations of over-acting. He’s not the hero Peter Cushing exemplified in the Hammer series.
I watched Kenneth Branagh’s Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein for the first time as a result of this episode, and I feel like it was a little more self-aware, it could have been brilliant. Up until the monster runs away and it shifts to his solo adventures, it feels like Frankenstein telling the story from Frankenstein’s pov. He aggrandizes himself, looks back on his past mistakes with disdain (hence his ridiculously fast condemnation of the monster) and has a generally nuanced view of those events. Or almost. It could have been so good!
Dracula being Vlad the Impaler and believing a modern woman is a reincarnated version of his dead wife is taken from Dan Curtis’ 1973/74 Dracula TV movie starring Jack Palance (although Universal’s original Mummy movie is basically a Dracula ripoff adding in the latter bit). Dracula having a mutual romance with Mina appears to be borrowed from Universal’s 1979 version with Frank Langella. I watched both somewhat recently as I was going through the Angry Videogame Nerd’s scorecard of book-faithfulness among 12 adaptations (I even compiled it into a CSV I could use a Python interpreter to analyze). Viewed purely in terms of including elements from the text (rather than adding things never there, like those borrowed from the aforementioned two Draculas) Coppola’s is #2 behind the 1977 BBC version (one of the four I have yet to see).
I don’t think it makes sense to say that in the film Victor rejects his creation as soon as he sees how ugly he is. He could see that before he was brought back to life. I think he wanted Waldman back, and the non-verbal helpless thing in front of him (like a baby?) wasn’t that.
I agree that Branagh’s film really fell short, but I part ways on your evaluation of the version of the creature in Penny Dreadful. From his introduction killing Proteus he just seems malicious (and the seeming immortality of such resurrected creatures later seems at odds with that death). There was a somewhat recent adaptation of Frankenstein set in the modern day by Larry Fessenden titled “Depraved”, but I haven’t seen that. I did see the PBC edutainment web series “Frankenstein M. D.” which started out better than I expected but really went out with a whimper.