From The Published Archives: Bram Stoker’s Dracula

Up to this point, whenever I’ve posted something that was previously published elsewhere I’ve focused exclusively on, what I call, The Satellite Era.  From September 1993 to March 1996, I submitted numerous pieces to Mohawk College’s student newspaper, The Satellite.  I started going through all these old articles and reviews a couple of months ago when I was doing some spring cleaning (and that is a never-ending job, unfortunately).  I thought it would be fun to share with you some examples of my writing from that period and so, since early April, I started selecting and posting specific pieces that I thought exemplified my writing at its best during those years.
 
Before my College period, I attended Delta Secondary.  Recently, I went into considerable detail about my last year in that dreadful institution.  (Memories Of A Really Bad Student Council President, Parts 1-8)  I mentioned how throughout The Delta Years (as I like to call that period between September 1989 and June 1993) I was a part of a number of extracurricular clubs.  I read the morning announcements over the P.A. System, I played in the school bands (Jazz and Concert), and I wrote articles and reviews for Delta’s student magazine, OMNIA, and its newsletter counterpart, Om-Lette. 
 
OMNIA was not as sophisticated as The Satellite.  We just didn’t have the budget.  So, there was a lot of typing and photocopying.  We never had the money to dabble in newsprint.  Or colour, for that matter.
 
The Christmas 1992 issue of OMNIA was quite controversial as I mentioned in my special series because the change in Student Council became official and the way this announcement was made was done in poor taste.  (I’ll never forget how angry I was.)  I had contributed my final movie review for this publication and right beside the second half of it was the infamous announcement, “A New Executive Council”.  Both then and now, it made zero sense to put these two items together like that.  What was the thinking behind that, I wonder?  There was nothing wrong with making this announcement, of course.  People needed to know who was out and who was in.  But it should’ve been published elsewhere in the issue.  In other words, anywhere but beside my movie review.
 
It’s funny looking at the announcement today.  I think only half of the Executive were democratically elected.  The other half were appointed by a Council vote, without the input of the student body who probably could’ve cared less.  Also amusing:  my friend Shane’s last name was misspelled.  He spells his last name, “Willson”, not “Wilson”, as was published. 
 
In the thank you section of that issue, the Student Council was thanked for “overcoming the hurdle”.  Gee, I wonder what they meant by that.
 
Anyway, enough about that.  Let’s focus on the review I submitted for that issue.  There were a lot of expectations for Francis Ford Coppola’s direct adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula novel.  I remember it made a lot of money in its first weekend (about 30 million smackers) and then quickly left people’s consciousness.  I saw it at the Centre Mall Cinemas during a packed Tuesday night screening in November 1992 which also included some Delta students in attendance.  (When I saw Heather, the hot VP, with her boyfriend at the time walking down the aisle, I made sure they didn’t see me.  They didn’t.)
 
By the way, I started writing movie reviews for OMNIA and Om-Lette during my second year at Delta, starting in September 1990.  I called the column Cinema Scope, not realizing at the time that such a term already existed.  (I thought I was really cool and original when I thought of it.)  CinemaScope was the term film studios used to sell their early widescreen extravaganzas.  Because TV was becoming a highly competitive medium, Hollywood needed to do something to boost ticket sales.  Expanding the size of the screen and giving that idea a cool name seemed to do the trick.  Today, most movies are widescreen with a rare few filmed using the old school 4:3 ratio (incidentally, the same ratio for your standard, pre-HD TV sets).
 
I was terrible.  I quickly scribbled things down, (the reviews were awfully brief and rarely articulate) and submitted them hoping to be published.  (For a couple of years I had to compete for space with the paper’s then-editor, Jeremy J. Sharp, who always wrote much better reviews than I did back then.)  By 1992, after a summer of really trying to become a better writer and critic, I was slowly starting to find my rhythm and voice.  This review is probably the best of all the high school reviews that I wrote.
 
I have made a couple of small changes (mainly minor spelling, spacing and grammar corrections).  Here are the significant ones:  A classmate correctly pointed out at the time, after the review surfaced, that I misspelled the name of the character Tom Waits plays.  (It’s Renfield, not Wenfield, as I erroneously stated.)  And I’ve added the name of the actor who plays the American cowboy.  I didn’t know his name so I never added it.
 
Other than that, this review is exactly as it appeared in 1992 on pages 7 and 8 in the Christmas 1992 issue of OMNIA.  I gave the movie 3 stars out of 4.
 
One more thing:  the last line in the review – “I quite liked it.” – was stolen from a hilarious classmate named Steven Powell.  He had a remarkable talent for making ordinary lines like that sound funny.  It was the way he said things that cracked me up all the time.  (I remember he used to go on and on about Ravi Shankar and, at the time, I had no idea what he was talking about.)  The last time I saw him was on October 14, 1994, at the Centre Mall Cinemas.  Before Pulp Fiction was screened that night, he saw me and we chatted for a bit.  I haven’t seen him since.
 
 
CINEMA SCOPE
 
BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA
***
Centre Mall, Showcase, Limeridge Mall
Adult Accompaniment
Gary Oldman – Count Dracula
Winona Ryder – Mina Murray/Elizabeth
Anthony Hopkins – Professor Van Helsing
Keanu Reeves – Jonathan Harker
Sadie Frost – Lucy
Screenplay by James V. Hart
Directed by Francis Ford Coppola
 
     For nearly a century, movie directors have been altering their visions of DRACULA  in order to create a classic horror film.  From the long, stiff, black cape to the darkened hair, DRACULA became an unforgettable movie character.  The most famous vampire from Transylvania, without hesitation, was the late Bela Lugosi.  Unfortunately for him, it was the only role Hollywood remembered him by.  Now is the time to relive that memory.
     Director Francis Ford Coppola is having his say in his stylish re-telling of the Bram Stoker-based novel from 1897.  BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA is a visually impressive film focusing more on the 18th Century than other films have attempted.  Underrated (but exceptional) British actor Gary Oldman takes over the role of DRACULA.  He is truly excellent and his performance should definitely earn him an Oscar nomination in the Best Actor category.
     The movie opens in the late 1400’s.  A war is raging with no signs of a cease fire.  Prince Dracula is one of the good guys.  He is fighting as a Christian for the freedom of his people.  The story soon moves to the 18th Century.  DRACULA is an immortal who is buying some real estate in the London area.  The original agent was devoured by the now-evil vampire and his three naked gurus, but another is arriving shortly.  His name is Jonathan Harker (played by Keanu Reeves; bad call!) and he is engaged to a prim and proper woman named Mina Murray (an excellent performance by Winona Ryder).  While Mr. Harker attempts to stay faithful to his fiance, DRACULA uses a disguise in order to seek out Mina.  Eventually, a romance blossoms between the two of them. 
     Other characters in BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA include Professor Van Helsing, (a smart and comical performance by Anthony Hopkins who serves as narrator) an experienced and crafty vampire hunter who leads the crusade against DRACULA and company; Lucy, (a vivacious Sadie Frost) a sluttish woman who has three suitors; the Doctor (Richard E. Grant), an American cowboy (Bill Campbell) and her fiance (Cary Elwes); and Renfield (the gritty Tom Waits) is an insane mental patient who is a faithful follower of DRACULA.
     This is not an excellent movie.  The film contains major problems that are similiar to another visual extravaganza, BATMAN RETURNS. The screenplay does not contain a specific plot but rather a series of conflicting subplots that provide more entertainment than expected.  The ending is weak and inconclusive.  The music is wonderfully orchestrated and enchanting throughout the picture.  But the bottom line on BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA is this – it is a very good love story haunted by tense sexuality as well as spooky innuendos of death.  I quite liked it!
 
By Dennis Earl
The Movie Critic
Omnia/Om-Lette
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, May 28, 2006
3:09 p.m.
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Published in: on May 28, 2006 at 3:40 pm  Leave a Comment  

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