Bram Stoker's Dracula: Stage Blood and Bustle Gowns
The 1992 film Bram Stoker's Dracula played at Central Cinema recently, but if you missed it, you can always get it on Netflix or in a full-but-blurry-but-free version on YouTube. A mix of visual effects, writhing ladies, and stage blood fills every moment, and the action is fragmented and artsy and swirls around like images from music videos. The whole thing is strange and mesmerizing and great, and the movie did well at the box office, although some critics hated it.
In the New Yorker, for instance, Terrence Rafferty writes that it's "ridiculous" and "it isn't very scary." And Gary Oldman, when he isn't "leering wrinkedly," fails as Dracula because he's "perfectly opaque and remote in the seduction scenes: he has no sex appeal." Perhaps Terrence missed the part when Dracula ravages Mina (Winona Ryder) after arriving in a burst of neon-green dry ice and then transforms into a pale man (sinewy, quivering) with black shirt (flowy, drifting open), long hair (arranged in soft, poetic curls), and moustache (slim but dense, pasted on). He looks creepy and hot, and I'd happily sink my teeth into his ass at any time.
In another segment, Gary wears his hair in pudgy loaves and a luxury robe of deep red satin embroidered with gold dragons. "The enormous train was designed to undulate, when he rushes about his castle, like a sea of blood," said costume designer Eiko Ishioka in Francis Ford Coppola and James Hart's book Bram Stoker's Dracula. (Eiko won an Academy Award for this collection, though Duane Byrge of the Hollywood Reporter was unimpressed: Dracula is "less a figure of destruction than a drag queen in geisha gear.")
Other notable garments include Mina's adorable daywear, a voluminous bustle gown the color of iceberg lettuce. And Lucy's lace-doily wedding dress, with its enormous, sculptural ruff inspired by the Australian frill-necked lizard. "I wanted to make sure it would look bizarre and haunting," Eiko said. And Dracula's death smock, styled from Gustav Klimt's The Kiss. With its flatness, its splayed fit, and its patchwork in vivid gold, Dracula resembles a figure from a stained-glass window.
And, from the opening scene, Dracula's meat-red, intricately corrugated armor combines medieval activewear and musculature diagrams. The outfit appears fantastic in the movie, though the plastic was immobilizing and pieces broke off during shoots. Outtake footage shows Gary complaining while walking in stiff, deliberate steps, as if he'd urinated and was taking care to not let his wet thighs scrape revoltingly against one another.
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