December 30, 1997 in Features

Fox Hacks Too Much From ‘Dracula’

John Martin New York Times Syndicate
 

Whether you think Francis Ford Coppola’s “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” (1992) is an artistic epic or a disaster of excessive proportions, one thing is for sure: It deserves better treatment than it gets on FOX tonight at 8.

First of all, the network will squeeze a 130-minute movie into a two-hour hole. With time carved out for commercials, a good half-hour of Coppola’s film will be cut.

FOX and its affiliates should have worked out a way to avoid such major surgery.

Some cuts were unavoidable. The R-rated film contains graphic violence, nudity and sexual content inappropriate for broadcast television.

That’s too bad. Coppola’s bold approach to the vampire tale relies heavily on shock value.

He balances grand, operalike sets and costumes with almost sickening scenes of decadence and violence.

Gary Oldman stars as Dracula, made up with a bloodless pallor that would give Bela Lugosi night sweats. Keanu Reeves portrays the London lawyer summoned to Transylvania to attend to the count’s real-estate affairs.

Winona Ryder plays the lawyer’s fiancee, Mina, believed by Dracula to be the reincarnation of his own wife. Anthony Hopkins is the fearless vampire slayer, Prof. Abraham Van Helsing.

Critics savaged the film - and Coppola - for its nightmarish atmosphere and meandering script. An art critic friend of mine, however, found it to be one of the most visually arresting films he’d ever seen. What the heck, he said, we all know how the story ends.

I agree. But you may not get that feeling if you’re watching on anything smaller than one of those huge home-theater screens.

Even if you are, it won’t show you the stuff that FOX chops out.

If you want to judge Coppola’s film, spend $3 and rent the real thing.

Highlights

“JAG,” CBS at 8: Harm (David James Elliott) represents a pilot who ejects before his plane crashes and kills a woman and her child. In the process, he uncovers dark secrets about the pilot and his trainer.

Gary Graham (“Alien Nation”) guest-stars. Repeat.

“Grace Under Fire,” ABC at 8: In a first-run episode, Libby (Kaitlin Cullum) leads a protest to save a tree marked for extinction by Grace’s (Brett Butler) construction-company employer.

“NewsRadio,” NBC at 8:30: Jon Lovitz gueststars as a desperate man threatening to jump off the ledge outside Dave’s (Dave Foley) office. Repeat.

“NYPD Blue,” ABC at 10: In a gripping repeat, Sipowicz (Dennis Franz) is plagued by dreams that reopen bad feelings about the death of his son. Also, Fancy and his wife (James McDaniel, Tamara Tunie) are accosted by white police officers after a minor traffic incident. Repeat.

Cable Calls

“My Left Foot” (1989), MAX at 8: This inspiring film, based on the autobiography of Irish painter and author Christy Brown, offers a remarkable performance by Daniel Day-Lewis backed by a stellar supporting cast.

Brown’s cerebral palsy left him paralyzed, but for one limb. The film traces his upbringing in a large, working-class family and his stubborn fight to have a life.

“Football,” ESPN at 5: Oklahoma State (8-3) meets Purdue (8-3) in San Antonio’s Alamo Bowl.

“Body of Evidence” (1993), USA at 9: They’ll have to cut the best parts out of this movie. Which is to say that Madonna knows her way around a sex scene, but the rest of the film is where you’ll find the real trash.

Willem Dafoe plays a shoddy lawyer defending Madonna for the murder of her wealthy lover.

Talk Time

“Tonight,” NBC at 11:35: Actress Pam Grier and director James Cameron.

“Late Show With David Letterman,” CBS at 11:35: Actress Marilu Henner, Leila Kenzle (“Mad About You”) and comedian George Miller.

“Politically Incorrect With Bill Maher,” ABC at 12:05 a.m.: Whoopi Goldberg, Fran Drescher, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) and San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown. Repeat.

“The Late Late Show With Tom Snyder,” CBS at 12:35 a.m.: Actor Robert Urich and author Andrew Morton. Repeat.

“Late Night With Conan O’Brien,” NBC at 12:35 a.m.: Dweezil & Ahmet Zappa, and musical guest Tito Puente.

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