Jonathan Harker, ignoring the fighting that still raged around him, concentrating with the intensity of a madman upon his own unshakable purpose, had just started to cut the ropes binding Dracula’s box of earth to the wagon when the lid of the box exploded upward, and the pale-faced, white-haired figure inside burst out with a roar, grabbing for Harker’s throat. Both men, struggling, fell to the ground.
Mina screamed in horror, as her husband, swinging his great, curved kukri knife, slashed his enemy’s throat almost from ear to ear. Dracula’s blood gushed out.
And at that moment Quincey, calling on his last reserves of strength, regained his feet and came forward in a diving lunge, to plunge his bowie knife into Dracula’s heart.
The vampire’s life was ebbing swiftly, yet he still had enough strength left to fling the Texan aside into the snow. Then Dracula, still proudly erect, eyes glaring as if into a distance only he could see, legs staggering, pouring gore from heart and throat, turned away from his enemies to begin a tottering retreat toward the door of the old chapel.
Mina moved quickly to grab up Quincey’s Winchester. Then she rushed to take a stance between the dying monster and her victorious friends. To their vast astonishment, she leveled the rifle straight at her husband as he stood in their midst.
For the first time in hours—perhaps in days—Harker’s murderous expression softened.
Dracula, his face now horribly transformed, becoming a very countenance of death, turned to her also.
“Mina?” His tone was tender and loving.
For an agonizing moment she held the dying man’s gaze. Then, when Dracula averted his face and resumed his dragging progress toward the chapel, Mina backed slowly after him. Still she held the Winchester resolutely leveled at the men.
Speaking into a taut silence, she demanded of the four still on their feet: “When my time comes, will you do the same to me? Will you?”
Holmwood would have rushed at her and tried to grab the weapon away, but Harker, understanding now, put out an arm to hold him back.
“No, let them go. Let her go.”
Van Helsing nodded knowingly.
Mina backed slowly after Dracula into the dark doorway of the chapel. She never wavered in her determination to keep the men away from him, until what was about to happen could be concluded.
From inside, she pushed the massive door shut in their faces.
Outside, Van Helsing let the weapon he had picked up fall to the ground. Facing the chapel, swaying on his feet in weariness, he bowed his head, praying intensely.
Suddenly Harker cried out: “What is in there?”
Van Helsing looked up once. “It is the chapel.”
No one asked him how he knew that, any more than they had asked him how all the dried blood came on his furs; but Harker accepted the answer as reassuring.
Once more the old man bowed his head and prayed: “Rest him… let him sleep in peace. We have all become God’s madmen.”
Meanwhile Dr. Seward was cradling the dying Quincey; there was nothing more that any physician or surgeon could do for him.
Inside the chapel, Mina and Dracula had both come to rest upon the very altar steps where, more than four centuries earlier, Elisabeth’s dead body had lain.
She said now: “You cannot leave me. I want to be with you—always.” And she gripped the handle of the bowie knife still protruding from his chest, and nerved herself for the effort to pull it out.
Dracula’s own fingers, already wasted, as if by magic, to little more than bone, crept up the shaft to prevent her. His voice was only a rattling among dried bones and leaves.
He said: “You must let me die.”
She stared down into his eyes; cradled him, kissed him, tenderly smoothed his white, matted hair. “No, please. I love you.”
He shook his head, very slightly. “Mortal love can have no hold—on us. Our love will last for all eternity. Release me. Give me peace.”
Outside the chapel door, Harker was pacing nervously. Arthur Holmwood, pacing, too, stopped suddenly to pound a futile fist against the wood.
Van Helsing held up a hand, indicating to both men that they should be still.
Inside the chapel, Mina had the perception that old altar candles, dead for centuries, seemed to be lighting themselves. Perhaps it was only that her tears dimmed her vision; or that the last glories of the sunset were coming in so redly through the glass, which was still intact, of the tall window just behind the plain altar with its towering cross.
The shadow of that cross fell down the steps upon the two still-living bodies lying there.
The woman raised her body into a crouch and murmured to her beloved: “An arrow flew through my window—a message was fixed to it. And it was too much. I could bear no more.”
Slowly, weakly, Dracula opened his eyes, to see who was bending over him. He smiled… it was Elisabeth.
Again she whispered to him. “I could not bear the thought of life without my prince. But I see you are not among the dead. You live, my love.”
And now her capable hands—they were Mina’s hands, and Elisabeth’s as well—once more clutched the knife whose point lay in his still-undying heart.
Quaking, praying for strength to do what she must do, she closed her eyes and fell on him, driving the long bowie blade in to the hilt.
When Mina opened her eyes again, the face of the man beneath her was deathly still. It was quite young, and peacefully, beautifully human.
Slowly Mina got to her feet and moved toward the closed door of the chapel. At that moment Jonathan, unable to wait longer, pushed the barrier open and rushed in to take his wife in his arms. And Mina knew, by the joy in her husband’s face when he beheld her, that the snow was not more stainless than her own forehead. The scarlet curse of the vampire had passed away. The warrior prince was at peace.
* * *
by Francis Ford Coppola
I think the first Dracula film I ever saw was the John Carradine House of Dracula. I adored Carradine, with his gaunt face and how he would actually lift his cape and turn into a bat—he is my prototype Dracula…
I had read the book when I was pretty young and loved it. Then as a teenager, I was the drama counselor at a camp in upstate New York, and had a bunk of eight- and nine-year-old boys. I would read aloud to them at night, and one summer we read Dracula. And when we got to that chilling moment—when Harker looks out the window and sees Dracula crawling across the face of the wall like a bug—even those little boys knew, this was going to be good!…
Excerpted from Bram Stoker’s Dracula—The Film and the Legend by Francis Ford Coppola and James V. Hart. Copyright © 1992, Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. Published by Newmarket Press, New York. Reprinted by permission.
When I read Jim’s script, I thought he had made a brilliant innovation by using that history of Prince Vlad to set the frame for the whole story. It was closer to Stoker’s novel than anything done before…
I noted, watching all the other Dracula films, how much they held back from what was written or implied, how they played havoc with the characters and their relationships. In our movie, the characters resemble Stoker’s in their personalities and function, including many characters that are often cut out. And then the whole last section of the book—when Van Helsing is uncovering Dracula’s weaknesses, and the Vampire Killers pursue him back to his castle in Transylvania, and the whole thing climaxes in an enormous John Ford shootout—no one had ever portrayed that…
Doing justice to the complex character of Dracula was one of our main goals. He’s been portrayed as a monster or as a seducer, but knowing his biography made me think of him as a fallen angel, as Satan. The irony is that he was a champion of the church, this hero who singlehandedly stopped the Turks, and then he renounced God because his wife was a suicide and was denied holy burial. When great ones fall, they become the most powerful devils—Satan was once the highest angel.
Man’s relationship with God is sacramental; it’s expressed through the symbol of blood. So when Dracula rejects God, blood becomes the basis for all kinds of unholy sacraments in the story: baptism, marriage, and Mass…
Blood is also the symbol of human passion, the source of all passion. I think that is the main subtext in our story. We’ve tried to depict feelings so strong they can survive across the centuries, like Dracula’s love for Elizabeth. The idea that love can conquer death, or worse than death—that she can actually give back to the vampire his lost soul…