Sunday, October 30, 2011

Castle Miniature from Bram Stoker's Dracula

A project I've always wanted to do is build a large castle for my Warhammer Vampire Counts army.  Whether it would actually be "Castle Drakenhof" or some just other place for my von Carstein vamps to call home, it would be quite a terrain project.  A great backdrop for large battles or a setting for some epic skirmish game.

One obvious source of inspiration is Francis Ford Coppola's 1992 movie Bram Stoker's Dracula.  Unfortunately you don't really get a good look at the castle during the movie, and the only picture I've had for years was the simple screen capture above.  On a side note, the outline of the castle always looked like a man sitting on a chair to me, and I've often wondered if this was intended or not.

Just a few days ago I found these pictures on the blog site: Hollywood Movie Costumes and Props.  They are from a display at the Planet Hollywood Cafe in Las Vegas featuring a prosthetic costume worn by Gary Oldman and the miniature model of Castle Dracula.

I did a little more digging and I found the StudioSL website of Stuart Land who worked on the miniature with Matte World for the movie.  In addition to a few more shots of the castle from the movie, he includes a brief history of the model.

"Castle Dracula was sculpted in an old cabin on the side of a hill surrounded by redwood trees in downtown San Anselmo, California. I carved the master structure out of 4 lb. urethane foam from some very bad blueprints. They were bad because they was blurry and unclear and had no measurements that I can remember. The castle was six feet tall with a 2 ft x 6 ft mountain cliff base. Jack Haye, who hired me for Matte World, made all the nurnies (those cool looking model pieces hanging all over the castle), plus gave it the stone texture using a secret process, and painted it.

The idea was that the castle would by shot from only one direction, like that in the photos on this page, so it was sculpted in forced perspective, which means that it looks good from only one perspective. Well, the higher-ups liked it so much, they decided they wanted to do a fly-around, approaching from one side with the camera, move up the wall, fly above the castle, then circle around and come back down the front. No problem they said, just sculpt another castle, only this time we lost the blueprints, so you have to make it all by memory, plus it has to look perfect from every side. OK, we pulled it off.

Funny, when I first saw the miniature pics above I wondered what the back and other side looks like.  Turns out, from Stuart Land's tale above, there's nothing to see.  This also finally explains why there are no better shots of the castle in the movie.  That fly around shot would have been sweet!  Oh well...  great flim regardless.

UPDATE:  Be sure to see what Stuart Land has to say himself 
in the comments below!


  1. Good research, I look forward to seeing your version
    cheers Mike

  2. Very interesting. Great model.

  3. Just came across your site, as I'm remaking my website with a lot of updated photos of movies I've worked on. In my quote above, I actually left off a word, which I didn't notice for all these years until I read it here. The last line should read: "OK, we pulled it off." They actually did use that model for the movie and shot scenes from the front and top. I don't think they did the fly-over though. They could have shot from either side or the back, as the castle was completely finished all the way around.

    As to your speculation about the man sitting in a chair...that's exactly what it's supposed to look like. The fingers and bits that stick out all over the castle are construction rigs and cranes, but they're all falling apart. I've worked on many movies where great models and effects are ruined because of poor lighting.

    1. Thanks a lot Stuart for leaving a comment and all the additional info. Interesting stuff to say the least!

  4. Ooooh just found this post... could be something for my Empire of the Dead themed stuff...

    1. If I ever found someone else locally that was interested, I could totally get into that game! :-)

    2. It's is great fun, is a nice twist on the LOTR SBG rule mechanic - similar but different, if you know what I mean, and the setting is very appealing too... :-)

  5. Hello...I just came across your site. I was wondering if you ever built the castle? I too have wanted to build it...but the old, dilapidated version. Its great that Stuart commented! I've been to his site and have often considered emailing him to ask if he had any additional images.

    Good work!

    1. No, not yet. Maybe this fall. Things have slowed down a lot Warhammer-wise, but I'd still like to make one. Won't look like Bram Stoker's, but be greatly inspired by it.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.