Thursday, October 20, 2011

Dracula (Spanish Version, 1931)

While Universal's DRACULA was being filmed in the daylight hours, a lesser-known classic was also taking shape as night fell on the studio backlot. In almost every way (save for Bela Lugosi's iconic performance), the Spanish-language version of DRACULA is the superior film. Using the same costumes, script, and sets as the English version, it would seem that the end result would be very similar, however there are many distinct differences that set the two films apart. George Melford's DRACULA is filled with romanticized performances from each of the expressive cast members, lead by the beautiful and enchanting Lupita Tovar playing Eva Seward (this version's Mina). Likewise, Melford and cinematographer George Robinson explore each of the sets with more artful enthusiasm than the Browning/Freund team. Carlos VillarĂ­as would star as this version's Dracula, and while he is very good, some of his more comical movements and mannerisms may have resulted from his instructions to imitate Bela Lugosi's performance. Still, he brings an air of sophistication and menace of his own that allow him to excel in the role. The Spanish DRACULA cannot be overlooked by fans now that it is available in wide circulation, and it is should be considered right alongside the English version as a classic of its era.

Rating: 9/10.

2 comments:

  1. I'm going against the currently popular grain here. Yes, the "Spanish Dracula" is certainly a crucial film in the Golden Age of Classic Horror -- but I've never accepted the notion of its superiority to the American version. Tod Browning's version has an elegance and class which its Hispanic double replaces with crude B-movie energy. Director George Melford was a hack who is being unjustly elevated as part of the ongoing trashing of Browning (which began in the early 1970's as a means to build up the reputation of James Whale).

    Individual scenes, notably Mina's confession ("He opened a vein in his arm and made me drink) and her half-vampiric seduction of Harker benefit from new intimacy but as I see it the Spanish version's only significant advantage over the Browning version is the casting of Barry Norton and the astonishing Lupita Tovar as the young lovers. Carlos Villarias is good but uncharismatic as Dracula, and the other actors are dull, with the exception of the Renfield who is atrocious.

    Rating: 8/10 **** Outstanding
    [Browning/Lugosi Rating: 10/10 ***** Extraordinary]

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  2. I have found the cinematography and acting to be far more graceful and theatrical over the strictly staged appearance of Browning's film. Lugosi simply cannot be denied praise in the role of Dracula, however.

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