Movie Name: Drácula
Studio: Universal Pictures
Release Date(s): March 11, 1931 (Cuba)/March 20, 1931 (Spain)/April 4, 1931 (Mexico)/April 24, 1931 (US)
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Conde Drácula (Carlos Villarías) has come to England to feast. With his thrall in Renfield (Pablo Alvarez), Conde Drácula has set his eyes on Eva Seward (Lupita Tovar). Eva’s only hope could be her fiancé Juan Harker (Barry Norton) and Professor Van Helsing (Eduardo Arozamena) who can see through the Conde’s evil plans. If Eva is not protected from Drácula, Drácula’s horror may never be stopped!
Directed by George Melford, Drácula is the Spanish language version of the famed Bela Lugosi version of Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel. The film was shot in unison with the Bela Lugosi version with the Spanish version filming at nights. The film was believed to be partially lost until missing reels were discovered in Cuba. Though the Bela Lugosi film was considered the classic version many critics see this film as a better film.
I had never seen the Spanish Dracula. I knew of it and possessed a copy for years before deciding to watch it. I was pleasantly surprised and as a fan of the original Bela Lugosi version it was interesting to compare and contrast the two films. With this in mind, I have to say that while I appreciate the film, I have a hard time liking it as much.
The movie is slightly longer and develops the plot more. Unfortunately for both the English and Spanish versions of the story, Stoker’s tale has been hacked to pieces. This is where the Spanish version is hurt. I can accept the 1931 Lugosi version that corrupted the story but seeing the Spanish version, you can see all the flaws…it is watching a new movie that’s plot isn’t very strong.
While watching, I also have to stop trying to see Carlos Villarías as trying to channel Lugosi. When the film was made Lugosi’s performance wasn’t iconic…now it is. Villarías has a lot of the same mannerisms as Lugosi but he does make the character his own. I think Lupita Tovar might be a better female lead than Helen Chandler, but I don’t think Pablo Alvarez’s Renfield lived up to Dwight Frye’s even more maniacal Renfield. I also enjoyed Eduardo Arozamena’s Van Helsing which seemed really over the top. Spanish speakers also might note that the accents are all over the place due to actors cast from a multitude of countries.
The movie does look great. This version had the benefit of shooting at nights after the day shoot of the English speaking version and could see what worked and what didn’t. The missing footage (Renfield’s seduction by the brides) is a little rough, but the rest of the film looks possibly better than most transfers of the English speaking Dracula.
Bela Lugosi is the Dracula that everyone grew up with. The imagery and the visuals are iconic. In that sense, it is a bit strange to watch Drácula since it is almost shot-for-shot the same movie. With a longer running time and better imagery, I can understand why critics like it better…but I still have to stick with the original.