Monsters & Memories #4: Dracula (1931) – Part 2 by Ed Davis

Hola Groovy Ghoulies! I have a weird sense of Deja Vu, this time around. I feel like we’ve been here before, only everything is Spanish! I had the pleasure of sitting down to the Spanish version of 1931’s “Dracula”.

This movie used the same sets and the same script as the Bela Lugosi version. Why go to all the trouble? Well, the studio executives didn’t know how to promote movies internationally back then. This movie business was still kind of new. So, they would film two versions of a film. One, for the domestic audience over here, and one for another country. “Dracula” happened to be one of those films, and it was a lot of fun to watch.

I have to give credit to director George Melford. He had no easy task. Tod Browning, the director of Bela’s version would have the set during the day, and then George and his crew moved in to film at night. His cast didn’t speak English, and he needed to use an interpreter. That had to be some tough circumstances to direct under.

The film came out to be a really different film than the Browning-helmed feature. I think the atmosphere is just as dark and creepy as the original. Some different camera angles added much to some of the scenes, and we finally get to see what the ominous Carfax Abbey looks like.

To give a better comparison, Dwight Frye played the role of Renfield in the Browning version. Renfield is the Real Estate man settling the affairs of the count, and he ends up being turned into a ghoulish creature by Dracula. Frye plays the twisted character with an almost high pitched whisper, and the madness seems very controlled, I think. I do love when we get the shot of him coming up the boat stairs, laughing. Pablo Alvarez played Renfield in the Spanish version. And I truly believed he was a man going insane. He plays the role much more over the top, and I think he nails it. It seems the actors and actresses in this version, are much looser in their actions.

Lupita Tovar plays Eva Seward, the Mina role. She seems more carefree than the Browning Mina. We actually get to see her attempt to bite John…I mean Juan Harker in this version. She portrays innocence well, but is also able to show falling under Conde Dracula’s spell and becoming more sensuous.

Eduardo Arozamena tackled the role of Professor Van Helsing, and I enjoyed his take on the character much more then Van Sloan’s. The scene where Dracula and he have their battle of the wills are longer, and Eduardo gets to struggle with the fight longer, making Dracula that much more of a threat.

As Dracula, Carlos Villarias really channels Bela. He even looks like him in many scenes. He seems to be having fun with the role, but I can’t help but feel like they told him to Lugosi it up as much as possible. It wasSpanish Dracula refreshing to see him actually come out of the coffin, unlike the Browning version. There was a cool smoke effect as El Conde would rise for the night. He doesn’t have the stare though. No one stares like Bela. And his brides seemed so much more seductive! They even get to feast on Renfield in this one.

Overall, I enjoyed this film. If you have the Dracula Legacy collection or the 75th Anniversary edition and felt turned off by the fact that the film is in Spanish, or you’re not a huge fan of subtitles, you’re doing yourself an injustice. It stands out as it’s own film, and still seemed fresh to me all these years later. Check it out.

I Vant To Bite Your FingerI was trying to find some cool Spanish Dracula toys for you this time around, and was having a tough time tracking one down. If anybody knows of one, drop me a line telling me about it, and I’ll feature it here in the future. So, I dug deep into my personal crypt and recalled this cool game I had as a kid, “I Vant To Bite Your Finger!” It had your usual board to move on, but at some point you would turn this clock, and if Dracula opened his cape, you would stick your finger in Dracula’s mouth. You would have to push on his head, and his fangs (which were two pointy markers) would bite down. Fun game, but eventually the fangs dried up, and I don’t think you could get refills. It was a lot of fun while it lasted!

So, there’s the two version of Dracula. I’m not sure if we’ll run into a similar circumstance like this again, but I’m glad I was able to watch both versions. Your comments, questions, suggestions, and stake-carving tips are always welcome. I love to talk Horror, drop me a line at Time to return to the coffin, and spool up another film. Until next time, mira el ciero or watch the skies!

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