Thursday, January 18, 2007

Dracula (Spanish Version) (1931).

The Scoop:
For a short time in the early days of the sound era, before subtitling and dubbing came into their own, Hollywood studios solved the problem of supplying films for the foreign marketplace by filming alternate language versions of their productions that were exact line-for-line replicas. Many were second-rate hack jobs, but some, like this version of the Bela Lugosi vehicle, are top-notch, even surpassing the English versions.

This alternate version of "Dracula," directed by George Melford (with language assistance by Enrique Tovar Avalos), was shot after hours on the same sets as the English version. However, the stodginess of Tod Browning's film is supplanted by a gorgeous gothic mood that is only hinted at in the more well-known version. The script, too, features little flashes of the underlying sexuality of the story which never made it into the English-language version. In addition, Melford elicited stronger performances from his Spanish-speaking cast, especially Lupita Tovar (as Eva, the count's love interest) and Pablo Alvarez Rubio (as Renfield).

Carlos Villariás was a ham who couldn't match Lugosi's charisma in the title role, and Spanish speakers may notice the mismatching accents and wooden line readings. But these turn out to be minor quibbles given the excellence of the rest of the production.

The film was initially given a VHS release with English subtitles, but is most widely available now as part of the "Dracula Legacy" DVD collection without subtitles. However, the closed caption function can be used to provide English subtitles. At any rate, don't overlook this obscure gem.

Best Bit:
Renfield's seduction by the three brides of Dracula.

Side Note:
Shortly after production finished, Tovar married the film's producer Paul Kohner, who went on to be one of the most powerful agents in Hollywood. Their daughter Susan Kohner was nominated for an Oscar for her supporting role in "Imitation of Life" (1959).

Companion Viewing:
"Dracula" (1931) and "El Mundo de los Vampyros" (1960).


Take a Look:
Two scenes are available on YouTube. First, it's Renfield's arrival at Dracula's castle:

And Dracula's first meeting with Van Helsing:


Generik said...

I've read about this for years, and always with the opinion that the Spanish-language version is superior to the famous Lugosi vehicle, but I've never actually seen it. Just the fact that it is included in the new, deluxe version the DVD is reason enought to buy it. Thanks for the tip!

Generik said...

"...version OF the DVD is reason enough..."

Sorry for the typos. I hate typos.

Eric B. said...

Hope you enjoy it! That legacy collection package also includes some other great goodies, like the original Lugosi film, "Dracula's Daughter," "Son of Dracula," "House of Dracula" and a commentary by David Skal, whose written some really good books on horror film history.

If you poke around on the 'nets, you'll find that the Spanish version is definitely a love-it-or-hate-it film, with most of those in the "hate it" camp being either native Spanish speakers (if you believe them, the dialogue and delivery is almost Ed Woodian) or those who inordinately worship Tod Browning. Since I'm neither of those (even though I like Browning's work), I enjoyed it.