#83) Drácula (1931)
O “El Hombre Que Muerde”
Dirigido por George Melford
Escrito por Baltasar Fernández Cué. Based on the novel by Bram Stoker and the play by Hamilton Deane and John L. Balderston.
Class of 2015
Read my take on the English-language version here.
No trailer, but here’s a little background on this version of Dracula.
Trama de la Pelicula: Carlos Villarías es el Conde Drácula, un vampiro de Transilvania que debe beber la sangre de los vivos. Asistido por su criado Renfield (Pablo Álvarez Rubio), viajan a Londres para arreglar el arriendo en una abadía al lado del sanatorio local. El conde se enamora de la hija Eva del médico (Lupita Tovar) y los planes para hacerla su novia siguiente. Pero el doctor Van Helsing (Eduardo Arozamena) sospecha los hábitos de vampiro de Drácula mientras estudia las misteriosas muertes que han ocurrido desde que Drácula llegó.
Por Qué Importa: Both the NFR description and the essay by Film History and Hispanic Studies professor András Lénárt discuss the history of multiple-language version films (or MLV for short) and debate which “Dracula” is the superior one.
Pero Realmente?: As a representation of MLV films, “Drácula” is tough to beat. Of the early sound films known to have an MLV, “Drácula” is the best known, and has enough key differences to warrant side-by-side viewing and comparisons. I’ll cover some of these in the “Other Notes” section, suffice it to say that both films have their pros and cons that prevent me from declaring one to be the obvious “better” one. Regardless, this “Drácula” belongs on the list.
Todo el Mundo Tiene Uno: Like many foreign actors in Hollywood, Carlos Villarías’ career consisted mostly of MLV films, as well as minor roles in “A” pictures and supporting roles in “B” pictures. Lupita Tovar continued making films in Hollywood and Mexico before finally settling down with “Drácula” producer Paul Kohner and raising two children, among them future actress Susan Kohner. Ms. Tovar lived to be 106 years old!
Wow, Eso Es Anticuado: Unlike the English-language “Dracula”, this one firmly establishes its present day setting. So let’s go with sanatoriums, as well as people who wear their cape and gloves to the symphony.
Toma un Trago: Dicen mucho el nombre del Conde. No hagas esto un juego de beber.
Seriamente, Oscars?: Like its English counterpart, “Drácula” did not receive any Oscar nominations. Of course I doubt MLV films were even eligible to begin with.
- This film’s director, George Melford, oversaw production on several foreign-language films at Universal in the late ‘20s and early ‘30s. Weirdly enough, he didn’t speak Spanish and had to rely on an interpreter pretty much the entire time.
- Among the many differences, Melford’s direction involves more close-ups and feels a little more cinematic. Browning’s version feels a little bit more like the stage version.
- While Browning’s violence is implied rather than shown, this version shows us actual bite marks! Plus you see Dracula actually get out of his coffin!
- This Renfield has more of a Gene Wilder in “Young Frankenstein” quality to him.
- Yeah, the attack on the ship is way better in this one. Less cheesy.
- Don’t think I didn’t catch that, reused long shots of Bela Lugosi.
- Oh man, the Martín in this version is also a great comic relief. It’s an embarrassment of riches!
- How did I go the entire English-language “Dracula” without making a “Werewolves of London” reference?
- The “Van Helsing Mirror” scene is a very different but equally chilling take.
- Well there’s no use prolonging it: I have to compare Draculas. No offense to Carlos Villarías, but Lugosi wins hands down. Lugosi has a stillness to his Count that helps the overall creepiness of the film. Even when Villarías is standing still he does just enough movement to take me out of it. Plus he blinks. That’s no good either.
- Eva in lingerie. No wonder everyone thinks this version is better.
- That being said, Lupita Tovar’s take on Eva is much livelier than Helen Chandler’s. Their Jonathan Harkers, however, are the same amount of cipher no matter what the language.
- Yes, the Spanish version is about 29 minutes longer than the English version, but it didn’t feel bloated by comparison. If anything, it gives everything just a little bit more breathing room. Plus, the Spanish version provides additional dialogue and character details that, while not completely necessary, do add some extra dimension to the film.
- En caso de que se haya olvidado, ¡es una Pelicula de la Universal!
- MLV films continued throughout the ‘30s, but since so many of these films were collaborations with Europe, World War II put an end to them. By the time the war ended, dubbing had become more commonplace.
- Thankfully, this version of “Dracula” is starting to get more recognition alongside the English version. Which one is better? Watch them both and find out for yourself.
- Once again, Blacula!