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Monday, February 27, 2017

Dracula (1931) (Spanish Version)

Starring Carlos Villarias, Lupita Tovar, Barry Norton, Pablo Alvarez Rubio, Eduardo Arozamena
Directed by George Melford
(actor & director credits courtesy

The undead vampire Count Dracula travels to England to seek new victims, and focuses on the lovely daughter of the administrator of a sanitarium.

We have here a Spanish language version of the 1931 classic film starring Bela Lugosi, completely recast and filmed on the same sets by a different crew, including cinematographer George Robinson, who would go on to photograph many of the studio's subsequent horror classics.  Robinson's photography is frequently mentioned in critiques of the American version, such as in the Universal Horrors book, and David J. Skal's Hollywood Gothic, which both opine that the latter half of the film drags due to unimaginative camera setups, where in the Spanish version the photography is more  fluid.  They have a point, and there are some interesting shots in this version where Villarias as Dracula doesn't appear until the coffin creaks open and voluminous smoke fills the center of the frame.  However, the film is also interminably slow, and the scenes don't flow nearly as well into another, which Tod Browning and the American crew should be recognized for.  Villarias doesn't have the presence of Lugosi, and I can't imagine his performance having the same effect on audiences of the time, casting a much less eerie and mysterious figure, at least in my opinion.  Tovar is an improvement in her take on Helen Chandler's role, and is particularly vivacious in her scenes with Norton after she becomes a vampire as well, but Rubio overacts in a hammy performance lacking some of the subtleties from Dwight Frye's interpretation of the Renfield character.  The film is still interesting for its deviances from Browning's production, but I have to admit it tugs at my eyelids every time I watch it.

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