Dracula (1931 - Spanish Version)
dracula | based on | novel | bram stoker | drama | fantasy | george melford | baltasar fernandez cue | carlos villarias | lupita tovar | barry norton | vampire | vampires | united states | pablo alvarez rubio | eduardo arozamena | jose soriano viosca | carmen guerrero
Director: George Melford
Writer: Baltasar Fernández Cué
Starring: Carlos Villarías, Lupita Tovar and Barry Norton
This was a movie that I didn’t know existed until I was reading through the Fangoria Top 300 Horror Films List issue. They included this on there along with the Bela Lugosi version. I didn’t grow up with either of these movies so coming in to see either version, I knew that many regard this to be higher. This is only my second viewing of this movie and it is part of the Odyssey through the Ones that I’m doing. The synopsis here is centuries-old vampire Dracula (Carlos Villarías) preys upon the innocent Eva (Lupita Tovar) and her friends.
We start this version off much like the other Universal classic from the same year. We’re in a carriage that is riding through the Transylvanian countryside. Inside of it is Renfield (Pablo Álvarez Rubio) along with some other passengers. It is going too fast and it is quite rocky. When Renfield asks them to slow down, he is scolded as they need to make it to the village before nightfall.
There he informs the citizens that he needs to continue to Dorgo Pass where he will meet another carriage to take him to Castle Dracula. The townspeople are terrified as at night is when they claim vampires come out. He does get a ride and meets a carriage there. The driver doesn’t answer, but we see it is Conde Drácula. We also see him rise from his coffin. Renfield is uncomfortable and even more so when he looks out the window. The driver is gone and there’s a large bat keeping up with the horses.
When he arrives at the castle, he goes inside and is greeted by Conde Drácula. Renfield isn’t sure where his luggage or the driver went, but he ignores it. The two handle their business, which is the reason that Renfield is here. Drácula is coming to England to take over Carfax Abbey. That night he makes Renfield his familiar. The two sail for England where the count feasts on the sailors of their vessel. They arrive and Renfield is the only one found alive. He’s raving mad and taken to a sanitarium.
Drácula’s items are taken to Carfax Abbey and he goes to the opera. It is there he meets his neighbor of Doctor Seward (José Soriano Viosca). His hospital is also where Renfield is taken. Also with Dr. Seward is his daughter of Eva, her fiancée Juan Harker (Barry Norton) and their friend of Lucía (Carmen Guerrero). They get to know the count before separating for the night.
Mysterious deaths, much like on the ship, start to happen in London. It confuses Dr. Seward, especially when Lucía is one of them. He seeks the help of Van Helsing (Eduardo Arozamena) in Switzerland. He believes from the evidence it is vampires and returns with this other doctor. While Seward was away, his daughter is showing similar symptoms as Lucía. Can they stop Conde Drácula before it is too late?
That’s where I’m going to leave my recap of the movie, since if you’ve read my review of the English version; they’re pretty much the same thing. I’m going to try my hardest to not compare the two, but I will do that here in a bit. What I like here though is that we’re still early in cinema, so not everyone would know the lore of the vampire. We get quite a bit established early in the movie and then even more when we meet Van Helsing. I can appreciate that, even though I think it could annoy some seasoned horror fans.
Where I want to shift over to next is that I feel bad that both times I’ve seen this movie has been relatively close to seeing the English version. Beat for beat, these movies are very similar. Universal filmed that version in the day and then this one at night so they used the same sets. I like their forward thinking here by doing a Spanish version, but I’m assuming it didn’t do that well in the box office as this is the only one that I’m aware of. That also pushes things to compare due to how close they are to each other.
The have an issue with this version is the same I have with the English one. This is based off the play and not the novel. They do not give us the killing of Lucía, which I think would add a bit more. I just feel that it focuses a lot on the sanitarium where Eva is slowly being drained of her life while Juan argues with Van Helsing and Dr. Seward doesn’t know what to do. I don’t mind cutting out of characters and giving us a tighter cast. Having more of a subplot or more of an investigation to Conde Drácula would work better for the overall product. With the runtime being 105 minutes, it dragged, but I’m wondering how much of that is seeing pretty much the same movie with little time in between.
What I will give credit to here is that this is racier. Before the movie there was a brief 5-minute interview with Tovar. The outfits for this version show much more skin, especially for 1931. I’m pretty sure watching it this time that when Eva is in one of her nightgowns, you can see her nipples. There is more energy from the cast as well. That is a perk for this movie.
Since I was going into it, the acting should be the next aspect to go over. Villarías as Drácula is interesting as he looks a lot like Lugosi. It is interesting that we give more credit to Lugosi as Dracula and no one brings up Villarías. His performance is on par for me to be honest. Tovar is good as Eva. I love that we meet her normal, then she is lethargic from being drained of blood. That is until Drácula shows up and she perks up. There is a change over her character as well that happened late in the movie where she turns a bit bad that I enjoyed. Norton is fine as Juan. My favorite performance here would Rubio as Renfield. He plays it differently than Dwight Frye and in a way over the top with how maniacal he is. It works and I enjoyed it quite a bit. Arozamena is solid as Van Helsing and Viosca is fine as Dr. Seward. The rest of the cast rounds this out for what was needed.
To take this next to the effects, which being still early in cinema, we don’t get a lot of. There are some of the same cheesy ones that we got in the other with the spider and how the bat moves. I wouldn’t be shocked to learn they just shared that footage. What I did want to say would be with the cinematography. This is shot fine. There’s not a lot of camera movement and I don’t expect that. It is a step back that they don’t focus on the eyes like they did in the English version. I shouldn’t hold it against this movie, but I don’t feel we get the reason he’s able to control people in my opinion.
In conclusion, I rate this right up there with the English version. I like this being an early adaptation to the source material. I would have liked it more if they pulled from the novel and not so much the play. I think that the acting is good here. The effects are fine for the era. The cinematography is good, but just lacking a bit. The soundtrack also fit for what was needed. I will give credit here for Universal for taking a gamble to produce the same movie just with minorities and in their language. For me, this is above average, but just lacking a bit to the other version.
My Rating: 7.5 out of 10