Author Topic: Thoughts on Spanish Dracula (1931)  (Read 480 times)

Barlow

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Thoughts on Spanish Dracula (1931)
« on: October 15, 2021, 09:13:46 PM »
Unbelievably (considering I've had the Universal Dracula set for years and years), I've never bothered to watch the 1931 Spanish version of Dracula. I tend not to like having to read subtitles, which is a being reason I never bothered. Over the years, I've read articles and reviews where people have claimed that in some ways it's superior to the 1931 Bela Lugosi version. So the other day I watched it. I was really excited to find out what was different about it. Of course, for 50+ years now, Bela Lugosi (for me) is Dracula. As much as I love Christopher Lee's Dracula movies, when I think of Dracula, I picture Lugosi. So sure, there's gonna be some bias.


I honestly thought I'd like it more. Even accounting for not enjoying reading subtitles and half a century of loving Lugosi in the role, I just didn't like the Spanish version anywhere near as much as I expected to. The best way I can explain it is that if I watched it on its own, without ever having seen the original Lugosi version, I would like it a lot. No doubt. But comparing it to the Lugosi version, and even accounting for the aforementioned bias, I thought it wasn't that good. Lugosi is clearly far more sinister, creepy, menacing. The actor in the Spanish version looked more like a crazy, lunatic type character to me, with his eyes bulging out. He just didn't convey the same deadly menace Lugosi did. He looked wild, dangerous, sure. But not menacing and frightening the way Lugosi was.


And then we have Renfield. Dwight Frye damn near steals the show in the Lugosi version. If we compare the laughing when they first discover him as the sole survivor in the ship, the Dwight Frye laugh conveys far more insanity to me. Sure, the Spanish version actor had a great laugh - a more maniacal, hysterical laugh. It definitely conveyed his craziness. But not compared to the English version, where Frye portrays a more broken psyche type crazy. It was just more chilling.


In the scene where Harker arrives at the in and is attempting to go on to Borgo pass to meet the Count, I thought the scene in the English version was far more effective.


And so on and so forth. To me, the acting in the English version was far better, as was the dialogue. Granted, some of that may be due to translation issues, but generally I thought the dialogue was far, far better in the English version - far better than can be explained simply by subtle issues with language differences in translation. For example, when Renfield first arrives at Castle Dracula, the scene with the giant spider web and Lugosi saying "The blood is the life, Mr. Renfield"...to me, the English version was short, to the point and said all that needed saying. The Spanish version seemed too "talky" to me. Excess verbiage.


I did like some scenes that showed different angles of the castle in the Spanish version. I did like the scene at the beginning at the play where Dracula is shown taller than Dr. Seward, as opposed to how they filmed the English version that made Dracula appear shorter than Dr. Seward because of how they were standing on different levels.


But I can't comprehend how anyone would think the Spanish version is better. Good, yes. Better, no way. What about the rest of you?

Barlow

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Re: Thoughts on Spanish Dracula (1931)
« Reply #1 on: October 15, 2021, 09:15:19 PM »
Also, some of the characters just looked weird to me in the Spanish version. Dr. Van Helsing, for example, looked like he was drawn by Richard Corben!

aura of foreboding

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Re: Thoughts on Spanish Dracula (1931)
« Reply #2 on: October 16, 2021, 12:21:06 PM »
Anyone who thinks the Spanish version is a superior effort is kidding himself. 

Sir Masksalot

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Re: Thoughts on Spanish Dracula (1931)
« Reply #3 on: October 16, 2021, 12:53:48 PM »
There's a theatrical screening coming up next weekend. I'm anxious to see it again.


Lunkenstein

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Re: Thoughts on Spanish Dracula (1931)
« Reply #4 on: October 16, 2021, 01:51:31 PM »
I pretty much agree, Barlow. I enjoyed finally seeing it when I first got the 1999 DVD release.  It has some interesting shots and different views, which were cool, but Lugosi will always be my Dracula. 
Paul

segeorge

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Re: Thoughts on Spanish Dracula (1931)
« Reply #5 on: October 16, 2021, 07:30:08 PM »
I watched this a little over a week ago for only the second time. It's probably impossible to judge the movie on its own merits. I think it is more atmospheric than the Browning version, beginning with the opening titles. We don’t get the flower girl kill in London but we do get Van Helsing and Harker leaving a cemetery after staking Lucia (“Lucy”). One of these days, I really should watch them back-to-back. I think Villarias is a very good Dracula, although there are scenes where he just doesn’t match Lugosi, especially the scenes with Edwardo Arozamena’s Van Helsing. Arozamena is serviceable, but he’s no Edward van Sloan (and the description of him as a Corben illustration is 100% accurate). I think the rest of the cast are just as strong as the Browning version, although Barry Norton (Harker) and Lupita Tovar (Eva) may be a little more engaged than David Manners (Harker), especially, and Helen Chandler (Mina). The sets are shown off to better effect, Dracula gets a mist effect, and not featuring an armadillo in Dracula’s castle was a wise move.



Lazarus

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Re: Thoughts on Spanish Dracula (1931)
« Reply #6 on: October 17, 2021, 11:53:32 AM »
I still think they should have done Villar Dracula merch for the period they were on the outs with the Lugosi estate.

LaettnersLegacy

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Re: Thoughts on Spanish Dracula (1931)
« Reply #7 on: October 28, 2021, 06:50:19 PM »
I read on the Wiki that filming a Spanish version off hours was common.  So why is Spanish Dracula the only famous Spanish classic I’ve ever even heard about?
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Mike Scott

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Re: Thoughts on Spanish Dracula (1931)
« Reply #8 on: October 28, 2021, 08:43:22 PM »
So why is Spanish Dracula the only famous Spanish classic I’ve ever even heard about?

"The Cat Creeps" (1930) was another Universal movie with a Spanish version. (Both versions are lost.)

It was quite common in the early sound days (before the tech was available to dub films in other languages) to make Spanish and French versions for those markets. Laurel and Hardy starred in their own foreign language versions by learning the dialog phonetically. (Who else would you get to play L&H?)
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Earth 2 Chris

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Re: Thoughts on Spanish Dracula (1931)
« Reply #9 on: October 29, 2021, 08:13:18 AM »
I watched the two in theater back-to-back when Fathom showed them a few years back. I think the Spanish Film is a better looking film, and much more cinematic than the rather stagey Dracula. Yes, I know this horse has been beaten to death about Dracula, but its true. Once Dracula gets to London, it becomes the stage play on film for the most part.

But...the Spanish version doesn't have Lugosi. And Villarias interpretation is way too broad, and honestly quite humorous. He keeps making a face like something on set smells bad for one. No offense to him, but he wouldn't even make a good understudy for Lugosi's masterful Dracula.

In a perfect world, I would love to see Lugosi in a film that has the atmosphere and kinetic energy the Spanish film has. But the English version wins on the cast alone. Lugosi, Frye and Van Sloan are fantastic in Browning's movie.

Chris

GeekDragon

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Re: Thoughts on Spanish Dracula (1931)
« Reply #10 on: November 04, 2021, 01:34:27 PM »
A friend of mine told me about the Spanish version over 30 years ago.  Before that, I never knew about it.  He said it was a better version.  Believe it or not, I still have yet to watch it, even though I have the DVD and Blu Ray's with it.  I keep meaning to watch it, but never do, don't know why.   One of these days.......... 
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LundyAfterMidnight

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Re: Thoughts on Spanish Dracula (1931)
« Reply #11 on: November 09, 2021, 03:50:57 AM »
I don't feel that it's better than Lugosi's at all, but it's very good & worth a look.
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John Pertwee

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Re: Thoughts on Spanish Dracula (1931)
« Reply #12 on: November 13, 2021, 01:20:52 PM »
I read on the Wiki that filming a Spanish version off hours was common.  So why is Spanish Dracula the only famous Spanish classic I’ve ever even heard about?

They discontinued the production of these movies due to the technological advances made before the rest of the Universal Monster movies were made. 

LaettnersLegacy

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Re: Thoughts on Spanish Dracula (1931)
« Reply #13 on: November 18, 2021, 08:23:56 PM »
Ah. That makes sense
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