Logline: A centuries-old vampire preys upon a young girl and her friends.
Most people are familiar with Universal’s 1931 horror classic Dracula, starring Bela Lugosi. However, most are unaware of the Spanish language version, which was shot at the same time but featured a different director and cast. While some have made the argument that this version is superior to the English language one, I have to disagree. While an interesting film in its own right, the Spanish version is mere curiosity, not on par with its English language counterpart.
In the early days of sound film, it was not uncommon for Hollywood to produce two versions of a film simultaneously for foreign markets, using the same sets and costumes. The technology did not yet exist to successfully dub the film in another language therefore, a foreign-language version was produced. In the case of Dracula, the English film crew worked during the day while the Spanish crew worked through the night.
There are two major problems for which the Spanish version suffers greatly – 1) The actor who plays the Count and 2) the pacing of the film. In the English version, Bela Lugosi’s performance is legendary and truly, that film’s greatest asset. In the Spanish version, Carlos Villarías plays the Count and his performance is far less effective, bordering on high camp. At 104 minutes, the Spanish version is about thirty minutes longer than its English counterpart, resulting in a film that drags. Many scenes are much longer than necessary.
Despite these two major problems, the Spanish version is still worth watching. Pablo Álvarez Rubio gives a deliciously over the top performance as Renfield and he steals every scene in which he appears. Lupita Tovar, now 106 years old, gives a solid performance as Eva. There is also some superb camerawork on display, such as a tracking shot that introduces Dracula.
While some will argue that the Spanish version of Dracula is superior to the English version, I have to disagree. It suffers from pacing problems and it lacks Lugosi. Nevertheless, it is still worth seeing, for it remains a fascinating piece of Hollywood history.
Rating (out of ****): **1/2