Drácula (Spanish 1931 Version): Blu-ray Review

Starring: Carlos Villarías, Lupita Tovar, Barry Norton
Directed by: George Melford, Enrique Tovar Ávalos (uncredited)
Original Year of Release: 1931
Running Time: 104 Minutes

Imagine, if you will, that you are Universal Studios. You have erected this huge set and created this elaborate world in your own backyard. Your latest project, Dracula, will be a faithful adaptation of the stage play starring Bela Lugosi. Yet, the film will only be in English. What about the rest of the world? Why not shoot a Spanish language version at night? The cast, we will get for pennies. The sets are already built. It all sounds like a win-win, right? Flash forward a few decades and the long lost Spanish Version of Dracula is restored and viewed once again by the public. Only this time, it an audience that has adored, if not worship, the original. Guess what? The Spanish Version of Dracula is better!

Clocking in at nearly 30 minutes longer, the Spanish version of Dracula is a cinematic wonder. Not because George Melford made a longer movie, no. What Melford did with his cast of Spanish speaking actors was extrapolate and indulge in the darkness that was Dracula. Perhaps the night time shooting schedule allowed darkness into all of their hearts, but this is a different film from the one we all know. Scenes are re-arranged. Monologues make sense. Above all, the camera moves! Cinematographer, George Robinson, was not limited to re-staging Lugosi and the famous Dracula play. Instead, he is allowed close-ups on other actors outside of Dracula. This allows us into their horror and passion. Lupita Tovar, who plays Eva (this version’s Mina), is a break from the Hollywood debutants of the day and actually makes you feel something for her situation. In comparison, Helen Chandler is a cardboard box with a blonde wig. Tovar’s plunging neckline also reminds us that this film was Pre-Code Hollywood and for an international audience. In short, there is a tad more sexiness in this version of Dracula.
The film is not without its faults. The biggest is the lack of Bela Lugosi. Our Dracula, here, Carlos Villarias, is a tad goofier than one would like. Where Lugosi had the stare, Villarias looks as if he is about to break out in laughter. Where the film really goes toe to toe with its daytime competitor is Pablo Alvarez Rubio’s Renfield. Dwight Fyre made a name for himself with his portrayal, but it is Rubio’s insanity that will haunt you now.

The film has made the 35mm art house rounds as of late and Universal has issued a DCP version, as well. Amazingly enough, you probably already own the film as it has been part of the bonus content of multiple Lugosi Draculas and Universal Box Set releases for years. It’s time you dig through the movies and discover this classic you never watched before.

The film is included in the UNIVERSAL CLASSIC MONSTERS: COMPLETE 30-FILM COLLECTION Blu-ray Box Set.

8.5 Total Score

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