Friday, October 2, 2015

Deep Cuts #1: Drácula (Spanish Language Version) (1931)

Just in time for Halloween, the "Deep Cuts" series highlights horror films I think deserve a little more recognition. Not to say they're obscure by any means-- most are major releases. I just want to give them a little more love is all. Enjoy!

Index of all "Deep Cuts" entries, updated as they're posted

Drácula (Spanish Language Version)
American, 1931, d. George Melford and Enrique Tovar Ávalos

It wasn't until fairly recently that I was aware of this film, shot on overnights using the same sets as the Lugosi English language version, with the expenditure of much less time and money. Thanks to David J. Skal's wonderful book The Monster Show: A Cultural History Of Horror for the good word.

I got curious and decided to check out this version, and I wasn't sorry about it. It appears to be readily available as a bonus on DVD reissues of the original "Dracula" (I checked it out from the public library).

And you know, I have to say I really find this rendition superior, especially from a technical perspective. By all accounts the process of making this version was more efficient than that of its English language counterpart, and as will happen the result was an increase in quality.

OK, so the actors playing Dracula and Juan Harker aren't so great-- but then again, I've never been a big Lugosi fan, so I wasn't too heartbroken about that. On the other hand, Renfield and Lucy-- excuse me, Lucia-- are brought to life by far more engaging performers in this version.

And in this production we get a lot of treats in the various design departments. When the coffins open, puffs of mist appear. When Juan Harker enters the carriage sent for him, its door emits a distinctive creak. This exact creak reappears to accompany the door to Dracula's castle swinging open. Then, when we first see the Count (not counting the fact that he obviously drove the aforementioned carriage), the camera zooms in melodramatically in a manner unique to this take on the film.

If you've ever seen the Lugosi "Dracula", you've probably laughed at how weak the bat effect is-- obviously a phony puppet. In the Spanish language version, though, the bat is puppeteered and edited much more effectively, to the point where it's a far more believable element.

The delivery of dialogue in this rendition is more passionate too, which lifts the production from the staid drawing-room quality of the English-language production. The actors’ investment, plus more revealing costumes on the ladies, makes for a sexier presentation overall. Which, given the whole Eros/ Thanatos polarity of the vampire mythos, is quite effective!

imdb listing

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