61 Days of Halloween: Dracula (1931 – Spanish Version)

One odd fact about the Pre-Code Era (and I believe this may have continued into the dawn of the Golden Age), that I was only vaguely aware of until I was reminded of it in the brilliant overview of Poverty Row I read; was that studios large and small would film foreign-language versions of their own titles for foreign markets. A majority of these films were in Spanish and German.

Subsequently when I went to try and find films for my Poverty Row April theme, I wanted to find some of these films but they were not readily available on the internet. So fascinated by this concept was I that I was ready to write a post about it and how some studio, if they have them in good shape, should dig these titles for a box set presentation.

I still may do that, but by chance I discovered that the Dracula Legacy Collections, which like all these sets is out-of-print but frequently available for resale, contained the Spanish version of Dracula. So I had to get it, and get it I did.

Standard operating procedure for these films was that they would use the same sets that the English-language film was using but shoot overnight while that crew was on break.

If you happen to view this film I strongly suggest that you watch the intro interview with Lupita Tovat Kuchar (confirm) where she goes into the detail. Now, when dealing with a film like Dracula the inherent fear of the foreign-language version is that it’s going to serve merely as a diversion, and be a curiosity but not have any merit of its own. This is not dissimilar to the fear about many modern day remakes; if this version isn’t offering something slightly different why have it at all.

Following that train of thought this Dracula is to the English one what Let Me In is to Let the Right One In; it gives its own spin to the tale. To be quite frank there are things about the Spanish version that I absolutely adore and think work better than the standard-bearing classic. Blasphemy I know, and many of them are film-nerdy kind of things, but I think the overall influence will be felt.

There are some shots, and edits executed differently than in Browning’s. The overall edit is quite different because I couldn’t peg an entire scene as being new but they evolved slower. Whereas, the English version has a lot breaks within lines, this film seemed to have more breaks between them, thus, more silence and added a bit to the foreboding. The lack of scoring is somewhat similar but there are some spots where a score comes in that are different, that and the music itself is a different composition.

When it comes to performance, I cannot say that someone tops Lugosi as Dracula. However, (name) does do very well. (name) as Renfield is a standout. There’s a certain raw, honesty to his persona that make his over-the-top version of the madness ring truer. Perhaps, it has something to do with the fact that there’s a less presentational, theatrical cast surrounding him so his madness, loudness rings truer. It’s funny that the Spanish-language telenovela many years would become shorthand for hammy acting, yet this cast (with some Dracula facial expressions notwithstanding) is a bit more natural.

The more deliberate pacing which allows this film to clock in at 104 minutes as opposed to 75 minutes, allows for a properly timed, more well-executed finale in my estimation. Essentially, this film under the steady hand of (name) working with his cast through an interpreted, corrected most of the things I thought needed a tweak in the other Dracula. Now, granted there are trade-offs to each, but this version is very good indeed and worthy of viewership.

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