User Reviews (75)

Add a Review

  • gftbiloxi11 June 2007
    Language was no barrier to Hollywood in the silent era: title cards were easily translated from English. When sound began to roar, Hollywood began to fear the loss of its foreign markets--and so, for a brief time, the studios occasionally produced two versions of certain films, one in English and one in another language, most often German or Spanish. Such was the case with the 1931 Dracula.

    According to film historian and author David J. Skal, producer Paul Kohner fell in love with Mexican-born actress Lupita Tovar (they later married), and his romantic interest prompted the suggestion that she star in a Spanish-language version of the film. When the English language cast wrapped for the day, the Spanish language cast arrived and worked through the night using the same sets.

    Most of Hollywood's foreign-language duplicates were forgotten as quickly as they were released, but the Spanish Dracula would be the exception. Todd Browning, who directed the English language film starring Bela Lugosi, was extremely uncomfortable with sound technology. While the first fifteen minutes or so his film are exceptional, the movie thereafter becomes a filmed stage play--and a very choppy and rather unimaginative stage play at that. Instead of simply duplicating Browning's set-ups, producer Kohner and director George Melford set out to best him, and when the Spanish version debuted most viewers declared it greatly superior to the English version.

    And in many respects it is. Whereas Browning's version is visually flat and rather slow, the Spanish Dracula is visually exciting, and although it is considerably longer than the English version the pace never drags. It also has it all over the Browning version in terms of editing, and it has a cohesion the Browning version completely lacks. The supporting cast is also quite fine, with Lupita Tovar a standout, easily besting Helen Chandler's remarkably tiresome performance in the English version.

    But the Spanish Dracula has a problem, and it's a big one: actor Carlos Villarias, billed here as Carlos Villar. Villarias had a respectable film career throughout the 1930s and 1940s, but he met his match in Dracula; where Lugosi intoned, snarled, and endowed the vampire with an elegant evil, Villarias goes through the film with a series of expressions that lead one to believe he has just encountered an overflowing toilet. His flaring nostrils and disgusted glances are so incredibly out of place that they quickly become unintentionally hilarious.

    Lugosi's performance, of course, is generally considered the ultimate statement of the role, and with good reason. In a perfect world, we would be able to snatch Villarias out of the Spanish Dracula and insert Lugosi in his place; the result would be a truly amazing film from start to finish. As it is, however, we are stuck with Villarias, and frankly he bites.

    The VHS release of the Spanish Dracula is out of print, but the film is available on the same disk with the Universal release of the more widely known Todd Browning version. By and large the film quality is remarkably good; it has not, however, received a digital remaster, and at least one of the reels would greatly benefit from it. If you are a fan of 1930s horror, you'll find it more than worth the effort, but I suspect more casual viewers will be reduced to hysterical laughter by the Villarias performance.

    GFT, Amazon Reviewer
  • If my facts are straight, this much touted Spanish version of "Dracula" was considered lost for many years until its rediscovery in the 1970s--upon which many a critic and film historian flocked to view this rare "gem" & seemingly all at once proclaimed it better than its more famous English cousin.

    Perhaps the novelty of finding this similar, but in many aspects different alternate take on the Tod Browning classic led to such clamoring, though given the many years in which viewers have been accustomed to videotape & now DVD--in which a back-to-back comparison of the two films is a very simple exercise--the fawning many do over Melford's 'Drac' seems a bit in the extreme, particularly such critical observations of how Melford upstages the English film "scene by scene, shot by shot". Having recently viewed both films, it's my opinion that a shot-for-shot comparison doesn't prove very detrimental at all to Señor Browning.

    For instance, the much raved about moving camera of George Robinson doesn't really show much more mobility than Karl Freund's. Yes, there is the shot of the camera roving up the stairs in Drac's castle, but aside from that & a few other minor instances, Melford & Robinson keep the camera as still as the oft-derided Browning. Btw, I found it more than a bit amusing that the critters Browning has roaming around the cellars of Dracula's castle--the opossum and bug escaping from a miniature coffin--were retained by Melford.

    The really big difference in movies is seeing the different angles which Melford shot many of his scenes from & how he makes more use of the outside portico in many of the later drawing room scenes. For those of us familiar with the Lugosi film, this can make for an interesting visual variety, but does this really equate to "better" or "masterful" directing?

    It's not my intention to slam this version of Dracula. I think any horror fan should give it a few looks to see how two different production teams can interpret a single script & put their own creative twists on it. From that standpoint, the Spanish "Dracula" is required viewing, but hardly the "scathing critique" of its English counterpart that many have proclaimed it to be.
  • The Browning/Lugosi 'classic' has always been one of my favorite Universal horror films but, ever since the simultaneously-produced 'rival' Spanish version resurfaced, the 'original' has taken a beating by fans and historians alike - mainly because the latter features superior camera-work! This, however, is the ONLY area where it can lay a claim to be better in when compared to the US version (the fact that leading lady Lupita Tovar had a sexier wardrobe than Helen Chandler shouldn't even be considered, I guess). Still, the fact that on the DVD the opinion that the seminal US version is the inferior one seems to be shared by quite a few people hasn't done it any favors! I remember being impressed by the Spanish version when I first watched it in 2001, singling out for praise the performance of Pablo Alvarez Rubio as Renfield and, of course, George Robinson's cinematography. However, coming back to it now, I felt that Rubio's hysterical rendering of the character (which reminded me of Gene Wilder in YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN [1974] of all people!) was nowhere nearly as nuanced as Dwight Frye's unforgettable characterization in the US version. Regarding the "superior camera-work", I guess this is true for individual sequences (Dracula's introduction, for instance) but, frankly, I never felt that Karl Freund - a pioneer of the moving camera - had somehow been restrained by Tod Browning, who admittedly wasn't very fond of this technique. Given that of late we've also been faced by the ridiculous assumption that Browning didn't actually direct the film, he couldn't have - since he wasn't even there!! It may be however, that since frequent Browning collaborator Lon Chaney (who had been slated for the title role) died before shooting began, the director sort of lost heart in the project - coupled also with the fact that the script was rather talky, another element with which Browning felt uneasy! Well, whatever went on behind the scenes, for me what's in front remains one of the highlights of the American horror film - from the marvelous dialogue (especially as delivered - each in their own unique way - by Lugosi, Frye and Edward Van Sloan), irreproachable performances (Frye and Van Sloan were at their best, while Lugosi only ever really came close with THE BLACK CAT [1934] and SON OF FRANKENSTEIN [1939]) and memorable individual scenes (the entire first act set in Transylvania, the confrontation scenes between Dracula and his nemesis Professor Van Helsing, Renfield's various ravings). The tame ending may appear anti-climactic to most people but I honestly was never bothered by it! If anything, this was remedied in any number of ways in subsequent outings...

    Which brings us back to the Spanish Dracula: like I said, the film is an interesting and altogether pleasing 'alternate' to the Lugosi version...but it is fatally compromised by the inadequate leading performance of Carlos Villarias, whose bulging eyes and feral snarls can't hold a candle to Lugosi's definitive screen vampire! This version does go to places where the American doesn't (Browning shies away from the vampire attacks, for instance) and even features 'new' scenes like the aftermath of the vampiric Lucy's demise - but, at 104 minutes (a full half-hour longer than the US version, when considering that they were following the same script!) it's way overlong for its own good. The Browning/Lugosi version is often criticized for its sluggishness but this one actually moves at a snail's pace: take, for instance, the famous scene where Dracula is exposed by the mirror - Lugosi knocks the box down immediately, while Villarias takes forever to do so (even if his resolution is effectively flamboyant nonetheless).

    A word about the DVD quality: disappointingly, the Spanish version features closed-captions (for the hearing-impaired) rather than proper subtitles. As for the US version, the print utilized for this particular transfer (which differs from that of the original, and more satisfactory, 1999 release) is a bit too dark for my taste and the dialogue sometimes was hard to catch due to the incessant hiss on the soundtrack! It also reverts to the 'original' single groan during Dracula's staking (instead of the elongated variant available on the earlier disc)...but does feature a bit of music at the end of the Opera sequence, which had been missing from the previous edition!! Well, this only means that it's worth keeping both copies of Dracula as neither is really definitive...
  • I have read most of the comments on the spanish version of Dracula, and I have two hypotheses as to why can anyone say this is a better version than Browning's: 1.- YOU'VE BEEN INFLUENCED BY THE INTRODUCTORY DOCUMENTARY IN THE DVD VERSION - I also saw the documentary and was very excited to hear that this version was better and I can almost say that I was looking at it with the intention of finding the better version no matter what reality said, but the movie was definitely NOT better than the Browning's version. 2.- YOU DON'T SPEAK SPANISH - Folks, if you spoke spanish, believe me!!! you would understand how BAD this version is. It is so badly spoken (i hope not as bad as my english ;-) ) and so KITSCH!!!! it is incredible that anyone can say this is a good version.

    Having said this, I would like to comment on the film: Perhaps there is one or two scenes better directed if by "better directed" you mean a better use of film language (i.e. the "Children of the night" scene), but in general Browning's Dracula remains a classical version for a good reason: it is better. The acting is so bad that it becomes very difficult to see through it a good directing... but directing means not only moving the camera, but also to direct people, and in that sense this movie fails miserably. I am very sorry I am so blunt, but I feel I need to shake you all in order to wake you up.
  • Klaatu-1823 September 2000
    Dracula, in Spanish.

    I saw this version several years ago thanks to a local film festival. They had recently reconstructed a copy and were about to re-release it.

    In a wonderfully cost-effective move this was filmed, using the same sets and the same script as the famous Bela Lugosi version. Swing-shift filmmaking.

    Even though my Spanish is very weak, I know the original. And hearing "I never drink... wine" or "The children of the night! What beautiful music they make!" is still chilling no matter what language.

    And the director of this version made different choices from the Lugosi version. One scene that was particularly effective: Dracula walking through a mass of spider-webs without disturbing them.

    Eight stars. See it if you can.
  • This alternate 1931 Spanish language version of the familiar Transylvanians' story was shot throughout the night, using the same Universal sets that the American production utilized during the day. Some buffs consider it superior, at least in a technical sense, but for this viewer, it was at least comparable to the Lugosi classic. Not really scary, per se, but atmospheric, literate, and fun.

    The Count, played with a rather goofy charm by Carlos Villarias, comes to London to rent Carfax Abbey, and works his spell on local beauties such as Eva (Lupita Tovar) and Lucia (Carmen Guerrero). Those brave souls willing to fight him are asylum administrator Dr. Seward (Jose Soriano Viosca), Evas' handsome suitor "Juan" Harker (Barry Norton), and the determined, knowledgeable vampire hunter Van Helsing (Eduardo Arozamena).

    Running approximately a half hour longer than the Lugosi / Tod Browning version, this is admittedly rather plodding, and thus not to all horror fans' tastes. For a while, it consists of more talk than action. But the characters, and performances, are entertaining, with Arozamena frequently mugging for the camera, Villarias keeping that silly smile on his face, and the majority of the cast playing it quite straight. Pablo Alvarez Rubio is wonderful as the nutty, bug munching Renfield; Dwight Frye may be more iconic in the role, but Rubios' performance is no less amusing. Some people will appreciate the attire of the ladies in this version, which is decidedly sexier.

    An effectively roving camera operated by George Robinson is certainly an asset, with credited director George Melford and company making full use out of the existing sets.

    Two years later, leading lady Tovar (who only recently passed away, at the impressive age of 106) married associate producer Paul Kohner.

    Seven out of 10.
  • utgard1414 February 2014
    Spanish-language version of Dracula filmed at the same time as the English-language version. While Tod Browning directed that one during the day, George Melford would direct this one at night using the same script and sets. Many consider this to be the superior version of the two, at least from a directing perspective. This film has a more polished look in most scenes than its English-language counterpart. The direction isn't as stiff or stagey as it often is with Tod Browning's Dracula. To be fair, however, director George Melford had the benefit of watching Browning's footage so he had a template with which to work and improve upon. This version is also longer by almost half an hour. There are no added scenes but each scene plays out longer with added dialogue. Often it's just a case of an extra shot or two per scene, with Melford taking his time and building tension. The added length is good and bad . Good because it allows for scenes to play out properly without feeling rushed, as sometimes was the case with Browning's film. Bad because the added time is mostly added dialogue, which makes the long stretches with little action seem interminable. There are also more sound effects in this one as well as bits of music. It helps things considerably, especially in the creepy castle scenes.

    The ultimate shortcoming with the Spanish version of Dracula is the cast, particularly the lead actor. Bela Lugosi, for all his hamminess, was an undeniably menacing presence in his film. Comical-looking Carlos Villarías seems a poor imitation, with his constant crazy eyes and goofy smile. It's hard to take him seriously, let alone find him a threatening or alluring character. Pablo Álvarez Rubio is good and probably a better actor than Dwight Frye, but somehow his Renfield is less memorable in comparison to Frye's over-the-top performance. Eduardo Arozamena is decent as Van Helsing but he lacks Edward Van Sloan's screen presence. The guy looks like Eugene Levy! The only solid improvements in the cast are in the romantic pair of Juan and Eva (John and Mina in the other). Barry Norton is a more grounded actor than the theatrically-inclined David Manners. Lupita Tovar is much sexier and livelier than Helen Chandler's pallid Mina.

    It's certainly a great movie and not just a curio. Stronger in some ways than Browning's Dracula but weaker in others. I would say they're both about even, with a slight edge to the Browning version simply because of the iconic performances of Lugosi, Van Sloan, and Frye.
  • Let's get real: there are only two reasons the reputation of the original Dracula has remained intact into the 21st Century - Bela Lugosi's performance and as a monument to camp/nostalgia of a certain kind. In all other respects, it is at its best competent, in its worst moments dreadful. While admittedly atmospherically moody in design, it is ridiculously slow, and, with the exception of Lugosi, the acting is hilariously bad. Does Lugosi's strangely ethereal, other-worldly performance save the show. Yes; on the other hand, goth-nostalgia grows ever more wearisome as the years wear on.

    Despite a legend perpetrated by Universal Studios itself, that the Spanish language version of the film produced simultaneously with the original was shot by shot the same with different actors, the Spanish Dracula is a completely different interpretation of the same script. The lighting is better, the camera work more fluid and more professionally handled, the editing is far more advanced - indeed the look of the film would put it in the early '40s if we didn't know better. Adding to this impression of being ahead of its time is the acting - naturalistic, emotive, performed by a cast with a considerable repertoire of facial expressions and vocal intonations at their disposal, most utterly believable.

    Finally, there is the redefinition of just what the 'horror' of Dracula really amounts to. Lugosi's presence in the original is heightened by the portrayal of a British middle class environment that is hopelessly banal. Here, the environment is given a warmer glow, but the real horror of the vampire is that he is a beast in aristocratic disguise, seething with barely suppressed violence. Pay special attention to the ship voyage sequence: in the original this is mostly about a storm in which Lugosi stands literally unmoved by the rough waves battering the ship. In the Spanish version, the sequence is about the direct confrontation between the Count - hungry, gloating sneer on his face, crouched, about to pounce - and the unbelieving sailors, with a soundtrack provided by a truly frightening screech of laughter from the mad Renfield.

    A note must also be made concerning the sexuality of the two films. The implicit sexuality of the original is really largely legend, derived almost solely from Lugosi's own impressively suave charisma. The makers of the Spanish version have not left the matter to the chance of casting - the women are thinly dressed, and Dracula's approach to them openly seductive - this especially becomes clear in one scene where Dracula steps between the heroine and her fiancé, utterly ignores the fiancé's presence and speaks to the heroine in the soothing, caring tones of a lover! I'm not saying the Spanish Dracula is anything more than a well made B-movie - but it is an exceptionally well made B-movie, probably the best of its era - a real classic that stands the test of time on the virtue of its rugged performance and professional polish.

    Give honor to Lugosi's historic performance - but pay homage to a nearly lost masterwork of genre cinema, the Spanish language Dracula, 1931.
  • preppy-331 August 2004
    Shot the same time as the English version of Dracula, this Spanish version was shot on the same sets during the night. Some people consider this superior to the English version. In SOME ways it is.

    The English version was badly directed by Tod Browning...but it was Browning's first sound film. His direction (which was great in the silents) suffers from having to have the actors speak into concealed microphones. Also the camera seems rooted to the spot. The Spanish version however was exceptionally well-directed. The camera moves and the director seems very at ease with using sound. Also the first appearance of Dracula in the English version was badly handled--in the Spanish one it's actually very good and a little frightening! Also we find out the fate of Lucia (Lucy) in this one. And the plots with Renfield and Eva (Mina) are more fleshed out . And Pablo Alvarez Rubio gives a good performance as Reinfield. AND the girls wear more revealing nightgowns:) But that's about it.

    This film is VERY slow (it runs 25 minutes longer than the other) and the acting isn't that good. The man playing van Helsing overacts (badly) and Barry Norton and Lupita Tovar are just OK as Eva and Juan. But Carlos Villatias is all wrong as Dracula. He tries but he can't carry the role. His villainous looks are actually rather silly and he totally lacks the screen presence of Lugosi. If that had teamed this director with the English cast there might have been a GREAT movie. But, unfortunately, it didn't happen. I do give this a 7 though.
  • This Spanish version of DRACULA is interesting and odd, running nearly a half-hour longer than the English version with Lugosi. It was filmed by Universal simultaniously with the Lugosi version, using the same sets but with a Spanish-speaking cast. The Lugosi version was filmed during the day, and the Spanish version was filmed at night.

    Carlos Villarias is excellent as Dracula. There is more use of sound effects in this version, with doors creaking and other moody sounds along the way that are not in the English version. Also, the costumes for the women are more revealing.

    Lugosi still has the upper fang as far as being ominous, especially with that one-of-a-kind accent. But Villarias does a great job as the blood-thirst Count, especially with the use of his eyes, giving a very spooky look to the old boy. This is an enjoyable alternative version of the venerable classic.
  • The Spanish-language Drácula (1931) is frequently said to be better than the simultaneously shot, English-language Dracula. I find this odd.

    The performances of Villarías, Rubio, and Arozamena are much less affecting than those of Lugosi, Frye, and Sloan. I'll readily grant that Rubio's behavior is more like than of a typical madman than is Frye's, but *realism* precludes vampires in the first place.

    The acting of some of the bit players in Drácula is poor. The lighting is simply thoughtless illumination. Continuity is ignored *ab initio*; for example, does Conde Drácula emerge from the coffin of Count Dracula (as shot by Freund or Browning), or from a packing crate?

    There are various points at which Drácula *is* better than Dracula. Holes in the script of Dracula are generally plugged in Drácula. While Sloan's acting is superior to that of Arozamena, the English-language script requires him to be unbelievably ineffectual. (Watch Sloan pause on the steps to explain that there is no time to lose, and then continue *walking*!)
  • Unusual film in that it is a Spanish language version of the Bela Lugosi film, made at the same time and on the same sets as the 1931 film, only with an entirely different cast and crew. Actually, it was directed at night, while Tod Browning made his during the day. Plot is exactly the same, though differently staged, and in some ways is an improvement, being more atmospheric and effective, even though it is nearly 30 minutes longer! What's missing is a lead actor with the talent of Bela Lugosi, and that's a big deal. Universal Studios apparently did it this way once, and resorted to dubbing in the future, which would certainly be simpler...
  • The Spanish-language version of Bram Stoker's novel was filmed at night on the same sets as its Lugosi-starred American counterpart, with what looks like Universal's unit for Spanish-language comedy shorts. We get to see what looks like the Mexican versions of Mabel Normand, Charlie Chaplin, and Harold Lloyd go through the vampiric rituals. Contrary to rumour, it is certainly inferior in acting, tone, and pacing to Tod Browning's version. The Browning version may have less plot (probably Universal's editors had instructions to cut length to allow for extra showings and to cut out the dead weight of Browning's lethargic pace, which worked with silent gothics but not so well with sound), but its got much better actors putting in much better performances. Medford's film may be a better directed film than Browning's "Dracula" in terms of modern film tastes, but so is your average "Francis the Talking Horse" movie, and they're not true classics either. Browning's "Dracula" is, irrefutably, a classic. That's my two cents on the supposed controversy over which version is better (I guess I disagree with most of the posters on imdb), which to me is as obvious as it could possibly be.

    The nice gothic set pieces distinguish this film from other cheapie horror films, but these are entirely borrowed from the English language production. Interestingly, no actual graverobbing is shown in this safe-for-Catholics version of Dracula.
  • While most folks would look at you funny if you told them about the Spanish version of Dracula, many horror buffs across the nation would be impressed by the fact that you even knew it existed. What many people don't believe is that this version is actually better than the English version. Yes, I said it, and I don't regret it.

    O.K., so you say that you don't know what this all about. Why is a Spanish version of Dracula any different from the English version you say? Because this is actually a different movie. Back in 1931, subtitling was possible, but actually considered "cheating." So basically the only alternative was to make a different version of the movie, this time in Spanish. So the same script and sets would be used, but different directors, actors, and styles would be used (some say that the Spanish version also had a different producer than the credited Carl Laemmele.)

    So why is this version better than the English version? As explained on the Dracula DVD (which I highly recommend), the English crew would film in the morning, and the Spanish crew would film later in the day. The Spanish crew would have the opportunity to see what the English crew shot that day, and would try to make it better. Therefore in the end, the result was that the Spanish film was better.

    Also, some info for runtime freaks like me, the runtime of the Spansih version runs MUCH longer than the English. Not real sure right now on the differences, but maybe I'll post that later. Anyway, I gotta highly recommend this one for everday watchers and the horror fanatics alike.
  • First things first. I give full credit to Director Medford and his cast and crew for the effort. They could easily have just 'mailed this in' and did a quickie shot for shot alternate version - but, they clearly didn't. They not only gave it their all, but, they put their own emphasis and spin on the proceedings.

    Second, no, this isn't a 'better' version as many revisionists would have it. Sure, some of the camera movement is refreshing compared to the largely static Browning edition. And, it's good to see a fuller edit of the original screenplay/play adaptation (a 29 minute additional runtime!). But, the Lugosi version is better if for no other reason than.........LUGOSI! Carlos Villarias had a decent career in Mexican cinema, but, there's a reason that Lugosi, limited as he was in certain ways, is still a legend. You can't teach charisma. Bela had it, Carlos didn't. More importanly, much of that extra screentime is given over to long-winded explanations, slow line reading and the actors staring at one another. If one were to ruthlessly take a stopwatch to it, I doubt there is more than 10 to 15 minutes of truly 'new' material.

    Other than Villarias (and, the stolid Eduardo Arozamena as Van Helsing), the Spanish cast holds up reasonably well. Pablo Álvarez Rubio may not quite equal Dwight Frye as Renfield, but, it's a more than worthy alternate performance. The actresses give their roles a bit more vigor than their English speaking counterparts. Medford's Direction is good, but, he does have a pacing problem. The Browning version is much better edited than the Spanish version. Much.

    All in all, 'Spanish' DRACULA is a worthy restoration. It would have been a shame had it disintigrated into history. But, the revisionists have it wrong. The Browning-Lugosi is still the definitive version of the count from that era.
  • It took me over 30 years to finally compare the Spanish language version off Dracula to the more familiar one starring Bela Lugosi. This one is surprisingly much longer. Very well made, using the same Universal sets, with a good cast but Lugosi plays a much better Count in my opinion.
  • The most interesting thing about the Spanish version of Dracula is the modest & informative introduction of main actress Lupita Tovar. I don't know when exactly this brief interview with her was shot, but it can't be too long ago judging by the picture quality, which makes it all the more impressive that she still looks relatively good! According to the IMDb, she's still alive and kicking, though nearly reaching the age of 100 and not having made any movies in more than 60 years. With great pride, Tovar explains how the Spanish crew exclusively worked during the nights, using the exact same sets of the English version, how the director didn't understood the language of his cast & crew and – most notably – how her costumes and wardrobes were a lot sexier and more revealing than those of her English speaking colleagues. Interesting! She also claims that the Spanish version is superior and that is, of course, debatable since many of the plot lines seem unnecessarily stretched and on the verge of being very tedious. The story is exactly the same, but this version pays more attention to the extended drawing of characters that are merely supportive, like Renfield for example. The film eventually runs half an hour longer than its English counterpart, 104 minutes in total, and that is simply too long for a horror movie of that era. Part of the Universal monster movies' charm is that they are short, straightforward and to the point. "Drácula" is the first, and to my knowledge, only contemporary Universal movie that features needless padding. Naturally Carlos Villarias is no patch on Bela Lugosi when it comes to depicting the legendary infamous Count. Lugosi literally owned the character; whereas Villarias is hardly menacing at all and most of the time he appears to pull funny grimaces and sneering expressions. There are so numberless versions of Bram Stoker's immortal novel available on the market, so I'm not entirely sure why Universal didn't simply dub the American version instead of producing yet another different film, but it still has many fans. And it made Mrs. Lupita Tovar proud to be an actress, which is a good thing as well, I guess.
  • The Spanish language version of 'Dracula' has attained cult status over the years, due mainly to the fact that it was hard to get hold of for many years (it may even have been considered lost, I'm not sure) and also because those who have seen it said it was better than the Tod Browning-directed, Bela Lugosi-starring English-language version.

    Having recently seen the Spanish movie, I can say that, in many ways, this assessment is correct. One problem with the Browning movie is that it is very static, almost like a filmed stage play (which it is actually based on, more so than the original Bram Stoker novel). George Melford's film, by contrast, has much more of a flow to it, notably in the scene where Dracula is first seen in his castle, which, in Browning's version, is a static shot of Bela Lugosi plodding down the steps, whereas Melford has a crane shot go up to frame Carlos Villarias. It's not as spectacular as some people have claimed, but it is quite a nice effect. The fluidity of Melford's film-making can also be seen in the sequences where Harker, Van Helsing and Dr. Seward confront Renfield about his links to Dracula. In the English-language film, both sequences play out in Seward's sitting room, with Renfield slowly walking in on the three men, who stand around like statues. In the Spanish movie, these sequences move between the sitting room and the veranda, with Renfield's entrance in one being forced by Harker rushing to the door and hurling the madman into the room (David Manners barely moves in his scenes).

    Another notable difference between the two Draculas is that George Melford's film runs a lot longer than Tod Browning's, with several scenes being longer, notably the exchange between Dracula and Renfield when the lawyer is sitting down to eat, and later when Renfield advances on a fainted maid. Both sequences are in the English-language film, but there have important bits removed, such as the eventual fate of the maid, and a reference to Renfield having destroyed all his correspondence.

    The downside with this movie is that the actors playing Dracula, Renfield and Van Helsing are not as good as Bela Lugosi, Dwight Frye or Edward Van Sloan. For instance, when Renfield cuts his finger and Dracula advances on him, only to be thwarted by a cross around Renfield's neck, Bela Lugosi looks repulsed and horrified; Carlos Villarias looks like he needs more fibre in his diet

    It's a matter of debate which version of Dracula actually is better, but the existence of both movie raises the idea of a great cinematic missed opportunity, that of a George Melford-directed Dracula with Bela Lugosi in the lead role. Maybe if that had happened, we'd have a real classic on our hands
  • There are those who reckon that this version of Dracula, made for a Latin-American audience with a Spanish speaking cast at the same time and on the same sets as the Lugosi film, is superior to its better known relation. Personally, I reckon that those people must've been overdoing it on the Sangria: not only does the Spanish Dracula suffer from the same weaknesses as Tod Browning's classic—stagy performances, uninspired direction, and laughable rubber bats—but it stretches them out over a mind-numbing 104 minutes, making it all the more dreary.

    Carlos Villarías is merely adequate as 'Conde Drácula', his evil stares and awkward mannerisms a pale imitation of Señor Lugosi, whilst Pablo Álvarez Rubio as Renfield takes overacting to a whole new level, his maniacal performance not nearly as effective as that of Dwight Frye, who played his English speaking counterpart. Thankfully, the ladies fare much better, with Lupita Tovar as Eva Seward and tasty Carmen Guerrero as Lucía Weston giving performances that easily outshine those given by Helen Chandler and Frances Dade in Browning's version (it doesn't hurt that the lovely Ms Tovar almost falls out of her dress towards the end either).

    As the film progresses (very slowly) to the inevitable Van Helsing/Dracula showdown, events unfold in a manner almost identical to the Lugosi film, albeit with a little more exposition; the result is a movie so dull and drawn out that I was tempted to opt for an early siesta rather than persevere to the end (I am, however, a seasoned pro at watching crap films and only pulled down my sombrero for a kip once the film had finished).

    4.5 out of 10, rounded up to 5 for IMDb.
  • Like many others I believe that Bela Lugosi is superior as Count Dracula (even though the Spanish film is far better in other aspects).

    At first I thought that Carlos Villarias was hilarious as the Count, too much "over the top" and he doubtlessly lacks Lugosi's suave and chilling screen presence. But Lugosi had been perfecting the character on stage, and Villarios must have been trying to do a different kind of Dracula.

    I believe that Villarios must have been thinking of Lon Chaney and "London after midnight" when he created his Dracula. The staring eyes, the uncanny smile - it's all there! After all: it would have been natural for Villarios to seek an inspiration from the greatest horro star of the time, wouldn't it?
  • Owners of the Universal Legacy edition DVD of "Dracula" (1931) will find a lot of special content along with the fantastic film. One of the special features is a Spanish version of the movie. And when one examines the Spanish version, they will see a strikingly familiar resemblance to the movie they already know. They will see the same sets, similar dialogue, same scene setups, and same story. The only difference is that the Spanish versions is, of course, in Spanish, features a different cast, and is notably long and duller than its famous English counterpart.

    In 1931, it was common practice in Hollywood to not dub over movies for foreign releases, but to essentially make the movie twice with different casts and directors but using the same script and sets. For "Dracula", the English crew would come during the day, shoot their scenes, and then the Spanish filmmakers would take over at night and do the same. It was the goal of the Spanish crew to make the better of the two versions. However, when comparing the two movies, though they are quite similar, the Spanish version of "Dracula" is ultimately less profound, too long, and a lot less entertaining.

    A main fault of the movie are the characters and the way they are presented and cast. Nobody can forget Bela Lugosi standing on the castle stairway with a candle in his hand, grinning upon unfortunate Mr. Renfield and declaring: "I am…Dracula." But one can easily forget Carlos Villarias repeating the same line, but without the distinctive pronunciation and the air of presence and power that Lugosi had. Villarias gives a noble effort at playing Dracula, but ultimately his sneering, gasps, and wide eyes do not strike with very much impact and are more likely, I'm afraid, to stir up inadvertent laughter. I think Lupita Tovar is a find Spanish actress, but it seems as if the great material that made me feel for Helen Chandler's portrayal of the same character in the English version is gone. Barry Norton is also very good, but his character is quite dry and has no presence. Only Pablo Alvarez Rubio as Renfield comes close to matching the exhilaration and gusto that was found in his American counterpart.

    The English version of "Dracula" is a brief seventy-five minutes long and because it was so well-made, I wished it was longer. The Spanish version is longer, but it's a lot less entertaining. In fact, at a hundred and four minutes, it drags on for much too long and this is mostly due to drawl, flat scenes that seem as if we're watching a poorly rehearsed stage production with the camera hardly moving at times from wide shots that give us a very empty feeling. Now the Spanish version does clear up a minor question I had about the ending after becoming associated with the English version and it does have some fine individual moments, but it's really a withered and pale carbon copy of a beloved classic. The only audience members I can recommend this to are curious fans of the English language version. But those are not curious, you might as well avoid. There's not a whole lot to be found.
  • Carlos Villarias was a better actor than Bela Lugosi, but Villarias was campy at times and had zero sex appeal. He was also less creepy than Lugosi. Instead, Villarias made Dracula more lonely and and relatable. I feel that made Villarias the better Dracula by leaps and bounds. Villarias was the Dracula that Bram Stoker described. To make up for Villarias's lack of sensuality, Lupita Tovar oozed lust. At times, her hair was messy, tousled, and maybe even a little frizzy. Her outfits were tighter, showed more skin, and her body type was curvy and voluptuous. When she dove in to bite Mr. Harker, she looked like a flesh-crazed beast/a sex-crazed nymph and it's the most sexual moment I've seen in any 1930s movie. Dracula's harem girls were also more sensual than those in the American version. As for the camera work, the camera actually moves and there are more camera angles. As a result, you see more of the small details of the set design and more of the disorienting, unnatural shapes that the stairs, archs, etc. make.
  • Back in the early 1930s, studios hadn't perfected dubbing and felt audiences no longer wanted subtitles or intertitle cards, as the silent era had just past. So, little known to audiences today, the American studios often re-filmed the exact same film using the same sets and sometimes even the same directors and often this was done at night when the American cast went home. However, Laurel and Hardy even learned to phonetically pronounce scripts in French, Spanish, German and Italian because they already had a huge international audience.

    Here, with Dracula, the studio made two versions as well--English (with Bela Lugosi) and the Spanish language one with Carlos Villarías. Interestingly, Universal Studios chose to make multiple versions of Dracula but not of FRANKENSTEIN and you could probably assume that they thought Dracula would be the more successful film. But, because Lugosi was not internationally adored and well-known, there was no need to use him or the American cast. Instead, an American director (using a translator) filmed the Spanish version using a cast from all parts of the Spanish-speaking world.

    Like the Laurel and Hardy films, this version was actually longer than the American version in order to fit the format generally used in these Hispanic countries. As a result, some new scenes were added and some minor characters were given more screen time. In particular, Renfield is given LOTS more time--and he's much more interesting here than in the American version. However, for the most part, the films look about the same and frankly I think both are equally good. As for Villarías, he's not exactly Bela Lugosi, but he's still very good. I particularly loved his wider emotional range--with a slightly more animated performance.

    So, if you are a lover of classic horror films, give this one a shot. It's well made and you'll be surprised how alike the two versions are in quality.
  • I can in no way believe that there are critics out there that found this superior to the English language version. Although it's 30 minutes longer, the Spanish Dracula added no new story; just stretched out some of the scenes in the English Dracula, with characters explaining things that needed no explanation. Browning's English Dracula was leaner; the Spanish version was at times, a bit on the dull side.

    My biggest complaint, however, was that the acting was REALLY over-the-top. Seriously, I thought Lugosi and company were a bit hammy, but the cast of the Spanish version was laughable (especially the count himself!). Really, Bela was spooky; this count was cheezy.

    My 4/10 is not in relation to the Browning version. I'm rating it as a film independent of it's English cousin. Because it was slightly dull & overacted, I can't really seriously recommend seeing it. (The Browning/Lugosi version would get an 8/10.)
  • Super interesting to compare this with the 1931 English language classic.

    It's not as good in my opinion, but it takes its time to explain more (sometimes holding the viewers hand) and has a few great effects shots that are superior to the English counterpart. Best of all though is the Reinfield/fly joke that completely slays (and they so unfortunately cut out of the English version.) That alone is worth the price of admission.
An error has occured. Please try again.