Because I’m currently revamping (pun intended) a vampire story I had written earlier this year, I decided to watch the 1931 version of Dracula, starring Bela Lugosi. But this time, since it was included on the DVD I got from the library, I also watched the Spanish version of Dracula.
It was the practice back in the 30’s (I suppose before dubbing and subtitles) for movie companies to film foreign versions of the English-language movies they were making.
In this case, while Bela Lugosi’s Dracula was being filmed, a Spanish version was filmed at night using the same sets and directed by George Melford. The Spanish version also had different actors cast in the role, Hispanic actors, with Dracula being played by Carlos Villarías and the role of the heroine, Eva (some name changes from the novel, as you can see) played by Lupita Tovar.
I liked the Spanish version of Dracula. It some ways, as critics have noted, it’s superior to the English-language version. According to Wikipedia here are some of the differences between the two movies:
The Spanish version runs approximately 142 minutes, much longer than the English version’s 88 minutes.
At the Borgo Pass, the coach driver from the castle (who is Dracula, in disguise) actually has his face covered.
Renfield cuts his finger with a bread-knife, not a paper clip.
The Brides, rather than Dracula, bite Renfield. (like in the Francis Ford Coppola version)
The characters’ names are Hispanicized. We see Juan Harker instead of Jonathan Harker and Lucia instead of Lucy Weston/Westenra. Also, Mina is renamed Eva.
In the English version Lucy simply dies from Dracula’s bite; The Spanish version is closer to the original book’s plot involving a “Lady in White” (Lucy as a vampire) who preys on young children; Though not explicitly shown, Van Helsing and Harker are seen coming from her grave and talk about having destroyed her.
When Dracula knocks the mirror away in the English version it simply falls to the floor, but in the Spanish version Dracula smashes the mirror.
In this version we get to see an additional exterior shot of Carfax Abbey, not seen in the English-language version.
Eva’s costume is far more revealing than the one worn by Helen Chandler. In the interview she gives for the Legacy Collection DVD Eva/Mina’s actress Lupita Tolvar remarks that Latins are less restrained than Anglos.
When Renfield is in Carfax Abbey, he carried a torch rather than a lamp. His death is more violent is this version as well.
In general there is a great deal more camera movement and atmospheric lighting.
(Source: Wikipedia entry)
So, if you like the old B&W version of Lugosi’s Dracula, check out the Spanish version. I still prefer Lugosi to Villarías as Dracula, but I actually prefer the Hispanic actor who plays Renfield. He does a great job of showing the internal conflict within Renfiled as he tries to both serve Dracula and protect the heroine.