Drácula (Dracula, Spanish Version) Reviews
In this unrated Spanish language version of the horror classic, the ancient vampire Count Dracula (Carlos Villarias) arrives in England and begins to prey upon the virtuous young Mina (Lupita Tovar).
Granted, some tropes came down to culture (Mexico allowed for more cleavage and actual rats used in place of opossums), but the shadows fall in the right place as did the thrills. Of course, nothing at the time trumps Bela Lugosi in the titular role. In fact, wild-eyed vampire Carlos Villarias sometimes looks like a goofy game show host when he should be playing up the Latin lover angle. Vibrant Lupita Tovar and seemingly psychotic Pablo Alvarez Rubio (as Renfield), however, make up the difference.
Bottom line: Fangs for the Memories
HOWEVER...this one is sort of graded on a curve. Back when these movies were being made, the English version would shoot during the day, while the Spanish version would shoot at night. Therefore, the Spanish crew got to watch the English raw footage in the evening, so they would figure out different camera angles and different uses of lighting. In those cases, there are times when this film is superior. But they had a huge advantage at their disposal; it makes me wonder what would've happened if the Spanish version shot in the morning, and the English version shot at night.
So it's going to be difficult for me to properly review this, because I already described the story in my review of the English "Dracula" last year. The best way I can review "Drácula" is to compare the execution of its scenes, based on the cinematography and the performances. But I'll give you a real quick rundown of the plot anyway. A man named Renfield (Pablo Álvarez Rubio) travels to Transylvania to see Count Dracula (Carlos Villarías), despite the villagers' warnings. Dracula is, of course, a vampire, and he makes Renfield his slave before they travel to England and meet the other characters of the story.
Carlos Villarías is really good as Dracula. While Lugosi played him sinister with that Devil's stare, Christopher Lee played him like a violent predator, Villarías plays him more like a mad-eyed lunatic. Often, his eyes are bugging out and he looks ready to snap at any second. The same applies for Pablo Álvarez Rubio as Renfield. The scene where authorities discover him on the ship cackling like a maniac is a prime example of his performance.
For the most part, I actually find the supporting cast better than the English version; I just think there's more conviction in their faces, particularly from Professor Van Helsing (Eduardo Arozamena) and Eva (Lupita Tovar), who has the same role as Mina. That's something else to mention; the characters' names are altered slightly to make them appear more Spanish. Jonathan Harker is now Juan Harker, Lucy Weston is now Lucía Weston, etc.
But the biggest differences in this film are the cinematography and the runtime. This film is roughly half an hour longer; part of the reason is the movie really takes its time. There are plenty of moments where the atmosphere takes over for long periods of time. That's a good change. But sometimes they have scenes go on longer, which I don't necessarily agree with. I feel like the English version did a good job with not showing everything; there was more mystery, like in scenes where Dracula hypnotizes someone. But there are good scene changes, like when Renfield passes out in the bedroom in Dracula's castle. In the English version, the scene fades out after he falls. In this one, he falls, and then Dracula's vampire brides slowly descend on him. That's a really impressive change because it still leaves that mystery, and adds a new creepy element.
There are also new camera tricks. In the original, when Renfield first meets Dracula, it's an ordinary still shot from afar as he appears at the top of the stairs. But in this one, it's more of a point-of-view shot as the camera moves up the stairs, with Dracula perched at the top. But again, it doesn't always work effectively. In the later scene when Van Helsing shows Dracula the mirror where he doesn't have a reflection, I prefer the English version because of how fast and angrily Dracula reacts. In this version, it's sort of unnecessarily delayed and actually kind of awkward. Also, the moment where the maid faints after Renfield laughs doesn't seem right here. It doesn't seem like the kind of laugh someone would faint from; the English film had it down perfectly.
Now for all my nitpickings, let me make it clear: "Drácula" is a great movie. It still has that eerie, disturbing atmosphere thanks to its great use of shadows, and the performances are solid. Because it stands out so much from the English film, it firmly establishes its own identity, and can't just be called a remake. Like the English version of "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," it's its own interpretation in comparison to the version that already existed.
This movie was thought lost for decades before turning up in the 1970s; I'm very glad for that, because this is a movie that deserves to be seen by horror fans, just as long as they don't mind having to read subtitles. So while I definitely prefer the English film to the Spanish one, I acknowledge this movie's strong points, and in some cases, its stronger points. It's flawed, but it's still a real treat.