Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Old School Forgotten Flix: (Spanish) Dracula (1931)

Well, I've already done Mexican Dracula (twice), Dracula in Spain, Italian Dracula, Pakistani Dracula, Duck Dracula and even Dracula's Dog.  Hell, I've done Dracula in Space!  So why is this one so special?  Well, let me educate those of you who don't know.  In the early days, Universal shot some of their Films in multiple languages, just to increase the market.  In this case, they shot Dracula at night, while shooting Dracula by day.  Same Script (translated).   Same Sets.  Different Cast.  Could you imagine that happening these days?  Just try to picture Transformers: Age of Extinction shot concurrently with a bunch of French Actors and a different Director.  Not likely.  The question is this: can it be as good as Tod Browning's Film?  Yes.  In technical terms, it is arguably better.  The Film is shot with some good flourish, nice camera moves and overall pizzaz.  The big difference: no Bela Lugosi.  There is just no doing what he did here.  Other Draculas like Lee and Oldman have been good- just different.  That said, this Dracula has some good points, so it is kind of a shame that nobody seems to remember him.  To find out more in this compare/contrast Review, read on...
The Film is mostly Shot-for-Shot.  Same Script and all, you know.
One bit is does better or at least more stylish is the bit where Dracula first meets Renfield.  In flies a bat...
...and suddenly Dracula appears, striking a lovely pose.  You really have to see this in motion.
This is Carlos Villarias.  He is Dracula.  He's no Bela, but he's still good.  He's just more animated.
Since Casting was working off the same Material, they got pretty close matches for the English Cast.
One major difference is what the Female Cast Members wear.  The Spanish-speaking gals are more, well, revealing.  Why the standard was different is certainly up for debate.
One stand-out is this Film's Renfield.  He does crazy like few others do.  Stunning stuff, to be sure.
The big thing here is that due to the language barrier (Universal cast an English-speaking Director) and the time, the whole thing can feel a bit more dated and, well, hammy.
To be fair, Carlos does try, but things just aren't equal all the time.
Even so, this is still a damn good Film and certainly should be seen by Horror Fans.  Right, Drac?  The End.
A hidden gem from the Universal Library.  It is a shame that this Film gets so little respect.  You want a great example of that?  Well, Universal did include it in the Dracula Collection DVD Set- that's good.  However, they included it as, well, an after-thought.  The DVDs put the Films- from Browning's Dracula to Abbot & Costello Meet Frankenstein- in order...and put this Film on the last Disc with a Documentary about Universal.  Like I said- I'm glad they included it, but I just wish that they had treated it like a proper part of the Library.  Ugh.  Anyhow, the Film itself is generally more-dated than Browning's.  Mind you, that is mostly due to just how damn good Bela Lugosi was for him.  Aside from that major bit of Casting, this Film is often equal to or better than its more famous 'brother.'  The Director and Director of Photography shot the Film in a very fun and dynamic style.  The Camera moves in alot of ways that it didn't usually during this time in Cinema.  Kudos, guys.  The part about it being dated is kind of a mixed blessing/curse though.  On one hand, it feels more 'old-timey' than Browning's.  On the other hand, it feels like an interesting transition from Silent to Sound Films.  If you like that kind of stuff, it almost gives the Film an additional charm.  While Universal wasn't nice enough to hire a Spanish-speaking Director, they at least used Spanish for their fake Newspaper...
Next up, I begin Project Terrible with some Asylum crap.  With no Brad Pitt, should I be furious?  Stay tuned...

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