An All-Hallows Double Bill: Dracula (1931)

Hope everyone had a lovely Halloween (or is in the process of having one).

dracula

Mine was a rather pedestrian experience – chilling at home and watching my hometown Mets (ARGH-don’t touch me) play in the World Series. But also managing to find some time to catch a few scary films to get me in the mood.

TCM and Fathom Events teamed up this past week to display the Universal classic Dracula double-bill on the big screen. I was very tempted to head down the street to my local multiplex and watch the Tod Browning/Bela Lugosi film followed by the much-ballyhooed Spanish-language version of Gothic horror, I opted to watch in the luxury of my home.

Granted I had seen the Lugosi version many, many times – although it is kind of funny that on every screening, I forget that I have actually seen it. So basically it feels fresh and new to me.

What I have not done is caught the Spanish bloodsucking version.

dracula-espanol

For the uninitiated, you might be asking yourself – what is a Spanish version? While Universal’s objective was clearly to focus on the English version, it was not completely unheard of for studios during this time to produce a foreign language version of their English-language productions. This was a very economical approach when you think about it –  in the case of Dracula, the main feature could be shot during the day with the Spanish-language version shot in the evening – both using the same exact sets, etc. The only variations are (of course, the actors), who were native Spanish speakers from Mexico, Spain and Central/South America. The film was directed by non-Spanish speaking George Melford and starred Carlos Villarías as the Count and Lupita Tovar as Eva, the equivalent of the English-language Mina.

A frame by frame summary/comparison between the films is pretty much a pointless exercise because they are almost shot for shot reproductions. That said, I can kind of see why many have praised the latter version, with some even going as far as citing it as the superior of the two. Where the Lugosi version felt as a bit stilted (possibly due to its stage play origins?) the Melford version felt more fluid and cinematic, with varying camera angles. It also had the benefit of a longer running time – Drácula (emphasis on the first A) clocked in at about 30 additional minutes. I suspect the extra time helped greatly is fleshing out the story.

Have you seen this version? What are your thoughts?

Revisiting “Dracula”

The latest installment in my continuing series celebrating Universal Studio’s 100th Anniversary.

Poor Bela Lugosi. When asked to transfer his stage success the silver screen by starring in Tod Browning’s  Dracula (apparently he was NOT even the first choice), little did he know that this would be the role that would define his career (and life).

While not the first filmed version of Bram Stoker’s ‘undead’ (most notable in my mind the nightmarish Nosferatu), it is the Dracula imprinted on our collective memory. Lugosi’s portrayal of the Count is that of a haunting, seductive bloodsucking nightwalker.

Today’s cinemagoers will probably not be convinced by the stagey nature of the film and its performances, but that does not make it any more impactful. First of all it should be noted that while this is based on Stoker’s source material, the direct text, etc. is taken from the aforementioned stage play Dracula. Second and most importantly, I imagine what also terrified audiences at the time was down to the cadence of Lugosi’s delivery and the deliberate pacing of his movements. As a child I remember mimicking him, walking around saying, “I vaunt to suck your blood!” It has been a while now so I am not even sure those exact words are even uttered in the film.

One element that I never fully resolved myself was the fact that while many of the characters are wearing contemporary clothes, they traverse the landscape in horse-drawn carriages. It is possible that automobiles have not reach Carpathian Mountains; anyone have a clue?

In 2000, Dracula was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry. (Source: Wikipedia)