The eighth entry in my would-be chapter for Vampries' Most Wanted. A good story needs to be told, continuously, by many people.
8. The Spanish and British Draculas
It is the height of irony that the Spanish “Dracula,” filmed at night, with a lower budget, using the sets of the English version, is considered by many to be the superior movie. Universal, like many studios, found themselves in a quandary when it came to the advent of talkies. In English speaking countries, many theaters had yet to be wired for sound; while in the Latin countries, a big market, a movie acted in English would provide little enjoyment. To solve the problem of talkies vs. silent movies, many movies were re-cut to include written dialogue on the screen, in the fashion of silent movies. Since dubbing was a difficult at the time, studios decided it would be more lucrative to simply film a second version of the film starring a Latin cast reciting Spanish dialogue.
|Carlos Villarias and Lupita Tovar|
Filming began Oct. 10, 1930, the Spanish crew starting around 8 p.m., a few hours after the American crew left. Carlos Villarias was chosen for the role of Dracula, though he lacks the sensuality that Lugosi was able to give to the role. Lupita Tovar played a much more seductive Mina than was seen in the English version, in large part due to the more revealing costumes the women wore in the Spanish version. Produced by Paul Kohner (later to wed Tovar), it was directed by George Melford who seemed to have a better grasp of the possibilities of the script. The camera work was more comfortable and imaginative. Able to watch the dailies of the English version, the production team was able to see what worked and what didn’t and seemed determined rework the shots used by the English team. Unlike Lugosi, who emerges from his coffin by way of a simple cut away; Vallarias emerges in a puff of smoke. While light shining on Lugosi’s eyes was to give the impression of Dracula’s mesmerizing affect, a simple close-up of Vallarias’ gaze proved just as powerful. Dracula’s brides are used to greater effect, more closely resembling the description of the wild brides in Stoker’s novel.
So efficient was the production team that they were moving faster than the set up of the sets. While retakes were being shot by the American crew, Kohner’s production, having come in at a final cost of $66,069 in 22 nights, was being previewed on the Universal set the first week of January, 1931. It would be one of the last foreign language films shot thanks to the belt tightening that studios were having to do during the Depression. Not to mention that countries were starting up their own film industries. Available for some time only at the Motion Picture Division of the Library of Congress and only for study by film scholars, the film can now be seen on select DVD releases of “Dracula.”
(Dracula and Van Helsing working out a few things. 1958 Hammer Studios)