Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Halloween in '16: Dracula vs. Drácula

For this year's special run of Halloween posts, Shangrila Towers is spotlighting those infamous creatures of the night - vampires. Keep your crucifix handy, and pray for dawn...

By now, most horror buffs know that there were two film adaptations of Bram Stoker's "Dracula" produced by Universal Pictures in 1931 - the famous classic starring Bela Lugosi, and the Spanish-language version that was filmed on the same sets during the evenings, after work on the Lugosi version ended:

Watching them back to back, I can say that the Spanish version of Dracula is a better film in many ways. Of course, the two movies mostly have the same script, but the camera work is more dynamic in the Spanish version (such as a famous tracking shot where the Count appears for the first time in his castle - a startling, very modern scene). In terms of performances, veteran director George Melford and the Spanish-speaking cast did a fine job, with Mexican beauty Lupita Tovar turning in a very believable performance as Eva (i.e., the Mina Harker character).

That said, I still prefer the English version, mainly because of the spellbinding work of Bela Lugosi in the title role. Carlos Villarías's Dracula is okay, but he's actually too fluent and human for being a centuries-old vampire - at times, Villarías feels like a guy in a Dracula costume, rather than the genuine article. Bela Lugosi, in contrast, conveys intense concentration, feral danger, and an alien magnetism every frame he's on screen - even without the sheen of nostalgia, this is the definitive Count Dracula. I'm glad we have both versions, but if you can only see one, see Lugosi's.


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