Multilingual Dracula, Part 1

Last week I talked about the wonderful Dracula sculpture I received from my in-laws. One of the reasons I love the figure is that I’m a big fan of the 1931 film, Dracula. One of the things I find especially interesting is that Dracula was filmed twice with two different casts, two different directors, but on the same set. One version was filmed in English and starred Bela Lugosi as Count Dracula. The other version was filmed in Spanish and starred Carlos Villarias as Condé Dracula.

Bela Lugosi

The English version of Dracula was filmed during the day and the Spanish version was filmed at night. I gather some of the cast and crew of the Spanish version would see the footage that was shot during the day and make a deliberate effort to make their version better. In fact, the Spanish version is widely considered the superior version of the two films.

Having recently watched the two versions side by side, there are clearly four standout performances in the English-language version: Bela Lugosi as Dracula, Edward Van Sloan as Van Helsing, Dwight Frye as Renfield, and Charles K. Gerrard as Martin, Renfield’s attendant at the insane asylum. Helen Chandler is not very dynamic as Mina and David Manners is the kind of John Harker that makes you root for the vampire.

What stood out for me in the Spanish version was that the acting was much more balanced. Carlos Villarias and Eduardo Arozamena are every bit as good as Lugosi and Van Sloan in their respective parts. Lupita Tovar, though really makes us feel for Eva’s plight and Barry Norton felt like a loving fiancé.

Carlos Villarias

If you’ve never watched the 1931 Spanish version of Dracula, I highly recommend it. If you’re fascinated by film and drama, watch it and the English version back to back. I found it fascinating to see how two different production crews and casts handled essentially the same script and worked on the same sets. It’s interesting to see what scenes are the same and which ones are somewhat different.

It turns out the 1931 Dracula wasn’t the only version of Dracula filmed in two different languages at one time. I’ll talk about the other one I know about next week.

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2 thoughts on “Multilingual Dracula, Part 1

  1. Nice to hear about some classic movies. They become so well known that they’re the butt of jokes — who hasn’t heard someone mock Bela Lugosi’s accent, saying “I vant to drink your blood” — and we forget they became well known for a reason.

    • Yes, and in fact, Lugosi never says that in the movie. His performance is rather intense and arguably even campy by today’s standards, but keep in mind, this movie is actually an early “talkie” — filmed less than a decade after F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu. My favorite Lugosi line is his delivery of “I never drink … wine.”

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