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Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||George Melford|
|Produced by||Carl Laemmle Jr.|
Pablo Álvarez Rubio
José Soriano Viosca
|Edited by||Arturo Tavares|
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures|
|April 24, 1931|
Drácula is a 1931 American Spanish-language Pre-Code horror film directed by George Melford. It is an adaptation of the 1897 novel by Bram Stoker and the 1924 stage play. It was filmed at night on the same sets that were being used during the day for the 1931 English-language film of the same title.
In the early days of sound film, it was common for Hollywood studios to produce foreign-language versions of their films (usually in Spanish, but also in French, Italian and German) using the same sets and costumes. Of the cast, only Carlos Villarías (playing Dracula) was permitted to see rushes of the English-language film, and he was encouraged to imitate Bela Lugosi's performance. Some long shots of Lugosi as the Count and some alternative takes from the English version were used in this production.
In recent years, this version has become more highly praised by some than the better known English-language version. The Spanish crew had the advantage of watching the English dailies when they came in for the evening, and they would devise better camera angles and more effective use of lighting in an attempt to improve upon it. This version's supporters consider it to be much more artistically effective. The Spanish semiologist Roman Gubern says that the longer runtime allows more development of the plot in spite of the shortened shooting time and smaller budget.
The film was thought to be lost until a print was discovered in the 1970s and restored. In 2015, the Library of Congress selected the film for preservation in the National Film Registry, finding it "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".
Cast (in credits order)
- Carlos Villarías (billed as Carlos Villar) as Conde Drácula
- Lupita Tovar as Eva Seward
- Barry Norton as Juan Harker
- Pablo Alvarez Rubio as Renfield
- Eduardo Arozamena as Van Helsing
- José Soriano Viosca as Doctor Seward
- Carmen Guerrero as Lucía Weston
- Amelia Senisterra as Marta
- Manuel Arbó as Martín
Renfield, a solicitor, makes a journey into Transylvania via stagecoach. He mentions his destination, Castle Dracula, to the locals who react with alarm. They tell him Count Dracula is a vampire and when he doesn't believe them, one insists he wear a cross. When he arrives at the Castle, the Count bids him welcome. After drinking drugged wine, Renfield drops the cross and is bitten.
Aboard ship, a now-enslaved Renfield laughs maniacally below as Dracula picks off the crew one by one. When the ship reaches England, he is the only living person found.
Dracula meets Dr. Seward and his family at the opera. Lucia is completely fascinated by him and that night becomes his victim. Professor Van Helsing is called in, and he recognizes the danger for what it is. He also realizes that Dr. Seward's patient Renfield is somehow tied up in events. But soon after meeting the Doctor's new neighbor, Dracula, he figures out who is a vampire—based on the fact Dracula casts no reflection in the mirror. Not a moment too soon, because by now Seward's daughter Eva is falling under his spell. To her horror, she feels increasingly weak and also increasingly wild—at one point attacking her fiancé Juan.
With Seward's and Harker's help, Van Helsing seeks to trap Dracula but he outwits them and escapes with Eva by seizing control of a nurse's mind. They follow Renfield into Carfax Abbey—an act which ends with Dracula killing his slave by strangulation then tossing him from a tall staircase. Deep in the catacombs under Carfax, they find Dracula asleep and Eva still alive. Van Helsing drives a stake through the vampire's heart, and as Eva and Harker leave, Van Helsing prays over Renfield's body.
The film was theatrically released on October 25 & 28, 2015 as part of the "TCM Presents" series by Turner Classic Movies and Fathom Events. Two showings each day played a double-feature with the Spanish film's English counterpart.
The Spanish Drácula was released on home video for the first time on September 10, 1992 by MCA/Universal Home Video. It was included as a bonus feature on various DVD releases of the English version, including the "Classic Monster Collection" release from 1999, the "Legacy Collection" release from 2004, the "75th Anniversary Edition" set in 2006, and was remastered in high definition for the Universal Monsters: The Essential Collection Blu-ray boxed set. In September 2014, it was released as part of the 4-DVD/6-movie set, titled Dracula: Complete Legacy Collection. Included was an interview with Lupita Tovar, who had married producer Paul Kohner two years after filming.
- Stephen Jones. The Essential Monster Movie Guide. Billboard Books. 2000. Pg. 114.
- O’Brien, Geoffrey (1993), "Horror for Pleasure", The New York Review of Books (April 22 issue). O’Brien characterizes the English-language film as "wooden and ploddingly directed" and the Spanish version as "a livelier alternative". The Spanish cast "has altogether more conviction and fervor to their roles".
- Garvin, Gleen (October 27, 2015). "The secret story behind the other 'Dracula,' and the lead actress who just died at 106". Miami Herald. Retrieved September 12, 2018.
- Weaver, Tom; Michael Brunas; John Brunas (2007). Universal Horrors: The Studio's Classic Films, 1931-1946. McFarland. p. 35. ISBN 0786491507. Retrieved March 24, 2013.
For decades it remained a lost film, scarcely eliciting minimal interest from the studio which produced it.
- "Dracula (1930)". dvdreview.com. Archived from the original on May 9, 2013. Retrieved March 25, 2013.
Universal's original negative had already fallen into nitrate decomposition by the time the negative was rediscovered in the 1970s.
- Mike Barnes (December 16, 2015). "'Ghostbusters,' 'Top Gun,' 'Shawshank' Enter National Film Registry". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved December 16, 2015.
- Kelley, Seth (June 9, 2015). "'Psycho,' 'Grease' Returning to Cinemas in 'TCM Presents' Series". Variety. Retrieved September 7, 2015.
- David J. Skal (2004). Hollywood Gothic : The Tangled Web of Dracula from Novel to Stage to Screen ISBN 978-0-571-21158-6