|Cast & Crew||English Version||Spanish Version|
|Director||Tod Browning||George Melford|
|Count Dracula/Conde DrÃ¡cula||Bela Lugosi||Carlos VillarÃas|
|Mina/Eva||Helen Chandler||Lupita Tovar|
|Renfield||Dwight Frye||Pablo Ãlvarez Rubio|
|Van Helsing||Edward Van Sloan||Eduardo Arozamena|
|John/Juan Harker||David Manners||Barry Norton|
|Doctor Seward||Herbert Bunston||JosÃ© Soriano Viosca|
|Lucy/Lucia||Frances Dade||Carmen Guerrero|
|Martin/MartÃn||Charles K. Gerrard||Manuel ArbÃ³|
The Spanish version Dracula is directed by George Melford, who surprisingly didn’t speak Spanish. Neither do I, by the way, but luckily, this print was subtitled. Somehow, at least for me, Dracula and Van Helsing were not the same without their European accents. Villarias’s Dracula moved and spoke much more naturally than Lugosi’s, which lessened the mystery and menace of the character. His version of Dracula’s hypnotic stare isn’t near as effective as Lugosi’s.
Pablo Ãlvarez Rubio is excellent as Renfield, but once again, I may have been spoiled by seeing the English version so many times and by Dwight Frye’s eccentric portrayal. Rubio’s Renfield is obviously insane but in a more traditional, familiar sense of the word. For me Frye’s version is the benchmark.
However, I like Lupita Tovar’s Eva better than Helen Chandler’s Mina. Tovar gives the part a bit more wildness and emotion. The same goes for the Spanish version’s Juan Harker. I prefer Barry Norton’s Harker over that of David Manners in the English version. I can’t put my finger on why, but for me, Manners portrayal of Harker is off-putting and distracting.
Another key difference between the two versions, even though they were both based on the play by Hamilton Deane and John L. Balderston, is that the Spanish version is about 20 minutes longer. That extra time serves to add more depth to the plot and to flesh out the character of Eva/Mina a little more. There are several gaps in the English version story which are filled in the Spanish version, making it more coherent.
In the end, the English version seems more focused on creating an atmospheric horror film while the Spanish version seems intent on telling a coherent story. If I had my druthers, I would replace Helen Chandler and Frances Dade with Lupita Tovar and Carmen Guerrero and combine the more complete story of the Spanish version with the atmosphere and frisson of the English version.
I also learned of a connection between Dracula and the Star Wars universe. The films were introduced by TCM’s Ben Mankiewicz who imparted this piece of trivia about Lupita Tovar, who is still alive and is 105 years old. She married Paul Kohner, the associate producer of the Spanish version of Dracula, in 1932. Chris and Paul Weitz are her grandsons and both are filmmakers. Paul produced American Reunion (2012), The Golden Compass (2007), American Wedding (2003), and American Pie 2 (2001); directed American Pie (1999); produced, wrote, and directed Being Flynn (2012); wrote and directed Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant (2009); and co-wrote the screenplay for Antz (1998) with his brother Chris and Todd Alcott. Chris Weitz also produced the American Pie series; wrote the screenplay for The Golden Compass; and directed The Twilight Saga: New Moon. Chris also wrote the screenplay for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, slated for release in 2016.
And just so you know, there are no vampire fangs in either version; there are no visible bite marks in the English version but we do see them on Lucia and Eva in the Spanish version; and the bats are a tiny bit more realistic in the Spanish version. Now I’m off to purchase Universal Classic Monsters: The Essential Collection [Blu-ray], which among other features, includes the Spanish version of Dracula and an introduction by Lupita Tovar Kohner, on whom I seem to have a newly developed crush.