Spanish-language Dracula--sui generis?

This last weekend, just for fun, Mrs. R, the little R-ette, and I watched the 1931 Lugosi Dracula and its mirror-twin, the Spanish-language version, back-to-back.

The Spanish version was apparently shot at night on the same sets, using a completely different crew and cast; it stars Lupita Tovar as Eva (the mirror-world counterpart of Mina Seward). The production was apparently much more professional than the English-language version, and brought it on on time and under budget; The E director, Tod Browning, was apparently hitting the bottle pretty hard by then. The tape I have has a long interview with Tovar, who ended up marrying the film’s producer and who looks like a million bucks in the film.

Anyway, digression aside, the Spanish Dracula was a far better movie than the English-language version–not so choppy, not so many contiuity problems, better, clearer, more explanatory dialog, beter cinematography, you name it. The only thing that the English version has going for it is Lugosi. And even then my wife liked the Spanish-language actor better; she said he was more gracious.

“La sangre es la vita, Renfield…”

So now I’m wondering: Were any other classic horror movies mirror-twinned with Spanish-language versions? Is there a Spanish-language Frankenstein out there? A Spanish Wolfman?

Aw, rats.

Mods, could you please remove one of these duplicate threads, preferably this one, which has all my typos included? Thanks–

Don’t know about other horror films (it’s possible that Frankenstein could have it – it’s the right time frame – but I’ve never heard of it), but I do know that Laurel and Hardy did make Spanish language versions of their early films. L&H knew no Spanish, so spoke the words phonetically; it was a big hit in Spanish-speaking country because their accents made everything they said sound funny.

I think that Dracula was one of the last, if not THE last dual English/Spanish production done by Universal.

Whoops, sorry, I deleted the ones that had fallen further down the page.

David J. Skal’s 1991 book HOLLYWOOD GOTHIC: The Tangled Web of Dracula from Novel to Stage to Screen gives the full story of the Spanish 1931 Dracula. It’s out of print now, but well worth looking for in used bookshops.

I like the Spanish Dracula so much I bought the video. That Lupita Tovar’s got some set of peaches, doesn’t she?

I’ll agree the Spanish DRACULA is superior to the Lugosi version, but…

Rocketeer says-
The only thing that the English version
has going for it is Lugosi.

PLEASE!!! The real star is totally DWIGHT FRYE!!!

Plus, I find the Lugosi version’s Three Brides much creepier if not as
hot as the Spanish ones.

There were a good number of old movies, not just horror movies that were filmed with Spanish counterparts back in the day. When the actual proceedure stopped, I don’t know, it’s been a while since my history of cinema class.

But one thing I do remember is that, if you were one of the people watching the Spanish version of Dracula back in the day, you wouldn’t have found it very impressive at all. Many of the actors were from various regions and spoke different renditions of Spanish, so you would have one speaking a more Mexican style of Spanish, one speaking a more Spain influenced dialect, and even a few speaking Portugese. It was a mishmash because the studio writers didn’t really rewrite the script, they just had the actors translate it themselves, and didn’t care much about production value because Mexico was an undeveloped market that would eat up US Film and that’s what Hollywood cared about.

I haven’t seen it myself, but I’m very intrigued. Anyone know where one can find it?

When David Skal was researching Hollywood Gothic he had to go to Cuba to see the Spanish version (!). About 5 years ago they released it on VHS. Now it’s available on the same DVD that has the 1931 Lugosi Dracula.
I agree with Skal that the “Brides of Dracula” are creepier in the Spanish version. In the English version they just stand there.

The Spanish version, shot on the same sets, has much more interesting lighting, direction, and camera moves. And it doesn’t have those damned armadillos that director Tod Browning insisted on putting in Lugosi’s Dracula!

Skal mentions that other films at the time were shot in a mirrored version (Spanish casts shooting the Spanish version alternating with English-speaking casts shooting the English version), but I don’t recall if he mentions any other titles (and my copy of Hollywood Gothic is at home). I’ll check and see, but I doubt if any of the classic horror films had such mirror versions – I’m sure I would’ve heard of them.

I’ve heard of some non-Universal multi-language films. IIRC, Atlantida/l’Atlantide was shot that way, and maybe FP-1 Doesn’t Answer.

They’re there to keep the hyena from Murnau’s Nosferatu company. Transylvania has one weird biota.

Now, let me get this straight. You have never seen the movie, you have read several testimonies from people above that it is better than the English-language Dracula, and that it uses the same sets, yet you confidently state, “If you were one of the people watching the Spanish version of Dracula back in the day, you wouldn’t have found it very impressive at all.”

And the idea that “the studio writers didn’t really rewrite the script, they just had the actors translate it themselves” is ridiculous. B. Fernández Cué wrote the Spanish translation – he has an onscreen credit. He specialized in doing Spanish translations of Hollywood scripts in the early 1930s.

People speaking in different accents of Spanish? How about the English-language Dracula, with its Hungarian star, and American, Canadian, English, and Irish cast.

Nor was Mexico the only market for the Spanish-language Drácula. It was distributed in Central America, South America, and Spain.

Some other alternate language twins of Hollywood films. These are not dubbings, but re-shootings, with different cast and crew, by the same studio:

Anna Christie (English) / Anna Christie (German) (1930)
The Cat and the Canary / La voluntad del muerto (1930)
East Is West / Oriente es Occidente (1930)
The Big House / Menschen hinter Gittern (1931)
Those Who Dance / Los que danzan (1930)The Bad Man / El hombre malo (1930)
Manslaughter / Leichtsinnige Jugend (1930)
The Big Trail / Große Fahrt, Die (1931)
The Boudoir Diplomat / Don Juan diplomático (1931)
Nothing But the Truth / Die Nackte Wahrheit (1931)
The Aviator / L’Aviateur (1931)
One Hour With You / Une heure près de toi (1932)
The Crowd Roars / La foule hurle (1932)
The Way to Love / L’Amour guide (1933)

Walloon, thanks for the list of mirror-twins. The only ones I’ve heard of are The Crowd Roars and The Cat and the Canary. I suppose getting copies of the Spanish versions would be completely impossible…

Speaking of biota, I notice that both E-Drac and S-Drac have a shot of a hornet crawling around a miniature sarcophagus. In the E-Drac, the hornet is crawling out; in the S-Drac, the hornet is crawling around on the sarcophagus–as though E and S had separate snippets of the same piece of film! Also, I think S has a possum and E doesn’t.

Lupita Tovar is much more appealing than Helen Chandler (it’s a miracle she stayed in her clothing in a couple of the shots, hubba hubba). Mrs. R said that it was nice to have a brunette heroine; that she was sick of blondes. Guess I’ll have to show her Speed :wink:

And as for Dwight Frye, yes, he’s certainly impressive. But the S-Drac Renfield really,and I mean really, chews the scenery. Puts ol’ Dwight to shame.

I’m somewhat disappointed to see Walloon’s list, just because I had hoped to impress everybody with my knowledge of one (count 'em, one) other English/Spanish title–The Cat and the Canary. Too little, too late, I guess. There were, in fact, more of these things than I had realized.

For the most part, I enjoyed the Spanish language version of Dracula quite a bit more than the English. The camera moves around a bit more, for one thing. Compare the initial appearance of Dracula on the stairs after Renfield gets to the castle, to take just one example. In the English version, there’s just an abrupt cut to a close-up of Lugosi. In the Spanish version, the camera starts slightly behind Renfield’s shoulder. It then, in a single shot, moves past Renfield and sweeps up the staircase until it reaches Dracula, standing silently at the top of the stairs. Much more cinematic. Also well-realized are the few scenes of Dracula leaving his coffin (accompanied by a lot of dry-ice style smoke and a surprisingly effective little cello solo).

Pablo Alvarez Rubio, the actor who played the Spanish Renfield, is remarkable. It’s a completely different interpretation of the role. Whereas Frye’s insane laughter was low and sinister (and quite good in its own way), Alvarez Rubio absolutely howls with uncontrolled, hysterical cackling. It’s almost frightening.

As stated, the Spanish version is available on a VHS of its own, or on the DVD of the Lugosi Dracula. Certainly worth the price of a rental, even if you don’t want to buy it.

And yeah, Lupita Tovar is a babe. Even she (in the interview that accompanies the film) comments on how much sexier her costumes were than Helen Chandler’s.

A few more alternate language twins, for the curious.


The Valiant / El valiente (1930)
The Last of the Duanes / El último de los Vargas (1930)
Slightly Scarlet / Amor audaz (1930)
Sarah and Son / Toda una vida (1930)
What a Man / Así es la vida (1930)
Halfway to Heaven / Sombras del circo (1931)
Her Wedding Night / Su noche de bodas (1931)
Don’t Bet on Women / ¿Conoces a tu mujer? (1931)
The Man Who Came Back / Camino del infierno (1931)
Pardon Us / Los presidiarios (1931) [Laurel & Hardy]
It’s Great to Be Alive / El último varon sobre la Tierra (1933)

Hal Roach comedy shorts:

Hog Wild / Radiomanía (1930) [Laurel & Hardy]
Blotto / La vida nocturna (1930) [Laurel & Hardy]
Dollar Dizzy / El príncipe del dólar (1930) [Charley Chase]
Below Zero / Tiembla y Titubea (1930) [Laurel & Hardy]
Looser Than Loose / Una cana al aire (1930) [Charley Chase]
Thundering Tenors / El alma de la fiesta (1931) [Charley Chase]
Be Big! / Los calaveras (1931) [Laurel & Hardy]
The Pip From Pittsburgh / La señorita de Chicago (1931) [Charley Chase]
Laurel & Hardy in other languages:

I think old Dwight does quite well with what is given him. If you’ll notice, Renfield is much, much more developed in the Spanish version. There are huge chunks of character exposition that are absent in the English version, so the Spanish fly-boy was able to insert more tragedy into the role (there is a greater sense of the man that was lost). However, in the opening scenes at Dracula’s castle, I think Dwight kicks Spanish guy’s ass all the way around the room and out the window.

The really important question is, who had the better “crazy” laugh? Spanish dude had a great one, loud, long, and completely unhinged. But Frye’s quiet, building little ditty is better. Remember that scene on the boat, where you hear it first offstage, then the cargo hold opens and you see him at the bottom, his eyes all shiny and crazed? BRRRRRRRRrrrrr. I loves me some Dwight Frye! (Crap, upon preview I see that I missed MrAtoz’s coverage of the same topic. Oh, well, we come down on opposing sides anyway, so I’m gonna post it.)

Anyway, on topic - the Spanish version is just beautiful. The director’s camera techniques and use of the set make Browning look like a useless sot. The English Dracula is a stifled, boring antique, (sorry, Bela), the Spanish version is not.

Well, I didn’t mean to pick on Dwight Frye too much. As I say, his performance is very good in its way–Alvarez Rubio’s is just different. Perhaps the problem for me is that Frye’s interpretation is overfamiliar. I’ve seen it (and imitations of it) so often that it’s lost some of its punch. Of course, I realize this is hardly Frye’s fault. It’s really too bad that this (and his Fritz in Frankenstein) typed him as “the crazy guy,” as he was much more versatile than that.

Of all the Universal horror classics, Dracula is the one that has aged least well. It’s lack of a music score and stagebound feel make it seem incredibly dated today. And as the audio commentary on the DVD points out, some parts of it are remarkably sloppy. In one scene, a piece of cardboard that was placed in front of a bedside lamp to shield the light is clearly visible on camera. For several minutes, from multiple angles. It’s like nobody was paying much attention.

Still, it did kick off the first big horror boom of the sound era, and for that I’ll always love it.

Ahh, found my copy of Science Fiction in the Cinema by Joh Baxter. I truly hate most of this book, but there’s a good bibliography and Filmography. When you look up the 1932 film L’Atlantide (Atlantis), it lists three different versions of this film, made on the same set at the same time, with three different casts – German, French, and English. Brigette Helm stars in all three versions!! (She was Maria and The Robot in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis). Apparently G.W. Pabst directed all three versions, too. This information isn’t in the Internet Movie Data Base.

Turns out I was wrong about FP-1 Doesn’t Answer, though.