Archive 502


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"Spanish" Dracula - 1931

Spanish Dracula 1931

Dracula - Released April 24, 1931. Directed George Melford and Enrique Tovar Avalos

Shot on the same Universal sets as the Bela Lugosi version from the same year, the "Spanish" Dracula has a varied reputation which has some claiming it is superior to the more famous Todd Browning film. George Melford's direction shifts the film to feature Renfield (Pablo Alvarez Rubio) more, and Rubio's presentation of the demented fly-eater gives him a showcase to display the raving dynamics of a madman, but interspersed with more subtle acting opportunities than Dwight Frye got in the English version. Rubio brings out Renfield's mental conflict (or more accurately, a spiritual conflict) that from scene to scene (or even the same scene) appears to be tearing him apart. When Melford ends his film, on the screen is the dead Renfield, with the young couple of Eva and Juan Harker walking up the staircase to leave Dracula's castle, and Melford uses that final image to cement his film differently than Browning's as being as much about Renfield's descent to doom as about the lovely young people getting out of the vampire's clutches.

Melford (and the uncredited Enrique Tovar Avalos) also move the camera around more and get the project further away from the theatre origins of the visual tale, and a comparison shows Browning's film to be a stuffier, stage-bound affair. Browning utilizes the set more for mood but Melford lets us see a great deal more of the art direction, though he simply is not a match for Browning's ability to present a spookier world.

Carlos VillarĂ­as as Count Dracula doesn't compare to Lugosi's otherworldly portrayal, and this is probably where Melford's direction falls away into artifice the most. Browning's film emphasizes Lugosi's turgid slow motion which flashes to unexpected speed at times (for example when he smashes the mirror in Helsing's hand that reveals he has no reflection). Villarias fills that same amount of space with a lot of grimacing and unintended humour keeps popping into the "Spanish" Dracula because of these overlong scenes of Villarias reacting in an exaggerated way. When Renfield's crucifix slips out from the folds of his jacket and Villarias' Dracula reacts with an expression that seems to indicate more that Renfield smells badly than that Dracula has an aversion to crucifixes, the film briefly skids into sheer bad-movie territory.

Lupita Tovar and Barry Norton as the young couple fighting Dracula's control are not that different from the English version, but Tovar seems like a stronger and more robust young woman and this ends up emphasizing the power of Dracula to control her more than the oddly porcelain presentation of Helen Chandler as Mina Harker in Browning's version.

Either way, both Dracula movies provide a basic metaphor of vampirism that can be taken on it's own terms, or viewed as a represenation of any number of other deadly problems (addiction, misogny, damnation, etc) and that is probably a big part of why classic films like these still retain such staying power.

An older description of the "Spanish" Dracula Film 1931

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Tarzan and His Mate - 1934

Tarzan and His Mate 1934

Tarzan and His Mate - Released April 20, 1934. Directed by Cedric Gibbons (and Jack Conway and James McKay)

Trouble in the jungle when two English visitors try to get Jane to leave Africa for London, but she would rather stay with Tarzan. Meanwhile, the visitors have a scheme to loot the sacred elephant graveyard and make off with the ivory. Tarzan and his army of animals helps them understand why this is a terrible decision...

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The Moon-Spinners - 1964

The Moon-Spinners 8

Hayley Mills gets caught up in espionage and vacation troubles as she travels with her Aunt (Joan Greenwood) on Crete. Film also features Eli Wallach and Irene Papas.

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Charles Laughton - The Beachcomber, 1938

Charles Laughton - 1938 - the Beachcomber Charles Laughton - 1938 - the Beachcomber Charles Laughton - 1938 - the Beachcomber

The Beachcomber, 1938: Laughton is a vagabond Englishman drinking his way through his day as he lives aimlessly as a beachcomber on a Pacific Island. Local missionary/schoolteacher Elsa Lanchester sets her eyes on him as an improvement project and mayhem ensues. This 1938 film is a comedy with darker elements picked up from the Somerset Maugham short story ("The Vessel of Wrath") it is initially based upon. The film is a showcase for Lanchester and Laughton to careen across the screen, with him trying to escape his moral reform, and Lanchester zooming to his rescue, whether he wants it or not.

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X From Outer Space

X From Outer Space 1967

Released in Japan in 1967 and then in USA in 1968, the "X from Outer Space" is Guilala, a gigantic monster which grows from space spores carried to earth by exploration ship AB Gamma. This giant reptile/chicken is the star of an odd film featuring the usual building-flattening, but also on hand is a funny love triangle between astronauts within an almost fairytale-like plot.

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X From Outer Space 1967

X From Outer Space 1967

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