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Dracula Vs Dracula

The 1931 English Vs. Spanish version

In 1931 Universal released two Dracula movies: the famous Bela Lugosi / Tod Browning version, and the lessor known "Spanish" version which was shot at night on the same sets with the same props (for example, Carlos Villaras used Lugosi's widows-peak hairpiece during his screen time as Dracula).

With the same script in hand, Director George Melford (who did not speak Spanish) worked with a cast of actors from Mexico and South America (hence the mixture of Spanish accents in the film) and essentially reshot Brownings film. Melford's technical team had the benefit of seeing Browning's rushes that had been shot earlier during the day, and would then be set free to do their own version. The result is a version of Dracula that often deviates away from Browning's approach and at times beats Browning at his own game.

The "Spanish Version" is a longer film, clocking in about 20 minutes of additional story compared to the 75 minute running time of the English version. In particular various plot points are tied up and characterization is expanded in the Spanish version. Which begs the question: since Melford is following the Browning version, is the Melford version thus a more accurate example of a Browning version before it was cut down to a shorter length in post-production?

Melford's version didn't reshoot everything. In fact there are strange repetitions in the Melford version. For example, during the opening sequence at Dracula's castle when the brides of Dracula rise from their coffins and walk around in the catacombs, it is the same three from the English version that appear in both films. In later scenes of the Spanish version, we've got three very different wives on the loose (they're particularly aggressive compared to the Lugosi version wives).

Other sections of the Spanish film just repeat the same footage as seen in the Browning movie, such as the two spying women at the Inn (see the examples) where Renfield first travels before setting out for Dracula's castle.

The 2013 Bluray release of the two Dracula films shows modern differences. For example, the Browning version has higher contrast in the remastered Bluray than does the remastered Spanish version (see the two image examples).

The Spanish version has better grey tones and better general detail, except during the "missing" section of the Spanish Dracula where is patched in sequences sourced from a print found in Cuba. This section is quite ragged compared to the rest of Melford's film. The Spanish version also explores the Dracula movie set with more depth, letting us see aspects of the art direction that barely shows up in the Browning version.

As with the earlier "Legacy" DVD releases, there appears to be some tampering with the solid blacks around Lugosi in the first quarter of the Browning version.

A more complete review will be posted soon.

Original Page June 2014

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