DRACULA (1931). Director: George Melford.
Shot concurrently on the same sets as the Bela Lugosi version, this Spanish version has a completely different cast. While certain long shots from the Lugosi version (shot by Karl Freund) are used, most of this Spanish version was shot by George Robinson. Carlos Villar (pictured) isn't bad in the title role but has unfortunately hammy facial expressions when he is supposed to be at his most frightening. Lupita Tovar is a bit more animated as "Eva" than Helen Chandler was as Mina. Barry Norton is about on the same level as David Manners, charming and competent if little else. As Renfield, Pablo Alvarez Rubio is very effective and not quite as overblown as Dwight Frye. Some of the scene stagings are different from the Lugosi version, but this version also cries out for music and is rather slow-moving (as well as almost half an hour longer!)
Other differences: Renfield accidentally cuts himself with a knife while slicing chicken instead of with a paper clip, which makes more sense (and delivers more blood). When this happens Dracula is not all the way across the room but is only a couple of feet from Renfield. The vampire women (different actresses from those seen in the earlier long shot, taken from the Lugosi film) get at Renfield instead of Dracula. In the Spanish version Dracula does not approach a beggar girl in the street and attack her. At the concert hall, the dialogue between Dracula, Mina and the others occurs while the concert is still going on, a stupid variation. The most important difference is in the staging of the final scene underground, including the murder of Renfield (which is a bit more exciting) and everything that happens afterward. Everything is better than in the Lugosi version, especially the last shot as the survivors ascend the stairs. It's a bit odd, however, that Dracula leaves his coffin open (it's closed in the other version), but then we have to wonder how in either version he could ever have imagined that Van Helsing wouldn't be able to come upon him in his coffin easily, and why he didn't therefore retreat into the darkest corners of the cellar and plan a counter-attack?
Verdict: Interesting variation on a Hollywood classic. **1/2.