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November 2012
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A solicitor called Renfield is enslaved by Dracula at the count’s castle in Transylvania. They travel to England on board a ship whereby Dracula slaughters the entire crew and infiltrates polite society, stalking Dr Seward’s daughter Eva whilst Renfield is incarcerated in Seward’s psychiatric hospital. With the help of Professor Van Helsing, Dr Seward and Eva’s fiance, Juan, track Count Dracula to his hideout at crumbling Carfax Abbey and destroy him with a stake through the heart.

We all know the story of Count Dracula and we are all very much aware of Universal Pictures seminal 1931 adaptation starring Bela Lugosi as the eponymous Count. But did you know that back in the day it was common practice for Hollywood studios to produce foreign-language versions of their films (usually in French, Spanish and German) using the same sets and costumes? Most of these alternate films no longer survive but the Spanish version of Dracula is one of the few exceptions. Spanish-speaking actor Carlos Vallarias was chosen to play the part of Dracula based more upon his resemblance to Bela Lugosi rather than his acting ability and this is one thing which harms the quality of the finished product.

Having never been a fan of Lugosi’s Dracula, neither the original film or any of his portrayals of the Count, it was interesting to see how the Spanish version fared in comparison. Sadly, Carlos Vallarias’ performance is a pretty poor caricature of Lugosi, not helped by the fact that he was actively encouraged to watch the rushes of Lugosi’s performance and emulate these rather than bring anything of himself to the part. Over the years, this alternate version of Dracula has garnered a reputation of being infinitely superior to its American counterpart but in many ways it’s hard to see why. The Spanish Dracula is much longer than the US version, running at 104 minutes against the original’s 85 (in fact, only 75 minutes in it’s 1936 re-issue!) and drags along at an exceptionally slow pace. Admittedly some of the camera shots are more fluid and aside from the dreadful pantomime performance of Vallarias, the acting sharper and more animated, but this is still really hard for the modern viewer to sit through, even one with a penchant for older, more atmospheric movies. An interesting curio but really only recommended to die-hard classic horror completists.

Review by Richard Gladman


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