At midnight on Walpurgis Night, an English clerk, Renfield, arrives at Count Dracula's castle in the Carpathian Mountains. After signing papers to take over a ruined abbey near London, Dracula drives Renfield mad and commands obedience. Renfield escorts the boxed count on a death ship to London. From there, the Count is introduced into the society of his neighbor, Dr. Seward, who runs an asylum. Dracula makes short work of family friend, Lucia Weston, then begins his assault on Eva Seward, the doctor's daughter. A visiting expert in the occult, Van Helsing, recognizes Dracula for who he is, and there begins a battle for Eva's body and soul.Written by
This alternate 1931 Spanish language version of the familiar Transylvanians' story was shot throughout the night, using the same Universal sets that the American production utilized during the day. Some buffs consider it superior, at least in a technical sense, but for this viewer, it was at least comparable to the Lugosi classic. Not really scary, per se, but atmospheric, literate, and fun.
The Count, played with a rather goofy charm by Carlos Villarias, comes to London to rent Carfax Abbey, and works his spell on local beauties such as Eva (Lupita Tovar) and Lucia (Carmen Guerrero). Those brave souls willing to fight him are asylum administrator Dr. Seward (Jose Soriano Viosca), Evas' handsome suitor "Juan" Harker (Barry Norton), and the determined, knowledgeable vampire hunter Van Helsing (Eduardo Arozamena).
Running approximately a half hour longer than the Lugosi / Tod Browning version, this is admittedly rather plodding, and thus not to all horror fans' tastes. For a while, it consists of more talk than action. But the characters, and performances, are entertaining, with Arozamena frequently mugging for the camera, Villarias keeping that silly smile on his face, and the majority of the cast playing it quite straight. Pablo Alvarez Rubio is wonderful as the nutty, bug munching Renfield; Dwight Frye may be more iconic in the role, but Rubios' performance is no less amusing. Some people will appreciate the attire of the ladies in this version, which is decidedly sexier.
An effectively roving camera operated by George Robinson is certainly an asset, with credited director George Melford and company making full use out of the existing sets.
Two years later, leading lady Tovar (who only recently passed away, at the impressive age of 106) married associate producer Paul Kohner.
Seven out of 10.
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