When horror movie aficionados discuss the golden age of Universal they will in the main proclaim that the Spanish language version of Dracula that was directed by George Melford is far superior to the Tod Browning one.
Very often they will base this on third hand information gleaned from articles from those who have seen it rather than from personally sitting through it themselves.
It is now one of those comments that has been repeated so often that it just seems to be a throwaway fact.
However last week I was listening in to Gil and Roscoe’s Bodacious Horror Podcast as they discussed watching it as part of the extras on the Blu-Ray release, and their first hand enthusiasm acted as the catalyst for me to splash some cash out on the Universal Box set of classic monster movies.
So here I am and the final credits have rolled and guess what?
It is damn good.
Carlos Villarias as Dracula is as good as Lugosi, Lupita Tovar playing Eva - as she is called in this rather than Mina - has a stronger presence than Helen Chandler, and best of all is Pablo Alvarez Rubio, who as Renfield commands every scene he is in with a gonzo performance.
Yet sadly their performances are rarely focussed on, and instead it is the camera angles, the lighting and even the pace of the movie that is praised more often than not - and quite rightly so as this is a dream of a production - and it just seems that someone somewhere needs to acknowledge that the strengths of the film are enhanced by the key players performances, rather than just the technical approach that surpasses Brownings version at every turn, and here I am more than happy to be that guy.
So I am taking my hat off to the cast.
Just bloody brilliant.
Of course when watching this it is best to leave a degree of expectation at the door as we are talking about a movie made in 1931 and not in the modern era.
The bat hanging on the end of a wire as it dances above the heads of the horses as they gallop through the Carpathians to Dracula’s castle is as hokey as you would expect, but as Melford didn't have a host of CGI experts at his beck and call then I don’t feel the need to get hung up on scenes such as that.
Instead it is far easier to just turn the lights out and allow yourself to become immersed in what is definitively the better version.
It can be said that modern audiences may not be too sure about indulging in this as the lack of gore may be an issue, and the lack of shock scenes that make you jump could well be a turn off, and if we are going to be brutally honest watching a film with subtitles isn’t some peoples bag either, but if you seriously consider yourself a fan of the horror genre in movies then it’s a must see in my opinion.
So give yourself a treat and order up the blu-ray, sit with your popcorn, and keep telling yourself that in so many ways this is where it all started and enjoy.
Then when you have soaked it all up go and check out Gil and Roscoe’s podcast for more entertainingly insightful discussions that are heavy on the shenanigans.