Different interpretations of the same story is something that has always fascinated. No matter how much someone tries, one person doesn’t think exactly the same way as someone else. In 1931, Universal knew while they were filming that they had a story that would translate well to Spanish-speaking viewers. Dracula was such an iconic story already that they would have no trouble selling a Spanish version to their markets in Mexico, Cuba or Spain. So when Todd Browning was done with the English version for the day, an all Spanish cast and crew would come in and film the exact same story during the night on the same sets. Despite having the same plot and the same settings, you can notice that the director’s hands influence two pretty different results.
I won’t rehash the whole story here, since I am sure you have seen the original version (and if you haven’t than why are you reading this post?). But I will talk about what makes this film unique to its English partner. The main aspect of the film that separates this one apart is the performance of Eva, the girl who Count Dracula becomes obsessed with and terrorizes. In the English version (her name is Mina in that one), the role comes off as paper-thin. She is just a vessel for the men in the story to fill with whatever their needs are for the plot. But in this version, Eva is a enigmatic and alive creature. She is someone you care about and want her see beat Dracula through the help of Van Helsing and her fiance Harker. She brings a since of life that was absent in the original. This is all the work of the actress, because both versions are basically saying the same lines. The actress takes these whiny and flat lines and injects them with these grandiose emotions that I wish came from everyone else in the room.
Another thing that is different from the English version is the incredible sense of motion. This motion energizes and completely matches the acting of Eva. It gives the whole picture a sinister sense of urgency that can sometimes weigh the original down. When you see Dracula for the first time on those stairs or when you see the power that Dracula exerts on Eva or various other minions, the director gets right next to him and shows you what his victims are seeing. This makes the film even more frightening than it would be otherwise.
Of course this film is not without flaws. Almost everyone but Eva put in boring performances. The most egregious is the Spanish actor playing Count Dracula. It isn’t that he is bad, but I am just so used to Bela Lugosi that the weird faces he makes really turn me off and take me out of the movie. Bela may make exaggerated faces, but they do not hold a candle to this Dracula. It is like he is constantly smelling something gross on the set. It is more comical than scary. This film is still worth watching as a good example of how certain people can really influence and produce dramatically different results from the same source material.