Thursday, October 28, 2004

Things You Didn't Know That Won't Enrich Your Life After Discovery

Last night I was talking with some people about classic horror movies. We were talking about Halloween costumes and I volunteered that I'm dressing as the Invisible Man this year. "How are you gonna pull that off?" someone asked.

"All you need are a pair of gloves for your hands, some gauze bandages to hide your face, and a pair of sunglasses," I explained.

"But you would be visible, wouldn't you?"

"The illusion would be that I'm invisible under all the wrapping and clothing."

A woman in my group interjected, "I still don't understand how you would be invisible."

"Did you ever see the movie?" I asked.

"I'm not a Kevin Bacon fan," she said.

"Not that one," I said, "the 1933 version with Claude Rains and directed by James Whale."


"Whale and the make-up artists simply wrapped Rains in bandages and clothing until not an inch of skin was visible. that way if he had to conduct business, like rent a room in an inn, he could be seen."

This was the segue into discussing those movies. Naturally "Dracula" came up. I asked if anyone had ever seen the Spanish version of the movie. I received a gaggle of blank stares which I used to tell this story:

Carl Laemmle realized that he had an event on his hands when production started on "Dracula" so he wanted to capitalize on it in every manner possible. The problem was that Tod Browning, who directed the English-speaking version, never felt comfortable with "talkies." He was a hell of a silent film director- his collaborations with Lon Chaney stand the test of time. But Browning went off script, scrapping whole chunks of dialouge throughout much of the production. So to cater to Spanish speaking audiences who clamored for horror movies but didn't want to sit through stilted translations or subtitles Laemmle ordered production of a separate movie for Spanish speaking audiences.

Universal cast a completely different cast, director, and production crew but used the same script, stage settings and costume design. The result was an movie that in many ways is the superior of its fondly-remembered English cousin. The Spanish version runs about a half-hour longer than the English version, thanks to the extra dialogue, and Lupita Tovar is stunning as Eva (the counterpart to helen Chandler's Mina). Carlos Villarias' hammy performance in the title role will not make anyone forget Bela Lugosi, but the direction is tighter.

There are other subtle differences between the two versions. The Spanish version gives the viewer more plunging necklines on the heroines and a more subtle allusion to the sexuality conveyed by vampirism, whereas the English version sticks more to the script and oftentimes comes across as a play being filmed. Both versions are found on the "Dracula: The Legacy Collection" DVD set, so I had lots of time to study the differences.

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