The solicitor, Renfield, travels abroad to the castle of Conde Drácula.  Drácula has bought property abroad and Renfield has documents for him to sign to make it official.  What the mild-mannered solicitor doesn’t know, but all the villagers seem to, is that his host is a centuries old vampire.  Conde Drácula is looking to feast further afield.

What Renfield sees and experiences at Drácula’s place fractures his fragile little mind and sends him skipping into the realm of insanity full throttle.  He also becomes the vampire’s henchman, helping to travel.  When they arrive in London, Conde Drácula has killed everyone aboard the ship and the only living person found by the authorities is Renfield, stark raving mad.

Conde Drácula sets up shop, meets Dr. Seward and his family then quickly claims his first victim in the form of Lucia Weston.  He next has sights set on Eva Seward, the doctor’s daughter.  Her fiancé, Juan Harker, stands in the way, but Drácula is not bothered in the least.  His only worry is the renowned physician, Van Helsing, who quickly deduces what manner of beast the newly arrived aristocrat is.

Back in the day, it was fairly common for the big Hollywood studios to make foreign language versions of their films simultaneously with their English counterparts.  While Tod Browning and his cast and crew made 1931’s Dracula during the day, director George Melford and his cast and crew made 1931’s Drácula at night with the same sets and equipment.  Melford would review Browning’s footage then adjust and tweak it for his film.

Dracula is a classic movie, there’s no doubting that fact, but Melford’s Drácula is better in almost every detail save for one:  the vampire.  If Bela Lugosi had been in this thing, it would have been unstoppable.  Carlos Villarías plays Conde Drácula and he too often looks as if he stepped in from a comedy being shot next door:  he has crazy eyes and looks on the verge of laughing when he’s being menacing.  Villarías doesn’t have Lugosi’s command and presence.

Everything else is improved on.  Whereas the English version is stagy and borderline stodgy, Drácula is looser, lustier and a smidge more violent.  In Dracula, when the Count kills Renfield, Dwight Frye rolls leisurely, almost comically, down the stairs.  In Drácula, Conde Drácula tosses him off the stairs to the floor below.  It flows better as a cinematic experience.

If you’ve never seen Drácula, you’re missing out. This is a must-see for the Count’s fans.

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