A Spanish-Language Dracula Comes to Portland

It was filmed at exactly the same time as the Bela Lugosi classic, with exactly the same sets and props—just in Spanish.

By Fiona McCann September 11, 2018 Published in the October 2018 issue of Portland Monthly

See “Spanish Dracula” (with Carlos Villarías and Lupita Tovar) and more than 150 other films at the Portland Film Festival, October 22–28.

"I am ... Draaacuuuulaaaaa,” intones a chalky, black-cloaked Bela Lugosi, in his portrayal of the creepy count in 1931’s Dracula. For many, that remains the definitive movie adaptation of the 19th-century novel.

But there’s another version, filmed at exactly the same time, with exactly the same sets and props, exactly the same cobwebbed interiors and wide-winged bats. The difference? The cast, the director—oh, and the fact that the whole thing is in Spanish.

For years, Drácula—a.k.a. Spanish Dracula—was believed lost, until a print surfaced 40 years after it was made. Now, for the first time—at least as far as Portland Film Festival executive director and cofounder Josh Leake can ascertain—it’s set for Portland screens as part of PFF’s sixth annual incarnation.

The movie will be one of a slew of restored horror movies to screen as part of the festival, with PFF planning at least one a day—Bride of Frankenstein, Dracula’s Daughter, The Mummy’s Hand, and more. It also forms a part of this year’s special Spanish-language program, titled LatinX. 

“It’s really crazy, Portland being such a huge city, that there’s not more opportunities for the Latinx community to not only see reflections of themselves in films, but also to go to workshops that are actually in Spanish,” Leake says.

Giving more independent filmmakers an opportunity to show their work is the reason the festival was created in the first place. “I made a documentary about homeless people in Portland that survive by taking back beverage cans,” recalls Leake. “But there wasn’t a venue to play it here in Portland.” So he set about creating a festival. PFF hit the ground running at its 2013 inception: actor John Malkovich attended the opening party.

Over its seven-day run, PFF will screen more than 150 films all over the city—shorts, narrative features, and documentary features. There’s also an opening Champagne toast, a Day of the Dead costume party, and a special workshop by Jeff Pirtle, archivist at Universal.

“I called him up and asked him, do you guys happen to have any horror movies in Spanish?” recalls Leake. Pirtle immediately told him the story of Spanish Dracula. “He said it was even better than the original.”

Vamos a ver.

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