20 July, 2011

Franco's Spanish voices: MATILDE CONESA

The beginning of yet another new series! Now, I know you guys have mostly heard Franco movies dubbed into English, but recent DVD releases in the Anglophone world, regardless of region, either contain a Spanish option or, whenever an English-language soundtrack was unavailable, just the Spanish soundtrack, duly subtitled. In other words, many of you have been exposed to the vocal efforts of vintage Spanish dubbing actors.

Now, some background explanation may be necessary for the present series. Until quite recently, Spanish films, like their Italian counterpart, have been shot MOS (without sound) and then had a soundtrack added later on in a sound studio – indeed, only in the mid-eighties did the use of direct sound start to attain a certain regularity until evolving towards its dominance in the present day, when it has finally become the rule rather than the exception. Back in the days of post-synched Spanish soundtracks, the performers heard were sometimes the same as those seen onscreen, sometimes not. There were various reasons for two actors being used for the same role: the onscreen player not knowing Spanish or speaking the language with an accent; the actor in question having limited vocal skills; a lack of ease with the dubbing process (which even afflicted experienced stage performers); just plain unavailability… Only the latter would explain that even some career dubbers, whenever given visual roles, would find themselves with somebody else’s voice in the final film.

Jess Franco’s Spanish films were almost invariably sound recorded in Madrid: some rare exceptions include Lucky, el intrépido and The Castle of Fu Manchu, both given sound in Barcelona. Among the sound studios employed for Franco’s films we find Magna, Roma, Cinearte, Exa, more rarely Sincronía or Sago-Exa, but most commonly, especially with the passing years, the now-defunct Arcofón.

And now to the artiste of this entry, the still-active Matilde Conesa Valls, born in Madrid on 13 April 1928.A leading radio actress from 1947, she took up dubbing in 1951 and became identified, by dint of her deep voice, with strong, domineering actresses, most notably Bette Davis, but also Lauren Bacall and Anne Bancroft, not to mention Jane Wyman in the TV series Falcon Crest, Stella Stevens in Flamingo Road and Nancy Marchand’s Livia Soprano in The Sopranos. It seems inevitable that, in the context of Franco movies, she should voice prison governors in WIP flicks. Outside Franco, she also supplied the voice of the mother in Miguel Madrid’s Necrophagus (1971) and that of Paul Naschy’s formidable wife in The Devil’s Possessed. What follows is a gallery, probably incomplete, of her Franco roles.

Rosanna Yanni in Kiss Me, Monster (1969)

Rosanna Yanni in Two Undercover Angels (1969)

Mercedes McCambridge in 99 Women (1969)

Beni Cardoso in La venganza del doctor Mabuse (1972)

Rosa Palomares in Devil’s Island Lovers (1972)

Yelena Samarina in Night of the Skull (1973)

France Nicolas in El sádico de Notre Dame (1979)

Ajita Wilson in Sadomania (1981)

Sample of Matilde Conesa’s voice, dubbing Rosanna Yanni in Kiss Me, Monster:

Sample of Matilde Conesa’s voice, dubbing Rosa Palomares in Devil’s Island Lovers:

Other, non-Franco vocal roles essayed by Ms. Conesa for Spanish soundtracks include that of Jeannine Mestre in Grau’s No profanar el sueño de los muertos, Miriam Karlin's Catwoman in A Clockwork Orange, Maria Pia Conte in Merino’s Orgía de los muertos, María Kosty in Night of the Seagulls, Shelley Winters in Tentacles, the medium in Fulci’s Paura nella città dei morti viventi, Mary Freudstein at the end of the same director’s House by the Cemetery, Louise Fletcher in Flowers in the Attic and the character of Mrs. Fortune in Piquer Simón’s Slugs. In addition, she has often been heard in TV redubs of old films: Joan Crawford in Johnny Guitar, Jacqueline Pierreux in Black Sabbath, Maria Ouspenskaya in Universal horror movies, Margaret Rutherford in Blithe Spirit

A very young Matilde Conesa (right), with Rafael Rivelles and Julia Lajos in Rafael Gil’s version of Don Quijote de la Mancha (1947).

Link to a partial list of Conesa’s films as a voice actress:

Text by Nzoog Wahrlfhehen


Anonymous said...

An enlightening post, as usual from you Nzoog, thanks!

firirinabe said...

Does she voice Katia Bienert in Eugenie? It seems odd that the 14 year old actress has the voice of a 60 year old chain smoker. And Mabel Escano's character sounds just the same as well (which seems more appropriate). Do all Spanish women sound like this or is it just Matilde doing all the voices?

Nzoog Wahrlfhehen said...

Conesa had nothing to do with the dubbing of EUGENIE. I have yet to identify the woman who voiced Eugenie. Honestly, I don't think she's even 40. Mabel Escaño dubs herself: she was later to become a full-time dubbing actress and dubbing teacher. Mayans also dubs himself, as he did in most of his post-1975 films.

Gilles Beaudin said...


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