Sunday, May 25, 2008

Honourable Mentions: Chabelo y Pepito contra los Monstrous


You know, I’m rather glad that this 1973 family movie from Mexico, directed by José Estrada, is getting an honourable mention because if I were reviewing it I wouldn’t know where to start. Seriously, this is bizarre.

The film starts with what appears to be a man, Chabelo (Javier López), and a boy, Pepito, playing war. The scene is inter-cut with stock battle footage (which, it becomes apparent, are from a war movie on TV). A girl, Pepito’s sister Alicia (Silvia Pasquel), enters the room and gets a bucket of water on her head.

It becomes readily apparent, however, that Chabelo is not a man, but a child and this is where things becomes very bizarre indeed. The character Chabelo is meant to be slightly younger than his cousin Pepito but huge. Why so big? The film blames his metabolism and an on-running gag through the film is just how much Chabelo must eat and how he feels he will die if no food is available.

From what I can ascertain, Javier López spent much of his career acting as the child character Chabelo. His voice is high pitched [edited due to comments] and actually his own voice, without sound effects used. There is something disconcerting about a grown man acting as a child amongst children and yet the feeling I got through the film was it was done with all innocence. For UK readers, I hate to say it, but think Jimmy Krankie without the cross-dressing!

monsterous manAnyway, Chabelo and Pepito are to go camping with their scout troop. Their leader is Geraldo, Alicia’s boyfriend. On the march to the camp the troop help fix a cart with a lost wheel but, when the owner emerges from beneath the cart, he seems monstrous and warns the troops of the woods as it contains the Devil’s House, the place where Satan keeps his treasure.

Chabelo and the gorillaUnfortunately for Pepito (in particular), Alicia is coming to spend the night at the camp – as it will help with her biology dissertation! This causes Pepito to feel that he has lost face with his fellow scouts and he persuades Chabelo to go with him to find the devil’s house. The first obstacle in their path happens to be an escaped gorilla (who mistakes Chabelo for one of his own given his size). Of course the scouts start looking for the ‘lost’ boys.

the mummyAs it is, in escaping the gorilla, Chabelo and Pepito end up in a cave system and come face to face with all sorts of monsters. The first thing they come across is an Egyptian sarcophagus. Chabelo persuades his cousin that it must contain riches and so they open it. Rather than riches it contains a mummy – as it would. They try to put rocks on the lid to trap it but find themselves having to escape its clutches.

the creature from the black lagoonThis then leads them to a rather scream-happy creature from the black lagoon and, around the same time, the appearance of Frankenstein’s Monster – incorrectly named Frankenstein. There is actually a bit of a monster mash type fight between the gorilla and both the creature and the monster. Later on we also get the wolfman.

robot guardsAs things go on they come across metal masked guards – whom we realise quickly are probably robots. One has to ask the question, at that point, as to why robots would carry burning torches to light their way – but there you go. Of course the boys quickly run out of provisions and thus there is many a scene of Chabelo complaining that he is going to die (and trying to eat hay).

Dracula behing PepitoThe tunnels lead to a house and within there they come across Dracula. It is a brief appearance and not the first time vampires are mentioned. In the caves, some bats fly around and the boys panic thinking vampires – but they are ordinary bats. Pepito holds up a cross but Dracula knocks it out of his hand and manages to defeat Dracula by suggesting to Chabelo that vampire’s are edible – causing the vampire to flee from Chabelo’s voracious appetite.

evil villansThis incident actually makes Pepito think – why would a vampire not be scared of the cross – and he realises something fishy is going on. It transpires that all the monsters are robots and the real enemies are a couple of men (one looking like a cross between Blofeld and a typical super-villain). There is a touch of the mad scientist, especially around the transplanting of brains to make robots, a touch of James Bond and even a hint of Scooby Doo.

Frankenstein's monsterAbsolutely bizarre, I swear I have never seen anything quite like this one.

The imdb page is here.


aaron soto said...

Ha, ha, ha, great review. Welcome to my childhood!! Belive it or not Chabelo is a very well know tv personality in Mexico, he's kinda like Pee Wee but humble, he's the host of a very popular game show for children, he even have a succesfull recording career and many none genre films (he's a comic legend).

"Pepito y Chabelo Vs Los Monstruos" is considered a mexican kitch clasic, on the same level as El Santo movies.

Here's a link of Chabelo singing "el rock and roll" :

Chabelo rules!!

aaron soto said...

I forgott to put this, that's Chabelo voice, he doesn't use sound efects at all, he's been doing that high pitched voice for more then 40 years, for real!

When he's not in character the voice is deeper and stronger.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Aaron, cheers for clearing up the voice question... I did wonder whether it was his own but it was so high that I dismissed the possibility.

I had heard that he was very popular in Mexico... though over here he's not well known at all.

Truthfully, I hope that changes as the kitsch level was similar to Santo (though in many respects much better put together as a movie than much of the Santo stuff and with better production values).

I am developing a real soft spot for the Mexican movie industry be it the more serious end of the spectrum (Curse of the Crying Woman) or the more kitsch end.