Friday, December 17, 2010

Honourable Mentions: Ismail Yassin Meets Frankenstein

Ismail Yassin Meets Frankenstein was an Egyptian film from 1954, though the original Arabic title, Haram Alek, actually translated as Mercy Please – or so I understand. Mercy Please was perhaps a more apt name, once the film has been watched.

Essentially this is a remake (or rip-off, perhaps) of Bud Abbott and Lou Costello meet Frankenstein. Of course, it is not the only one. We previously looked at Frankenstein el Vampiro y Compania, the Mexican rip-off of the Bud and Lou classic. We have also looked at the loose adaptation the Bowery Boys meet the Monsters and the wonderful Monkees episode that owed a huge debt to Bud and Lou, Monstrous Monkee Mash.

Now, there is a very simple reason why this is an honourable mention and not a review – it doesn’t have a vampire in it! So, what is it doing here?

our protaganists
Well, to start off we have a very similar – though not exactly the same – opening. Ismail (Ismail Yasseen) and Abdel Fatah (Abdel Fatah Al Kasri) work in an antiques bazaar. Ismail is drawn as the brainless one – but to be honest his performance through the film is less endearing and more excruciating, much to loud and overstated for my tastes, at least. Some of the jokes were also a bit off mark – the one that mocked a mute (despite the fact that the mockery was meant to be aimed at Ismail) was distasteful.

she looks shifty
A woman is a regular customer to the store and has been hanging around Ismail – something that Abdel Fatah can’t understand. We can though, having seen the original and also due to the shifty looks she gives when no one but the camera is looking. Yes, she is a bad ‘un alright and listens in to Ismail giving his boss, Mr Marzook, a telegram that informs him a crate has arrived.

ropey telephone call
She then uses the store telephone to tell Professor Assem that the crate is coming. She, we later discover, is both Assem’s secretary and his lover. Assem’s assistant, Dr Morad, hears the professor on the phone and suggests that Assem reconsiders his course of action. He will not but, as we will see, he needs Morad’s expertise. He also has a hold over Morad and it is beyond the fact that Morad is engaged to Assem’s niece, Afaf.

extreme epilepsy

How this has occurred we don’t rightly now but Assem – possibly through hypnosis – has turned Morad into a wolfman. Now for the bizarre bits to this (if that wasn’t bizarre enough). Firstly, it is not the full moon but hearing the howl of a wolf (or a dog) that makes Morad turn. If that wasn’t strange enough the condition is passed off as epilepsy – to the point that Afaf sees him change and her Uncle says it is only an epileptic attack. If Morad betrays Assem he will never gain a cure.

coffin hiding
So Ismail and Abdel Fattah have to take delivery of the crate. The warehouse has a lot of coffins/sarcophagi in it and Ismail starts scaring himself by reading papers about ancient Egyptian corpses that walk from their tombs and about Fafour who was buried twenty years before his death and who leaves his coffin (at night) to suck blood. All very vampiric.

Actually, in a coffin is Assam, but to me he was no vampire, he was just hiding there. The crate contains the Son of Bakhtour, a mummy that was embalmed by the master embalmer Bakhtour and was so well preserved that he can still walk. To us he is Frankenstein’s monster. He is what Assam is after.

the monster setions I didn't get...
Assam leaves his coffin and goes into full on Lugosi mode, cape across the face, hands making movements and hypnotises Ismail. He then has the monster rise and leave with him – causing Marzook to sack the pair. However, their fates are further entwined as Ismail has been selected to have his brain transplanted into the mummy as it is the only way to retrieve the secret from the mummy’s chest (no, I didn’t understand that either). Assem needs Morad to perform the transplant.

a classic scene revisited
So, the pair are given a job with the professor, Morad is trying to warn them and we get some classic scenes revisited, such as sitting on the Monsters lap. The way the elements were forced into the story sometimes worked and sometimes were just bizarre; lycanthropy = epilepsy. The visitation of the invisible man occurs at the end, also, but the invisible man is replaced by the Angel of Death.

The big problem was that this wasn’t funny – whereas the original was. I suppose, however, that imitation is the most sincere form of flattery and the Bud and Lou vehicle is certainly oft imitated. The fact that Assam is given, albeit a miss-credited, a backstory that sounds vampiric and acts just like Lugosi makes this pretty much of genre interest. The imdb page is here.

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