Thursday, February 26, 2015

El Castillo de los Monstruos – review

Director: Julián Soler

Release date: 1958

Contains spoilers

When I ordered this on Amazon (UK) the page suggested the film was in English. Given the set’s Spanish titling I hoped it would be at least subtitled. It isn’t either, being Spanish language only, so be aware of that if you decide you want to get a hold of this mostly harmless but in one point highly offensive piece of Mexican hokum.

As for me, well the internet is a wondrous place and I managed to find fan subs out there, which were radically mistimed... but the VLS player allows a manual sync of such things. A wee bit of adjustment and we were ready to go.

the Frankenstein's Monster
The film itself starts with a carriage. We don’t see the driver but do see hairy, clawed hands at the reins (and I assume it was the wolfman (Vicente Lara, Santo and Blue Demon Vs the Monsters) as the other suspect from later in the film, an ape faced man, seemed to be kept locked in a cell). As the carriage gets to a castle a crippled man (Guillermo Orea, El ataúd del Vampiro) knocks at the castle entrance and tells the Frankenstein’s Monster that a package has arrived – that package is a coffin.

buying a funeral
In the nearby town the newspaper is full of reports of bodies being snatched from the graveyard. That doesn’t seem to bother Clavillazo (Antonio Espino) a bungling, good natured undertaker. After some banter with his blind neighbour (Carlos Orellana) he goes to work, though his boss is worried about lack of business. He is, like all the other townsfolk, wary of the crippled man. A young woman, Beatrice (Evangelina Elizondo), comes in wanting to bury her aunt. Beatrice is an orphan, new in town and she was going to live with her aunt. Unfortunately she only has 15 pesos, hundreds shy of a funeral. Given he fancies her, Clavillazo decides to carry out the funeral for free, provides mourners and then offers her the use of his home.

Evangelina Elizondo as Beatrice
Now, I mentioned that the film becomes highly offensive and it is when Clavillazo books into a hotel and the owner’s son (Arturo Cobo) has a mental health impairment. The fact that they make him nothing more than the foil of a joke for Clavillazo along with the generally massively unsympathetic portrayal just wouldn’t cut the mustard today in what was otherwise family level entertainment. It was uncomfortable watching. However, things get back on track after that scene and Clavillazo and Beatrice start to fall in love but she has attracted the attention of the sinister Dr Sputnik.

eye mojo
He has been trying to perfect a being through the use of cadavers, and created a legion of monsters in so doing. He now wants to try and use a live subject and Beatrice is his choice. He displays a thoroughly powerful brand of eye mojo – given that he seems to be able to hypnotise her not only from a distance but out of eye-line as well. Having taken her to his castle, it is up to Clavillazo to rescue her. Of course, that means braving the monsters.

moody profile shot
Which brings us to the vampire (Germán Robles, el Vampiro, the Nostradamus series & also El ataúd del Vampiro). Robles pretty much reprises his role as Count Karol de Lavud but played for laughs. Clavillazo refers to him as the bat (we do see a really crap bat at one point but it is not confirmed as to whether that was the vampire or not) and we get a Benny Hill-esque chase around a coffin with the pair. The vampire is eventually killed by the sun (simply vanishing).

Germán Robles as the vampire
Without the moment I mentioned this would have been a fairly inoffensive Mexican comedy that was mildly amusing. It was not, however, a great monster mash nor was it great cinema. All in all it would have attracted 4 out of 10 and I won’t reduce that score, recognising it as a product of its time and suggesting you just skip the hotel scene.

The imdb page is here.

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