Friday, January 13, 2017

Honourable Mention: El Camino de los Espantos

Directed by Gilberto Martínez Solares and released in 1967, El Camino de los Espantos (literarily the way of the scared but also known as The Spectres Road) was a vehicle for comedy duo Capulina (Gaspar Henaine) and Viruta (Marco Antonio Campos). The duo worked together extensively in TV and film between 1957 and 1967 and this was the last production in that franchise. Gaspar Henaine would go on to have a long solo career as Capulina.

Whilst there is some evidence that the pair were really not getting along by the time this was made they had carved a style by this point, which was their own but owed something to Laurel and Hardy – who they emulated quite strongly early in their career – and probably a little to Bud Abbott and Lou Costello as well. Viruta was the skinny clever part of the act and Capulina the big and dumb one.

I am possibly really pushing it to give this a mention here.

This sees a railway station with a group of passengers all desperate to get to the city. There is the businessman Serapio (Mario García 'Harapos') who needs to stop a business deal (why he doesn’t ask for a telegraph to be sent is not explored) and his wife (Consuelo Monteagudo) and adult son (Arturo Ripstein) who have a social engagement to get back for. There are two ladies, Adelita (Elsa Cárdenas, El Pueblo Fantasma) and Valentina (Salome), who have won a competition to audition for a film. Finally there is a cop (Guillermo Rivas) who has captured the infamous murderer Zopilote (Crox Alvarado) and is taking him back to stand trial. The telegrapher (Nathanael León, Santo en la Venganza de las Mujeres Vampiro) tells them the bridge is out and the train won’t come for at least a week.

Viruta and Capulina
Around this time Capulina and Viruta show up to pick up haulage from the train. Serapio begs for a lift in their truck but is refused as they do not have a passenger license. This fact becomes ignored when the businessman offers 500 pesos for their trouble (and that gets inflated to 500 per head). The girls are offered a free lift because they fancy them and the cop and his prisoner a free lift because he is a cop. However, because of the license issue they can’t take the main highway, due to a checkpoint, and must therefore use the Spectre’s Road.

into the haunted house
En route Viruta sees a skeletal apparition and stops the truck, Capulina gets out and is left behind (and menaced by ghosts) and eventually they have to go back for him. This leads to Zopilote escaping and the truck being stolen and, therefore, them heading to an old house they have spotted (as it looks like the trucks headlights were on nearby). The house is – it appears – haunted and here we have the reason for the Honourable mention.

fanged mask
The house once belonged to a reclusive occultist (who believed he had found evidence of oil at the location) and is a vast gothic pile with trick drawers in cabinets and secret passages. The guys soon discover they are not alone but to us the ghosts look like men in sheets with masks on. And, of course, they are... but the masks are as good a quality (for that read really poor quality) as masks used for actual monsters in other Mexican films of the period. Although they are referred to as ghosts, one has obvious fangs. So we have a person acting as a vampire in a fleeting visitation (though never referred to as a vampire).

And that, as they say, is that. The film is passably watchable with Gaspar Henaine’s Capulina stealing the show. The imdb page is here.

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