Saturday, April 11, 2009

Honourable mentions: Frankenstein el Vampiro y Compania

I will on occasion, so long as the price isn’t too high, get hold of foreign language vampire films without subtitles or dubbing. Of course I prefer films to be subtitled (preferably) or dubbed (at a pinch) but I will sit through a film in a language I don’t speak, if it is not available any other way, and try to gain something from what I am watching. What I won’t normally do is feature said movie on the blog.

Certainly I could never actually review the film – after all I have missed a large nuance of what I am meant to be watching. In this case, however, with this 1962 Mexican movie that was directed by Benito Alazraki, I want to offer a Honourable Mention as the DVD may be sans-subtitle but this film is (at times a scene for scene) rip off of the marvellous Bud Abbott and Lou Costello Meet Frankenstein. The place of Bud and Lou is taken by Manuel 'Loco' Valdés and José 'Ojón' Jasso and the first thing to say is… it isn’t really that funny…

That was probably unfair, as I cannot state that I understand a single dialogue joke but the physical humour wasn’t funny, as I watched the film, and there is a sight gag – lifted from the earlier Universal film – that falls flat on its face. That gag is the sitting on Frankenstein Monster’s knee gag, which was marvellously enacted within the Bud and Lou film. The film does change some aspects of the story but not a lot, however let us talk effects.

Anyone who scoffed at the 'Larry Talbot as Wolfman' makeup – which was marvellous for its time – has clearly never seen this. Our Wolfman first transforms on the phone to the boys (presumably to stop the vampire and monster crates being delivered to the waxworks, as in the original film). The big difference was the transformation was in a bar rather than a hotel room, but the makeup… We have some sort of devil wolf/pig hybrid before us – it’s rather laughable. To be fair Frankenstein’s Monster wasn’t much better. The vampire looked like a parody, which given we are watching a comedy was probably fair enough.

Other changes are the fact that Dracula isn’t mentioned – this is just a vampire. The vampire does not awaken and revitalise the Monster. Rather the evil female doctor steals the bodies, the vampire awakens and hypnotises her to his bidding. It is clear that they still want to do a brain swap between one of the boys and the Monster. Weirdly they kind of succeed in a mind swap, where he acts like the monster and the monster kind of acts like him… this then reverses itself.

There is a comedy relief character, bizarrely as the entire thing is a comedy, in the form of a police inspector who wears odd disguises – including dressing as a belly dancer during a fancy dress. Okay – I couldn’t understand a word but really, he was not needed, except maybe to pad out the short 77 minute running time. One big change, that was actually really interesting, is that the Wolfman kills the vampire – by deliberate stake to the heart. I found this interesting as the Wolfman is always portrayed as more beast than man and this seems like rational thought.

I would like to see this with subtitles, or even dubbed (though I believe the dubbed version is thought lost to the ages), just to give it a fair run. In the meantime watching it in Spanish unsubtitled is the only way I know of to see the film. The imdb page is here.

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