Cinema/TV, Dracula, Film Notes

Your Daily Dracula – Capulina contra los Vampiros (1971)

Your Daily Dracula – Juan Gallardo as ‘Count Draco’, Capulina contra los Vampiros (1971)

Mexican comedian Gaspar Henaine spent most of his stage, film and TV career in partnership with Marco Antonio Campos, billed as Campolina and Viruta.  They claimed to be inspired by Laurel and Hardy but stuck closer to the model of Abbott and Costello (thin, aggressive wiseguy – chubby childish crybaby idiot).  After the act broke up, Henaine kept going with a solo vehicles – which is more than Lou Costello managed after The Thirty Foot Bride of Candy Rock – though he hedged his bets by bringing in name co-stars like the wrestler El Santo or (as here) popular fictional characters.  Capulina has a moustache and, like many Mexican comics, a distinctive and supposedly funny hat (all brim, no crown).  His schtick is all too familiar – running around in panic, blundering towards success, letting supporting characters get cream-splatted or wet, squeaking in delight, and pulling faces.  His signature move here comes when he wears an armoured breastplate and helmet to prevent fanging but wiggles his fat ass to lure bat-on-a-string vampires into nipping him.

This opens with Capulina in a onesie, reading a Dracula novel in bed … setting up that this is going to be an it’s-all-a-dream movie, albeit with the regulation but-is-it-though? stinger.  Centuries ago, Count Draco (Juan Gallardo) – or maybe he’s Dracula, since he wears the traditional evening clothes and cape outfit – was impaled by a pole and turned to dust, and that pole has been stuck in his parquet floor ever since.  Pampa (Rossy Mendoza), the bride of Dracula, has been employing strongmen in attempts to pull the stake, but none have managed it.  The idea that the stake through Dracula’s heart is like the sword in the stone awaiting the one true king to pull it out is nifty and might make a decent film in itself, but it’s a throwaway.  An employment agency sends foul-up dolt Capulina to be the castle’s new caretaker – he gets into a double-act with a ghost dwarf in a mediaeval outfit (Aurelio Perez) and accidentally displaces the stake.  The Count reappears, complaining about his lumbago, and the rest of the film is a runaround, with everyone chasing everyone else and lots of trick effects whereby people and things appear and disappear accompanied by a music cue that gets irritating after a while.  The Count revives a harem of chiffon-nightie/black underwear vampiras – their look is very Hammer Films, though boss vampires with harems of burlesque fang chicks recur in Mexican movies (creeping into America with the Count Yorga films).

Henaine apparently prided himself on clean humour – though he kicks a chamber pot in the first scene and there is that butt-wiggling business – and director Rene Cardona Sr (known for wrestling horror stuff like Santo en el Tesoro de Dracula and La Horripilante Bestia Humana/Night of the Bloody Apes) goes out of his way to make sure nothing is remotely scary.  The spacious castle set is attractively red-lit and has Munsters-style details like a skull telephone, but the vampires (and ghost dwarf) get pies thrown in their faces, have their fangs pulled out with pliers, and are never even comically threatening.  Also, the shapely Pampa and the harem girls don’t try to seduce the childish leading man — even Lou Costello had a libido.  Clean, yes – funny, not so much.

NB: I previously assumed Carlos Agosti – star of the ‘Count Frankenhausen’ movies – played Draco, but this isn’t the case.  It’s almost certainly Juan Gallardo, though only ‘las vampiras’ get proper role-and-name billing.  Count Draco sometimes sports ridiculously large tusks and is stuck with being a stooge.  A possible subtext to this, along with the use of a dwarf jester as sidekick, is that Capulina wasn’t ever going to risk sharing his spotlight with an equal partner again.


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