Cinema/TV, Dracula, Film Notes

Your Daily Dracula – German Robles as ‘el Vampiro’, El Castillo de los Monstruos (1957)

Your Daily Dracula – German Robles as ‘el Vampiro’, El Castillo de los Monstruos (1957)

Reference books tend to scramble the ingredients of this 1957 Mexican comedy.  It is not a remake of Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, though it does cop a few ideas and characters from the American film, and — despite its impressive line-up of monsters (unmatched until The Monster Squad) — it spends an awful lot of time with comedy shenanigans in town before it gets to the eponymous castle.

El Clavillazo (Antonio Espino) is a knockabout comic whose schtick seems to consist of a very strange hat and an overlarge zoot suit-ish jacket, plus whiskery routines like miming a passionate serenade for his sweetheart and being forced to keep miming when the radio segues to a female torch-singer.  Clavillazo, who might be an undertaker, has a relationship with Beatriz (Evangelina Elizondo), a seamstress, and pals around with a group of gurning halfwit stooges who have one mannerism apiece.  A typical bit of business has El Clavillazo, who uses his stage name for his character, visiting an asylum and encountering another sane visitor, whereupon the two ‘normals’ warily assume the other to be mad and attempt a soothing duet, interrupted by the arrival of a real jittery, homicidal maniac (whose mad/cretin act isn’t that far removed from the comedians’ clowning).

Meanwhile, out at the castle that was introduced before the credits with some atmos touches (clawed hands holding the reins), a mad scientist (‘Dr Sputnik’) and his scarred, hunchbacked minion are making monsters.  The doctor, who is posing as a kindly blind man in town, kidnaps Beatriz (another burst of atmosphere, with eyes staring out from under a slouch hat) and uses hypnosis to convince her that she is his love, Galatea.  The hero blunders out to the castle, confronts the doc and the monsters, runs around a lot being stalked and almost strangled, and rescues the girl. German Robles, star of a few contemporary serious horrors, does an act akin to Lugosi in A&CMF and Lee in Tempi duri per i vampiri, skulking with cape and fangs and sending himself up without much actual wit.

All the other monsters just lurch about, making Clavillazo run away, and are quickly got out of the picture: a Gill Man patterned on the Creature From the Black Lagoon is devolved into a big dead fish, a Wolf Man is throttled by another beast-man type creature from behind cell bars, a tall thin butler in the Karloff Frankenstein Monster image melts away to cogs and clock-parts, and the Vampire vanishes at dawn.  Dr Sputnik is shot in the back by the dying hunchback after the usual rant (‘Yes I’m mad, if it’s mad to want perfection!’) and Clavillazo and sweetie are rescued from a trapped cell by the gang, who keep throwing the wrong switches (lowering a spiked roof, squirting gas or water) before getting them out.

Director Julian Soler frames one or two things that look good in stills but mostly stands back and lets the comic jump up and down in a desperate plea for laughs that don’t come, while the action is staged in a primitive Mascot serial/Jerry Warren manner.  Rubbish, but rare.

First published in Shock Cinema.


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