Comedy legend, on the downhill side of his career, makes a comedy featuring some of the classic Universal Horror Films’ monsters.
Sounds vaguely familiar.
Of course, this one was made in Mexico, and featured Tin Tan (Germán Valdés) instead of Abbott and Costello. But, hey, Lon Chaney Jr. shows up as the Wolfman in both of them.
Mind you, he looks pretty bad in this one.
This time around, Tin Tan plays Casimiro, a terminally lazy janitor whose “I’m not his girlfriend,” Paquita, does most of his work for him.
And feeds him.
And got his job for him.
Of course, part of the reason he’s so lazy is that his boss at the wax museum where he is night watchman is really a mad scientist and has been draining his blood regularly.
Mind you, he’s one of those mad scientists who seems to be out to win the League’s annual trophy. Not only is he digging up corpses and trying to revive them, not only is he making a monster and looking for some dimwitted and compliant person’s brain to put in it (hint: not Lou Costello’s), not only is he planning to steal a mummy and bring it back to life, but he’s also turning the leftover bodies into exhibits for his wax museum!
He even finds time to try to date up Paquita!
Mind you, that stolen mummy was of this long dead Egyptian who had been cursed, one of those curses that only affects you at the full moon…
Okay, okay. He’s a werewolf. From ancient Egypt. Keep up with me on this one.
So this sets off a long chain of comedy routines, with the werewolf getting loose, terrorizing the city and carrying off Paquita.
But no one messes with Casimiro’s girl (or her squash blossom quesadillas!) so he goes to the rescue, climbing up the outside of a building in a climax borrowed from Safety Last.
I laughed at this one the whole way through. Despite some rather dumb bits involving his second job working for a psychiatrist who is badly in need of his own services, and even though I had to watch it with subtitles, La casa del terror is still funnier than most of the Abbott and Costello monster comedies.
Which, I’ll admit, did get pretty lame after a while.
Lon, however, really isn‘t given much to do: he has no dialogue I’m not sure whether this was because he didn’t speak Spanish, or because they only had a few days contract with him and it was easier — or, as in The Black Sleep, it was deliberate, a way to make sure he could do his scenes no matter how drunk he was.
He is also doubled in most of the action scenes by a stuntman who’s noticeably skinnier than he was (mind you, that happens a lot in the movies, we just don’t notice, usually).
Let’s face it: they both made better films.
However, it’s not a bad horror comedy, with plenty of mad science and even two classic monsters (even if they both happen to be the same person). It’s a shame, though, that their man-made monster never actually puts in an appearance.
But then, they probably couldn’t have made it too much like the classic Universal Frankenstein anyway.
At least not if they wanted to market this one in the United States.
Sadly that never happened, as Jerry Warren got his hands on this one and combined it with bits of The Aztec Mummy to turn La casa del terror into a terrible movie called Face of the Screaming Werewolf.
Which, hard as it may be to imagine, used even less of Lon Chaney, Jr.
But then, that’s what Jerry Warren did.
And fortunately Jerry’s own films are bad enough he never had to worry about anyone doing the same thing to him!
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