El castillo de los monstruos [Castle of the Monsters] (1958)

Once again, we can blame Abbott and Costello.

After all, Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein was one of the most copied films ever made, and you’ll find similar horror comedies from all over the world — and more than their fair share from Mexico.  Not too long ago I reviewed Tin Tan’s contribution, La casa del terror: this time we’ll look at a film made by Antonio Espino, a comic who created a character known as Clavillazo.

While, by the Fifties, American movies had mostly left behind the tradition of the older comics who had their distinctive costumes (think Chaplin as the Tramp, or Laurel and Hardy in their shabby suits and Bowler Hats, or The Marx Brothers) this was still alive and well in Mexico, and Clavillazo is distinguished by suit jackets that are way too big for him and a strange, three-cornered hat (there’s a goofy moment when he changes into his dark and sober uniform as an undertaker and puts on a black version of that weird little hat!).

Clavillazo lives in a small Mexican town which just happens to have a sinister mansion on its outskirts where the evil Dr. Sputnik is hard at work on all sorts of horrible violations of the natural order and has created a house full of monsters, none of which were exactly successful.  This time, though, instead of patching together bits and pieces of dead bodies, he plans to start with a beautiful young woman and create his perfect being.

Meanwhile, Clavillazo meets Beatrice, a poor girl who’s come to bury her aunt, and immediately falls in love.  He does everything he can to take care of her — and, despite the fact that this is a horror comedy, most of the film revolves around his attempts to care for her and find new excuses why he can’t keep her fifteen pesos.

However, Dr. Sputnik is hard at work at his various sinister schemes and has decided that Beatrice will be the subject of his new experiment.

Which I’m sure you’ve guessed by now.

We’re about two-thirds of the way through the film when Beatrice finally vanishes.  Clavillazo figures out what happened and rushes off to Dr. Sputnik’s mansion to try to save her, encountering a series of creatures which are…well, reminiscent of the classic Universal monsters.  Mostly.  It isn’t like they were going to pay money for the rights or anything silly like that.  Mexican horror film fans will note that Germán Robles, who starred in El Vampiro just the year before and would end up playing monsters and vampires throughout his career, burlesques his El Vampiro character here.  He has the evening clothes, cloak and neck order he borrowed from Bela Lugosi, and the fangs, but talks in bat squeaks!

Mind you, he’s supposed to be one of Dr. Sputnik’s creations, and yet he proves vulnerable to sunlight.

Go figure.

The mayhem is best summed up when Clavillazo tells us that the house has everything but the Creature from the Black Lagoon.

Which naturally means that they run into a singularly bad Gill Man copy a moment later.

I’ll confess that I enjoyed this one, no matter how shabby its thrift store monsters might be.  It has a certain energy to it, and the romance is nicely played (I’ll confess that, in our age of stick figure movie girls with big boobs, it’s a pleasant surprise to see an attractive leading lady who is far more substantial!).  I’m not exactly sold on the Clavillazo character, but he’s played with a lot of enthusiasm and does quite a few rather dangerous stunts along the way, like his repeated falls down the hotel staircase.

Abbott and Costello did this sort of thing better — at least in the first few of their horror comedies — but it is still a pleasant romp through Universal Horror (almost) territory, with plenty of monsters, death traps and mad scientist action.  There are even a few crocodiles down in the pit.

If you loved those classic films with Bud and Lou, then by all means check this one out.  Or if you love Mexican horror films, comedies, or the films of Antonio Espino.

Or any film which features the room with the walls that are gradually moving together to crush the hero and the girl, while spikes descend from the ceiling…

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