When Mexican filmmakers weren’t matching up masked wrestling stars against classic Hollywood monsters, a common alternative was pitting comedy teams against them. Films like 1957’s EL CASTILLO DE LOS MONSTROUS and 1973’s CHABELO Y PEPITO CONTRA LOS MONSTRUOS exemplify this trend in South-of-the-Border cinema, but no film in this arena hits home more than FRANKESTEIN, EL VAMPIRO Y COMPAÑÍA. Made some 15 years after the bonafide American gem it attempts to imitate, the film is an unauthorized yet direct remake of ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN.
The familiar plot goes something like this: The obnoxiously zany Paco (Manuel 'Loco' Valdés) and his straight-faced, shorter pal Agapito (José Jasso) work at a package station where crates containing the supposed wax figures of “The Vampire” and “The Frankestein (sic) Monster” are to be delivered. The duo drop the crates off at a wax museum (the wax figures there look like department store mannequins), which happen to contain the real Vampire (played by the painfully thin Quintín Bulnes, the high priest in CURSE OF THE DOLL PEOPLE) and the real Frankestein Monster. While Paco’s and Agapito’s backs are turned, the two undead monsters are taken away by the sultry Dr. Sofia (Nora Veryán) and her daper henchmen, and are transported to a castle-like villa. In the meantime, Paco and Agapito are warned about the walking horrors by a concerned gentleman who turns out to be a werewolf. When Paco and Agapito attend a fancy dress ball at the villa, the dimwitted Paco is abducted so his brain can be transferred to the Frankestein Monster’s cranium, part of The Vampire’s ultimate plan to take over the United States!
Despite mention in more than a few monster movie related books and magazines, FRANKESTEIN, EL VAMPIRO Y COMPAÑÍA is a film that has for the most part eluded English speaking territories. The similarities to ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN are so obvious that some scenes are almost shot-for-shot recreations, albeit pale but amusing imitations. There are some differences though in that dopey comic Valdés doesn’t have a characteristically funny physical attribute (he’s not short or tubby) and acts more like Huntz Hall than Lou Costello. The monsters are played more silly here, with the Frankestein monster acting loco after suffering a bad brain transplant, the fangy Vampire (he’s never referred to as “Dracula”) being extremely animated and occasionally asinine, and the werewolf (he's actually played pretty straight) looking totally pathetic in woolly animal head mask that resembles anything but a wolf.
FRANKESTEIN, EL VAMPIRO Y COMPAÑÍA doesn’t have the appealing or talented comic actors to hold it together properly and its piss poor studio-bound production values often hinder it, but there are a few chuckles to be had and some decent monster mash sparring during the climax. The film has undeniable value as a curiosity piece, so classic monster movie fans will definitely want to take a look. Director Benito Alazraki also did CURSE OF THE DOLL PEOPLE, SPIRITISM and INVASION OF THE ZOMBIES (aka SANTO VS. THE ZOMBIES).
Image Entertainment’s DVD release of this title is marketed entirely to Latino audiences, bearing the original Spanish language track (it was never dubbed into English), and therefore has no English subtitles, or any other subtitles for that matter. But even if you’ve only seen ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN once, you’ll have no problem following the plot here. The black & white full frame presentation looks quite good though it’s obvious the film was meant to be matted to 1.85. There are no extras on the disc. (George R. Reis)
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