Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Very odd likely unauthorized Mexican remake of Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein is out there

By Doug Gibson

I came across a film, released via DVD by Image Entertainment Latino, called Frankestein (sic), El Vampiro, y Compania," made in 1962 by Cinematografica Calderon S.A., a Mexican film company which still exists. The movie is a comedy and a blatant remake of the Abbott & Costello classic "Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein." That is about the only admirable quality of the film. It's bottom-of-the-barrel low and the comedy is of the crude, unfunny type where the "funny man" screams and mugs his face up and generally does a sixth-rate imitation of Huntz Hall.

And this is a bad film. Frankly, it's very obscure and there is no English dubbing available. On IMDB it declares the dubbed version lost, but I wonder if the film was never dubbed because the producers were worried they'd be sued by Universal, which produced the Abbott and Costello film. My DVD is of course only Spanish. I am fluent in Spanish but the film can be followed by anyone familiar with Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein. In that sense it can be fun to watch, but boy it's mediocre and unfunny.

The original film has Bud and Lou as inept shippers of big packages and crates. While unloading crates containing the original Dracula and Frankenstein monster for a spook show owner, it turns out the monsters are genuine. They escape and Bud and Lou are arrested for having lost the merchandise. They are bailed out by a sexy insurance investigator who hopes the boys can lead her to the merchandise. Rotund Lou is being romanced by a sexy doctor who is helping Dracula resurrect the Frankenstein monster. The wolf man contact the boys, hoping to stop Dracula. It all ends in a party and then a castle where Dracula and Lou's paramour hope to place Costello's brain in the head of the monster. There's a subplot involving a romance between the insurance investigator and Dracula's assistant at the castle (he doesn't know about the nefarious plans) and the usually funny gags with Abbott being frustrated at Costello's "success" with the women.

The remake, Frankestein, El Vampiro, y Compania," stays pretty faithful except for these changes, which were probably due to budget constraints. There is no insurance investigator. Her role is instead played by a new character, the daughter of the spook show owner. And Dracula has no assistant. The daughter makes eyes at the Mexican version of Bud Abbott. Also, the wolfman has little to do, which is not too bad because his mask is pathetic. It looks like a $9.99 mask one could find at any store.

The "funny man" in the film, the Lou Costello character, is played by a Mexican comic named Manuel "Loco" Valdez. His name is Paco As mentioned, he's more Huntz Hall than Lou Costello. The Abbott character, not really comic, is played by Jose Jasso and called Agapito. The best part of the film is the healthy amount of attractive, dark-haired, voluptuous Mexican starlets. They look healthier than the monsters, particularly El Vampiro, played by a painfully thin, noodle-necked seventh-rate John Carradine named Quintin Bulnes. The Frankestein monster is adequate for a college film and as mentioned, the Wolfman is an ill-costumed afterthought.

One of the problems with low-budget poorly scripted, badly acted spooks comedies is that the monsters are played as ridiculous and worthy of being laughed at. The vampire in this film tries to be funny and ridiculous, mugging and jerking around. In Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein, the monsters retain their dignity and the comics are funny solely by their reactions to the monsters.

Other stars include Nora Veryan as the sexy doctor who entices Paco to the castle. It's worth a look, particularly if you want to see what other filmmakers did with the famous Abbott and Costello. As mentioned, no English dubbing is known to exist, but if you can get this cheap, enjoy. The IMDB page is here.

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