In the Mexican cinema of the Fifties and Sixties, monster movies and comedies were good box-office, and combining the two genres was common practice. This week (October 15, to be exact) marked the fiftieth anniversary of the release of El Castillo de los monstruos, one of the more satisfying of the Monster Rally comedies in the Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein mold.
Headlining is Antonio “Clavillazo” Espino, a popular comic decked out in a baggy suit and upturned hat. The plot is straightforward: Clavillazo must rescue his sweetheart from the title’s fog-shrouded Castle of Monsters, occupied by a Who’s Who of classic menaces. There’s a hypnotic Mad Scientist and his scar-faced assistant. There’s a Werewolf, a Beast Man in a cage, a Mummy, and a Black Lagoon creature that turns into a tuna when defeated. The Frankenstein Monster, with stitched forehead and neck bolts, serves as a Lurch-like butler. The standout is the Dracula character, played by the great German Robles, fresh off his two Count Lavud films, El Vampiro (1957) and El Ataúd del Vampiro (1958).
There are no real scares here. These are Halloween Monsters, arms raised in Boo position, shambling along at a leisurely pace. Clavillazo’s forte is the ability to energetically argue himself out of a tight situation, but he’s also comfortable with slapstick, notably in a scene where he tethers dangerously on the edge of an alligator pit, and a nice trick momentarily rattling Robles’ dignified Vampire by making a monster face of his own.
El Castillo de los monstruos is a Monster Kid era Valentine, a kind-hearted comedy where the spirit of the Universal classics echoes in the production values, the shadowy sets, the solemn soundtrack orchestrations and the venerable crew of assembled Bogeymen.
Unseen in North America for nearly half a century, the film is now freely available in its entirety on YouTube, in nine parts.