May 28, 2014

Ismail Yassin Meets Frankenstein

One of the great curios of the Frankenstein films list is the 1953 Egyptian-made HARAM ALEK, sometimes spelled HRAAM ALEEK and otherwise known as ISMAIL YASSIN MEETS FRANKENSTEIN. The film is notorious as a straight up, nearly scene-for-scene remake of the classic ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN (1948).

The A&C classic was massively influencial — not to mention, box-office gold — inspiring several knock-offs, many of them from Mexico, with local comics stepping in and squaring off with the famous monsters, complete with key gags lifted from the original. The formula had also re-ignited Abbott and Costello’s movie career and spurred them to a series of “Meet the Monsters” films of their own.

Long unseen in the West, copies of HARAM ALEK have popped up on YouTube now and then, mostly as low quality video, sometimes sporting an annoying TV logo. The cleanest, sharpest copy is here, in its original language. Worth a peek, with its devilish, pointy-beard Dracula, a downscale Wolf Man and the curious, Herman Munster-like Frankenstein Monster. It’s required viewing if you’re a serious fan of the Abbott & Costello original.


1 comment:

Robert Kiss said...

The transliteration of the title as HRAAM ALEEK is a little bizarre, giving a decidedly Moroccan pronunciation to this Egyptian movie's title! HARAM ALEK is certainly more in line with the original intention.

The movie actually started production under the more straightforward title ISMAIL YASS YUQABIL FRANKASHTAYN (Ismail Yassin Meets Frankenstein), with the title change coming about at the behest of the distributor, who wanted to recoup the loss he'd made on his previous Ismail Yassin horror-comedy, HALAL ALEK ('You Really Deserve It', 1952). By changing MEET FRANKENSTEIN's title to HARAM ALEK ('Shame on You'), he had a ready-made complementary pair of titles for a double-bill release, literally translating as Forbidden to You and Allowed to You.

HALAL ALEK remained by far the weaker movie, but I'm still surprised at how very little attention it's received since HARAM ALEK has gained in notoriety in recent years. HALAL ALEK is a loose knock-off of A-HAUNTING WE WILL GO, with Ismail Yassin in the Stan Laurel role and Elias Moadab as Oliver Hardy. Although not such a carbon copy as HARAM ALEK, just watching the opening sequence of HALAL ALEK leaves not the slightest doubt about who is being imitated:

HALAL ALEK's original 1952 release was rather troubled, in part due to the fact that its Oliver Hardy, 36-year-old Elias Moadab, had dropped dead of a heart attack shortly after shooting finished; and more especially due to the upheaval of the 1952 Egyptian revolution, which caused the movie's release date to be delayed, with the feature eventually barely sneaking out (amid a cavalcade of other postponed releases) in December 1952. Certainly it was more widely seen once double-billed with HARAM ALEK.

While HALAL ALEK may not be terribly good, it warrants attention insofar as it gave audiences a chance to see both Abbott and Costello AND Laurel and Hardy ripped off on the same bill; and also because without it, HARAM ALEK would surely have had a much less ambiguous title.