Ratings Key

= Excellent. The best the genre has to offer.
1/2 = Very Good. Perhaps not "perfect," but undoubtedly a must-see.
★★★ = Good. Accomplishes what it sets out to do and does it well.
★★1/2 = Fair. Clearly flawed and nothing spectacular, but competently made. OK entertainment.
★★ = Mediocre. Either highly uneven or by-the-numbers and uninspired.
1/2 = Bad. Very little to recommend.
= Very Bad. An absolute chore to sit through.
NO STARS! = Abysmal. Unwatchable dreck that isn't even bad-movie amusing.
SBIG = So Bad It's Good. Technically awful movies with massive entertainment value.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

La casa del terror (1960)

... aka: House of Terror, The
... aka: Tin Tan in the House of Terror

Directed by:
Gilberto Martínez Solares

Never released north-of-the-border in its original form, this blends horror and comedy fairly well on a low-budget while also affectionately paying tribute to several Universal genre classics, most obviously King Kong (1933) and The Wolf Man (1941). It had the misfortune of getting "The Jerry Warren Treatment;" Warren took scenes from this and scenes from the schlocky The Aztec Mummy (1957-58) films, blended them together with new footage and released it to the unsuspecting public as Face of the Screaming Werewolf back in 1964. That mess naturally is widely available on VHS and DVD, while this one isn't. And that's a shame because this is actually a pretty fun film. The Spanish-language version is still worth a look even if you don't speak the language. It's easy enough to follow and was released by both Sinister Cinema and Something Weird Video on VHS.

Ne'er do well Casimiro (Germán Valdés aka 'Tin Tan') works as night watchman and caretaker of a museum of horrors exhibit. His boss, known only as the Professor (Yerye Beirut), keeps busy in the back room of the establishment in his lab, where he experiments with corpses he and his two assistants (who refer to him as "maestro") swipe from a local cemetery. Whenever the mad doc needs some fresh blood, he simply goes up to Casimiro with his Pringles can-sized syringe and takes it, causing Casimiro to be lazy and constantly drowsy, and pissing off his girl Paquita (Yolanda Varela), who is holding down two jobs. Failed "experiments" are passed off as wax dummies in the museum. A mummy display comes to town, so the Professor and his henchmen attend, steal the mummy (Lon Chaney, Jr.) and decide to try to revive it. They redress it and stick it in some huge spinning contraption. During the next full moon, the mummy comes to life... as a werewolf. When he returns to human form, he's put in a cage, transforms back to the wolf, manages to escape, runs alongside a busy highway, attacks a woman and a policeman at a a park, kills another woman and scales up the side of a building to the roof! It eventually gets its paws on Paquita and Casimiro must save the day.

While the mummy make-up is awful (it looks basically like Chaney smeared with mud), the wolf design, as well as the black wardrobe, is actually fairly faithful to the original wolf man design. In fact, it looks almost identical to the design the actor wore for Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948). Chaney didn't speak Spanish and only gets to utter one word ("No!") but he's actually better used here than he was in the majority of his other 50s and 60s films and even gets an opportunity to play his role for sympathy during one scene. The other actors are fairly good. Beirut is a great Karloff-like presence as the mad scientist. Valdés (a famous comic actor on his home turf) has to yawn, sleep, fake cry, stutter and bumble his way through the film in sometimes annoying fashion, but he has his moments. The end sequence of him pursuing the were-mummy, who has his girl draped over his shoulder, up a tall building in the city has that pleasing silent era slapstick feel to it. He also gets to sing (or lip sync?) a strange musical number that comes out of nowhere, along with his female co-star (who was married to the film's producer, Fernando de Fuentes hijo).

Alfredo Wally Barrón (a veteran of Blue Demon and Santo flicks) and Agustín Fernández co-star as the doctor's assistants. Director Solares, whose career lasted from the late 30s until the late 90s, made many other films (including quite a few others with Valdés) but is probably best known here in America for the horror-exploitation film Satanico Pandemonium (1975).



CavedogRob said...

Whoa! I didn't realize there was a real release for this. It helps explain a lot of the scenes in FACE!

The Bloody Pit of Horror said...

From what I've been able to dig up it was released in most Spanish speaking countries, Belgium and West Germany (and I'm sure elsewhere). It's strange there's no US release, especially with the presence of Chaney.

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