IN THE RED HOUSE
(1965), B/W, 93 minutes
Distributed by Trans-International Films
Presented by Young America Productions
Produced at Soundlab, Coral Gables, Fla.
Produced by K. Gordon Murray
Directed by Manuel San Fernando
This rarely seen, and utterly ridiculous, horror-comedy from Mexico is one of the oddest ducks ever brought to our shores by quick-buck producer Murray.
In fact, the two Murray horror comedies (this and BRING ME THE VAMPIRE) are strong entries in the psychotronic canon, combining dated horror and translated farce in surreal cultural artifacts which are quite unlike anything else.
This zany, cynical updating of THE OLD DARK HOUSE starts with credits over wood paneling, plus some musical numbers in Spanish, but gets busy real fast after that.
Undoubtedly, the star of this silly spook show is Anthony Espino, aka Clavillazo, a hilarious Jerry Lewis clone whose manic hand gestures and meandering pseudo-logic (much of which is retained in Murray’s idiosyncratic dubbing) are seriously bizarre.
From his entrance through the film’s end, Clavillazo, as detective Diogenes Hermes, steals the show, in his bizarre winged hat and Sherlock Holmes outfit.
Even his name’s great. Are we to assume from it, that DH embodies qualities of the Greek cynic philospher and the occult wise man? Or is he as dumb as he appears to be?
Clavillazo, and his dumb Dr. Watson-like assistant, provide much of the comedy relief in this assuredly offbeat horror-comedy.
Stars Alma Rose Aguirre and Raoul Martinez are strictly by-the-book heroes, although Alma looks awfully cute in her little red devil costume, and there is a touch of Lucy in her broadly-played bouts of trepidation.
The title “Phantom” is a silly figure wearing an odd fright mask, a gaucho hat and a cape, looking like a cross between two Mexican pop culture icons: Santo and Zorro.
The film starts in “the Devil’s Inn”, which is just a big old cave set filled with tables and chairs. In our two visits to this weird establishment, we are witness to waitresses in bizarre devil outfits, and at least three lethargic musical numbers, retained in their original Spanish.
The translated screenplay features fantastic character names like Mercedes Benz Rattington, Dr. Hippocrates Pining, and some complex and convoluted dialogue that makes it a masterpiece of dubbing, a fine example of a lost cinematic art at its height.
It goes without saying that a broad comedy from Mexico will be real broad, and what with the lunatic Murray dubbing, this film becomes an absolute riot of bad innuendo, indecipherable wisecracks and grotesque punnery. The dialogue is unusually hilarious, even for a Mexi-Murray mishmash, what with trying to maintain the integrity of the original humor elements.
You can tell the gang at Soundlab had a real party with this one, a magnificent highlight of the Murray horror ouvre.
-Rob Craig, kgordonmurray.com
DVD-R comes packaged as shown in color DVD case, wrapped in plastic!