LA CASA DEL TERROR (1960) AND FACE OF THE SCREAMING WEREWOLF (1964)

Face of the Screaming Werewolf LA CASA DEL TERROR poster

The posthumous classification of Bud Abbott and Lou Costello erroneously places them on a level with Laurel & Hardy or The Marx Brothers. However, few, if any, of the Abbott and Costello films withstand the test of time. Their initial rendezvous with a trio of Universal monsters retains some dated charm, but little of it comes from the comedy team. Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948) is essentially a vehicle for Bela Lugosi`s Dracula parody and Lenore Aubert’s vamp. The Monster (Glenn Strange) has little to do, and Lon Chaney Jr. seems mightily uncomfortable with the surrounding juvenile antics. Even worse is Bud Westmore’s unimaginative assembly line makeup, which reduces Lugosi’s Count to baby powder and black lipstick and Lon Chaney Jr’s Larry Talbot to a rubbery lycanthrope.

FACE OF THE SCREAMING WEREWOLF poster

La casa del terror (1960) is a south of the border imitation of Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, along with about a half dozen other films, including King Kong (1933). German Valdes (aka Tin Tan) is Casimiro and, just like in A & C Meet Frankie, he is doing some work in a house of wax horrors, which currently has a real mummy display. Below the exhibit, the Professor (Yerye Beirut) is deep in mad scientist experiments (just like Boris Karloff in his Columbia movies or Lugosi at Monogram). None too surprising, the Professor has an assistant who helps his boss steal bodies and blood. When bodies are not to be found, the two extract fluids from Casimiro, which renders our hero lethargic (at least Lou Costello kept his energy level up). Narratively, having your protagonist sleep through half of the film does not seem like a sound idea. Casimiro’s gal Paquita (Yolanda Varela) doesn’t think so either. After all, she is working a full time job and beau here is one lazy sot! Perhaps the all too repeated shots of Casimiro counting sheep are not necessarily a bad device after all because when he does wake up, he breaks into comedic patter which actually makes Lou Costello look funny again. Valdes elicits more groans than laughs and he even engages in a song and dance number with Valera. YES, IT’S A MUSICAL TOO! Valera does not have to work hard at making Valdes’ musical talents look pedestrian.

FACE OF THE SCREAMING WEREWOLF Lon Chaney, jr. 1964

Director Gilberto Martinez Solares cast Lon Chaney Jr, clearly past his prime, as a dual mummy/wolfman which, of course, were the two characters that Chaney played most often in the 40’s Universal horror cycle. Chaney is only briefly glimpsed as a mummy, and a rather well fed one at that. The make-up job is something akin to a glob of silly putty. The Professor, tired of Casimiro’s rotten blood, decides to steal the mummy for experimentation. The Doc and his assistant put the ancient Egyptian into a big Son Of Frankenstein (1939) contraption. Briefly, a slumbering Chaney takes the place of Karloff’s monster on the table. Lo and behold, the bandages come off and, underneath all of that, this mummy is dressed from head to toe in black just like Larry Talbot. With the next full moon, our revived Pharaoh transforms into a Bud Westmore-like phlegmatic canine with a pronounced feathered Farrah Fawcett hairdo. For a broad comedy there are some bloody (for its time) moments. This Larry Talbot gorges on victims aplenty (which, I suppose, is why he looks even fatter in black fur than he does in white bandages). Among the victims are two women, something never seen in a Universal pic! Larry dances around Casimiro a few times (just like he danced around Lou twelve years earlier) before aping out like King Kong to Valera’s Fay Wray. The big, bad. pointy-eared Tex Avery lady killer climbs atop his building with babe in arms. Yes, this is an amorous wolfman and, again, the movie gives us something Universal would never have resorted to (implications of bestiality, that is).

Face of the Screaming Werewolf Lon Chaney, jr.

La casa del terror is only available in the Spanish language version, not that it matters. The minimal plot is easily decipherable, if one actually desires to decipher it.  La casa del terror is a dreadful movie, but it’s unintentionally bizarre in borrowing from virtually everything to produce a quirky, redeemable mess. It’s certainly passable enough with a plate of cheap, store-bought cardboard pizza.

face of the screaming werewolf screenshotLa Casa del Terror 1960 lobby card

Not so with Face of the Screaming Werewolf (1964), which incorporates footage from Casa that producer/director Jerry Warren mixed with The Aztec Mummy (1957-directed by Rafael Portillo) and added footage. Warren bought the rights to the two films and, as he was apt to do, spliced them together with his own footage to produce an even more incoherent mess without once crediting Solares or Portello (making Warren a sort of prototype for more than a few contemporary indie filmmakers). Warren’s footage looks like it was shot on a two dollar 8mm camera (my family had a better home movie camera back in the 1960s). Ed Wood`s films were, at least, decently photographed. What little one can make out in the “new” footage doesn’t help. Oddly, deciphering the foreign language film is an easier task than deciphering the English language atrocity. There is endless footage of a hypnotized woman in a pyramid and an aztec mummy that is the result of exchanged body fluids with the “other” mummy. Or something like that.

LA CASA DEL TERROR lobby card

It’s often joked that sex is like pizza: even when it’s bad, it’s good. Not so with anything Jerry Warren put his hands on. My advice with the latter movie is buy the 75 cent cardboard pizza and throw the DVD out with the irredeemable trash.

LA CASA DEL TERROR LOBBY CARD. LON CHANEY, JR.

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About Alfred Eaker

Alfred Eaker is fine arts painter, filmmaker, and has a masters degree in theology. He currently lives in Portland, oregon with his wife: Aja Rossman-Gray.
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