Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Haram Alek (aka Ismaeil and Abdel Meet Frankenstein) (1954)

If you want really off the beaten path, this is it. Its an Eygptian remake of a an American comedy classic. Its sporadically funny, but its more an interesting footnote than anything else. Ultimately though its the sort of film this blog was started to highlight.

The title of the print of this film was translated as "Have Mercy" by the subtitles. I think the unofficial title of "Ismaeil and Abdel Meet Frankenstein" is more fitting since this film is pretty much a close retread of Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein. The plot is similar with two schmoes who work in an antique shop getting mixed up with a Frankenstein like monster, a vampire and werewolf. The Frankenstein creature is actually a "mummy" that can be brought back to life if someone know the secret (the make up-similar to Jack Pierce's work but made out of cardboard). The vampire is the uncle of a cute girl who is love with a man who has been turned into a werewolf. What I find interesting about the werewolf is that people talk about the condition being a form of epilepsy.

The film is tough going, even for someone with a high tolerance for "off beat" films. The problem is that Ismael, the rubber faced Costello stand in, is too loud and shrill and annoying. Think of him as a mix of Costello, Jerry Lewis and Sammy Petrillo. As one character says to him "I want to stab you with a blunt knife". He drains the life out of the film single handedly. Had he not been in the film this would probably have been an okay cheap remake of a horror/comedy classic much like many Mexican horror films.

Its not all bad, some of it is quite good with some of the sequences taking the Abbott and Costello bits and spinning them out in new directions (a great deal is just copied wholesale). I liked the clothes lines and the werewolf bit for example. Its a small thing that just made me smile. There are several little pieces like that that really made the tough parts easier to stand (and I'm very curious if the translations of a certain four letter word is what was really said). There are also some nice turns of phrase and new bits (combing the statue's hair for example) that are just nice.

Adventurous film goers or those with a real curiosity may want to look for this however I'm not sure that this is something that you'll really want or need to own. Its a rental or something to borrow, I know I'll be loaning this out so I don't feel too bad picking it up.

Out on DVD from Sinister Cinema

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