Friday, September 9, 2016

Monster Team-up Reflection #31: Little Red Riding Hood and the Monsters

Made in Mexico in '62 and released by import maestro K. Gordon "Aztec Mummy" Murray in '65, "Little Red Riding Hood and the Monsters" (aka, "Little Red Riding Hood and Tom Thumb vs the Monsters"; "Caperucita Pulgarcito contra los monstruos") is, in fact, a sequel to two prior, fairy-tale features: "Little Red Riding Hood" and "Little Red Riding Hood and Friends". 

One could argue that director Roberto Rodriguez's third entry works on two levels. In one sense, the film acts as a sublime, if not awkward, piece for snobbish adults to degrade. In another (broader) sense, it's an unapologetic children’s movie that easily enchants anyone with a sense of wonder, despite its arguable shortcomings.  

In truth, "Riding Hood Meets the Monsters" makes use of the best elements of the best children’s movies, though on a much lower budget than most. Through the Fernando Morales Ortiz/Adolfo Torres Portillo script, one finds traces of Disney’s "Snow White", particularly through the Witch Queen/Queen of Badness (Reina Bruja)'s actions and physical make-up. The film's colorful costumes and musical numbers also give it a "Wizard of Oz" feel. In other respects, it becomes a character rally on the level of Rankin/Bass' "Mad Monster Party", though without the stop-motion puppetry, but then as such, one could argue it's similar to such '70s children's television productions as Stanley R. Ross' "Monster Squad" and Sid and Marty Krofft's "H.R. Pufnstuf".

The story is simple, but epic, commencing with a trial, where a wayward, red-headed Ogre (Jose Elias Moreno, star of the Mexican "Santa Claus", which Murray also imported) and a talking Wolf (Manuel "Loco" Valdes, for all intents and purposes, the story's affable werewolf) are to be punished for not having devoured Riding Hood (Maria Garcia) and Tom Thumb (Cesareo Quezadas). As the jovial oafs are sentenced to death (by a "circular saw"), the Queen of Badness uses her crystal ball to search for Riding Hood and Thumb, as well as the high-pitched Stinky the Skunk (character actor, Santanon) and their always present (though nameless) white canine. The quartet hopes to spring the Ogre and Wolf from the Queen's castle, even though there's a strong chance they'll be captured and/or killed in the process.

To thwart what little chance of success they have, the Queen dispatches her spellcasting sister, who turns the youngsters' friends and family into chimps: thus, for a segment, making the film a pint-sized "Planet of the Apes". Also during their journey, the gang encounters a friendly fairy, who for convenience sake, turns Thumb into a regular-sized boy, but these antics are just silly sidetracks to pad the trek before our intrepid band reaches creepier territory (i.e., "the Devil's Dominions"), where they discover children are imprisoned by the Queen's dog-catcher-like henchman, ultimately to be used for broth...

For better or worse, the monsters predominately populate the beginning of the film, though a few generic ones emerge with more prominence later in the story. Nonetheless, the primary participants include the aforementioned Ogre and Wolf; a John Carradine-ish vampire (horror veteran, Quintin Bulnes); the Frankenstein Monster; an evil Schlitze named Carrothead; the attached Two-In-One; and Hurricane, who with a hardy huff, more than lives up to his name. Also, a movie-serial type robot makes a cameo in an early round-up scene and returns later for an atmospheric, forest sequence; and to balance that anachronistic event, a traditional, fire-breathing dragon surfaces during the film's climax.

Against all odds, Riding Hood and Thumb remedy all wrongs with their whimsical tenacity and impressive know-how. The youthful duo should be easy for both kids and adults to identify with, even though Thumb sometimes gets a tad too boastful when he's made regular size, but on the whole, the heroic leads never become so precocious to grate on one's nerves.

The exchanges between the Ogre and Wolf, however, are the movie's highlight, even if their outbursts sometimes turn more argumentative than required. The Wolf's costume, though a far cry from Rick Baker, works nicely in the movie's context, perhaps because it allows the actor's eyes to emote a wide range.

Those inclined to scorn films like "Santa Claus Conquers the Martians", "Ship of Monsters", "Jack the Giant Killer" and "Magic Sword" would be wise to avoid "Riding Hood Meets the Monsters", but for those who still possess a spark of childlike wonder, this one will certainly charm. In fact, don't be afraid to share the movie with younger children. One might find that, against all modern odds, they'll enjoy the story as much (if not more so) than any founding fairy tale. 

No comments:

Post a Comment