‘All your favorite make-believe characters’
In the early 1960s, US film distributor K. Gordon Murray had a surprising amount of success importing, editing and dubbing Mexican children’s films and releasing them to unsuspecting audiences. His biggest hit was Santa Claus (aka Santa Claus vs the Devil), which pulled in large audiences who presumably expected something more festive than the incoherent and badly-dubbed atrocity they got. And he pulled the same trick with several other films, including this bizarre sequel to Mexican fairy tale movies Little Red Riding Hood (1960) and Little Red Riding Hood and Friends (1961).
In this often incomprehensible film, we see Little Red Riding Hood (Maria Gracia) and Tom Thumb (Cesaro Quezadas) battling a collection of monsters who live in the Haunted Forest (which seems to be inconveniently next door to their village). The monsters, who include Dracula and the Frankenstein monster, are led by The Queen of Badness (Ofelia Guilmáin), who seems modelled on the Wicked Queen from Disney’s Snow White. She’s a ruthless leader, and we first meet her as she presides over a show trial for the Wolf (Manuel Valdés) and the Ogre (José Elías Moreno), who is accused of not being evil enough after what I assume were the events in previous films.
The Wolf is something to behold, dressed in the most ragged, flea-bitten and unconvincing animal costume you’ll ever see. He also rarely stops talking, his voice in the dubbed version a gruff vocal that soon starts to grate… especially when he sings! Yes, this is a musical too! Well, it is… at least for the first twenty minutes or so, after which everyone involved seemed to forget that they needed to include songs until the final scene.
The Queen of Badness casts a spell on the local villagers, turning them into monkeys and mice, so it is down to Little Red Riding Hood, Tom Thumb (who is quickly transformed into a normal size child by the Good Fairy – presumably to save on special effects, as he’s rarely on-screen before his transformation) and Stinky the Skunk, another fine animal costume and dubbed with a speeded-up chipmunk voice that immediately makes your teeth hurt and is only occasionally comprehensible. Oh, and they have Red Riding Hood’s dog, which is the most indifferent animal actor ever seen on film – he frequently just wanders off camera, ignoring the dramatic action.
Our heroes make their way through the Haunted Forest – a passably spooky set – towards the Queen’s castle, battling the odd monster. Sometimes, helped by other kids, they even torture the monsters they defeated – one poor creature is hung by his feet and beaten like a piñata.
On reaching the castle, they defeat Mr. Hurricane, Dracula and Frankenstein (sorry purists, that’s what they call the monster here), finish off a terrible looking dragon and save their friends the Wolf and the Ogre, who have been bickering away in a cell before being tortured by Siamese Twins 2-in-1. As for the Queen of Badness… well, let’s just say she meets an explosive end.
By any title, Little Red Riding Hood and Tom Thumb vs. The Monsters (originally Caperucita y Pulgarcito contra los monstruos and also titled Tom Thumb and Little Red Riding Hood) is, of course, complete rubbish. The dubbed version is entirely incoherent, but it’s hard to imagine it was a masterpiece beforehand, given the all-around shoddiness on display. Yet the film is certainly entertaining for fans of bizarre cinema, and it’s easy to imagine cinemas full of undemanding, monster-loving kids in the early Sixties eating it up.
David Flint, MOVIES and MANIA
“Tom Thumb and Little Red Riding Hood pulls all the punches it can, and goes all in. There’s matte paintings, trick photography, colourful pantomime outfits, Papier-mâché monsters, forced perspective images, and even some really silly musical numbers. You will love this movie like none other!” Jason Meredith, CiNEZiLLA
“The dubbing is awful, and the voice given to the skunk will make you want to tear your ears off. It all unfolds a manic pace and leaves your mouth hanging open in astonishment. And, in its own warped way, it’s about as creepy a movie as you’re likely to see. Not recommended for those teetering on the brink of sanity.” Dave Sindelar, Fantastic Movie Musings and Ramblings