Ratings Key

= Excellent. The best the genre has to offer.
1/2 = Very Good. Perhaps not "perfect," but undoubtedly a must-see.
★★★ = Good. Accomplishes what it sets out to do and does it well.
★★1/2 = Fair. Clearly flawed and nothing spectacular, but competently made. OK entertainment.
★★ = Mediocre. Either highly uneven or by-the-numbers and uninspired.
1/2 = Bad. Very little to recommend.
= Very Bad. An absolute chore to sit through.
NO STARS! = Abysmal. Unwatchable dreck that isn't even bad-movie amusing.
SBIG = So Bad It's Good. Technically awful movies with massive entertainment value.

Monday, December 16, 2013

El caballo del diablo (1975)

... aka: Devil's Horse, The

Directed by:
Federico Curiel

It's time for the old Monkey's Paw story yet again, this time set around a horse ranch in a small, dusty village in Mexico. After a drunken musical number with a mariachi band, Don Fernando (Narciso Busquets) and his two sons; ladies man Luciano (Jorge Rivero) and married Esteban (Juan Miranda) get into a drunken bar brawl. They're thrown in jail, where the sheriff clues us in that this isn't a rare occurrence for the trouble-making family and makes them pay twice the usual amount for bail. But their wild, irresponsible ways will soon catch up to them after Luciano sneaks away from his father's birthday party to hit the bars and chase some tail. A knock sounds at the door later that night and some men have brought along an unpleasant surprise: Luciano's dead body. Some men beat him so badly that he's now unrecognizable (a bracelet with his name inscribed on it is used to identify the corpse) and then threw his body in a canyon. Irate and inconsolable, Don Fernando denounces God. After the funeral, the distraught father prays for God once again to resurrect his son. When that doesn't work, he threatens to invoke Satan and trade his soul for his son's return. Next thing he knows a majestic black stallion appears in the graveyard, walks up to Luciano's grave and begins pawing at it. Later that night, Luciano returns home, but he's not quite the same...

Now different in both dress and demeanor, the cold, emotionless Luciano saddles up the same black horse that resurrected him and is prone to bouts of rage and violence. Once much loved in the village and desired by all the women, he soon becomes hated and feared by all. Luciano beats a man up for joking about him being resurrected from the dead and then gets rough with a local tart named Maciara (Gloria Mestre); ripping off her clothes, raping and then murdering her. Don Fernando falls ill and is confined to bed, while his beloved son attempts to rape his sister-in-law Luisa (Yolanda Ochoa), who manages to avoid him, at least for a little while. He shoots a wild horse dead when it bucks him off and then watches some teenage girls swimming in a creek, ending in him raping one of them. The victim's father then confronts Luciano at the bar and shoots him three times, but to no avail. Luciano just beats him and the all of the other men at the bar up. His Uncle, local priest Father Marcos (Victor Alcocer), gathers up his crucifixes for the big exorcism finale.

Aside from the horse angle and the western setting, there's next to nothing to help distinguish this predictable, familiar tale. It's tame in the extreme. There's almost no blood, all of the rapes and murders take place off-screen and there are no special effects aside from a couple of crosses glowing at the very end. The photography is boring, the score is boring, the characters are boring and nearly the exact same story line has just been done much better elsewhere many times before and since. Though there's a faint competence to the whole thing, director Curiel (to his defense, working with a tiny budget) does next to nothing to spice things up. Heartthrob Rivero (also the associate producer) is good at scowling and looking evil, though he appears to have been dubbed by someone else to give him a more sinister-sounding voice. The rest of the cast also try their best, but there's not really much they can do to lift this above the ordinary.

Never released here in America, La caballo del diablo is floating around on the internet with fan-made subs, though it's never really going to provoke much interest from fans, and with good reason. I doubt I'm going to remember this thing at all here in about a week. Curiel was a jack of all trades in the Mexican film industry and worked as an actor, director, producer, writer and music composer. He also made Santo, Blue Demon and Mil Mascaras wrestling movies, the Mexican Nostradamus series and many others.


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