Saturday, November 21, 2009

La momia azteca contra el robot humano (1958)

... aka: Aztec Mummy Against the Humanoid Robot, The
... aka: Die Azteken-Mumie gegen den Menschen-Roboter (The Aztec Mummy Against the Human Robot)
... aka: El humano robot (The Human Robot)
... aka: Il terrore viene d'oltretomba (Terror Comes from Beyond the Grave)
... aka: Robot vs. the Aztec Mummy, The

Directed by:
Rafael Portillo

It may seem odd that this third and final entry in the Aztec Mummy series is by far the most viewed of these films but there are a number of reasons why. For starters, this was English-dubbed for U.S. consumption by K. Gordon Murray and not only played in theaters (usually on a double bill with The Vampire's Coffin) but also ran on TV for a number of years as part of an AIP-TV package, while an English version of the original wasn't made available for decades. Second, this was released far more times on home video than either the original or the first sequel, THE CURSE OF THE AZTEC MUMMY, by nearly every budget label under the sun. Third, this was mocked on a popular episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000, which was also released as a separate DVD, while the show didn't cover the first two movies. Fourth, this has been bouncing in and out of IMDb's Bottom 100 list for over a decade now. Finally, and most importantly, did you see that title? Anything boasting the oddball combo of mummy + robot, plus promising a battle between the two, is something that's going to automatically appeal to far more people.

Sometimes going into a movie completely blind is a good idea. Other times it's not. In this case, I probably should have done my homework before jumping right to the third film of this particular series I was unfamiliar with, but I honestly didn't know this was the third film of a series when it popped up on TCM Underground at 2 a.m.. All I know is that I saw "mummy" and "robot" in the title and I just had to see it. The good news is that I didn't really have to see either THE AZTEC MUMMY (1957) or Curse beforehand to follow what was going on here*. The filmmakers were kind enough to recycle footage from both of them. As a matter of fact, around half of this film's 65-minute run time is a flashback recap to the previous installments! While that personally helped me catch up on what I missed, it also puts this into that lazy cash-grab category that's really impossible to defend. (*Edit: I have since seen all three films... it just ended up being out of order and a decade after watching this one!)

Dr. Eduardo [called "Edward" in the dubbed version] Almada (Ramón Gay), his wife Flor ["Flora" in the U.S. version] (Rosa Arenas) and his assistant Pinacate (Crox Alvardo) invite two scientists over to their home and then go into great detail about their previous run-ins with both a resurrected mummy and the evil Dr. Krupp aka "The Bat" (Luis Aceves Castañeda) five years earlier. We learn that Flora is the reincarnation of Xochi, an Aztec maiden set to be sacrificed by her village. She, along with her warrior lover Popoca (Ángel Di Stefani), are apprehended and killed when they try to flee. Popoca still lives on as a mummy in the temple ruins, springing to life any time someone lays a finger on a valuable bracelet and gold breastplate, which can be used in sync to find the whereabouts of a treasure. After several unsuccessful attempts to raid the temple, Dr. Krupp finally gets his hands on the valuables and attempts to get a kidnapped Almada to help him decipher hieroglyphs. Instead, he ends up being picked up and thrown into a snake pit while his faithful assistant Tierno [called "Bruno" in the U.S. version] (Arturo Martínez) was tossed into bottles of acid by the mummy. All of the events listed above are from the first two Aztec Mummy films... and now nearly half the film is already over!

In the new footage, the mummy is now m.i.a. because his temple has been destroyed while Eduardo discovers that Dr. Krupp didn't actually die in the snake pit but escaped through a trap door. His buddy Tierno also survived the acid attack, but now has hideous facial scars. Krupp still maintains hypnotic control over Flor and uses his powers to lure her out of her sleep. She's ordered to "pick up the waves emitted by the mummy" (?!), which leads them to a cemetery where Popoca has relocated. He now lives in a cemetery crypt belonging to his last living descendant and is in a peaceful slumber as long as nobody touches his bracelet and breastplate. Now that they know the whereabouts of the mummy, they sneak Flor back home and she awakens with no memory of the night's events. However, the fact she has spiderwebs on her gown and muddy slippers arouses suspicions, as does Eduardo's daughter's recollections of her getting up and leaving the room. Eduardo and Pinacate take a sample of the mud to a scientist who reveals the substance has traces of marble commonly used in making tombs, which leads them to the same old graveyard where they find the mummy.

We now jump back ahead five years to present day as a recent newspaper headline about a corpse, some radium and a human brain all being stolen perks up Eduardo's ears. Looking into things further, he discovers a huge shipment of lead has recently been delivered to someone. Though he's been laying low for quite some time, the now-even-crazier Krupp has used the time to construct a radio-controlled "human robot," which is basically one of those painted cardboard box robots with cylinder arms with the addition of a human head enclosed in a glass bubble. They bring it to the cemetery and into Popoca's new resting place to see if it can defeat the mummy. Unfortunately, the guaranteed schlock showdown between the bucket of bolts and the heap of dusty old rags ended prematurely after a prolonged bear hug and just a couple of shoves. Oh well, I enjoyed it while it lasted. All 30 seconds of it.

In just three installments, this series manages to go from the blandly competent, though uninspiring, first entry straight to bad movie hell in no time. While Part 2 was certainly bad, it was silly and campy in enough spots to be slightly enjoyable at times, while this one is simply cheap, dull and flat out boring despite having what was potentially the most amusing premise of the series. In 2006, BCI Eclipse released all three movies on one set.

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