Thursday, April 28, 2016

Terror, sexo y brujería (1968, 1984)

... aka: Cautivo del mas allá (Captives of the Beyond)
... aka: Narco Satánico
... aka: Terror, Sex and Witchcraft

Directed by:
Rafael Portillo

You know something screwy is up when I list a film as having been released in 1968 and in 1984. As is the case here, this Mexican production from the same guy who made the Aztec Mummy flicks just happened to have two completely different versions released at two completely different times. The first version was released in 1968 as Cautivo del mas allá ("Captives of the Beyond"), which was light on the violence and sex, heavy on the melodrama and mysticism and apparently no longer of much interest to anyone once sleazier elements became the genre norm in the 70s and 80s. A decade-and-a-half later, brand new footage featuring gory murders, gut-ripping zombies, cemetery-haunting ghosts, full frontal nudity and other things we all love was shot. That was combined with bits and pieces of the original and everything was haphazardly edited together to form the 1984 theatrical release Terror, sexo y brujería ("Terror, Sex and Witchcraft"). For the posters and lobby cards of this new version, they included bloody pictures of a man stabbed through the throat and a woman with a spike stuck in her head as well as sexy pictures of a smiling woman in a bra and a nude couple embracing in order to entice theater patrons. They were also thoughtful enough the scrawl out the original title in teeny tiny letters underneath the new title as not to trick audience members (at least those with really good vision) into seeing the same film twice. Though I have no real proof to back myself up here, I have few doubts in my mind that the 80s version promising "Terror" and "Sexo" probably fared better at the box office than the original cut.

So what became of the two films once the video era rolled around? Well, to make a long story short, the likely coherent Cautivo was cast aside in favor of the senseless yet more exploitative mishmash Terror. Apparently not thinking anyone would want to rent a straight-up horror film, they then whipped up a new poster featuring one of the original co-stars holding a machine gun so they could sell it as an action flick! It was given the brand new title Narco Satánico and released to video South-of-the-border on the Film-Mex label in 1988. "Narco Satánico" basically means "Satanic Narcotics Dealer" which not only doesn't roll off the tongue very well but also has nothing at all to do with anything that occurs in the movie, not even the new footage! I'm not even sure if Portillo himself shot the 1980s scenes or not since the Narco release simply reuses the original film's credits and splices in the new title card a la Nick Millard.

Cautivo / Terror / Narco: A shining example of how class...

...becomes trash, for a quick buck.

Things open up with the desperate Vicki visiting a black magic-practicing witch she hopes can help her sort out her pathetic love life. You see, Vicki is in love with the wealthy and (so they keep telling us) “handsome” mustachioed architect Ricardo Santamaria. However, he's already in love with "that blonde woman" Barbara. The witch attempts to cast a spell, which backfires because Barbara has some kind of special charm protecting both her and Ricardo from evil. She then ties photos of Vicki and Ricardo together and casts another spell which will supposedly tie them together forever but that dooesn't work either. Perhaps Vicki should have just kicked back and waited this one out. When she isn't busy sunbathing topless out by her pool and having her girlfriend rub her down his tanning oil, Barbara is busy being whiny and insecure about how “distant” her lover has been recently. She's even gone so far as to hire a private eye to follow him around to make sure he's not seeing another woman behind her back. When she confesses this to Ricardo, he laughs it off and finds it cute instead of being horrified like most of us normal folks would be. The witch uses a voodoo doll to cause Barbara's father to have a fatal car accident, but that only ends up making the couple's love stronger. Now it's time to go to Plan B... as in Beelzebub.

The witch suggests that Vicki hand over her body and soul to Satan in exchange for getting her mitts on Ricardo and his moolah. She reluctantly agrees and a deep-voiced, skull-faced Satan appears before her, asks her to take her clothes off and then gives her a special dagger. With it, she can kill whoever she wants and no one will ever find out who did it. Satan then gifts her with eternal youth and beauty even though she doesn't look half bad to begin with. Using her new good looks and buxom bod (and now played by Ana Luisa Peluffo), Vicki gets a gig as a feather dancer in a nightclub. All the while, the witch is busy trapping Ricardo's soul inside a jar. She puts one powder in to make him forget all about Barbara and a pinch of salt so that no woman other than Vicki can awaken his sexual desires. The plan works and next thing we know Ricardo is moving Vicki in and can't keep his hands off of her. The union doesn't last long when Satan orders Vicki to kill him with the dagger, which she does with no hesitation; even after all of the work she put in to get him in the first place. After stabbing him through the throat, the dagger's powers make the wound and all of the blood disappear so the murder can be pawned off as an unfortunate case of natural causes.

Ricardo's brother Carlos (Carluis Saval... I think) shows up for the funeral and is soon haunted in his dreams by his brother, who walks out of his crypt long enough to inform him that he plans on possessing him and using his body to get revenge on Vicki. And that he does. Carlos surprises the Satanic murderess at her new dance show “Macumba Vicki” with flowers and quickly seduces her. The two become lovers but Carlos is unsure whether this is really happening or it's all just a dream. His secretary Margarita (Silvia Suárez) suggests he go to see an unorthodox psychiatrist (Roberto Cañedo), who hooks him up to a lie detector on his first visit and starts drilling him with questions. After confessing the truth, the doctor gives him sleeping pills and tells him to just let the dreams play themselves out. In his dreams, Carlos is a jealous lover and when he suspects Vicki has been dishonest with him, he stabs her to death. Uh oh. His relationship with Vicki actually wasn't a dream and he really killed her!

After lifting his fingerprints off the murder weapon, Carlos is taken into custody and the film suddenly switches gears and becomes an absurd courtroom drama for a good 10 minutes. Defense Attorney Mendoza (David Reynoso) decides to take on Carlos' case and, with some help from the lie detector shrink, attempts to prove that he's innocent because he was in a “hypnometric trance” at the time of the murder. In other words, a vengeance-seeking spirit took possession of his body and forced him to astrally project out of his body to do their dirty work. The verdict? Guilty as charged. The film then does another 180 and suddenly becomes a zombie film in more newly-added scenes. In these, the witch goes to where Ricardo is buried and hopes to put his soul at rest by driving the dagger into his head. Instead, Ricardo emerges from the grave as a rotting zombie and sinks the dagger into hers. He's back just in time to stumble upon his brother Carlos dying by firing squad and walks up to one of the soldiers and rips his guts out. From there, he goes to pay his true love Barbara, who's gracious enough to show off all her goodies taking a nude bath first, a visit.

Few films leave me almost speechless but this strange, confusing, nonsensical yet deliriously entertaining mess must be seen to be believed. Oh screw it. Just find this. Watch it. I guarantee you won't be seeing many other films in your lifetime as bizarre as this one. You'll be perplexed watching old and new footage that looks completely different desperately attempting to become one. You'll pull your hair out trying to figure out who is who and where so-and-so came from and what the hell is going on from one scene to the next. As an added bonus, this contains some of the worst editing I've ever seen. There are split second flashes of the most random things imaginable like clothing on the floor, bare breasts, swirls, darting eyeballs (which are also sometimes superimposed over the action), a man in a plastic devil mask rocking back and forth and sometimes even snippets of scenes we've already seen. There's no way some of that was intentional!

In the original film, Saval played both Carlos and Ricardo and is credited as such in the opening credits. In this new version, he only plays Carlos and another actor plays Ricardo in the new scenes. One of these is a crazy nightmare featuring a black cat, a possum, a snake, an owl, fog and zombies, one of whom stabs a vagrant to death after he attempts to rob Ricardo's ghost at knife point (!!) The Vicki character is played by Peluffo in the older footage but by another actress in the newer footage. The new actress is supposed to be the character before she's turned beautiful by Satan but is still used occasionally even after that. Some scenes contain new voice-overs that don't match the original actor's voices at all. An echoing laugh heard numerous times sounds exactly like Vincent Price's laugh at the end of Michael Jackson's “Thriller.” In fact, it may actually be!

Working out a cast list for this film is next to impossible. Since a lot of the original footage ended up on the cutting room floor, many of the listed actors aren't even in this new cut of the movie. Beatriz Aguirre, who is billed third in the original film's credits for playing Ricardo and Carlos' mother, had her role whittled down to next to nothing in this version. The Cautivo poster brags about it being the “debut estelar” of an actor named Gonzalo Aiza, yet the Terror poster calls the same actor Carluis Saval while the Narco release reverts back to the Aiza name for the video box yet uses the Saval name in the credits. Say what? Under any name, this man either didn't appear in another movie after his “debut estelar” or he's a fan of fucking with people's minds by using multiple fake names for the same film. To add to the confusion, a Dr. Gonzalo Aiza Avalos is credited as the producer. The same guy? The star's father who backed the film to give his son his one and only starring role? Who knows. I want to hear from you pronto, Mr. Saval / Aiza / Avalos. None of the actors featured in the new footage are credited though a few looked vaguely familiar, especially the “new” Ricardo; hilarious fake mustache and all. How this one came to be and who made it and starred in it is pretty much a complete mystery and seeing how the director and most of the cast and crew are no longer with us, it will likely remain that way.

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