Saturday, March 7, 2020

La maldición de la momia azteca (1957)

... aka: Curse of the Aztec Mummy, The

Directed by:
Rafael Portillo

At the end of THE AZTEC MUMMY (spoiler alert so avert your eyes if necessary), Popoca the hollow-eyed, putty-faced, 400-year-old resurrected Aztec warrior was put out of commission with a stick of dynamite while criminal mastermind El Murciélago / "The Bat" was revealed to be disgraced and disbarred scientist Dr. Krupp (Luis Aceves Castañeda) in disguise before being hauled off to prison by the cops. However, some of Krupp's goons managed to get away and his right hand man Tierno (Arturo Martínez) and another gangster named Lobo (Guillermo Hernández) are busy scheming. They get all of their lowlife associates back together again and plot to somehow spring Krupp from prison. At the police station, cops get their first taste of one such attempt as an anonymous letter with a bat insignia on it arrives. After giving police a detailed description of Krupp's still-on-the-loose underlings, Dr. Eduardo Almada (Ramón Gay) returns home and reassures everyone, "We are finally going to have some peace!" Yeah right.

Eduardo's fiancée Flor (Rosita Arenas) reminds him about the possibly-still-active curse of the gods. As it is foretold, first her father will die (which already happened in the first film) and then his children (which means her). Eduardo insists that since they returned the breastplate and bracelet to the mummy's tomb, they have effectively stopped the curse. That should mean no mo late night mummy visits for them. Still, that doesn't explain why they aren't the least bit concerned about Krupp's henchmen being on the loose, knowing where their home is (they tried to break in there in the first film) and the high likelihood of there being a vendetta against the family.

While armed guards try to transport Dr. Krupp out of the city, they're ambushed by his goons on a back road. A gunfight ensues. All of the coppers are killed but there's an unexpected guest who arrives; a mysterious masked super hero / crime fighter by the name of El Ángel. He's so virtuous he dresses in white, wears a white mask and drives a white Rolls Royce convertible. Still, being good and dressing in tights and a cape doesn't mean you can't get your ass handed to you, which is precisely what happens to him. However, unlike the cops they indiscriminately popped, Krupp lets Angel live because he wants to kill him at another time "in my own way." Huh? Soon after, Angel visits Eduardo, Flor and company to warn them of the escape and gives them a "radio watch" they can use to contact him in case of an emergency.

Meanwhile, at Krupp's lair, he narrates a five-minute-long recap of some of the first film's events. Seeing how he knows all about the hypnosis session, Flor's past life as an Aztec maiden and how she knows the whereabouts of the ancient tomb containing many valuables, they decide to kidnap her and try to replicate the hypnosis session. They snatch both Flor and little Anita (Almada's daughter from his previous marriage) and beat the snot out of Almada and his assistant Pinacate (Crox Alvarado). The girls are taken back to the lair. Anita is locked up and Flor is given a drug to make her easier to hypnotize. Dr. Almada is lured there himself, gets beaten up again and is tied to a chair where we're forced to listen to Krupp recount his plans again. Warning: You will likely be seeing the word "again" a lot from here on out.

Thankfully, Almada's kid brother Pepe (Jaime González Quiñones) knows where the radio watch is and uses it to contact Angel and give him the address of Krupp's headquarters. Angel shows up and gets into another fight with the henchmen, which ends in him getting his ass kicked yet again, is tied up next to Dr. Almada (who also got his ass beat again) and is slapped around. Our "hero" is then dragged off to "the mortuary room" and locked inside. The floors start to slowly open up and underneath is a snake pit. Angel manages to jump onto a hanging light fixture and hang there, which gives him enough time to contact young Pepe to come and save him! All of this puts Angel in contention for the title of worst super hero in film history, something that is only solidified later on when Almada and Angel escape only to be recaptured and tied up again. Notice a pattern here?

While the original built up a little bit of intrigue at the start and eventually went somewhere (though it sure took its sweet time getting there!), this one is like a skipping record that keeps repeating itself over and over and over again. The mummy itself, which just pops back up after the bad guys remove a big rock sitting on top of it, doesn't make an appearance until the last fifteen minutes, is only in two scenes and is off screen even more than the previous film. It's basically used as a convenient plot device to take out the bad guys at the finale because our heroes are so incompetent! What this does offer more of is silliness and camp value, mostly in the form of horribly-choreographed fight scenes. There are also a few funny flubs, especially a shot of a car driving down a road where a female bystander accidentally walks into the frame, looks over, sees the camera and then quickly ducks behind a pillar to hide!

This and the third film in the series - THE ROBOT VS. THE AZTEC MUMMY - were imported to the U.S. and horribly English-dubbed by K. Gordon Murray. Both were distributed by AIP, who sold these to TV. Due to the English dubbed version, this was also much easier to find on home video for a number of years. Something Weird put it and Robot out on both VHS and DVD and there have been a number of other releases, culminating in a box set of all three now-restored films distributed by BCI/Eclipse.


La momia azteca (1957)

... aka: Attack of the Aztec Mummy
... aka: Aztec Mummy, The
... aka: Il risveglio della mummia (The Awakening of the Mummy)
... aka: La momia (The Mummy)

Directed by:
Rafael Portillo

Dr. Eduardo Almada (Ramón Gay), a special guest at the "First International Congress of Neuro-Psychiatric Research" in Mexico City, has just returned from Prague where he's been researching hypnosis. There, he was working on developing a theory that someone's past life can be revealed utilizing a technique called hypnotic regression. The only problem he has now is finding a research subject willing to be put under. It could be dangerous. Dr. Almada is basically laughed off the stage by his skeptical colleagues for even broaching the subject and returns home a defeated and discouraged man, though not one ready to give up just yet.

A potential test subject has to meet numerous criteria in order to withstand the experiment. They must be young, healthy and both physically and mentally strong. That automatically excludes Eduardo's mentor Dr. José Sepúlveda (Jorge Mondragón), who's old and frail, and his colleague Pinacate (Crox Alvarado), who's a bit of a wuss. However, Eduardo's fiancée, Flor (Rosita Arenas), who also happens to Sepúlveda's daughter, is ideal and perfectly fine with being their guinea pig. She's given a drug cocktail intravenously and then hypnotized by a combination of a spinning wheel, a metronome and Almada's calming voice. They first tap into her 6-year-old self, back when her family nickname was "Muñeca" ("Doll") and then count back to zero. From there, they enter her previous life and count forward to her 20-year-old self.

In Flor's past she lived on the island of Tenochtitlan and was an Aztec maiden by the name of Xochi. Xochi was marked from birth to die as a sacrifice to her village's God, which is the highest honor for her people. However, she was supposed to remain out of sight but instead fell in love with a warrior named Popoca (Ángel Di Stefani). When the tribe discovered what was going on, Popoca was fed a special elixir to keep him in a suspended state and was buried alive. Instead of dying for her God, Xochi instead got to die in shame; stabbed through the heart with a dagger. Recalling all of this makes Flor's heart stop, but she's revived with oxygen and a drug to stimulate her respiratory cycle. Though the experiment was a success, experiencing death and a small taste of the afterlife has Flor a bit rattled.

Unbeknownst to the scientists, a criminal mastermind by the name of El Murciélago, or "The Bat," (Jesús Murcielago Velázquez) watched their entire experiment through a window. Bat, decked out in a black top hat, black cape and black mask, runs a network of thugs and is rumored to dabble in science himself, though his work involves vivisection and skin grafts to create monsters (something we never get to see here). Bat orders his men to bug the Almada home because their research could be of future use.

Now wanting actual proof of Flor's past life, Dr. Almada decides the best thing to do would be to find the tomb of Popoca / Xochi and retrieve a breastplate they were buried with. Flor and a male servant of Aztec origin both warn against this as it could bring great misfortune to their home, but a man of science is a man of science. He doesn't have time for that superstitious nonsense! The gang travel to the island and to some ruins. Flor is able to lead them right to the burial tomb. They find a hidden entrance behind some bricks and another hidden door and finally make it to the ancient temple. The breastplate is removed from Xochi's skeleton and they return home, where Almada is able to present it as evidence to his colleagues, including the skeptical Dr. Krupp (Luis Aceves Castañeda).

Rumor has it that translating the hieroglyph on the breastplate will lead to the whereabouts to a hidden treasure. However, one also needs a bracelet to decipher it, and that's something The Bat and his main thug Tierno (Arturo Martínez), who've been keeping close tabs on their activities, are especially interested in. Almada, his future father-in-law and assistant return to the pyramid, where they realize their thievery has brought Popoca back as a growling mummy. If only someone had warned them! It manages to slowly shamble its way to the Almada residence that same night where it scoops up both its breastplate and Flor and returns to the temple where it plots to sacrifice her.

The reincarnation / hypnotism aspects here were clearly influenced by the famous Bridey Murphy case, which was also the inspiration behind Roger Corman's delightful (and underrated) THE UNDEAD (1957). Both of these were released shortly after the best-selling novel The Search for Bridey Murphy and the Hollywood film adaptation of the same name. Other films like The She-Creature (1956) and Fright (1956) were also made to capitalize on Bridey Murphy and some actually even managed to beat the Hollywood version to theaters. This aspect also happens to be the most interesting part of the entire film, which isn't really a good thing considering most viewers want to see, ya know, an Aztec mummy.

While this isn't too poorly-made, and the exteriors, Aztec costumes and mummy design are actually pretty good, this film suffers a lot from being exceptionally poorly paced. It takes an entire hour of this 80 minute film for the mummy to even be shown and even then it is barely visible and not involved in much of the action. Seeing how the first sixty minutes is slow-moving and talky, this rushes through the finale in record time with the police simply pulling over The Bat in their police car, doing a quick unmasking and then exiting stage left, while the heroes end up at the temple to "fight" the mummy, which involves whipping out a crucifix and then a stick of dynamite and is over in less than two minutes. Boo! Of course, no mummy worth its grain in sand can be kept down for too long...

This was the first of a trio of films that required much time padding to even be expanded that far. Both of the sequels: THE CURSE OF THE AZTEC MUMMY (1957) and THE ROBOT VS. THE AZTEC MUMMY (1958), utilize a bunch of "flashback" footage from this film to push their running times to over an hour. Oddly, both Curse and Robot were English-dubbed for U.S. theatrical and TV release while this original film never was. Instead of being released in its original form, it ended up in the hands of Jerry Warren, who spliced footage from it into his mishmashes ATTACK OF THE MAYAN MUMMY and FACE OF THE SCREAMING WEREWOLF (both 1964). Going by the amount of posters available, this seems to have received a fairly wide release in Italy under the title Il risveglio della mummia / "The Awakening of the Mummy," which credit the direction to "King Miller." Robot was also released there under the new title Il terrore viene d'oltretomba / "Terror Comes from Beyond the Grave." All three movies are now available on BCI Eclipse's Aztec Mummy collection.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...