Saturday, October 24, 2020

Leyendas macabras de la colonia (1974)

... aka: Macabre Legends of the Colony

Directed by:
Arturo Martínez

Masked wrestler Tinieblas (real name: Manuel Leal) shows up at an antique store, where a creepy painting featuring a half-skeleton woman lounging on a bed catches his eye. I suppose morbid taste is in line with his character name (Tinieblas means "Darkness" in Spanish) but I'm not sure why someone who insists on calling themselves that is running around wearing a tan suit and bright yellow mask. And going by his later black-and-yellow wrestling outfit, he probably should have called himself "Abejorro" instead. The elderly dealer initially refuses to sell the painting to him because he's already sold it three times and the owners keep bringing it back. Each unsatisfied customer has commented that the painting is cursed and that at midnight on full moons the figures in the painting seem to come to life. So knowing all that and acting like a grouch when someone asks to buy it, I'm not sure why the dealer even has this painting on display in his shop in the first place. Tinieblas laughs off the story and ends up convincing the man to sell it to him.

We're next at the gym where Tinieblas and his partner, top-billed Mil Máscaras (real name: Aaron Rodríguez Arellano), are about to start a match. So I've seen a lot of time padding in my day but this one actually caught me off guard. Long wrestling matches wedged into older Mexican films are the norm so I'm kind of used to that. And I'm used to these being poorly filmed and edited. The camera is almost always positioned outside the ring and the takes are always overly-long. It's usually pretty boring but it's what the people wanted back then so we gotta roll with it. These matches usually go on for 3 to 5 minutes. I think the worst I've seen up till now was 8 minutes. I kept checking the clock as this particular match played out. Five minutes passed. Then it hit 10 minutes and I was thinking, well this may be the new record holder. But then it hit 15 minutes and, before I knew it, 20 minutes had passed! Seeing how this runs 80 minutes, that's 25% of the running time spent showing just this one match. Insane!

The most amusing thing about this is that our heroes are both very physically fit while their opponents are, well, not. One, wearing what basically amounts to a one-piece female swimsuit held up by a single spaghetti strap, is downright obese. You know what's scarier than a cursed painting? Seeing a 300-pound man's leotard ride up his crack while his ass is thrust at the camera, that's what! And because I had to see this, so do you. I believe in sharing my pain through my screen caps if need be. By the way, this scene was clearly filmed at an actual wrestling match and wasn't something staged just for the movie. The stars get mobbed by little kids wanting autographs when they enter, there's a huge crowd in attendance, etc. etc. After winning the match, Tinieblas walks up to one of his opponents and punches him right in the face!

Afterward, Tinieblas, Mil, their wrestler friend El Fantasma Blanco / "The White Ghost" (real name: Freddy Pecherelly) and two miniskirted, go-go-booted female wrestling groupies (Dinorah Judith and Nancy Vega) who are never given a name go back to Tinieblas' place to party. The clock strikes midnight. The painting, which is revealed to be 400-years-old and once the property of a New Spain viceroy, starts putting off smoke. When it clears they discover they've been transported back to the 16th Century where everyone dresses like they're in some stage production of The Three Musketeers and say "doth," "hath," "thy," "thee" and "thou" a lot.

It's the middle of the Spanish Inquisition. The mysterious Lady Luisa Miasoxgl (Lorena Velázquez), whom authorities keep referring to as "mestiza" (mixed race), is accused of being a witch and "defying the power of God." As was not always the case in these films, that actually happens to be true. She is indeed a witch but a bizarre one with Aztec lineage who regularly makes human sacrifices to her mummified mother, who's kept propped up in a secret room. Luckily for her, men just seems to randomly start swordfights outside her home so she's never short random injured men to invite in to kill. Luisa is really out for revenge because "white man" killed her mother and now she's determined to bring her back to life. She has a dungeon (just a plain white room) to keep prisoners in and a slew of helpers, including a faithful servant woman and a large army of Aztec warriors dressed in long black wigs, loincloths and headbands and carrying either huge axes or tomahawk-like weapons.

Because his soldiers keep disappearing, a priest (played by the director) sends Captain Antonio de Talamantes (Rogelio Guerra) to find out what's going on. He has a rivalry going with another swordsman named Diego, who fancies himself "the best blade in Spain." The two decide to fight it out in front of Luisa's house, which ends with Diego dead and Antonio being brought in, where things go about as well as expected for him. Luisa and her men eventually capture the wrestlers, throw them into the dungeon and plot to sacrifice them.

While this contains many of the elements we want in one of these things, the pacing is horrendous, the wrestlers end up getting pushed to the side far too often in favor of pointless side characters, attempts at atmosphere are nearly nonexistent, the sets are cheap and unconvincing and the plot is so thin that it needs padded beyond that super-long grappling match I already mentioned. Every once in awhile the action cuts to an old church where a Crypt Keeper-like zombie tunelessly bangs on organ keys, cackles, looks directly at the camera and tries to explain the story to us! While the resolution of the time travel plot is incredibly lame, there's a very amusing and clever twist at the very end but it's not enough to save things.

Filmed on location in Antigua, Guatemala (shot back-to-back with The Mummies of San Angel by the same director, cast and crew), this is available on DVD-R with English subs from Trash Palace. BCI/Eclipse also released it on DVD (Spanish language only) and paired it with Tito Novaro's El robo de las momias de Guanajuato / "Robbery of the Mummies of Guanajuato" (1972).

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