Thursday, October 27, 2011

“How far can the human mind fathom the mysteries of the hereafter?”

Now this is something I’m disproportionately excited about. Way back here, I watched The Robot vs. the Aztec Mummy, which turned out to be part three in a Mexican Mummy Trilogy. Well, a few months back at Half-Price Books, I found “The Aztec Mummy Collection” which collects the entire trilogy in one surprisingly respectful boxed set. No way in hell I would pass that up for five bucks.

So off we go, where the magic began, with 1957’s La momia azteca AKA The Aztec Mummy AKA Attack of the Aztec Mummy. I should not nearly be this excited.

So we have a scientist who’s got a lot of weird ideas about how hypnotic suggestion can get people to regress and remember past lives. He gives a lecture on this before an august congress of scientists in Mexico City and when he says this is all theoretical right now because nobody wants to volunteer to try it, he is essentially laughed out of the conference. I should note that the congress was perfectly fine with therapeutic hypnosis to help patients, just not this kooky brand our hero suggests.

Where a villain would “get a volunteer” our hero bucks the trend by actually getting a willing volunteer: his loving fiancée. She gets hypnotized and the scientist learns that she was once an Aztec princess who was slated to be a sacrifice to the gods, but fell in love with a mighty warrior, got caught, and both of the them were punished by being sacrificed, so…that was kind of the plan from the start, right? Anyway, the memories of her death are traumatic and almost kill her, but the heroes do learn the location of the sacred Aztec treasure that was buried with the Aztec princess. So they do what any science-minded heroes would do: Grave Robbing!

Well, tomb raiding turns out to have negative consequences, because it awakens the mummy of the Aztec warrior cursed to protect the artifacts for all time. Then the mummy realizes the woman is his lost love reincarnated.

And there’s a subplot of a criminal mastermind organizing a crime spree and then he gets interested in all this stuff, but oddly enough, its actually pretty unimportant to the main plot.

Dr. Eduardo Almada: Ramón Gay is our scientist hero. He’s got a crazy idea, experiments on his loved ones, robs graves of sacred artifacts, and somehow, someway, he’s actually not a villain. He also doesn’t believe in curses, which bites him in the ass.

Flor Sepúlveda/Xochitl: Rosita Arenas is our female lead. A supportive fiancée for her Eduardo, after her ordeal with hypnosis she gets very worried about the curse of the mummy coming down on them for stealing ancient Aztec treasure.

Pinacate: Crox Alvarado plays the comic relief. A friend/assistant/sidekick to Dr. Almada, he’s a big ol’ fussy coward with Clark Kent glasses. That’s pretty much it.

Dr. Sepúlveda: Jorge Mondragón plays Flor’s father, another scientist and a close friend of Dr. Almada’s.

Pepe Almada: Jaime Quiñones plays Eduardo’s adolescent brother. He likes tagging along for adventures, though doesn’t really bring much to the table.

Dr. Krupp/The Bat: Luis Aceves Castañeda is our villain. At first he seems to be just another respected scientist skeptical of Dr. Almada’s theories, but it turns out he’s the mysterious Bat who is terrorizing the city. He doesn’t really do much in this movie though.

Tierno: Arturo Martínez plays the Bat’s right hand henchman. While the goons might not be particularly smart at much, they are fiercely loyal to their boss, and he seems to treat them well in return.

Popoca: Ángel Di Stefani is our mummy, though Popoca in his full splendor is only at the end of the movie. In life, he had a giant hat, in death, an adequate but not great costume. Popoca doesn’t like lights shining in his eyes (though to be fair, who does?) and doesn’t like dynamite much either.

The Bat knows the value of wearing a fedora at a rakish angle

Directed by Rafael Portillo, the movie is…well, a low budget Mexican 50’s monster movie. The mummy isn’t around very much, there’s a lot of talking, and a fair amount of stock footage. So like a lot of stuff from contemporary America, just in Spanish. Unlike the sequels this doesn’t have any long flashback sequences, so that’s a plus. Unfortunately, the Aztec ceremony that gets flashed back to in the sequels is much longer and more annoying in this one. Seriously, that’s a long, annoying stretch of film to sit through.

Story by Guillermo Calderon & Alfredo Salazar, adaptation by Alfredo Salazar. First thing to notice is that the Popoca storyline borrows HEAVILY from the Universal Mummy movies. Mummy cursed with undeath because he messed with private stock? Then when he gets reanimated, he learns that his lost love is reincarnated? Yep, seen that before. The subplot with the Bat is new, though reminiscent of movie serials.

Still, the movie does take the novel step of using an Aztec mummy instead of an Egyptian-style one.

Original music by Antonio Díaz Conde. Most of the time its standard 50’s monster movie fare, but when they do the Aztec ceremony flashback, man it gets annoyingly shrill. Actually, it tends to get shrill more often than is required.

So I’ve finally seen La momia azteca and it is everything I expected it to be: a low budget monster movie. There’s lots of cheese, lots of bizarre conversations that try to sound pseudo-scientific, and there’s an Aztec Mummy. It definitely has an Aztec Mummy.

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