Aztechnology

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There was a producer called Jerry Warren who used to buy up and dub Mexican horror movies. His creative efforts went way beyond simple revoicing, though. He would sometimes shoot new scenes with down-at-heel “stars” like John Carradine and paste them into the purchased footage for added marquee value (and to help delude US audiences into thinking they were going to see a Hollywood film), and sometimes he would even take two movies and cobble them together, keeping the most sensational bits and throwing out the boring logic and narrative coherence. Thus we get films like FACE OF THE SCREAMING WEREWOLF, which is a great, lunatic title, but actually a really boring, unengaging watch, because nothing in it flows or makes sense.

THE AZTEC MUMMY VERSUS THE HUMAN ROBOT, however, is an authentic Mexican monster movie. With its demented title, it just SOUNDS like a Jerry Warren mash-up. A solemn VO narrates pans of Aztec pyramids, telling us that what we are about to see is a true story based on experiments by American hypnotherapists Dr. Hughes and Dr. Tony. Dr. Tony is immediately my new favourite character in anything, ever, just because his name is Dr .Tony. A man you can trust. I want his first name to be Anthony. Sadly, after this introduction, he doesn’t actually appear in the movie. In a way, though, that’s even better. We can imagine what he would have been like. We can even make our own movies about his many exciting adventures, battling space cats and vampire numismatists and club-footed zombie orangutans.

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This is Rafael Portillo’s third Aztec mummy film in two years, after which Angel di Stefani lay down his lumpy rags and moved on to better things more crap. Though he does have a bit part in THE EXTERMINATING ANGEL — maybe the presence of a plainclothes mummy in that movie explains the strange curse that befalls its characters?

If I had to guess, I would say that maybe the Aztec Mummy isn’t as celebrated as the various Egyptian ones – Imhotep, Kharis, et al — because his name is Popoca. It’s not a name to inspire terror. It might inspire a dance craze, or a soft drink, but not terror.

The first half of the film is basically a series of flashbacks recapping the earlier entries, also featuring the portly Dr. Krupp, AKA The Bat, a sort of chunky master-criminal in a wrestler’s mask and cape. This may seem unacceptably cheapskate, but Universal had already led the way in eco-friendly movie recycling with its trilogy about gorilla-woman Julie Dupree the wild woman: JUNGLE WOMAN, the sequel to CAPTIVE WILD WOMAN, spends most of its first half summarizing the previous entry.

I remember as a kid being a bit disappointed that the actual “meeting” in FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLFMAN was so brief, but there was a pleasing dynamic — the lumbering, slow but powerful monster versus the nimble, snarling and ferocious lycanthrope. Unfortunately, poor Popoca and his opponent, a severed head plumbed into a clunky metallic cyborg who looks like a scaled-up clockwork toy, are both of the big slow lumbering idiot school of movie monster, making their climactic Donnybrook one of the slowest fights ever rendered on-screen. The two unnatural beasts face each other, eyes meeting across a crowded crypt, then gradually shuffle forwards, waving their forelimbs… closer… closer…

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Losing all patience, Portillo cuts away to the heroes crossing a cemetery to the tune of some xylophone suspense. By the time he’s cut back, the Human Robot is exploding in a shower of sparks, and the Aztec Mummy is being crushed in his steely embrace. Then they start shoving each other into the walls — it’s much as I imagine the famous Norman Mailer – Gore Vidal stooshie (“Norman came at me suddenly, and I pushed him aside. He staggered across the room, colliding, to our mutual surprise, with the inventor of the Xerox machine”).

Oh, and despite his human head, the Robot is being remote-controlled by the maniacal Dr Krupp (alias The Bat) until a faceless hero shoots the buttons out of his hand. Then the Aztec Mummy really lays into the Human Robot, hitting him so hard, I swear his legs shrink into his torso, and then his arms come off. So he’s dead, I think. And the Mummy turns on the Bat and his disfigured henchman and does something aggressively horrible to them but we can’t see because of all the smoke belching from the remains of the Human Robot, and because Portillo has a tendency to stick his camera miles away from the actual action. Probably for his own safety.

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One Response to “Aztechnology”

  1. AKA Beauty and the Robot

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