Archive for Face of the Screaming Werewolf

Aztechnology

Posted in FILM, Mythology with tags , , , , , on August 4, 2015 by dcairns

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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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Things Roddy said during Face of the Screaming Werewolf

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , on December 28, 2008 by dcairns

Every year at Christmastime, we are visited by a jolly fat man in a red hat:

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Face of the beaming Watson.

Fiona’s brother Roderick. The fun never stops when he’s around. Since he has Williams Syndrome, and since he’s not terribly mobile, he can’t really make his own entertainment — except by talking. So the T.V. comes in very handy, and fortunately Roddy agrees with us about horror movies — even when they’re bad, they’re good.

Like a Benshi film describer, or Tod Slaughter narrating his own death in a melodramatic fashion, Roddy keeps up a running commentary during most movies, considerably more eloquent and informative than any of Tim Burton’s director’s commentaries, and with fewer stretches of numbing silence.

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The movie begins as a comely Mexican lady is sent into hypnotic trance by a special machine.

“What’s that sound? What’s the matter with her?” (Eagerly) “Has she been bitten by the werewolf?”

As the woman sinks into coma, a small boy crawls into the lab and hides under a table. At first I thought he was her hallucination, but he’s not. This is my favouritest thing in the whole film, because it’s never explained. But then, very little is explained. I think the geniuses (genii?) who dubbed the movie decided to cut all the boring plot stuff.

In her trance state, the woman experiences a vision of dusty mesas (mesae?) and pyramids.

“Where’s that? Is that Transylvania?”

Some Indians appear.

“Is this to do with Indians or something?”

(Roddy notices I’m jotting down these notes. I feel guilty.) “What’s that you’re writing?” (Looks at squiggles.) “Mmmm!”

The Indians begin a ceremony deep within their pyramid, which involves a lot of walking about.

“Why are they walking about, David?”

After what seems like twenty minutes of walking about, there is a sacrifice, and we cut to our modern-day hypnotic conquistadores entering the tomb, followed by the small boy, who’s sneaked after them. We still don’t know who anyone is.

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Something shambles about in the darkness.

“I ken what that is — the mummy! Am I right? Is that a woman or a man? I can’t tell.”

A sound.

“Is that a wolf?”

The scientists retrieve a female mummy, and Lon Chaney, who turns out to be a modern man who’s transfused himself with mummy juices in order to bring about “a state of death”. But we never learn why. Scientists put Lon in a big machine, which makes a noise.

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 “What’s that noise?”

“A machine.”

“What kind of machine? Where is he — can’t see the mummy! What’s that funny noise?”

“Another machine.”

“Looks like Frankenstein. Wow, that’s some storm, is it?” (Seems to be a Dundonian habit: saying “is it?” instead of “isn’t it?”) “Cheesy peeps!” (This is an exclamation of awe unique to Roddy.) “What’s happening now? Oh my God!”

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I like how Lon rests his jowls on the window sill, in a rather defeatist manner, just before beginning his wolf-out.

Lon Chaney, his apparatus struck by lightning, comes to life, turns into a werewolf, and gores people. I decide that poor Lon must have taken the mummy transfusion as a cure for his lycanthropy, and now these science guys have guffed it up. But this hypothesis is never confirmed.

“Where’s the werewolf? Hmm-hm!”

Lon changes back to non-hairy. Some more stuff happens.

“Is he going to change into a werewolf, do you think?”

He does.

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“Oh my God, the werewolf’s scary, eh?”

Lon creeps up on a sleeping scientist. Roddy finds this particularly exciting.

“Oh, watch this, watch — he’s asleep still, is he? Watch this, watch! Oh my God, ho-ho! Got himnow! Oh-oh! Something’s happened to him. My God. Look at that mist!”

We return to the subplot of the mummy woman, who abducts a little girl. No idea why.

“How can a mummy be a woman? A mummy is supposed to be a man. Where’s she taking her? What’s that noise? Is she taking her away? What’s happening there?”

Now Roddy gets slightly sidelined from the plot:

“I would like to be in a horror film. I would be a vampire. I’d be pretty scary.”

I dare to express doubt.

“I would if I had real fangs, like Christopher Lee.”

I suggest that Christopher Lee does not, in civilian life, have real fangs.

“What do you mean?”

I elaborate.

“That’s what I was saying.” (Vampire voice.) “I’m Roderick, from Transylvania.’ I’d be a good vampire, I would.”

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Meanwhile, a scientist manages to get Lon Chaney locked in a cage.

“Uh-oh, the wolf’s in trouble, he can’t open the gate. Oh, he’s got it. Nae trouble! Where’s he going now? Is he in the forest? Is that a woman and a man? What’s he doing now? That’s the police. Do you think they’ll catch him?”

The wolfman starts stalking a woman. Roddy gets very tense.

“Uh oh. Ssshh! Watch this. Uh-oh. Uh-oh. Uh-oh. He’s getting closer and closer to that woman. What’s going to happen now? Uh oh. David… I heard something. What? Uh-oh! Uh-oh!”

Having crept into the woman’s home, Lon Chaney is startled by his own reflection in her mirror.

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“Ha ha, he got himself a fleg!” (“Fleg” = Dundonian word for “a fright”.) Ah, she locked him in, good one! That means he can’t get out. Uh-oh!”

He gets out. The woman hits him with a vase.

“Nice one, got him a good one, on his head. ‘At’sa cracker! Give him a punch on the nose, that’ll sort him out. Heh!”

Lon’s nose does look pretty tender. But he overpowers the woman and carries her off.

“God’s sake, woman! What happens if the police catch him, that’ll be it, won’t it?”

My favourite bit of action — Lon climbs a building, while carrying the woman. A white-coated scientist follows him. The image of a lab guy climbing a building is a pleasing one.

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Somehow we get from here to another fight, with chairs being smashed over Lon.

“Nice one! Hey — oh — nice one! Oh, hey, he hit him first! Watch this one — here we go — watch this — oh, that’s a good idea. Oh hey, you idiot, no’ him! It’s the wolf, you idiot.”

Lon is incinerated. The police arrive, too late to do anything, and calmly dismiss all reports of monsters as the overactive imagination of the stupid public.

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“It’s the bobbies, look.”

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STOP PRESS: Here’s Roddy’s capsule review of ALIENS.

“That took a while to sort out.”