Tuesday, June 20, 2017


A group of archeologists is investigating the ruins of the lost city of Tikal and trying to understand why the city was abruptly abandoned by the Mayans back in the first century. Two men go out to explore a cave in the ruins but only one, Neito, returns, collapsing after fleeing an erupting volcano. His camera contains pictures of the two men at an underground lake which is the only clue that Dr. John Fielding has to what happened. Within the circle of scientists, there is personal trouble brewing: John and his wife Ellen are having marital problems related to his work, and Max, John's assistant, has the hots for Ellen and now has hope that she might respond to his flirting, though in theory Max has his hands full with Linda, a native woman who is part of their group. When our merry band gets to the lake, they find skeletons and gold at the bottom, but they also find a huge blob-like monster that sucks Max's arm into itself, resulting in all the flesh on his arm being torn off. Max is tended to, but he begins acting crazy and becomes a threat to the scientists. They soon discover that radiation from a comet that returns every thousand years or so feeds the blob monster and makes it grow, and coincidentally, that very comet is now on its way toward Earth.

I remember this title from the Chiller Theater era of the 1960s; I think the one time it aired, it was a second feature and didn’t start until after 1 a.m, and I (being 10 or 11 years old) fell asleep through most of it so its always retained a sense of mystery to me. Now I know that it's a fairly run-of-the-mill dubbed monster movie—made by Italians though set in Mexico—with a handful of gory moments and a romantic triangle story that would have bored me back then. It's notable mainly for being an early work of director Mario Bava, who is credited only as cinematographer though he actually finished the film when the director of record, Riccardo Freda, left. There are a few stylistic touches that signal Bava's presence—particularly the well-shot opening scene—but overall the low budget works against effective visuals. The monster is very disappointing looking in the beginning, though its victims are nicely grisly, and in the last 20 minutes, as Caltiki grows and reproduces, it is presented more effectively, even if the use of miniatures is obvious. Gerard Haerter (pictured) takes acting honors, such as they are, as Max who deteriorates mentally throughout the film. Sadly, a good print of this is hard to find in the U.S.; though there is a region 2 DVD that is in fine shape, I had to watch it on YouTube in a murky, non-letterboxed form, which may made my viewing experience less than optimum. I'd be willing to watch it again if a good region 1 DVD is ever issued. [YouTube]

No comments: