[Note: Last summer, for Canada Day, I ran stories on Painjoyable™ Canadian films two days running. Now, for Dia de los Muertos, I am compelled to do the same for Mexican cinema for fear of violating some unknown N.A.F.T.A. rule.]
Perhaps the greatest horror icon to come out of Chrubuscu-Azteca Studios is the Aztec Mummy.
As early as the late 19th century, Mummies of Aztec origin were beginning to serve as stand-ins for their Egyptian cousins in Mexican fiction. Then in 1957 and 1958, a trio of movies appeared featuring the lovable lumbering living corpse whose bizarre abilities include turning into a bat.
The first of these mummies, Popoca, appeared in 1957’s La Momia Azteca, and whose success spawned the quickie sequel La Maldicion de la Momia Azteca (Curse of the Aztec Mummy)
The plot is usually as basic as a Road Runner cartoon: evil Dr. Krupp (who also uses the monicker “The Bat”) will do anything to acquire some treasure from the tomb guarded by the centuries-old ambulatory corpse.
Popoca just won’t let him. Which is why the ever-thwarted Krupp had to try again- this time with a robot- in the third entry into the Popoca Trilogy: La Momia Azteca contra el Robot Humano (The Aztec Mummy vs the Humanoid Robot or The Robot versus the Aztec Mummy).
The titular robot of this film is probably the most shameless bit of tin can ever seen in celluloid history (it makes the Republic robot look like Robby). This robot, we are told, was constructed out of a corpse which conveniently allows for the suit’s operator to be visible trough the glass window on the robot’s face. There is also a window on the robot’s chest which reveals the operator’s shirt. The function of that particular bit of design confounds me. Perhaps there was an art-house aspect to the film and this would allow for the requisite navel-gazing.
But no matter how many chuckles you get from the robot’s appearance, it wont prepare you from the massive Bad-movie-gasm™ you will experience during the climactic battle where the human insides seem to have vacated the suit, leaving just an empty bucket of a body for the mummy to thrash around.
Under the name Xochitl, the mummy reappeared in 1964 in the joyful Las Luchadoras contra la Momia known North of the Border as The Wrestling Women vs the Aztec Mummy.
Of course, K. Gordon Murray was sure to pick up these titles for US release, either in “Young America Horror Club” kiddie-matinees or quick TV sales. Robot was packaged in a double feature with another mexican horror film, The Vampire’s Coffin and presented in Hypnoscope!
Hypnoscope was all hype. It consisted of a headache inducing spiral onscreen introducing the film and warning you that some audience members (including yourself) might be susceptible to metamorphosis during the screening and become monsters. This was really to justify ushers in rubber masks storming the theatre halfway through and abducting girls from their seats.
But the story didn’t end there for the Aztec Mummy: Just last year (2010), Lucha-Libre legend Mil Mascaras (“1000 Masks”) chose a more sophisticated interpretation of the mummy as the villain for his comeback film, Mil Mascaras vs the Aztec Mummy.
This gem of the Digital-Era is billed as “The Most Amazing Movie of its kind ever filmed”. Part of me is doubtful (especially after seeing it- enjoyable though it was) but another part of me just likes the solid cojones of such a boast.
So here, to wrap up our two-day Dia de los Muertos celebration is an Aztec Mummy double feature of Curse of the Aztec Mummy and Robot vs the Aztec Mummy presented in Hypnoscope!
Pain Level: 7/10
Quality of pain: Like Montezuma’s revenge only not quite as messy.
Painjoyment™: Hard nipple time!