Monday, December 01, 2008

The Color Swamp

Artwork for the opening credits of El pantano de las animas
blooms in a version with decent color.

Spooky opening scene for El pantano de las animas.

El pantano de las animas (Swamp of the Lost Souls/Swamp of the Lost Monster, 1957) is one of those Gaston Santos western horror films that most know in a faded color version, if at all. So it was nice to see a brief preview of the film on the French DVD of La marca del muerto (The Mark of Death, 1960), which I just received today. The colors are significantly better than what we saw on another Santos film, CasaNegra's presentation of El grito de la muerte (American title: The Living Coffin, 1959). Too bad CasaNergra never got around to showcasing El pantano before the company went under. Not that it's that good of a film. But it'd be nice to see in a good color presentation.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Bloody Vampire in Spain

Miguel Morayta's El vampiro sangriento (The Bloody Vampire) appears to have been a popular film worldwide. It received a release in Spain, probably in the 1960s, though possibly in the early 1970s, when domestic Spanish horror itself was booming. Above is the Spanish lobby card.

Friday, November 28, 2008

New Look, New Vision

I was getting tired of the old look of the blog, so I decided to change it around and make it look more polished like a Word Press design. In the process I lost all my links to "friends and fellow travelers." I'll be relisting as time--and memory--provides. If you see that I linked to you before, but that the link is now missing, just drop me a line.

I know many people have been waiting to see the VAMPIROS AND MONSTRUOS book finally come out (including the authors!) and I realize the delay has been long, but I am spending most of my free time trying to finalize everything. I'm happy to report that I'm making significant headway. Excepting for the completely unexpected (which does happen in life), VAMPIROS AND MONSTRUOS should be with a publisher in 2009, hopefully somewhere in the first few months, so that a fall publication (in time for Halloween?) can be realized.

Part of the light at the end of the tunnel is due to my decision to do a second volume. There just isn't enough space to fit everything into one volume, and it was getting hopeless trying to fit and write everything into one book. The second volume should not have the delay of the first, as I already have a fair amount of material collected for it.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

El vampiro sangriento (1961)

The outrageous and hallucinatory El vampiro sangriento (The Bloody Vampire), now on YouTube in the original Spanish version, directed by Miguel Morayta and starring Carlos Agosti as Count Frankenhausen. For non-Spanish speaking patrons of this blog, there is a lengthy synopsis of the film at the World of K. Gordon Murray website.

Part One:

Part Two:

Part Three:

Part Four:

Part Five:

Part Six:

Part Seven:

Part Eight:

Part Nine:

Part Ten:

Part Eleven (Final Part):

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Queen Thorina at the Vintage Mexican Sci-Fi Film Festival, and other surprises

Above you see the back of an upside down postcard, with an autograph of Lorena Velazquez, and below that a ticket for a showing of The Aztec Mummy vs. the Human Robot. This is how in my good fortune, so atypical of my normal fortune, I came to get these....

Manhattan's 92Y Tribeca, which confusingly is not on 92nd Street, but downtown, at 200 Hudson Street, near Canal, was having a brief Mexican sci-fi film festival from October 30 to November 2. I had been alerted to this by my good buddy Derrick Hussey (publisher of Hippocampus Books) some time ago, and later found out that David Wilt, Mexican film authority extraordanaire, would be at a Saturday showing (Nov. 1), so I determined to at least be there to meet David, whom I've been in contact with on the Latarnia message board and through a few e-mails. I was uncertain about whether I'd attend any other days of the festival, as the Vampiros and Monstruos book I'm working on centers around horror, rather than science fiction films. I placed all this info in the back of my mind, where it inconveniently disappeared.

But then Derrick shot off an e-mail to me early Thursday, the first day of the festival, asking me if I was going to attend that night's showing of La nave de los monstruos/Ship of Monsters. This was a thankful alert, as I had forgotten about the specifics of the festival. I read up on La nave, and with Derrick going, I decided I had to attend also, so off I went, winding up, after a bus ride, walking the length of Canal Street (and up an overpass) to get to the theater, which has just recently opened.

Once there, in the lobby, I saw that a photographer was taking pictures of a group of people, among whom I saw someone I thought I knew from film. But the person was decades older, so I couldn't quite place the face with a name. Then someone mentioned the name--"Lorena Velazquez."

Yes, Queen Thorina of Santo contra las mujeres vampiro was in attendance!

The event was attended by a small but enthusiastic crowd. (The movie theater itself is small; certainly less than 100 seats.) Velazquez sat in the front row.

Lorena Velazquez at another event. At the Vintage Mexican Sci-Fi Festival in NY she was dressed primarily in black.

The night of surprises was not over, as just before the film began, a guy walks in with his date, and I immediately recognize the legendary porn actor Jamie Gillis. What the hell is Gillis doing at a Mexican Sci-Fi Film Festival?! He and his date sit in the row right in front of me, a seat to my left. Having Jamie Gillis sitting so close distracted me from the film for a few minutes. After all, this is a guy whose "films" I've been watching since my Times Square days. And he is one of the most intense actors in the porn genre, with, pardon, loads of rough sex thrown in, real nasty stuff that an aficionado like myself appreciates. Hardly the type of guy you'd imagine going to a film festival like this with what looked like a normal date (who may have been in her fifties). A handsome couple, in fact. And Gillis looks still like Gillis!

I've never seen La nave de los monstruos/Ship of Monsters. What a delightful, charming film. And bizarre. It goes off on a vampire tangent that was bewildering, but wonderfully so. I'm doubt that I will have the time to include it in the Vampiros and Monstruos book, but somehow I'll get around to reviewing the film.

After the film, Velazquez took questions, which was my opportunity to "interview" her briefly. Once Q&A was over, I talked to Velazquez a bit more and got her autograph, as did a few other people, including Derrick, who added to his autograph ticket collection.

Later, everyone headed to another area of the complex, in which a "firing funky, folky Latin pop" group, Pistolera, was performing. A free beer or tequila was part of the ticket price. I decided to somehow approach Gillis, but the opportunity never presented itself before he left with his date, who, as Derrick found out later, is a noted Mexican restaurateur, Zarela Martinez. In the Q & A with Velazquez, Zarela seemed completely unaware about Velazquez's career, but Velazquez answered her two questions or so with unpretentiousness and a smile.

I also got to meet, briefly, underground filmmaker Nick Zedd, who was with his date Monica Casanova, whom I had met at the Two Boots Theater showing of Mil Mascaras: Resurrection a couple of weeks ago.

The next day was also memorable. I finally got to chat in person with Latarnia's Dr. Ling--David Wilt--with whom I could have spent the entire weekend (plus!) talking about Mexican cinema. Unfortunately David had to leave early, but it was great to meet and talk to him. The man is the authority on Mexican cinema (not just the horror/fantasy stuff). Give this guy a million dollar grant!

The book presentation event had several authors of the text giving introductions and answering questions. These topics are so rare that everything they said had extra importance. A real nice group of guys (Hector Orozco, Naief Yehya) and a gal (Itala Schmelz). Schmelz was the organizer of the book project, and I assume, festival.

I've yet to go through the text of El futuro mas aca, but everything looks impressive--the text and certainly the layout. BTW, the book is in both Spanish and English, so it's a valuable addition to anyone's library, even if they don't speak Spanish.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Vampiros and Monstruos Collector Cards - No. 1

Available in El Vampiro's Imagination Emporium:

Saturday, September 20, 2008

El Vampiro

A color rendering of German Robles as Count Lavud--El Vampiro!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Noche de fieras (1990)

Here's a film that doesn't even show up on the IMDB, despite having the presence of the great Hugo Stiglitz and being directed by Alfredo B. Crevenna, whose lengthy resume reaches as far back as 1945. Previously available on a video from Mexcinema, it also appears to have had a DVD release on a budget Spanish label.

With a plot that involves getting a wife to go insane so the husband can gain her wealth, Noche de fieras (Night of Beasts) most reminds me of Paul Naschy's Latidos de panico (Panic Beats, 1983). Budget-wise, the Crevenna film can't hope to match the Naschy one, though it does manage to be oddly entertaining in brief parts, sometimes not intentionally so, as with the ridiculous presence of a beefy pseudo mummy (looking, interestingly enough, like Naschy!). The predictable plot gives Stiglitz a chance to emote as never before, and a bathtub scene where the Stiglitz character does away with one of his helpers is genuinely suspenseful and moderately shocking. Beware the disco-style hairdos on the women, however.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Santo contra los burocratas

I think we can all relate, even without knowing Spanish!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Santo Stamps

To commemorate the 25th Anniversary of El Santo's passing, the Mexican post office has released a series of stamps honoring the legendary lucha libre wrestler and movie star (and also his son, El Hijo del Santo). A ceremony was held on June 19th, with El Hijo del Santo in attendance, and a surprise visit by Yolanda Montes, who as "Tongolele" may be familiar to Mexican horror fans for her provocative dancing in SNAKE PEOPLE, one of the notorious four Mexican films starring Boris Karloff.

Here are some photos from the First Day Issue event held in Mexico City:

The stamps are available as a sheet or in a special edition foldout that includes the stamp sheet, two first day of issue stamped commemorative envelopes, and what looks like a one-dimensional Santo mask. All items are available on eBay, though prices can get high for the special edition release.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Count Frankenhausen Rulz!

I'll be getting to the two Count Frankenhausen films, El vampiro sangriento (The Bloody Vampire, 1961) and La invasion de los vampiros (Invasion of the Vampires, 1962), in a future blog entry, but I came across this clip on YouTube from La invasion de los vampiros, which I don't want to lose track of, so I'm placing it here. This wild scene is the battle between Frankenhausen, who turns into a giant bat, and the hero of the story, Ulises. Enjoy!

I could be persuaded that the two Count Frankenhausen films are, overall, more enjoyable than the Abel Salazar's two "El vampiro" films. They certainly are more transfixidly demented.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

El Monje Loco

Creepy as all hell, EL MONJE LOCO premiered in Mexico in 1937 as a radio show, meeting with great success from the outset. Though I haven't heard any of the shows (the You Tube clip above gives a a snippet), I assume that "The Mad Monk" was the host of the horror series, rather than an active participant in them. So great was EL MONJE LOCO's success that in 1940 the character began appearing in the pages of CHAMACO as a horror host and on the screen in a film titled, what else, EL MONJE LOCO. In 1953, the Mexican Mad Monk got his own comic book that lasted until the early 1960s. Later that decade a new series of EL MONJE LOCO comics saw publication, and then another series that lasted 176 numbers.

EL MONJE LOCO is a Mexican institution, and the character turns up in films, TV shows and print media, but is rarely talked about or considered north of the border, even among those with an appreciation for Mexican horror films.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Santo Photo Comic

The website has a section on the Santo photo comics that were popular in Mexico and throughout Latin America for a few decades, beginning in 1952 when the publication first appeared. The first series lasted from 1952 to 1958, with over 400 numbers. The above cover is from the fourth issue in this series.

The comic was produced by Jose Guadalupe Cruz. In the first issue Santo is mortally wounded in a fight and dies in his son's arms, passing on to him the crime-fighting heritage of The Man in the Silver Mask. In sixteen years, the son continues the tradition, first by hunting down his father's killers. In subsequent adventures, the new Santo battles both human and supernatural evildoers. These comics contributed greatly to crafting the legend of El Santo.

As seen by a few panels from issue number four (shown below), the artwork was of a collage-type: drawings mixed with photos.

The Kingdom Comics website offers a history of the Santo comics, as well as several downloads. Not certain that this will happen, but I may attempt to translate at least one comic for this blog.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

La cabeza vivente (1961)

The world waits for the resurrection of the CasaNegra DVD company, and the freedom from confinement of its two shelved Mexican horror releases--El mundo de los vampiros (The World of the Vampires) and La cabeza viviente (The Living Head). The former film is one of the wildest and most fascinating excursions in the vampire genre--eagerly welcome to DVD--but I consider the latter film the nadir of Salazar's eight horror films, though it has its entertainment and DVD value to be sure. Here's a brief overview of the film and its background:

Taking a week break after shooting El baron del terror (The Brainiac) at Churubusco Studios, the efficient Abel Salazar and his production company ABSA were back at the studio on March 1st, 1961, to make another horror film. Having dealt with the vampire (the Count Lavud films, and El mundo de los vampiros/The World of the Vampires), a Jekyll & Hyde (El hombre y al monstruo/The Man and the Monster), a sinister warlord (El baron del terror/The Brainiac), Salazar must have felt it was about time to give the mummy genre a chance and the same screenwriting team that gave him El baron del terror—Frederico Curiel and Adolfo Lopez Portillo—provided a script. Chano Urueta was again at the directorial helm and in familiar pre-colonial Mexican territory, having mined this terrain way back in 1933 with Profanacion, and in 1939 with El signo de la muerte and La noche de los Mayas.

Borrowing for its credits the main theme from El baron del terror, the film opens with stock shots of the Aztec world (possibly taken from one of Urueta’s earlier films) and then a sacrifice of a traitorous Aztec warrior whose heart is cut out of his body by Xiho, the high priest. (The heart, dripping with blood, is a novel sight for the time of the film's exhibition, though the gore intensity is muted by the film’s black and white palette.) Thereafter we learn that the traitor had caused the death and beheading of great warrior Acatl. Xiho (Guillermo Cramer) is entombed with the head, as is the high priestess Xochiquetzal (Ana Luisa Peluff0). Over four centuries later, in 1963, an archaeological expedition led by Professor Herman Meuller (German Robles) uncovers the sealed tomb. The change in air pressure causes Xochiquetzal's mummy to vaporize, leaving for the taking Acatl's head, the perfectly preserved body of Xiho (which doesn't vaporize), and a large ring that, unknown to the expedition, reveals in its jewel the person destined to die in connection with Acatl and the tomb's desecration. Anyone familiar with Mummy films can guess the rest of the plot.

La cabeza viviente was first exhibited in Mexico in 1963, which required the changing of the time-line from 1961, the year of the film's production. (You can spot the change: A different font is used for displaying the year 1963 in the time-line dissolves that proceed from Aztec times.) The film’s working title, El ojo de la muerte (The Eye of Death), refers to the ancient Aztec ring already mentioned.

Urueta’s direction is rather pedestrian for this outing, possibly reflecting the speedy shoot and the bareness of certain areas of the script. The climax is particularly poor, with Professor Meuller, as the father of the main female character (who is, of course, spiritually connected to the Aztec high priestess, Xochiquetzal) trying to rationalize with a bewitched character (Robert, the male romantic lead played by Mauricio Garces) into not killing his daughter, rather than stepping in to physically stop him. It's an absurd scene, making the father appear cringing and cowardly, and German Robles overacts throughout, as if never receiving any direction from Urueta during this crucial climax.

Furthermore, the K. Gordon Murray dub, The Living Head, which is most familiar to Americans, is filled with classic bad-film lines and a sonorous, portentous reading by dubber Paul Frees of Robles’ lines that gives the film extra humor value where none was originally intended.

La cabeza viviente is the most predictable of Salazar’s movies, nowhere near as outré as his other horrors, and revisiting territory recently covered in Mexican and world horror cinema. It offers almost nothing in the way of innovation.

One might have supposed that, with this film, it was time for Salazar to call it quits and end his mining of horror themes, but there was one more film destined to emerge from his ABSA production company, a masterpiece that ended the horror reign of Salazar with a bang--La maldicion de la Llorona (The Curse of the Crying Woman).

Saturday, February 16, 2008

La bruja (1954)

Several Mexican films from the early 1950s anticipated Mexico's horror boom that started in 1957 with El vampiro, and several key figures during this time emerged to later take advantage of their creative accomplishments. One of the most important members of this select group was director and scriptwriter Chano Urueta. In the space of two years, Urueta directed and scripted three films that would foreshadow and influence Mexico's forthcoming horror and lucha libre films: Monstruo resucitado (1953), La bestia magnifica (1953), and La bruja (1954). The story of the latter film, incidentally, was thought up by Alfredo Salazar, a few years before his brother, Abel, produced El vampiro.

La bruja tells the rather simple, yet effective tale of a woman's life-sacrificing love for a man who, initially, is very much out of reach for her because of his handsome looks. This woman is "la bruja," the witch, a hideous being who inhabits an underground world of outcasts and is regarded with loathing and suspicion even there. Made beautiful by a maddened doctor to carry out his revenge against the heads of a company that desired his formula and accidentally killed his daughter, "la bruja" falls in love with the only innocent high-ranking member of that company, Fedor, played by the debonair Ramon Gay, sans his usual moustache.

Framed by a window, "la bruja" (Lilia de Valle) looks into bourgeoisie society,
as her manipulator, Dr. Boerner (Julio Villarreal), stands behind her.

Chano Urueta deliciously crafts a sinister underworld of the poor, wretched and handicapped, a society lorded over by Paulesco, a sort of early and non-supernatural version of Coffin Joe. (Paulesco is played by the future "Dr. Krupp" of the Aztec Mummy films--Juan Aceves Castaneda, while the actor who played the Aztec Mummy, Angel Di Stefani, turns up as a beggar.) Along with the scenes featuring "la bruja" (whose look on the big screen must have been both shocking and riveting), it is these moments in the underground lair that resonate with atmosphere, artful camera positioning, and directorial flourishes. A black-robed trial of the "Tribunal of the Night" that takes place within leads one to surmise that Urueta is setting up a socialistic court date against the ruling class where the judges and jury are from the lower class, but we eventually realize that this society of outcasts is as to be feared, with its cruelty and baser passions, as the opulent and "respected" society above ground.

While one feels that Urueta is at home in this bizarre environment, the rendering of the apparent locale of the story--some unidentified Balkan country--is practically non-existent. The Churubusco studio where the film was helmed fails to duplicate any Balkan locale, and, it seems, there's little attempt to do so, despite the employment of Gunther Gerzso, with his Hungarian/German background, as production designer.

The connections with the European continent come, probably by choice, from some of the actors, however. Lilia del Valle, who assays the titular role, was born Lilián Welker Gundlach, which suggest a Germanic heritage, while the two villains in suits-- Jan and Gunther--are played by German-born Fernando Wagner and Austrian-born Charles Rooner. Even the non-Spanish speaker can recognize their careful Spanish diction.

A melodramatic horror film, a tragedy of beauty and beast where the beast is a woman and the beauty a man, La bruja is not as splendidly outré in its horrors as Urueta's earlier El monstruo resucitado; its aims are simpler and its rewards more straightforward, but welcome nevertheless.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Hasta el viento tiene miedo (2007)

Based on the 1968 Carlos Enrique Taboada film of the same title, Hasta el viento tiene miedo (Even the Wind is Scared) was one of Mexico's big hits last year, seen by over one million audience members and coming in #5 in the top ten Mexican films seen in that country.

Here's a trailer of the film:

And here's a blog, in Spanish, which devotes itself to this remake:

No word yet on if this film will be seen in American theaters or on American DVD.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

2nd Volume of Demois' South of the Border Set

Streeting on March 4, 2008 will be the second volume of Deimos' "South of the Border" collection. This one will contain the following films:

Night of the Bloody Apes
Curse of the Doll People
Masterworks of Terror
Wrestling Women vs. The Aztec Mummy
Doctor of Doom
New Invisible Man

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Monsters from the Vault #24

The newest issue of the highly regarded "classic horror" magazine, Monsters from the Vault, will feature a special section on Mexican horror--Bryan Senn's extensive review of the Mexican horror films released on DVD by CasaNegra, and a rare interview with German Robles, the star of the two seminal El Vampiro films and the Nostradamus series.

The stunning cover by Joe Schovitz features German Robles against a backdrop from a scene in Santo contra las mujeres vampiro (Santo vs. the Vampire Women).

The issue, number 24, is now at press and should be available near the end of January. Copies can be ordered directly from the publisher, Jim Clatterbaugh, at the Monsters from the Vault website:

Monsters from the Vault