Juan López Moctezuma only directed six films. La Mansión de la Locura, known in the U.S. as Dr. Tarr’s Horror Dungeon, To Kill a Stranger, El Alimento del Miedo, Welcome Maria, the mind-destroying Alucarda and this film. Some people are able to make a legacy with very few films. In my book, Moctezuma is one of them.
Mary Gilmore (Cristina Ferrera, who was once married to John DeLorean and a model before her acting career; she’s since become a TV host and cooking expert on other talk shows) is an American artist searching for something in Mexico. Her van breaks down on the way and she’s surprised by a homeless guy named Ben (David Young, Nightbreed, Poor Devil), who offers to help her in the morning. She agrees and while she sleeps, she dreams of the last man she murdered.
Yes, Mary is something like a vampire, but she must use drugs to slow her victim down as she gains no real powers from her vampirism. In fact, unlike the typical movie vampire, she can move freely in the day. I was reminded of Martin here, as the only magic of this curse is the overwhelming need to destroy and kill. Often, the people that Mary destroys have given her kindness, like the art dealer (Helena Rojo, Más Negro Que la Noche) who she seduces or the old fisherman who offers to teach her. They get drugged and slashed and stabbed instead of what they expected.
Meanwhile, a bandaged man is stalking Mary, killing other women and trying to run her down with his car. If that wasn’t bad enough, Ben is wanted for the murder of the fisherman. No one would suspect our heroine, after all.
Things come to a head when the masked man attacks Mary at a party, which leads to a chase with the police behind them. One of the inspectors is killed and just as Mary is about to devour Ben — who she had earlier drugged for just such a purpose — the masked man (John Carradine) reveals that he is her father. His face has rotted away and he explains that this is what the disease does. He must kill her before she is taken the same way that he is.
Ben wakes up and kills the father with the dead policeman’s gun. Mary begins him to leave and he keeps embracing her. As the camera moves above the scene, we see that she has consumed both of the men’s blood.
At the close, the police believe that the dead masked man is the one responsible for all the killing. This leaves Mary free to drive away and continue her travels.
There’s so much to love here. The painting that Mary has done of her father is a portrait of him as Dracula. There’s also something interesting about how she is the destroyer of so many lives, yet creates with her artwork.
This is the kind of movie that plays with the paradigm I’ve discussed so much: the difference between grindhouse and art house. A scene that should be pure exploitation, like the lesbian bubblebath scene, transforms into sheer artistic bliss (and bloody murder). Carradine feels like he stepped straight out of an Italian giallo. And the young lovers on the run in a foreign country film feels New Hollywood. It is all of those things and more.
Moctezuma has never failed to surprise and delight me.