The independently wealthy Albert Zugsmith made millions selling ads. So he did what you or I would probably want to do if we had that much money. He started producing his own movies, starting with his American Pictures Corporation, which made Captive Women, Sword of Venus and Port Sinister all for under $100,000 each.
His first big success was Invasion U.S.A., which he followed with Paris Model and Top Banana before making a deal with Universal. There, he produced Female on the Beach with Joan Crawford, The Incredible Shrinking Man, Written on the Wing and Touch of Evil before moving to MGM, where he got High School Confidential!, which was part of a series of films he worked on with Mamie Van Doren, including The Beat Generation, The Big Operator, Girls Town and the first movie he directed, The Private Lives of Adam and Eve.
The movies that he directed definitely start moving in an exploitation direction from here on out, like the Vincent Price movie Confessions of an Opium Eater, Sex Kittens Go to College, the notorious bomb Dondi, Psychedelic Sexualis, Sappho Darling and Movie Star American Style or LSD I Hate You. He also produced Russ Meyer’s Fanny Hill.
That brings us to this burst of insanity.
Nick Vidal (Carlos Rivas) owns the bank his father stole from the Cervantes family, with Juan Cervantes (Ivan J. Rado, The Wild Bunch) still working there. For some reason, Juan has no worries at all, while Nick can barely sleep and is obsessed with the shady deal. He’s also sleeping with his secretary, Sidonia (Regina Torné, La Senora Muerte).
Meanwhile, Consuelo the maid (Gloria Leticia Ortiz, Santo in the Hotel of Death) tries to hang herself and is stopped by her father Pedro (Germán Robles, who played Nostradamus the vampire in that series of films). It turns out that she too had an affair with Nick and can’t live without him. And while all that’s happening, Dr. Saluby (Guillermo Murray, El Mundo de Los Vampiros) has come to check on the injured maid and ends up sleeping with Nick’s wife Muriel (Elizabeth Campbell, Golden Rubi from the Wrestling Women movies).
To make this even more convoluted, Nick has been getting threats on bank stationary. He’s sure it’s Juan, so when he goes to the man’s house, instead of a fight, he’s warmly greeted and taken to the Chinese room that gives this movie its title. There, he sees a woman in a mask who is in a drug haze, which helps her get over the pain she feels from her deformed foot.
Nick’s nightmares kick into high gear, filled with gory dismemberments, dancing skeletons and him being bound to a giant clock.
Then, somehow, this becomes a murder mystery, as the maid is found hung again, but the real cause of death is choking by human hands. And anyone — everyone — has a reason for why she had to die, because it turns out that she’s pregnant with Nick’s child.
I have no idea how this film ended up made in Mexico with a mostly Mexican cast. That said, it’s really something. How many mushroom taking murder mysteries with dream sequences have you seen?