APRIL MOVIE THON 2: Caltiki – The Immortal Monster (1959)

April 25: Bava Forever — Bava died on this day 43 years ago. Let’s watch his movies.

After the success of Hercules, Galatea Film began production on films made for the international market. They hired Riccardo Freda to make this movie, but he left before it was done, supposed to allow Mario Bava — the cinematographer and special effects artist on this — the opportunity to direct and earn more money. This same situation — Freda leaving and Bava finishing the movie — also happened during I Vampiri (The Devil’s Commandment)

There are different stories over who did what. Freda told Luigi Cozzi that he “left it when there were just two days of shooting left. I did shoot it yes, but it’s Bava’s type of film. I don’t enclose it in my body of work. The only thing I remember with pleasure about it are the statues that decorated the sets: I sculpted them myself,” while Bava referred to this as his first film and claimeed that Freda left the movie”because everything was falling to pieces. I managed to carry it out, patching it up here and there.”

Cozzi would come back to this interview thirty years later, setting the record straight by stating that “the director of Calitiki il mostro immortale is Riccardo Freda, full stop. Mario Bava did take care of the cinematography, the special effects and directed the scenes with the miniatures (that is, mostly the tanks….) and in addition to that he filmed some shots of soldiers with flame throwers. That’s all, and of course it cannot be enough to say that Bava directed that movie.” That said, in the last two or three weeks of filming, Bava directed and shot over 100 special effects shots.

Honestly, the answer depends on who you ask and when you ask them.

A group of archarologists discover a large statue of Caltiki, a supposed Mayan goddess who demanded human sacrifices. When one of them descends into a pool, he finds skeletons covered in gold and jewels. He keeps going back for more before he’s melted into a skeleton himself.

Now, Caltiki is a made up deity. But man, who cares, because soon a blob like creature emerges and tries to devour everyone. The monster was created from cloth and tripe, which is the stomach of a cow. It made a horrific smell, so no one wanted to be around it.

Anyhow, the blob-like organism attaches itself to one man’s arm and, of course, replicates and feeds on radiation. It’s about to have a buffet, because a radioactive comet that last appeared in our orbit during the time of the Mayans is about to come back and every little blob will become gigantic unless the smart brains in this can figure something out. How do you destroy a blob in the world of this movie? Flamethrowers. It’s that simple.

You can watch this on Tubi.

MILL CREEK SCI-FI FROM THE VAULT: The 30 Foot Bride of Candy Rock (1959)

The only movie — outside of when he was a bit player and stuntman — that Lou Costello starred in without Bud Abbott, this movie was based on an original screenplay titled The Secret Bride of Candy Rock Mountain. Directed by Sidney Miller (who started as an actor and also wrote songs for musicals like Moonlight in Vermont) and written by Rowland Barber and Arthur Ross, it was released in theaters five months after Costello died from the result of a decade plus fight with rheumatic fever (but not before enjoying the best strawberry malted ever).

Costello is inventor and junk collction Artie Pinsetter, who is engaged to Emmy Lou Raven (Dorothy Provine,  It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World), who is quickly exposed to radiation and turned into the titular gigantic woman. They live in the small desert town of Candy Rock, which is owned by Emmy’s rich uncle Rossiter (Gale Gordon, who would be Lucille Ball’s antagonist in many shows).

This movie almost had Liberace in it, which would make this goofy movie even stranger.

The Mill Creek Sci-Fi from the Vault set also has Creature With the Atom Brain, It Came From Beneath the Sea and 20 Million Miles to Earth. There’s a commentary track for The 30 Foot Bride of Candy Rock from Larry Strothe, Matt Weinhold, Shawn Sheridan and James Goni from The Monster Party Podcast, plus two featurettes, They Came from Beyond and Fantastic Features. You can get it from Deep Discount.

JESS FRANCO MONTH: Tenemos 18 años (1959)

Everything — Dr. Orloff, diamond thieves, longing staring moments into the scenery and the sun, jazz interludes and all the moments of male gaze — all start here. This is Jess Franco’s first film and it doesn’t even hint at the madness that the rest of his near two hundred films would unleash.

María José (Isana Medel) and Pili (Terele Pávez) are on the road and looking for adventure. Seeing as how this is the first full-length film for Jess, they are safe from face stealing mad doctors, women who kill in ecstasy, lesbian vampires and the zooming in way too close camera of the director himself.

Instead, the girls have fantasies like a man who lives in a castle just might be a vampire and the old lady who stares at their yellow car just wants to smash it. It’s light and so safe and yet, behind the camera is the eye of a thirty-year-old Franco who has not yet stared at Soledad or Lina or would someday be shooting films far from Spain. A man who one day, along with Luis Bunuel, would be condemned as the director who offered the most danger to the souls of Catholics.

Many years later, Terele Pávez would play Rosario in El Dia de la Bestia. Her acting career would last from 1954 to 2020.

2022 Scarecrow Psychotronic Challenge Day 11: Eyewash (1959)

11. GOLDEN OLDIES: Post-war/50’s movies, from the schlock to the awes.

Robert Breer, who created this, said “In all my work I tried to amaze myself with something, and the only way you can amaze yourself is to create a situation in which an accident can happen.” His father, Carl, was an automotive engineer who designed the Chrysler Airflow and also created a 3-D camera that he used to take photos on vacations. Breer went to Stanford, hoping to follow his father as an engineer, when he discovered Mondrian and became an artist. Moving to Paris in 1949 and staying for a decade, he returned to America to work within pop art and teach film at Cooper Union.

Eyewash is a combination of geometric shapes and photography, all hand colored by the artist. It moves way faster than you can imagine, seeing as this came sixy years ago, and is over before you know it. It’s a study in movement and color that you may want to watch more than once. I know that I did.

You can watch this on YouTube.

El Grito de La Muerte (1959)

The Screaming Death was directed by Fernando Méndez, who also made El VampiroThe Black Pit of Dr. M and Ladrón de Cadáveres. It was written by Ramón Obón, the screenwriter of the first Mil Mascaras movies, as well as the director and writer of Cien Gritos de Terror.

The American version — The Living Coffin — was remixed for U.S. audiences by K. Gordon Murray, who did a lot of that and really didn’t ever bother consulting the source material.

Gastón (Gastón Santos, a former bullfighter who played himself in many of his movies) and his sidekick Coyote Loco (Pedro de Aguillón) arrive in a town haunted by La Llorona, the crying woman. Maria (María Duval) believes that the red idol that Gastón is carrying was carved by her deceased aunt Clotilde. And the locals think that that woman is, in fact, the crying woman killing the townsfolk.

The film looks great and mixes gothic horror with western action, but never gets going. But it’s an awesome idea and I’ll keep looking out for the perfect horror in the west.

Misterios de ultratumba (1959)

Released as The Black Pit of Dr. M in the U.S., this movie explores man’s fascination with what comes after this world.

Dr. Mazali (Rafael Bertrand) and Dr. Jacinto Aldama (Antonio Raxel) make a bet with one another: whoever dies first will return to tell the other what happens after death. Aldama goes first and appears to Mazali during a seance, telling him that within three months, he will know everything about the afterlife.

Aldama’s ghost leads Patricia (Mapita Cortés) — also his daughter, but that’s a spoiler — to the insane asylum Mazali leads. The older doctor falls for her, but she and an intern named Eduardo (Gastón Santos) are in love. He also lets another inmate out of her cell and she instantly burns an orderly with acid right to the face. She’s murdered, Mazali takes the fall and heads to the gallows, proving that he will indeed soon know the afterlife.

While most early Mexican horror repeats the Universal horror movies and most Americans only know lucha movies to be the rest of the genre output from south of the border, the truth is that there are moments of sheer gothic dread for those willing to look. I’d definitely recommend this movie — the opening with the mental patients filling the frame is harrowing and a man rises from his grave in an incredibly unsettling fashion — as well as Hasta el Viento Tiene Miedo.

This was dubbed into English at one point, but that print is believed to be lost.

You can watch this on YouTube.


Uncle Was a Vampire (1959)

Baron Osvaldo Lambertenghi (Renato Rascel, who represented Italy in the 1960 Eurovision contest and acted in several films) has sold his ancestral castle and stays on as a porter, which he does without complaint until the day that his uncle Baron Roderico da Frankurte (Christopher Lee) arrives.

Roderico is a vampire, in case you didn’t read the title.  Osvaldo tries to tell the guests, but they think he’s crazy, at which point he gets bitten too. This was made nearly instantly after Hammer’s Horror of Dracula and if he wasn’t a big enough box office star to get people to show up, Sylva Koscina from Hercules is here as well. So is Susanne Loret (Atom Age Vampire), Kai Fischer (The Hellfire Club) and Lia Zoppelli (who was in Toto and Cleopatra) are also on board.

Director Steno is mostly known for comedy films, like his films with Toto, Banana Joe with Bud Spencer, Dr. Jekyll Likes Them Hot with Edwige Fenech and Man, Beast and Virtue, which had Toto and Orson Welles in the same movie.

For Hammer fans, you can almost consider this a lost Lee Dracula, except that the humor and the horrible dubbing Lee got may take you out of the movie.

MILL CREEK DRIVE-IN MOVIE CLASSICS: Beast from Haunted Cave (1959)

EDITOR’S NOTE: It’s repeat time — Sam already watched this one on September 30, 2020, but it’s in this Mill Creek box set too.

Filmed at the same time as Ski Troop Attack and released on a double bill with The Wasp Woman, this Monte Hellman movie would mark the first of his many projects with Roger Corman.

Hellman would say, “What interested me about it was that it really wasn’t a monster movie. Roger liked Key Largo very much. I think that was one of his favorite movies. He kept making Key Largo just different versions of it. In this case he added a monster to it.

As for the titular beast, Hellman would say, “They literally spent two dollars at the dime store. It was mostly angel hair and paper mache monster.” The crew nicknamed the beast Humphrass. It was created and operated by Chris Robinson, who would go on to play the lead in William Grefé’s Stanley.

Basically, a gang gets together and tries to steal some gold, but ends up waking this monster and, well, bad things happen.

Linné Ahlstrand, who plays the doomed barmaid Natalie, was Playboy’s Playmate of the Month for July 1958 and Richard Sinatra, who plays Marty, was a cousin of Ol’ Blue Eyes. It’s things like that that sell a movie, you know.

There was a sequel planned — that’s why this ends like it does — but it never happened. However, Corman would pretty much make the movie all over again in 1961 and call it Creature from Haunted Sea.

You can watch this on Amazon Prime and Tubi.

The Man Who Could Cheat Death (1959)

Based on the play The Man in Half Moon Street, which was already made into a movie in 1945 and a TV movie 18 months before this was released, this Terrence Fisher-directed film was originally going to star Peter Cushing. However, the actor was exhausted following The Hound of the Baskervilles and stepped out six days before filming was to begin.

Hammer threatened him with legal action, but since there was no contract, there wasn’t much they could do. The lead role went to Anton Diffring, who had previously played the part of Dr. Georges Bonnet in the aforementioned TV version of the story that had appeared on the British show Hour of Mystery.

Released in the U.S. by Paramount, it played drive-ins until well into the 1960s, supporting Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors as late as 1965.

This is the story of playboy scientist and sculptor Dr. Georges Bonnet, who may look like a vibrant thirtysomething but is truly 104-years-old, staying alive through parathyroid gland transplants every decade. His personal surgeon, Professor Ludwig Weiss, can no longer operate after his stroke, so Bonnet must drink a steaming green drink to get a month of youth at a time. Now, the hunt is on to find a new surgeon to complete his vitality regimen.

The police start catching on to Bonnet, as models go missing every time he needs a transplant. Or maybe they just want to arrest him for obscenity — the European release of the film featured a scene in which Court appeared topless, which is cut from the UK and U.S. prints and has been lost — as he loves sculpting nude ladies like Janine Dubois (Hazel Court, who was my favorite character in The Masque of the Red Death, Julianna).

Of course, our antagonist soon finds himself running out of options and death starts creeping up on him, at which point he starts killing a number of models and surgeons. He also rekindles his romance with Janine, but it’s to no avail. Time comes for all men, even The Man Who Could Cheat Death.

And hey! Christopher Lee is a surgeon in this!

It’s a bit talky, but hey, Hammer is Hammer. It’s definitely a high class operation all the way and you could see how a lesser studio would make this much scummier. There’s always a veneer of class even when topless art models are having their glands harvested when this studio makes the picture.

You can watch this on Tubi.

Repost: Attack of the Giant Leeches (1959)

Editor’s Note: We reviewed this third drive-in feature from television director Bernard Kowalksi on January 6, 2020, just because, no Mill Creek inducement required. We’re bringing it back as part of our three day “Bernard Kowalksi Week” tribute. For when you’re dealing with Bernard Kowalksi, you repost reviews of old to make readers aware of his greatness.

Gene Corman broke into the film industry before his brother Roger, working as an agent before becoming vice president of MCA, representing such clients as Joan Crawford, Fred MacMurray, Richard Conte, Harry Belafonte and Ray Milland.

By the late 50’s, he moved to produce his own films before starting his own producing unit at MGM. and then becoming vice-president of 20th Century Fox Television.

This film is directed by Bernard L. Kowalski, who also created Night of the Blood Beast and Sssssss. It was written by Leo Gordon, who had hundreds of roles as an actor, as well as being the author of movies like The Wasp WomanThe Cry Baby Killer and Hot Car Girl.

Did you know that there are larger than human intelligent leeches that live in the Florida Everglades? Yep. There sure are.

Those leeches love nothing more than dragging human beings down into their underwater caves and slowly feeding off their blood.

Liz Walker (Yvette Vickers, who was Playboy‘s July 1959 Playmate of the Month in a centerfold that was photographed by Russ Meyer; she’s also the girl who starts all the trouble by cheating with the husband of Attack of the 50 Foot Woman) is the first victim. Again, she plays a loose woman who is cheating on her husband, so she and her new man must pay.

Game warden Steve Benton (Ken Clark, who was Dick Malloy in the Agent 077 series of films), his girlfriend Nan Grayson and her doctor father are the heroes here and they deal with the leeches in the way that we all knew they would: they use dynamite to blow them up real good.

So yeah. Giant leeches. Wanton women. Dynamite. Cheap film making.

How cheap? Corman didn’t want to pay the grips the extra money for pushing the camera raft in the water, so at first, the director did it, then his brother and finally Corman himself. The cold water led to Corman getting pneumonia and ending up in the hospital. And yes, that is the same music from Night of the Blood Beast. The exact same music is also in Beast from the Haunted Cave.

This movie had some legs. In 1959, it played a double bill with A Bucket of Blood. Then, a year later, it ran alongside Corman’s brother’s film House of Usher. It was also remade in 2008 by Brett Kelly and written by Jeff O’Brien in a film that starred no one you’ve ever heard of.

You can watch this on Tubi with and without commentary from Mystery Science Theater. It’s in the public domain, so you can also grab it from the Internet Archive and watch it on Amazon Prime.