Macario (1960)

The first Mexican movie to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, it was also entered into the 1960 Cannes Film Festival. It’s based on the B. Traven novel The Third Guest and is loosely based on an old border legend. It also bears similarities to the Grimm Fairy Tale Godfather Death or The Death’s Godson. It was directed by Roberto Gavaldon.

Poor, hungry peasant Macario longs for just one good meal on the Day of the Dead. In fact, he’s so hungry that after seeing a parade of turkeys, he says that he will no longer eat until his dream of eating an entire roast turkey. His wife steals him one as he goes off to work.

As Macario prepares to eat, three men appear to him. The first one is a fine gentleman who is the Devil and the second is an old man. Macario refuses to share with them, as he believes they are powerful enough to get the food  themselves. But a third man, a peasant much like our hero, gets the turkey right away. And that man is Death.

Death is touched by this and becomes friends with Macario, but they never speak, merely stare at one another. He also gifts him with magical water, which can heal any injury. That gift will lead him through all manner of toil and trouble and one final meal with Death.

You can watch this on YouTube.

 

Conquistador de la Luna (1960)

Rogelio A. Gonzalez directed two of the movies that I feel most strongly about when it comes to classic Mexican science fiction and horror: The Ship of Monsters and Dr. Satan vs. the Black Hand. Both of these movies refuse to play by any rules of the genre and mix humor with outright shocks. They also make frugal use of their budget to craft truly fantastic vistas that some would say were impossible to craft for the money.

This film, however, is a vehicle for Mexican comedian Antonio “Clavillazo” Espino, who plays a bumbling fix-it man who finds himself on a rocket for the moon and up against four-armed aliens that look way more frightening than this simple film would deserve.

The aliens are led by an even more intimidating creature, a large brain that floats around on its own power that would have scared the absolute pants off of me had I seen this as a kid. More of the brain! More of the aliens! Less of the hijinks!

Orlak, El Infierno de Frankenstein (1960)

Rafael Baledon was an actor and director who also created the 1963 film The Crying Woman. Here, he makes his own take on the Universal Frankenstein mythos with a film that is broken into four parts, as by splitting it up into four sections like a movie serial, Baledon was able to get around some Mexican union laws.

Jaime Rojas (Joaquin Cordero, Vacation of Terror 2Dr. Satan) has just been released from jail when he helps Dr. Frankenstein escape from prison. The scientist succeeds one more time in making new life in the form of the bestial Orlak, a monster with Rojas’ face that the evil doctor controls via radio waves to kill numerous men, women and even a baby.

Orlak, The Hell of Frankenstein was written by Carlos Enrique Taboada, who would go on to become perhaps one of the most important voices in Mexican horror. I’d point to his movies Even the Wind Is AfraidPoison for the FairiesThe Book of Stone and Darker than Night is examples of prime storytelling and talent.

La Nave de los Monstruos (1960)

Rogelio A. Gonzalez made more than 70 movies, but I wonder if he ever made anything near as good as this movie, which is perhaps one of the strangest films I’ve ever had the delight to witness.

I was wondering how to even describe this movie. Basically, Gamma (Ana Bertha Lepe, Miss Mexico 1953 and a third-runner up for Miss Universe) and Beta (Lorena Velazquez, Miss Mexico 1960 and also Zorina queen of the vampires in Santo vs. Las Mujeres Vampiro) have come from Venus to find men to repopulate their planet. Of course, they can’t resist biting people or falling in love with Lauriano (Eulalio “Piporro” Gonzalez, one of the kings of golden age of Mexico comedy and the literal embodiment of Northern Mexican culture), a singing cowboy.

Sure, that would set up a great movie, but this is Mexico. Which means that the ship has a robot named Tor who is collecting a whole bunch of monsters — why, the title translates as Ship of Monsters, surprise! — and those monsters are about to go crazy. There’s Uk the cyclops, the many armed Carasus, Prince of Mars Tagual, Utirr the spider and the dinosaur skeleton named Zok. Also, Tor falls for a jukebox. And some of the special effects were ripped off from the Russian movie Road to the Stars.

Imagine if Ed Wood lived in Mexico, had a better budget, lucked out and had magnificent actresses willing to wear swimsuits and high heels, as well as a singing cowboy. Then we’d cut open slice open a peyote cactus and make him sit in a cave until he made this and it still might not this charming and odd.

You can watch this on YouTube.

America As Seen By A Frenchman (1960)

Known in France as L’Amérique Insolite, or Unusual America, this film is all about the 18 month journey that Francois Reichenbach, who shot the video for Serge Gainsbourg and Brigitte Bardot’s “Bonnie and Clyde” as well as parts of F for Fake) took across America.

With a script by Chris Marker and narration by Jean Cocteau and June Richmond (Paul Klinger did the German version), this is a playful look at America before the many changes that the 60’s would bring. From prison rodeos to Miss America, Disneyland to a town of twins, this film captures the eccentric side of America, including a shocking moment where a rider continually pushes a horse to greater heights, diving into a small pool of water. While this image is upsetting, the dialogue juxtaposed with it is uplifting: “The golden age is the only time when magic is called by its proper name. It’s the only time when you need to believe in miracles. When pigeons fly, horses fly. Angels fly. Man flies.”

While this film was released two years before Mondo Cane, make no mistake. It is a mondo film. That said, this is the gentle side of mondo, a movie given to the celebrations of small dogs at play on Fire Island. It’s utterly charming.

This has just been released by Arrow Video with new English subtitles and a 1080p presentation. I totally didn’t expect to fall in love with this film, but I did. You can get it right here.

DISCLAIMER: This was sent to us by Arrow Video.

The Orientals (1960)

Romolo Marcellini was all over the mondo fad, creating films like Taboos of the World and Macabro. Here, his camera explores the emancipation of women in the Far East.

That said — none of these stories are true, all shot like a mondo but obviously scripted stories.

Akiko Wakabayashi — Aki from You Only Live Twice — and famous Malaysian actress Lakshmi appear, after all.

There’s also a Thai kickboxer who gets hooked on opium and a monkey that can’t stop itching. I’m making it all sounds way better than it is. Sorry.

You can watch this as a bonus feature on Severin’s Mondo Balordo blu ray.

The Girl In Lover’s Lane (1960)

Also known as The Young and the Damned, this is the story of two drifters: Danny (Lowell Brown, High School Caesar), a rich kid who has run away from home, and “Big Stupid” Bix (Brett Halsey, Touch of DeathThe Devil’s Honey), a long-time hobo who is mentoring the former.

Bix begins to make lovey eyes with an innocent waitress named Carrie (Joyce Meadows, I Saw What You Did), who’s already dealing with the creepy affections of Jesse (Jack Elam). Yeah, so creepy that he eventually murders her.

This film’s writer, Jo Heims, would later write Double Trouble for Elvis, the story for Dirty Harry and Play Misty for Me. Its director, Charles R. Rondeau, also made The Devil’s Partner and the fact that I can remember than without the internet both makes me happy and somewhat sad that I know this much about junk movies instead of something important that can actually help the world.

You can watch this — as riffed by Mystery Science Theater 3000 — on Tubi. You can also download it on the Internet Archive.

The Sinister Urge (1960)

For its time, The Sinister Urge was pornography. Today, it could probably play on normal television.

In 1959, Ed Wood finished writing The Racket Queen and got producer Roy Reid of Headliner Productions to cough up the dough. Obviously, Ed was influenced by Psycho, just like every exploitation filmmaker at the time.

If you’ve watched more than one or two or, like me, nearly every Ed Wood film, you’ll see a fight scene that Wood had shot for his unfinished project Hellborn, AKA Rock and Roll Hell. Ed Wood was an early believer in being green, as he recycled that very same scene for Night of the Ghouls.

This would be the last film that Wood would make with William C. Thompson as his cinematographer, who some sources say was colorblind and others say only had one eye. Regardless of how many working eyes he had, they weren’t working too well so he retired.

The sleazy filmmaker, Johnny Ryde, is pretty much Wood just writing himself into a film. In his office, you’ll see posters for Jail Bait, Bride of the Monster, The Violent Years and Plan 9 from Outer Space. There’s a really telling line here, as Ryde yells, “I look at this slush, and I try to remember, at one time, I made good movies.” That said, Wood never made good movies. He made interesting ones. But man, I don’t know if he ever made a good movie. Yet, I love him and his work still.

This movie is about the “Mary Smiths” from “Everywhere, USA” who graduate at the top of their class, were great in the school play, then come on out to Hollywood hoping to be discovered yet are afraid to go back home a failure. Throw in “The Syndicate” and some murder and well, we have an Ed Wood movie.

This $20,000 wonder was the last mainstream film Wood would make. He did have an idea of a sequel that he called The Peeper, but it never happened. After here, it was all adult films. The dirty picture racket, as they say. Movies like Take It Out in TradeNecromania and The Young Marrieds. And yes, you just know I’ll get to those soon.

You can also see this movie on an episode of Mystery Science Theater (season 6, episode 13) after the short educational film Keeping Clean and Neat. Obviously, with the name of his 2001 solo album, Rob Zombie is also a fan of this movie.

PURE TERROR MONTH: The Tell-Tale Heart (1960)

Film historians Steve Chibnall and Brian McFarlane have selected this movie as one of the 15 most meritorious British B films made between World War II and 1970. That has to be worth something, correct?

Director Ernest Morris and writer Brian Clemens worked together on several films, including Operation MurderOn the RunThe BetrayalThree Sundays to Live and A Woman of Mystery amongst others. Clemens would go on to write for The Avengers, as well as And Soon the DarknessDr. Jekyll & Sister HydeCaptain Kronos Vampire Hunter and creating the Thriller TV series.

Here, they are loosely adapting Edgar Allan Poe. Have you ever noticed that nearly every time I mention someone is making a Poe movie that it’s a loose adaption?

Edgar Marsh (Laurence Payne, Vampire Circus) is a shy man who is obsessed with erotica, which in 1960 made him a dangerous maniac instead of someone with an internet connection. He notices Betty Clare (Adrienne Corri, A Clockwork Orange) getting undressed and becomes overly obsessed by her, planning their future long before she’s even interested.

What she is interested in is his friend Carl Loomis, who she hooks up with after Edgar introduces them. He watches them together and then kills his friend with a poker, then buries him in his piano room. Before you can say “loosely adapted from an Edgar Allan Poe story,” he’s hearing the tell-tale heartbeat.

It’s low budget, but not a bad film. It feels very much like a TV production, which makes sense, because it was made by those that would go on to mainly work in TV.

If you don’t have the Pure Terror set — and you should — you can also watch this on Amazon Prime.

PURE TERROR MONTH: The Amazing Transparent Man (1960)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Craig Edwards is an award-winning blogger as well as a self-proclaimed Media Guy and a consumer of pop culture for a lot of years. He also writes a great blog called Let’s Get Out of Here

 

Famed low budget director Edgar G. Ulmer helms this science fiction flick which has apparently fallen into the public domain, which resulted in it being available on countless bargain VHS tapes and now in untold numbers of cheapie DVD sets, much like the very one we’re shining the spotlight on.

Former Army guy Krenner (James Griffith), plans to conquer the world with his soon-to-be army of invisible thugs and he is willing to do anything to make that happen. Krenner forces Dr. Ulof (Ivan Trisault) to work to perfect the invisibility machine Ulof invented. He keeps Ulof’s daughter, Maria (Carmel Daniel) as a hostage with the help of his henchman, Julian (Red Morgan). Ulof needs radioactive elements to improve the invisibility machine which are understandably rare and kept under guard in government facilities. Krenner busts Joey Faust (Douglas Kennedy) out of prison to steal the materials he needs. Faust pulls the robberies using the invisibility power – but chaffs working for the dictatorial Krenner. Soon everyone in the house, including Krenner’s girlfriend Laura (Marguerite Chapman) is working some kind of double cross or secret agenda; and it’s readily apparent that no one is particularly likable – so who’s going to be the treacherous victor?

While it’s obviously a very low budget talkfest, there’s just SOMETHING about Edgar G. Ulmer’s movies that interest me. Consequently, I like this little dud which is usually touted as one of the worst of all time. Ulmer only made two more movies before retiring; but his touch is still evident all over this. Sure, it’s low-budget; it’s static; it’s talky – but I’ve seen it now like three times, and I still enjoy it.

I can’t defend the movie – but to me this works – it’s not an epic of production values and amazing effects – though there are a few sprinkled in – but it works as the little sci-fi talkfest it is. If it sounds at all interesting it is worth a look and it’s certainly not hard to find.