Sunday, November 29, 2009

El Castillo De Las Momias De Guanajuato (1973)

Dr. Tanner (director Tito Novaro), another of the dozens of dastardly mad scientists who plague Mexico, is dying of an incurable illness. The only way to save himself is to acquire a large amount of blood taken from people under duress. But how does a man get at this nectar, when he lives and works in a cellar lab and has only three midgets and one slightly larger skinny guy as henchmen? First, he needs to kidnap another scientist and his son (Alex Agrasanchez again), for no good reason I could make out other than to raise the interest of some luchadores.

Then, he plays his mean magic organ while his henchmidgets sacrifice two cocks in a graveyard to raise a group of undead minions (who really aren't the mummies of Guanajuato, whatever the film's title may promise). Easily controlled with a dog whistle, these walking dead are exactly the help Tanner needs, because they might be so slow even my Grandma could outrun them, but have the useful ability to induce instant loss of consciousness in women. Let the mass kidnappings begin!

The not very dynamic trio of the life-draining void named Superzan, the shirtless wonder Blue Angel, and Tinieblas (the mentally less developed person's Mil Mascaras) had already taken some kind of interest in the disappearance of the Professor, but were too distracted by their new girlfriends Lita (Maria Salome) and Nora (Zulma Faiad) and the need to get beaten up in the ring to do much about it. But when they stumble onto one of the mummy kidnappings (and lose one of the girlfriends to the mummy fainting magic), the ancient enmity between luchador and mummy kicks in, and they really try to find out what is going on.

As always, Agrasanchez Productions don't make it easy for anyone to like their films. As if the cast of two c-list luchadors and the unbearable Superzan wasn't bad enough, half of Castillo is just dreadfully boring and possibly even slower than the two Superzan solo outings. It is of course the fault of scenes upon scenes of filler, padding and padding to pad out the filler. Friends of lucha cinema will of course know that this is one of the Agrasanchez trademarks, but three plot-irrelevant wrestling scenes, one musical number (that was at least filmed in the presence of the wrestlers, which would be kind of a plus if not for the fact that it is also especially painful) and much driving, walking and more driving are still hard to take. It doesn't help that our protagonists are not doing anything important for more than half of the film, and really can't make up for it through charisma. Perhaps potential female viewers will at least like the Blue Angel beefcake?

Confusingly enough, the other half of the film is quite awesome and creative in the thoughtless yet effective way I have learned to love.

There are earnest scenes of wrestlers doing research in musty old tomes (always a favorite) and interviewing priests, the absolutely hilarious grand mummy resurrection scene (complete with the shaking of dead cock into the camera), a score that always drifts off into freeform freak-out mode as if played by a talentless Sonic Youth with acoustic guitars and way too tired to try anything fancy, the patented mummy single file, a very campy torture scene and the unforgettable sight of Superzan biting through a young boy's ties - all things which make my heart rejoice and put a spring into a mummy's steps.

I also couldn't help but wonder about the film's sexual politics. What is up with the three wrestlers apparently sharing two women? Is Blue Angel a secret member of the Village People, as his perpetual state of shirtlessness suggests?

I'd love to say something about Tito Novaro's direction this time around, but except for an unhealthy love for the colour red and some groovy camera movements in the resurrection scene, he's just doing point and shoot here. Well, at least he's not making the shoddiest mummy make-up of the series up to this point too obvious and keeps the things we are supposed to see in frame. I'd love to treat things like this as prerequisite for any film, but I'm not that naive anymore.

So, how do you call a film half brilliant, silly entertainment and half snoozefest (apart from "an Agrasanchez Production")? A typical 70s lucha movie? Probably. In that case, El Castillo De Las Momias De Guanajuato is an archetypal 70s lucha movie.



Todd said...

Thanks for reminding me of the specific ways in which this movie is awful, because, even though I know that to be the case, I seem to only be able to remember the good bits.

houseinrlyeh said...

I think the trick is to remember that Superzan is in it.