From Strange and Distant Shores: The Aztec Mummy Trilogy (Part 1)

By Orrin Grey

The Aztec Mummy Trilogy Director: Rafael Portillo Cast: Ramon Gay, Rosa Arenas, Crox Alvarado, Luis Aceves Castaneda. Country: Mexico

curse_of_aztec_mummyThe Aztec Mummy

Mexico responded to the success of the Universal monster movies by releasing its own flood of various and unusual monster and horror films, which became justly infamous in B movie circles for their often-bizarre plots, featuring (for example) masked villains, crime-fighting luchadores and evil robots. Over the years, I’ve read a lot about these movies, but prior to sitting down with the Aztec Mummy trilogy, I’d never seen any of them. From everything I’d read and heard, though, the Aztec Mummy movies are pretty representative of the genre in a lot of ways.

The first movie in the trilogy is the most straightforward of the three, and the one that most closely resembles a typical Universal monster picture. It opens with an assurance that what we’re about to see is all very scientific, a popular device used at the beginning of movies of this type during the 50s. After that, the first thing we see is an out-of-context shootout (which we’ll be seeing footage from again in the later movies) and a news story about a masked criminal called The Bat (aka Dr. Krupp), who is also known to be a mad scientist who performs “vivisection of animals, inserting parts that don’t belong to them, thus creating monstrous creatures.” Unfortunately, while we’re told this about The Bat again in later movies, we never see any of these “monstrous creatures” and so have to take the film’s word for it.

After our introduction to The Bat, the movie moves into drastically-less-dramatic territory, as we’re introduced to our assorted protagonists: Dr. Almada, his fiancĂ©e Flor, cowardly friend-of-the-family Pinacate, as well as Dr. Almada’s kid brother and his daughter from a previous marriage. Like any good scientist in a monster movie, Dr. Almada is trying to drum up support for a past-life regression experiment that is deemed dubious by the scientific community and, in desperation, he enlists Flor as a volunteer.

Of course, the experiment is a success, and Flor is regressed into a past life where she was an Aztec maiden who fell into a forbidden love with the warrior Popoca, who, not to spoil any surprises, wound up as the titular Aztec mummy. This provides the crux of the plot, as The Bat attempts to use the hypnotized Flor’s connection with the mummy to uncover the location of ancient Aztec treasure, a plan which is ultimately foiled thanks to the last-minute intervention of the mummy.

Aside from The Bat, there’s not much of The Aztec Mummy that will seem too unfamiliar to anyone who’s watched a few of the Universal monster films. The regression sequences feature long and virtually dialogue-free scenes of ritual music and dancing, recreated by a native dance troupe, and the shots among the ruins are also filmed on location, giving them a degree of authenticity that saves a lot of scenes that would otherwise be plodding. These touches of Mexican culture are interesting, which is good because we’ll be seeing a lot of this footage again in the next two movies. Unfortunately, once the mummy shows up and gets moving, the film is often so dark and murky that it’s almost impossible to tell what’s going on.

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