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Don’t Open That Door! #61: The Aztec Mummy aka La Momia Azteca (1957)

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Wednesday, Aug 6, 2014
This week on our ongoing field guide to 1950s horror and sci-fi movies and the creatures that inhabit them: things get spicy south of the border in The Aztec Mummy, known to Telemundo viewers as La Momia Azteca

Alternative titles: Montezuma’s Other Revenge; Hey, Does This Look Infected?

  
POSITIVES:

*Not all mummies are Egyptian!


*It’s a Mexican movie, so you can brag to your friends about watching a “foreign film”


*Effective photography among Aztec ruins and temples


*Lively soundtrack and quick-cut editing during lab scenes


NEGATIVES:


*Aztecs apparently employed opera singers for their religious ceremonies


*Interpretive dance sequence goes on way too long


*Pace is erratic; some sequences drag


*Bat subplot is weak


SYNOPSIS: Dapper Dr. Alameda wants to use hypnosis to bring forth the past lives of his subjects, but unfortunately his theories are scorned by those stuffed shirts a the Neurophysics Congress down there in Mexico City. There’s nothing to do for it but retreat to his rural getaway and get cracking, which is precisely what he does, along with his posse: the elderly Professor, wimpy layabout Pinacate, and fiesty Senora Flora. (Nice ring to that, eh?) Flor begs to be used as Alameda’s lab animal, and who is he to argue? Next stop: Flor’s past life! Oh and by the way there’s some masked criminal called The Bat running around, shooting police, crawling through windows and generally acting suspicious. He wears a hat and looks something like Jack Black in Nacho Libre, which may or may not be coincidence.


Through the miracle of fast-track hypnosis, Flor is quickly regressed hundreds of years and is soon channeling Xochi, a young woman earmarked for sacrifice to the Aztec god Tezkatlipoka. However, before she gets there, dashing warrior Popaca meets her and gives her a kiss; the punishment is (A) death for her, and (B) eternal mummified soul-wandering shame for him. When Xochi gets the knife, Flor really takes it to heart, so to speak.


But that’s not half as hard as Popaca takes it when he realizes his beloved Xochi’s bones are being disturbed by Alameda and the others, who travel to the tomb intent on finding Xoci’s remains and proving the hypnosis correct. This they do, but they also snatch her golden sacrificial breastplate. Bad idea!This riles up damned-to-eternal-unrest Popaca to the point where he gets up off his eternally unresting backside, and when Alameda returns to the tomb for even more swag, he gets more than he bargained for, in the form of the slowly shuffling, much bandaged title character. And let’s not forget The Bat, who’s out there dogging Alameda’s footsteps in the hope of scoring some treasure of his own. But at least he’s not barging into people’s rooms, carrying them away in the middle of the night. Somebody should call the cops. Oh wait—here they come. Now all we need is a priest.


Best line of (subtitled) narration: “From the few data gathered, it is believed The Bat is a famous scientist that carries out prohibited experiments, as vivisection of animals, inserting parts that don’t belong to them, thus creating monstrous creatures. Society is duly alarmed.” Heck yeah!


What gets put under wraps: An Aztec woman; an Aztec warrior; the same Aztec warrior again; a prospective father-in-law.


What gets saved: NAFTA, for better or worse.


Party game: Play “Past Life.” Each player writes down a historical figure he or she believes s/he could have been in the past. These do not have to be famous people: “a 16th century Lithuanian peasant” is just as acceptable as “Shakespeare.” The answers are collected and read out, and players try to guess who wrote what answer. The player who stumps the most other people wins.


This reminds me of… …sequels Curse of the Aztec Mummy (1957) and Robot vs. the Aztec Mummy (1958), which are, remarkably enough, neither significantly better nor significantly worse than this offering. There is also something called Wrestling Women vs. the Aztec Mummy (1964), which I will leave you to discover for yourself.


Somehow their careers survived: Ramon Gay (Dr Almada) had been in piles of Mexican movies, including 1950’s Dona Diabla (English title: The Devil Is a Woman), and would end his career in 1964 with Face of the Screaming Werewolf and Attack of the Mayan Mummy. Rosa Arenas (Flora/Xochi) would reprise her role in the Aztec Mummy sequels Curse of (1958) and Robot vs (1959), along with the other principal actors from this movie. Crox Alvarado (Pinacate) had appeared in 1940’s wonderfully-titled El Fantasma de Medianoche (English title: The Midnight Ghost). Angel Di Stefani (Popoca, the mummy) would reprise his role in the sequels, as well as other features such as Pacto Diabolico (1969), released in the US as Pact With the Devil.
                         
BOTTOM LINE: Dull in spots, but quirky and moody enough to be worth a look.


NEXT TIME: The Blob (1958)

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