JUNE 25 VHS MOVIE REVIEW : THE ROBOT VS. THE AZTEC MUMMY (1958)
Directed by Rafael Portillo
Written by Guillermo Calderon
Tagline: “See the relentless machine battle the gruesome corpse!”
Run Time: 65 min
Other Titles: "La momia azteca contra el robot humano "
“Stop and think about this: an army of robots obeying me! The human species…sheep obeying my orders! A new theory that man has not dared imagine!”
- Dr. Krupp, aka The Bat
I am pleased to say this is my first review of a Mexican production, and a crappy one at that. (The movie, smart ass, not the review!) The movie itself is a hopelessly befuddled story of an ancient mummy guarding an Aztec breastplate and bracelet, upon which is inscribed the location of a secret treasure. (Gee, nice of them to actually write down the location of the treasure…nice secret.) A respected hypnotist, Dr. Krupp, for some reason becomes a "dangerous criminal" (the script required an antagonist) who builds a robot to destroy the mummy so he can safely retrieve the breastplate. Unfortunately, Krupp’s loses the robot’s remote control and well, just read the review…
Fair enough, I had to do this movie eventually, so let’s get it over with.
Oh no! Opening narration! Eiyeeeeee!
"How far can the human mind penetrate the mysteries great beyond? This picture is based upon an extraordinary experiment carried out by doctors Hughes and Tuny of the University of Los Angeles." (All this and stock footage of Mayan ruins! Huzzah! "There is no doubt as to its authenticity [Oh yeah, sure...]. The testimony of the people participating in the experiment, swore to by a notary public [Oh! Then it must be authentic!] preclude the possibility of any fraud. This picture is a combination of factual data mixed with fiction." (Yeah, about 0.000001% fact and 99.999999% fiction I would presume.)
After the opening narration we see Dr. Diaz and Dr. Ester stopping by to visit Dr. Almadan, his assistant Pincate (who looks like a Mexican Pee-Wee Herman) and his wife Flora. The discussion turns to Dr. Almadan’s discovery of an Aztec breastplate and bracelet. Dr. Almadan feels the need to exposit, so we flash back 5 years to a psychiatric convention, where the keynote speaker, yes, Dr. Almadan is discussing "regression of a patient to a past life through the use of hypnosis." Not surprisingly, Dr. Almadan recalls how his theory was met with ridicule (well, duh!) and left the convention a bitter man, feeling, and I quote, "squelched." (One thing I noticed right away was the fact that the folk that dubbed this film would make Sandy Frank green with envy.)
Well, being the understanding wife, Flora allowed herself to be hypnotized that night and relived a life she once led amongst the Aztecs. Unfortunately for the viewer, we flash back to that life, and are treated to a nice, long flashback of this oh so amazing life with the Aztec’s.
We learn that Flora’s Aztec name was Zorchee, and she was in love with a brave warrior named Popoca (who later we find out is to become the titular Mummy of the film.) Zorchee, scheduled to be sacrificed to the gods, understandably decided to run away with the brave Popoca. Alas, the lovers were captured by the priests and taken back to the sound stage, oops, I mean Aztec temple where Popoca was "buried alive…and then an eternal curse was placed on him." (Buried alive and a curse?! Man! Those priests really liked to rub it in, eh?)
Ummm…what the, now an "Aztec" woman is singing opera, or at least the Mexican equivalent, and, well, people are dancing and throwing flowers or corn or something on the ground, and, and, is all this really necessary for a 65 minute movie? OK, whatever, Zorchee is carried to an alter (surrounded by, sigh, dry-ice fog…et tu Mexico?) and sacrificed…but first she was dressed up with a breastplate and bracelet "engraved with hieroglyphics, indicating where the Aztec treasure was hidden." (Ummm…is that really so smart? Doesn’t that sort of defeat the purpose of keeping the treasure hidden?)
Cut back to the present…Dr. Almadan explains that Dr. Krupp, a fellow psychiatrist who "had suddenly [!] become a dangerous criminal in the underworld [!!]…was spying on me [!!!] during my little experiment!" (A psychiatrist who "suddenly" becomes a "dangerous criminal in the underworld?" That’s a new one on me, I tell ya!)
Anyway, Flora, still in touch with her past life (or something) leads her husband and the others to the bracelet and breastplate deep in some (strangely well lit) temple. Boy, they show a lot of "Walking-Through-Well-Lit-Tunnels-While-Pretending-It’s-Dark"…there is a hell of a lot of padding in this flick.
At the end of a tunnel Dr. Almadan stops and notes, "I think we’re up against a dead end." Dr. Diaz (wearing a suit and tie!!!) remarks, "It can’t be possible. The Aztecs wouldn’t build a secret passage way just to have it end for no rhyme or reason!" (Boy, those Aztecs would do a lot of crazy things, but nothing that crazy, I tell ya!) After a long, i.e., boring, expedition through the temple, they find the breastplate and bracelet. (Gee…who woulda thought?)
For some reason Almadan takes only the breastplate, leaving the bracelet behind. However, the location of the treason requires both the breastplate and the bracelet (Doh!), so Almadan had to go back and get it…oh yeah, and don’t forget the Aztec curse: "He who defiles the tomb of the Aztecs and finds the sacred plate, will run the risk of death, and his family and his family as well, until the breastplate is replaced."
OK, first, what if I defile the tomb but don’t find the breastplate? And then ok, if I take the breastplate, the legend states that I run the risk of death. What are the odds then? I run the risk of death if I, say, smoke cigarettes. How does the mummy’s curse compare with those risks? Greater? Lower? The same?
Whatever, in the flashback showing everybody going back to the tomb, a strange "shuffling noise" approaches from one of the corridors. It was the "ghastly and terrifying Popoca…the Aztec warrior had come back to life." As the mummy approaches, Almadan and his buddies shine their flashlights in its face, a defensive measure that proves oddly effective in driving the mummy back into the shadows. (Boy…what a scary mummy! Flashlights! Oooo!)
It’s too bad I can’t write down all the bad dialog in this film. I just don’t have time (or energy). But brother, is this some bad stuff.
Anyway, the mummy somehow followed Almadan back to his home, kidnapped Flora, and took her back to the tomb. We don’t of course, you know, see this. This is all told to us by Almadan as he speaks to his visitors. (Lazy, lazy, lazy writing.)
Upon discovering that Flora has been kidnapped (off camera) by the mummy, Almadan, Flora’s father, and Pincate head back to the tomb to rescue her. (How they ever figured she was abducted by the mummy is never explained. I mean, if somebody goes missing, would your first thoughts be that they were kidnapped by a mummy? It seems like there would be other possibilities that would need to be explored first.)
At the tomb, a truly bizarre scene takes place. The mummy has bound Flora to the altar, put the breast plate back on her (What? The mummy took the breastplate along too?), and is preparing to sacrifice her to the, *ahem*, Gods. Almadan tries to untie his struggling wife but the mummy attacks him. Flora’s father comes to the rescue by driving the mummy back with a cross (!!) allowing Almadan and Pincate a chance to free Flora from her bindings.
OK, time out.
One: The mummy took both Flora and the breastplate from Dr. Almadan’s house…without anybody noticing?
Two: Why the hell would the mummy feel it necessary to sacrifice anybody? His only duty is to protect the breastplate. If he indeed feels compelled to kill somebody, then why not just strangle the person at home?
Three: A cross? Why the hell would a mummy be afraid of a cross? This isn’t a vampire! In fact, the Aztec’s flourished before Christianity ever reached Mexico. (and didn’t do so hot after that.) Therefore, the mummy, i.e., Popoca, would have never even seen a cross, so why on Earth should he be afraid of it?
Flora’s father orders the others to leave the tomb while he holds the mummy at bay with the cross. Just as Flora and the others scramble out, an explosion takes place and Flora’s father is killed. (What? An explosion? What the….?)
Oh boy, just wait now. I’m still mulling over the next scene. Man, this film just gets better and better…on this web site"better and better" in that context of course means "worse and worse".
After Flora’s father dies in the explosion (Man, that was convenient for the plot, eh?), we cut back to Almadan’s den where the movie is actually taking place (recall that all that has taken place has been exposition and flashback). As Doctors Diaz and Ester nod their heads in amazement, Almadan notes that he thought the matter was wrapped up now that the mummy was buried under tons of rocks and "The Bat" was in prison.
Before you say, "Who the hell is The Bat?" (like I did), Almadan explains that the former psychiatrist turned criminal, Dr. Krupp, adopted the moniker "The Bat" (!!). Continuing with this rather impressive wad of exposition, Almadan informs us that The Bat escaped from prison (gee…who woulda thought?) and "in his mad determination to get my treasure [excuse me..your treasure?] …he kidnapped my daughter and Flora…and then hypnotized her." (Nothing more dangerous than a hypnotist turned bad!)
Flora, under hypnosis, lead The Bat to the cave where he found and stole both the breastplate and the bracelet. (Once again, all of this is merely narrated to us, none of this, er, action, was filmed. Sheesh…) Dr. Krupp, oh sorry, The Bat, forced Almadan to come to his lab and translate the hieroglyphics.
Another flashback along with Almadan’s narration. We cut to Krupp’s lab. (Sorry, I can’t call him The Bat anymore…too stupid.) We see that his lab has a few beat up people sitting around under the watchful eye of some generic thugs. (Including some people that have nothing to do with this movie, so what they are doing there is anybody’s guess.) Almadan translates the symbols and gives them to Krupp. Well, being of no use anymore, Krupp’s orders one of his hoodlums to gun down Almadan and his family.
In an absolutely incredible Deus Ex Machina moment, just as the thug is about to pull the trigger, in bursts the Aztec mummy! (I laughed my ass of at this one! I had to rewind and watch this several times!) The nogoodnicks open fire on the mummy with no effect (and no surprise). As the mummy dispatches the gangsters, Krupp runs off with the map and the breastplate. Seeing that the mummy moves at, oh, about 100 feet per hour, Krupp obligingly falls over some boxes in the hallway. Instead of, you know, getting up, he lays on the ground until the mummy gets close enough to pick him up and throw him…get this…into a pit full of rattle snakes. (!!!)
After the mummy throws Krupp into the snake pit (in his lab!!!), the breastplate and bracelet magically appear in his hands, even though he was holding nothing in the previous shot.
The mummy "shuffled off and was soon out of sight." (How you could lose track of a mummy "shuffling" away at the speed of a crippled tortoise is not explained.) Somehow Almadan realizes that the mummy has taken the breastplate and bracelet to a new hideout since the pyramid was blown up earlier. Almadan brings the police back to the lab only to find the lab "dismantled" (?) and all the bodies removed. When they go to peek in the snake pit (!!!) they find that there was a secret door in the back of the pit where Krupp "might have escaped!" (Yeah, I guess Krupp installed a secret door in his snake pit ‘just in case’.)
According to Almadan’s never ending narration, Krupp came back again a few weeks later and parked outside his house. From the car, Krupp commands Flora to come outside to him via some sort of post-hypnotic suggestion. (Even though completely hypnotized, Flora does have the presence of mind to get dressed first before going outside.)
Krupp’s idea is to use Flora to lead him to the mummy since she can still feel "the waves being sent out from that mummy." (Huh?!) Whatever. I don’t know when she became sensitive to its vibes, but she sure the hell couldn’t tell when the mummy was going to kidnap her earlier. Flora tells them that the mummy is hiding "in the ancient cemetery." (Oh brother…this cemetery must have been the inspiration for Ed Wood when he designed his cemetery for Plan 9…this is really bottom-of-the-barrel.)
Krupp and his right-hand thug, Bruno, find the mummy but don’t dare take the breastplate and bracelet. (Seeing how last time he took it he wound up in the "rattler pit", I agree that a bit of caution is in order.) You see, Krupp has a plan. He’s going to build a robot and send it to fetch the breastplate for him. Of course he’s assuming that the mummy will be no match for the robot (a big assumption, just wait until you see the robot…) Well, with that wrapped up, Krupp and the others turn and return Flora back home.
Wow, that was an exciting scene.
Speeding things up here. It’s truly amazing how long a 60-minute movie can seem. Unbelievable.
Dr. Almadan and Pincate also discover where the mummy is hiding. (If you really, really want to know how they deduced the mummy’s location then you can see the movie for yourself, I just don’t have the strength at this point.) More, more, more narration. Great. Dr. Almadan explains that Krupp has broken into a laboratory and stolen a "machine that uses radium…and stole a brain." (If that
doesn’t raise a few eyebrows at the lab, then…)
Oh yeah. The Bat also stole a body. Um, hello? Movie characters? Haven’t you figured out where all this is going? Item 1: Brain. Item 2: dead body. Item 3: Radium. Helloooooo!
Almadan’s narration has now taken us up to the "present" time. With all the facts and history explained (and do I mean explained at length!), Dr. Almadan and Pincate head to the Krupp’s lab and confront him.
Meanwhile, in his lab, Krupp (now wearing a black cape no less) is busy mixing fluids and performing a host of other scientific actions (flipping switches, turning knobs, and the like). Almadan and Pincate enter through a back door, take 2 steps, and are immediately apprehended by a couple of The Bat’s henchmen. (Idiots.)
Through an amazing stroke of luck, Almadan and Pincate have broken into the lab on the very night that The Bat is going to activate his robot for the first time. (Wow! What a coincidence!)
As lightning flashes and thunder roars (adding, er, atmosphere I suppose), Krupp goes into a lengthy discourse regarding his research into man’s existence, blah, blah, blah. Listen to any "mad scientist" speech from any bad movie and you’ll get the idea.
Pointing across the room (like you would have to actually point out this robot), Krupp indicates the culmination of his research: The Human Robot! The robot itself looks exactly like a man in a cardboard box, which incidentally, is exactly what it is . The legs have no knee joints (!!), and since it is a, *ahem*, Human Robot (whatever the hell that’s supposed to mean) the robot’s "head" is actually an open box revealing the actor’s face inside. (Oh yeah, along with blinking flashlights on the ears and top of the head itself.)
Krupp rubs it in some more: "Stop and think about this," he spouts, "an army of robots obeying me! The human species…sheep obeying my orders! A new theory that man has not dared imagine!" (You go ahead and try to make sense of all that if you want to.)
Krupp takes the robot to the Ancient Cemetery in order to battle the mummy. (I wish I was making all this up but I’m not). Almadan and Pincate are left behind in the lab under the guard of Henchman #35 and Henchman #72. ("They mustn’t get away!" Krupp commands the guys left to guard Almadan and Pincate, thus ensuring that they will, of course, get away.)
As soon as Krupp and Bruno leave with the robot, Almadan and Pincate overpower the guards just as the police arrive. (I told you so! I told you so! I bet you never saw that coming! Man, my powers of prediction are amazing, eh?) With the bad guys in custody, Almadan, Pincate, and the police head off to the cemetery to deal with Krupp, Bruno, and the robot.
In the tomb, Bruno takes the breastplate and bracelet from the mummy, with the expected results. The mummy goes in for the attack but is in turned attacked by the robot. If you have never seen a 500-year old mummy grappling with a knee-less robot, then you ain’t seen nothing, buddy! (And by the way, how the hell did the robot get down the steps if it doesn’t have knees?)
Upon arrival at the tomb, Almadan grabs a policeman’s revolver from his hand (!) and shoots Krupp’s robot remote control. No longer under Krupp’s guidance, the robot freezes up while the mummy literally tears it limb from limb. (A truly hilarious shot, to be honest.) Krupp and Bruno cower in a corner as the mummy turns from the robot, shuffles over to them, and pounds them into pulp. (All the while the police just watch. You’d think they’d do something….)
With the two baddies dealt with, there is only one last plot thread to tie up. (I use the word ‘plot’ in its loosest definition). Flora gathers up the breastplate and bracelet (that Bruno actually went out of the way to set on the stairs before the mummy killed him) and hands them to the mummy while reciting, "Popoca, in memory of the great love that once existed between us, stop all this death and destruction. Take these objects that are yours to guard and go back to the grave of our ancestors where we should have never interrupted your eternal sleep." (Yeah, that sounds like something somebody would just say out of the blue.)
The mummy takes the precious objects and stomps up the stairs and out of the tomb to go…where? Get a job?
Afterthoughts : It’s good to know that America wasn’t the only producer of crappy movies during the 1950′s. This movie reminded me a lot of old Flash Gordon serials what with all the absolutely amazing escapes and brushes with death. To anybody struggling to understand the concept of ‘Deus Ex Machina’, just see this movie and you’ll understand.
What can I say? This movie is a total disaster…low-budget, poorly written, and filled with plot holes. Still, it’s a must-see for bad-movie fans. The Robot vs the Aztec Mummy is rather charming in its absolute ineptitude, but be warned, this film is completely terrible, and unless you have a taste for such things, stay far away.