Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Ship of Monsters – review

Director: Rogelio A. González

Release date: 1960

Contains spoilers

Some Mexican cinema is crazy; that’s a fact and La Nave de los Monstruos is a prime example. In this we manage to get a sci-fi, monster, vampire, singing cowboy mashup. Now if that’s not crazy I don’t know what is. The film is on DVD in Spanish only, but there are fan subtitles out there on the web.

The voice over at the head of the film clarifies for us that an atom is infinitely small (I don’t know that we can admit to that being strictly true) and the universe infinitely big. The voice then goes on to talk about the destructive forces of the atomic bomb and this segues into…

the ship
Venus. It seems that the men of Venus have all died out and so an expedition is launched to find men to replace them. The mission is to be commanded by Gamma (Ana Bertha Lepe) who is to be ably assisted by the non-Venusian Beta (Lorena Velázquez, Wrestling Women Vs the Aztec Mummy & Santo Vs the Vampire Women) – apparently Beta is from Ur, the Planet of Shadows but is also the best navigator around.

in flight
Through the opening credits we see the ship land on several planets and then, after the credits, we cut to the two women in the ship, now accompanied by a robot (we later discover to be named Thor and captured on one of the planets visited, but one where all the men had died out also). The robot warns that there is a problem with the left engine. They ignore him and listen at a door where the men are stored – Gamma preaches patience as they are all kidnapped and therefore prone to be cranky. The engine gives out, whilst a break out involving one of the galactic men (all designed as monsters) allows us to see that the women have a freezing device at their disposal.

Eulalio González as Lawrence
Beta goes out to try and repair the engine but they are advised to make an emergency landing on the nearest planet – which happens to be Antarsis 13 or (in our parlance) Earth. Now the names are a nonsense, of course, we get details about Venusians and Martians, at one point someone is said to come from Saturn, but ultimately they are just names. If you think about the plot (such as it is) and then wonder why they didn’t realise that their galactic neighbour had men on it (of the same human looking design) then the whole tissues of lies comes crumbling down. Meanwhile cowboy Lawrence (Eulalio González) is singing a song when he sees a shooting star (the ship) and wishes to meet a nice girl. At the cantina that he then goes to we discover that he is a teller of tall tales; weaving one about being attacked by numerous bandits, splitting a bullet for two enemies by placing a knife in his gun barrel and marauding dinosaurs.

Lawrence (frozen) and the space babes
Not too long a story even shorter; Lawrence meets the two girls (who have gone exploring whilst Thor repairs the ship) and both of them decide to fall for him. Beta vocalises her desire but Gamma says that he is for the whole of Venus (they have decided he is a prime male specimen). That’s all well and good you might say but then legitimately ask, where does a vampire come into it.

vampiric attack
Beta, upset by the fact she can’t have Lawrence (presumably) becomes a vampire and drinks a man’s blood. Now this must be a not too uncommon occurrence out in the universe as the leader of the Venusians (Consuelo Frank) – by intergalactic communication – says that “To drink human blood is the worst crime as stipulated by Galactic Law” and orders Beta disintegrated. Gamma sends Thor to bring her back but proves herself too soft hearted and Beta tricks her.

some of the galactic men
Beta wrests control of the ship and Thor from Gamma, unfreezes the monstrous alien males to wreak havoc (the main havoc being the devouring of Lawrence’s cow leaving just a skeleton on an obvious frame) as she plans to take over the world. She suggests that one – a high priest of Mars with an enormous brain on show – already knows the pleasure and immortality available through blood drinking. She also suggests that she will create a race of vampires as this was the wish of her ancestors.

the pathetic demise of Beta
Clearly the good guys will win but I want to spoil the ending further and offer you the pathetic demise of Beta. In the finale, as Lawrence, Lawrence's little brother and Thor battle monsters, Beta and Gamma fight. The fight consists of this: Beta flies at Gamma, misses and impales herself on a branch! And that, as they say, is that. We get some robot love when Thor falls for a jukebox with lovely valves. We get song and dance moments. We get some hokey monster suits. We get a really bad script.

alien vampire
Unfortunately this one doesn’t manage to fall into the “so bad it’s good” category. Lawrence is more a comedic foil than a lead hero (though he does step up to the plate). Gamma fails to show any real strength (Lawrence steals the ship’s control belt and Lawrence fights one of the monsters. On the other hand Gamma's raison d'être is to be missed by Beta who accidentally kills herself). The whole thing seems a bit… “Right, we have a spaceship/footage thereof, fangs and some monster suits (plus a monster skeleton that we can control like a puppet)… let’s just throw them all in and see what comes out…” “Shall we put a singing cowboy in?” “Why not.2 out of 10

The imdb page is here.

Please remember the DVD is not in English and has no built in subtitles.

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