Thursday, October 25, 2007

Vamp or not? Wrestling Women vs. the Aztec Mummy


This was a 1964 Mexican film directed by René Cardona. Just by the title I’d expect you to wonder what I am doing investigating this under a ‘Vamp or Not?’ In fact I’d not be offended if I was accused of stretching things so that I can add another Mexican wrestling movie to these hallowed pages. However, if you scratch the surface of this film there is something at least a little vampire like going on… eventually…

You see if you didn’t know the title of the film you’d be forgiven, when watching the film, in wondering whether there was anything supernatural going on at all. I should also warn that I have tried to work out the names as best I can to correspond with the actors but in the awfully dubbed Ramón Bugarini is the Black DragonUS release the names were not just Anglicised but sometimes utterly changed – if I make an error I apologise in advance. The film, after a ponderous look at an Aztec pyramid, shows a body being thrown from a car. It seems the mysterious Black Dragon, also known as Prince Fujiyata (Ramón Bugarini), is offing archaeologists with the help of his gang.

Lorena Velázquez as LorettaCut to a wrestling match starring Loretta (Lorena Velázquez) and Ruby (Elizabeth Campbell). Yes this is a Mexican wrestling movie and so settle back to watch the match for a while. At least there is a crowd, unlike the matches featured in Santo and Blue Demon Vs Dracula and the Wolfman, and Loretta and Ruby are easier to look at than their male counterparts. Anyway, after winning the match they go back to their dressing room but see a man lurking – we saw him enter the arena.

Dr Sorber has come looking for Keith, Loretta’s fiancé. He has been sent by Keith’s uncle, Dr Luis Trelles (Víctor Velázquez). These two are the last survivors of an archaeological expedition that found a codex that should lead to the Aztec treasure and the Black Dragon wants it. As Sorber tells them he doesn’t have the codex he is murdered by blow dart. Off to see Uncle then.

Trelles explains that Black Dragon has part of the codex. He will divide the bit he has into three and send a piece to our two wrestling women and the third to Charlotte, daughter of one of the murdered men. The codex, you see, is not in stone or on metal but is on paper! He goes off to divvy it up whilst Black Dragon kidnaps Charlotte and uses hypnosis and drugs to brainwash her. The chase is on to find the pieces.

Ruby takes on a Judo sisterBy the third piece the bad guys and good guys decide to have a wrestling match, the gals against the Black Dragon’s two sisters, for all the pieces, which our gals win – and being an honourable sort (other than theft, brainwashing murder and torture) Black Dragon hands the pieces he has over. We are 54 minutes into the running time and so far it has been a crime ‘thriller’ with wrestling.

a quick look back in timeTrelles deciphers the manuscript and we get a cut back to Aztec times as we hear the story of a virgin sacrifice with whom a nagual – a shapeshifting sorcerer – fell in love with. He took her from the temple but they were both caught. She was killed and a breastplate put on her, which marked the location of the treasure. He was buried alive and cursed to guard said breastplate. It seems, when captured, his eyes were covered which robbed him of magical power – interesting fact but not used later in the film. According to Trelles’ sources, and this is important, he can shapeshift into a serpent, a jaguar or a ball of fire.

finding the breastplateOff they go to find the breastplate and when they do the mummified nagual rises. Oh goody, 1 hour nine minutes in (out of 1:28) and supernatural activity at last. It is here that we will look to see whether this is a vampire or just a mummy. Well, to start off he looks a bit worn and shuffles and groans like a zombie or mummy. However he does have powers.

Yes! A crap bat!Well, I say he has powers but for a sorcerer they seem limited; he shapeshifts. We get transformations into spider and bat – though neither form was mentioned by Trelles’. Later in the film, in bat form, there is the exclamation “Look Loretta he is a vampire now!” Of course that might refer to the type of bat or be a result of bad translation for the dubbing. This was the second scene with a bat transformation and the first one allowed for a superb crap bat moment. He flies as a bat to the apartments, kills the Black Dragon Gang members (whilst in mummy form) who are after the breastplate (they hadn’t really gone away) and then flies into the apartments. Back into mummy form but he beats a hasty retreat (I’ll get to why very soon) transforms again and the bat flies out backwards – yes the film is reversed!

are mummies normally scared of the sun?The reason for his retreat… The sun is coming up. He throws his arms up like any common vampire and legs it. This mummy cannot be around in daylight and must retreat to his sarcophagus. Indeed Charlotte tells us that they are safe during the day, though I’m not sure how she’d know. I’m not that up on mummy lore but such a trait is certainly out of the cinematic vampire handbook.

fear of fire is healthyPossibly tied into this is his fear of fire. Of course, being old and husk like, that fear might be explainable but it does show more awareness than perhaps one would expect. Strangely, the legend states that his attacks would stop once the breastplate was returned. Not so, it seems he wants to find a new bearer – well the body of his love is looking worse for wear.

time for a human sacrificeHe manages to get Charlotte (who seemed to go through quite a lot of abuse in this film, loosing a father, being brainwashed and then captured by a mummy) tied to a sacrificial altar, wearing the breastplate that she was returning. He is about to sacrifice her, when… well lets not go into that (the film has only four more minutes to run) but this is the only hint of blood shedding. There is no mention of blood drinking either, which is less than vampiric.

This seems strange as, if we look to the wikipedia entry for nagual we can see that, “In modern rural Mexico the nagual is often the same as "witches" or "brujos" who are thought to be able to shapeshift into animals at night (normally into an owl, a bat or a turkey) and suck blood from innocent victims, steal properties from others, cause disease etc.” Hmm… shapeshifting into bats, causing disease and sucking blood… we, almost, have a winner.

the mummyI say almost because, whilst the nagual myth has many overlaps with the vampire myth the film only partially hits the target. Safer to say that vampiric elements were incorporated into a mummy film, making it of interest to a genre fan, and fans of Mexican wrestling movies, but ultimately it is not vamp.

The imdb page is here.


crabstix said...

Not Vamp? But certainly Camp!
Oooh Matron, shouldn't you start "Taliesin meets the mexican wrestlers" with all possible haste? You could have 'clinch of the week', 'smackdown of the month', 'grapple of the...'? Well, you get the idea?

Taliesin_ttlg said...

There are plenty of Mexican wrestling movies out there - and they certainly are camp.

I'm keeping my eye out for a reasonably priced copy of 'Santo and Dracula's Treasure' and 'Santo and the Blue Demon vs the Monsters'... but a whole blog... not even my sanity could withstand a whole blog of such camp movie fun.