Badass B-movies

Caltiki, the Immortal Monster (1959)

Caltiki, the Immortal Monster (1959)

4 Beers

Remember that time when famed Italian director Mario Bava co-directed a wacky tale of science fiction terror about a Mayan blob that tormented some researchers in Mexico?  What’s that?  You don’t remember Caltiki, the Immortal Monster or the pool of gold-wearing skeletons where humans were sacrificed and weighed down by so many heavy treasures?!  How shocking.

It’s a shame you don’t remember that constricting blob of goo that came alive in the canister when exposed to concentrated amounts of radiation or the sexy dance number performed by a very Italian-looking Mexican villager.   And then there’s that mysterious comet returning to the earth after a long absence…

If you need a reminder of its many strengths, then Arrow Video has the blu-ray/DVD combo for you.

While documented by the exacting eye of Bavo, Caltiki, the Immortal Monster definitely sounds like a hodgepodge of genre ideas thrown into one jar.  Well, it is and it isn’t.  There’s method to its sci-fi commitment and, as it does indeed borrow quite hungrily from the tropes of the era, it all merges together to form one experience that is difficult to shake.

In fact, much of 1959’s black-and-white thriller is so forward thinking in its approach to violence and terror that it creates more than its fair share of WTF moments.  How some of this was allowed – take a gander at the corpses who have had their faces sucked clean off by something unnatural – becomes a question I’d like answered.  Perhaps the ratings codes were more lenient overseas, but the repeated stabbings of a nurse offering care to one of the blob's victims is about 2 seconds too long to be anything but disturbing. 

While it blatantly rips from The Blob in its form and function and could ONLY have been made during the 1950s, the film is still a badass b-movie that is definitely worthy of your time.

Produced by Samuel Schneider and Massimo De Rita and co-directed by Riccardo Freda (I Vampiri), Caltiki, the Immortal Monster begins with a team of archeologists wondering if the return of a comet and the destruction of the Mayan civilization are connected.  No, they aren’t out of their minds.  It’s just that after the sudden attack from a monstrous blob of shapeless goo, all bets are off. 

Anything could happen in this tale of delirium and stardust.  And, in a screenplay by Filippo Sanjust that combines accessible Mayan myth with a monster AND the cosmos, that’s exactly what viewers get.  Hold onto your butts!

While I’m not going to even attempt to take a guess as to why Freda left the directing to his cinematographer (Bava), it is the first film that Bava claims is his.  You can tell this explicitly in the final half of the movie in which the monster takes over the main thrust of the movie.   Suddenly, the goo has purpose and the gore – especially for genre vehicles of the era – becomes quite unsettling. 

Starring John Merivale, Didi Sullivan, and Gérard Herter, Caltiki, The Immortal Monster lives again thanks to Arrow Video’s handling of its 2K restoration. 

Blu-ray Specifications:

With a brand new 2K restoration of the film from the original camera negative, Arrow Video proudly introduces Caltiki, the Immortal Monster on High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD.  The combo is a thing of breathtaking beauty in black-and-white and features unexpected visual details in the sets and on the faces.  Whites are solid, too.  The black lines are thick and expressive throughout the presentation and the special effects are quite good in their practicality, bringing clarity to the blob at the center of the movie that’s surprisingly detailed.  Since this is a foreign film, it is important to note that the original mono Italian and English soundtracks (lossless on the Blu-ray Disc) have been newly translated with English subtitles for the Italian soundtrack (which is the ONLY way to watch this movie).

Commentary:

There are two NEW commentaries: one by Tim Lucas, author of Mario Bava: All the Colors of the Dark and another by Troy Howarth, author of The Haunted World of Mario Bava and So Deadly, So Perverse: 50 Years of Italian Giallo Films.  Fans of the film and of Bava will be thrilled for their inclusion.

Special Features:

Complete with a reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Graham Humphreys, Arrow Video continues to spoil fans with several thoughtful featurettes covering the film and its legacy.  Up first is a a new discussion with author and critic Kim Newman on just how influenced the film is by the classic cannon of creatures.  Next is an archival interview with critic Stefano Della Casa about Riccardo.  An interview about the significance of the movie with interview with filmmaker Luigi Cozzi follows next.  An archival film introduction wraps up the release.

From Quatermass to Caltiki

Riccardo Freda, Forgotten Master

The Genesis of Caltiki

Stefano Della Casa Introduction

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