Welcome to our column Creepy Crypts, in which our writers exhume the old, the forgotten, and the long dead horror some of us have forgotten...until now...
...The Curse of the Aztec Mummy (La Maldicion de la Momia Azteca) is the sequel to the original Aztec Mummy and came out in 1957, the same year as the first instalment. It opens with Dr. Krupp (Luis Aceves Castañeda) still smarting from his double failure: in addition to losing his scientific career because of unethical experiments with animals, he is now in prison for the crimes he committed in the first film, where he was the masked villain known as the Bat. With the aid of his accomplices, however, Dr. Krupp escapes from jail. Before long the noble scientist Dr. Eduardo Almada (Ramón Gay) and his assistant Flor (Rosita Arenas) are again embroiled in Krupp’s schemes to steal Aztec treasure.
But the protagonists have an unexpected form of help—one that takes the Aztec Mummy series into new genre territory. Standing alongside them against the machinations of Dr. Krupp is a crimefighter known as the Angel (Crox Alvarado), who hides his true identity beneath the cape and mask of a Mexican wrestler.
The decision of writer-producer Guillermo Calderón, director Rafael Portillo, and co-writer Alfredo Salazar to introduce a superheroic luchadore into the narrative sounds daft on paper, but the Angel turns out to be a natural fit—partly because the series already had a comic-style villain in the Bat. This time around, the hero-villain match-up takes centre stage. Luis Aceves Castañeda spent most of the first film as an elusive masked figure, so the sequel is, for all intents and purposes, the first time he gets to play the villainous Dr. Krupp as an actual character, and his portrayal is enjoyably camp.
Appreciation of this camp, it has to be said, will go a long way when viewing Curse of the Aztec Mummy. One of the most striking things about the Angel as a character is his utter ineptitude: the only reason he survives to the end of the film is because his opponents, like so many cinematic bad guys, prefer to put him in easily-escapable traps rather than just killing him outright. The jailbreak scene ends with the bad guys deciding that, instead of shooting the beaten and prone Angel in the face, they’ll run him over in their getaway car—and then inexplicably fail to notice that he’s rolled out from under them. Later, a young boy calls on the Angel to carry out a rescue mission, but the supposed hero screws things up so badly that he then has to call on the boy for help.
The Aztec Mummy himself, meanwhile, gets rather lost in all the action. Aside from an early sequence that replays the lengthy pre-Columbian flashback from the first film, he appears only in two scenes towards the end of the film. He serves much the same role as the monster in the later Universal Frankenstein films, popping up at the climax to smash a laboratory to bits.
It would be easy for all of this to have become a self-parody, but like its predecessor Curse of the Aztec Mummy is almost entirely straight-faced. The only sign of overtly intentional comedy throughout the film is Castañeda’s cartoonish portrayal of the villain; beyond that, the mash-up of mobsters, masked heroics, and mummification is executed with earnestness and conviction. Which, of course, gives the end result a quirky appeal that a straight comedy would have likely lacked.
The Curse of the Aztec Mummy is an entertaining romp for connoisseurs of b-movies—although it will appeal more to those looking for an old-school superhero flick than to anyone expecting a horror film.
By Doris V. Sutherland