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 Robot vs. the Aztec Mummy (originally released in 1957 as La Momia Azteca contra el Robot Humano) opens with the revelation that the villainous Dr. Krupp (Luis Aceves Castañeda) survived his apparent death at the end of the previous film in the series, The Curse of the Aztec Mummy. This close shave hasn’t put him off trying to steal the fabled Aztec treasure from its mummified guardian, however; meanwhile, his mobster associate Tender (Arturo Martinez) wants revenge for the disfigurement that he suffered in his fight with the mummy.
Knowing that Flor (Rosa Arenas) is a reincarnation of the mummy’s sometime lover, Dr. Krupp hypnotises her into showing him the undead warrior’s hiding place. It turns out that the mummy is hiding out at a local graveyard, sleeping in the tomb of an Aztec emperor’s final descendant, and still protecting his treasure. Dr. Krupp spends years developing a plan to overpower the mummy, and finally invents a weapon for the job: a hulking great robot equipped with deadly radium-powered weapons. And so, Flor’s husband Dr. Eduardo Almada (Ramón Gay) again finds himself caught up in the battle between Dr. Krupp and the Aztec Mummy.
In The Robot vs. the Aztec Mummy, writer-producer Guillermo Calderón, director Rafael Portillo and screenwriter Alfredo Salazar conclude the trilogy that begun the same year with The Aztec Mummy –and the final instalment is the most bizarre of the lot. The second film took things in a strange direction with the introduction of a caped hero, but the third managed to one-up this by adding a killer robot to the saga of Aztec undead.
The film is also the oddest of the three in terms of structure. It opens with Dr. Eduardo recapping the plots of the first two, with the lengthy Aztec sacrifice sequence from the original being trotted out for still another replay (counting Face of the Screaming Werewolf, this means it found its way into four films). After this comes the movie’s curious decision to incorporate a sizeable chunk of its plot—Dr. Krupp hypnotising Flor and tracking down the mummy’s lair—into a flashback that extends from the recap sequence, with the remainder of the film set five years later. This does perhaps add a little credibility to the story’s events, as it allows Krupp time to build his robot rather than cobbling it together on the spot as many a b-movie scientist would have done, but it’s unclear as to why the film went to such lengths to work an obviously ludicrous plot into a believable timeframe.
Then, finally, the robot appears. Up until this point the Aztec Mummy series had handled its costumes quite well: the mummy himself was always a reasonably effective monster-on-a-budget, and the Angel’s wrestling costume was no sillier than any of his contemporary superheroes. But Dr. Krupp’s Human Robot, with its boxy body and cylindrical legs, looks utterly dated even by the standards of 1958 (Doctor Who was able to pull off better robots only a few years later, to say nothing of Metropolis). Much is made of Krupp incorporating human remains into the android’s mechanism, implying some sort of macabre Frankensteinian horror, but all this amounts to is us seeing the actor’s face through a visor—which just makes the robot look all the more like an entertainer at a kids’ party.
The film climaxes in a predictably silly (and decidedly brief) fight between the mummy and robot. All the while, The Robot vs. the Aztec Mummy clings to one of the values that made the other two instalments of the trilogy so charming: it keeps a straight face. There is no hint of self-parody here, no suggestion that we treat Krupp’s oversized clockwork toy as a deliberate joke.
While The Robot vs. the Aztec Mummy was the final film in the trilogy, the spirit of the Aztec Mummy lived on as Mexicanised variations on the Universal mummy turned up in a number of later films, often pitted against wrestlers. Perhaps the closest to a fourth Aztec Mummy film is an obscure 1967 number called Las mujeres panteras, the villain of which is the undead sorcerer Eloim—who is played by Angel di Stefani, the same actor who portrayed the original Aztec Mummy. To top it off, the film also has a masked hero named the Angel, although he is not played by the same actor as in Curse of the Aztec Mummy.
By Doris V. Sutherland