If ever there was a genre of movies that are dear to my heart, it is the category known as B-movies. They can be downright scary, unintentionally funny, so bad they are good, or they make you wonder what cocaine-crack-ketamine-heroin-crystal meth drugs the film creators were on when they put the movie together. Caltiki, the Immortal Monster falls into the category of scary.
Caltiki, The Immortal Monster (aka “Caltiki, Il Monstro Immortale”), released on September 20, 1960, is a an Italian horror film directed by Riccardo Freda. (The director Freda is supposed to have abandoned the movie in the early stages, assigning Mario Bava (a young cinematographer at the time) to finish direction. Watching the movie I see where it has aspects of a Bava movie (in lighting, use of dark shades). Bava went on to direct the famous cult classic, Black Sunday, in 1960.
At the time I saw the movie, it terrified me as a child and for years I wanted to find proof of the Mayan Goddess Caltiki, “based on an ancient Mexican legend.”
Of course, as I found out years later, the storyline of a Mayan goddess named Caltiki was myth, and what is more, the name Caltiki sounded more Hawaiian or Tahitian than Mayan (at least to me). But, many years later, Caltiki still was able to chill me upon seeing it again after so many years.
The film stars as follows:
- John Merivale as Dr. John Fielding
- Didi Perego as Ellen Fielding
- Gérard Herter as Max Gunther
- Daniela Rocca as Linda
- Giacomo Rossi-Stuart as Prof. Rodriguez’s assistant
- Daniele Vargas as Bob (expedition member)
- Vittorio André as Prof. Rodriguez
- Nerio Bernardi as Police inspector
- Arturo Dominici as Nieto (expedition member)
The film centers around a team of archaeologists investigating the Mayan ruins of Tikal, located about 300 miles from present-day Mexico City, Mexico, where as the film narrator states “the peaceful and cultured Mayan” lived. Peaceful? Mayans? (Blood sacrifices, hearts torn out of chests while the victim was still alive; the victim’s body thrown down the steps of the temple pyramids). Peaceful?
The archaeologists come across a blob-like monster. The creature comes along every 1352 years to wreck destruction upon humankind. One of the archaeologists, Max, is attacked by Caltiki, and he is saved by a team member, John, who cuts the creature away from him, but, some of the creature is left on Max’s arm. To stop the monster from killing them all, John drives a truck loaded with gasoline containers into the blob creature. It is destroyed by fire. After Max is taken to the hospital, the doctors pull the piece of creature from Max’s arm, save the remains, and set about studying the creature. John, who obviously has no regard for his family, takes the remains to his lab at his home. Living there are his wife Ellen (whom Max has the hots for), their daughter, and Max’s girlfriend, Linda (whom Max treats as if she is rubbish).
Turns out Caltiki has a mate in the sky: a comet named Arsinoe that is scheduled to make a pass by of Earth, the same comet which passed near the Earth at the time of the Mayan civilization’s mysterious collapse. The film proposes the question “Is there a connection between the monster and the comet?
Arsinoe will give Caltiki energy and force to destroy the world. Since Caltiki grows from radiation bombardment from the comet, she is able to not only increase in size, but she is able to divide and multiply. The comet comes, Caltiki has her wedding, she becomes a baby-mama-drama, and she grows, and grows into a monster blob with a bad attitude.
Caltiki, is poised to destroy the world, but she is stopped by fire from the Mexican army.
The film Caltiki has some moments that I have not forgotten since seeing the film as a child:
-In the beginning of the movie, Bob, one of a group of archaeologists researching the ruins at Tikal, goes into the cave where Caltiki resides. He dives into a lake in the underground cave to find a missing team member. While down in the water he encounters Caltiki. The men above pull him up, only to discover that his face has been eaten away, and the face goggles put back in place. Huh? So, Caltiki eats away Bob’s face, and with much consideration, puts his goggles back on. Hmm, talk about being kind and caring towards your victim;
-The doctors removing the piece of creature from Max’s arm. My questions are: What was up with removing the creature’s remains and not using anesthesia to sedate Max? Was anesthesia so expensive that the hospital couldn’t keep some on hand? Why leave Max’s bone of an arm attached to his body? Why not amputate it? What, he did not have insurance, Blue Cross, Medicare, Medicaid?
-The dancers/singers/musicians at the beginning of the movie. The men and one of the women are clearly of African descent, with the dancer probably having African and Indigenous blood. This scene is not as improbable as some may think. Afro-descent people have been living in Mexico for over 500 years, and they are known as Afro-Mexicans;
-The scenes in the hospital where Max is recuperating. He gives some of the best neck-swivelling, grouchy one-liners to his visitors. During one conversation with Linda, Max states “You’re so kind to a sick man”, with the meanest of dispositions, and later he states “There is a power in me. My fate is to bring force into the world.” It is too bad the filmmakers did not pursue this scene and expand on it. They had something going there with Max’s realization that he was undergoing a profound change, a change that was evolving him into something other than human, as well as driving him mad and killing him. Also of note is Max’s prodigious thirst for water. Seems that the water container on the table near his bedside could not stay full as Max was constantly drinking it up. That scene was of continuous interest to me;
-The scene at John’s house where Max has cornered Ellen and is putting the moves on her. In this scene there is a blooper: Max’s bone of an arm has miraculously grown flesh again, as he puts his right arm on Ellen’s left shoulder. When she turns around, Max’s bone of an arm has become a stiff bone arm again, sans flesh;
-The “money shot” scene where Caltiki and Max meet again, for the last time;
-Most hilarious is when the Mexican army has scorched Caltiki, destroyed the archaeologist’s mansion, and when faced with the completion of their task, the commander states: “Commanding officer to Post B. Situation in hand. You better recall the soldiers. The emergency is in hand. We just have to clean up a bit.” Yeah, just a broom and dust pan to clear away the rubble of a mansion, burnt trees, and possible scraps of Caltiki that may be hiding under the rubble.
Called by a reviewer as “an unapologetic slab of concentrated cheese”, Caltiki has some crazy dialogue, good atmospheric scenes, a movie score that matches the tempo of the movie and a mindless blob whose only desire is to destroy.
Then again–maybe Caltiki is set to come again.
The date of December 21, 2012 heralds the Mayan Long Count Calendar of a profound change in the universe for those on Earth.
Maybe we still have the wrath of a vengeful bloodthirsty goddess named Caltiki to fear.
Caltiki, the Immortal Monster was one of my favourites as a child, and it still is.
SEE “CALTIKI” IN ITS ENTIRETY BY CLICKING ON THE PHOTO BELOW:
NEXT WEEK’S COMING ATTRACTION:
The Giant Claw.
And yes, it is bigger than a battleship!