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The Black Pit of Dr. M (1959)

Misterios de ultratumba (original title)
Two doctors make a pact in which they swear that the first to die will return - if possible - to tell the other how to get a glimpse of the afterlife while still alive.


Fernando Méndez


Ramón Obón




Credited cast:
Gastón Santos ... Dr. Eduardo Jiménez
Rafael Bertrand ... Dr. Mazali
Mapita Cortés ... Patricia Aldama
Carlos Ancira Carlos Ancira ... Elmer, the orderly
Carolina Barret Carolina Barret ... La Gitana
Luis Aragón Luis Aragón ... Dr. González
Beatriz Aguirre ... Rosario
Antonio Raxel Antonio Raxel ... Dr. Jacinto Aldama
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
J. Portillo J. Portillo
Abel Salazar
Learn more

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Two doctors make a pact in which they swear that the first to die will return - if possible - to tell the other how to get a glimpse of the afterlife while still alive.

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User Reviews

THE BLACK PIT OF DR. M (Fernando Mendez, 1958) ***
13 October 2006 | by Bunuel1976See all my reviews

Despite my satisfactory encounter with EL VAMPIRO (1957) a few years back, this is still just my second Mexican horror film of its vintage!

Given a complex and fascinating plot to work with - which has only the briefest concession to camp and, uncharacteristically for a horror film, is teeming with male protagonists (five, while there are only a couple of females of any importance) - a balance is reached between its intended literariness and the trademarks of the genre: foggy atmosphere, evocative décor and a bombastic yet effective score. The presence of Dr. Aldama's ghost is quite subtly but effectively established; besides, both Dr. Masali's expressionistic execution scene and the surreal first encounter between the two young lovers are stylishly realized - while the vicious attack of the manic woman and Elmer's resurrection emerge, perhaps, as the film's horror highlights. Furthermore, we get vividly essayed portrayals by the suave Ramon Bertrand as Dr. Masali and Carlos Ancira as Elmer - the latter, a cross between Dwight Frye and Peter Lorre (and helped by some splendid make-up), could well give the classic monsters a run for their money!

Though Masali and the young doctor (played by Gaston Santos) both vie for the girl's affection, there is very little rivalry between them let alone plots for revenge - as the film stresses Dr. Masali's single-mindedness in his search for knowledge regarding the afterlife. The asylum setting - and especially the imagery of outstretched hands through the bars of the cells - recalls BEDLAM (1946), while the hypnotic effect the music box has on the mad gypsy woman brings back memories of Bunuel's Mexican black comedy THE CRIMINAL LIFE OF ARCHIBALDO DE LA CRUZ (1955); also the scene where Masali/Elmer is discovered strumming on the violin is reminiscent of the Ape Man at the piano in RETURN OF THE APE MAN (1944)! There is one flaw with regards to the plot, however: it's inconceivable that, even if Masali was discovered locked in with the woman's corpse, no one suspected Elmer of having killed her for disfiguring him! Other amusing flubs include the scene in which the 'monster' - engulfed in flames - pauses to open a door before exiting a room screaming, the fact that the gypsy is able to effortlessly hurl a massive cupboard at the asylum orderlies confronting her, and the shot - accompanied by a histrionic single note on the soundtrack - early on where Dr. Aldama's coffin is opened prior to burial, almost as if to assure us that it is he...but, other than that, this particular sequence is comparable to the opening moments of James Whale's FRANKENSTEIN (1931)!

The DVD transfer is imperfect but not intrusively so, apart from some persistent hum on the soundtrack. The supplements are extensively researched and highly interesting (in particular, the Audio Commentary); the still gallery suggests that it's possible that some asylum footage has gone missing as it features a hulking, chained-up character who isn't seen in the actual film! Also, given that THE BLACK PIT OF DR. M wasn't released in the U.S. by the notorious K. Gordon Murray, the information imparted about him here isn't really pertinent to this release - though I didn't mind having it in the least, being all new to me; in fact, the English-dubbed version is, for all intents and purposes, deemed lost - even if Casanegra attempted to make amends by presenting the full-length English translation via a copy of the script (in rather too miniscule a font to be easily legible!) prepared for U.S. consumption.

As with the same director's EL VAMPIRO (which is upcoming on R1 as a 2-Disc Set accompanied by its sequel THE VAMPIRE'S COFFIN [1958]), then, this one emerges as a genuine classic of the horror genre and one that should be much better known. This viewing has kicked off my proposed Halloween marathon in a big way; I'm very much looking forward now to the rest of the Mexican titles which are coming up this week - but it has also made me yearn to check out the other films mentioned in the various supplements and which have yet to see the light of day on DVD...

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Release Date:

1959 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Mysteries from Beyond the Grave See more »

Filming Locations:


Company Credits

Production Co:

Alameda Films See more »
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Technical Specs

Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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