In 1661 Mexico, the Baron Vitelius of Astara is sentenced to be burned alive by the Holy Inquisition of Mexico for witchcraft, necromancy, and other crimes. As he dies, the Baron swears veng... Read allIn 1661 Mexico, the Baron Vitelius of Astara is sentenced to be burned alive by the Holy Inquisition of Mexico for witchcraft, necromancy, and other crimes. As he dies, the Baron swears vengeance against the descendants of the Inquisitors. 300 years later, a comet which was passi... Read allIn 1661 Mexico, the Baron Vitelius of Astara is sentenced to be burned alive by the Holy Inquisition of Mexico for witchcraft, necromancy, and other crimes. As he dies, the Baron swears vengeance against the descendants of the Inquisitors. 300 years later, a comet which was passing overhead on the night of the Baron's execution returns to earth, bringing with it the B... Read all
Its defenders suggest that the film was intended as a spoof; I may agree about that, given the fact that director Urueta had helmed one of the starkest examples of the genre I've seen so far - THE WITCH'S MIRROR (1960) - but that still doesn't explain why it should have been so goofy and nonsensical!! The film's credit sequence utilizes some of the sketches seen in the prologue of THE WITCH'S MIRROR(!), followed by a reasonably atmospheric sorcerer's trial and burning - though even these scenes don't escape hilarity due to the absurdly elongated list of accuses read before the court, the constantly grinning Klansmen-like judges and guards (on whom the Baron eventually plays a childish supernatural prank!), and the outrageous Pope-like costume the victim is made to wear for his execution. The astrology sequences are, again, long-winded yet impossibly naïve (with all the professor's theories, when his assistant looks into the telescope and tells him there's no trace of the comet, the former suggests that its trajectory may be entirely different to his calculations - but, then, it takes the leading lady a split-second to locate it!).
The special effects are unbelievably cheesy - especially the stationary comet; even more ridiculous is the monster's make-up with its large pulsating head, pointed nose, forked protruding tongue, long scruffy hair and hose-like fingers (the scene where he swipes the clothes of his first victim and leaves the dead man in his underwear is hilarious)! The Baron returns to Earth obviously to exact revenge on his judges' descendants, though God only knows why he needs to turn into a hideous, brain-draining creature in order to do so - I guess, the film wouldn't have become such a cult item otherwise! - but he occasionally adds new victims (such as the girl in a bar - which we're supposed to believe that it all happens without the other people noticing anything! - and a streetwalker, a scene accompanied by some particularly sleazy jazz music) which, if anything, serve to pad out the running-time (but still amounting to a brief 77 minutes) given the thinness of the plot line!
Anyway, the Baron invites all his intended victims to his Gothic mansion - explained by a quick reference to a jewel robbery in a police procedural scene - complete with cadaverous butler (how he knew where to find them, to say nothing of the fact that any of them would accept an invitation from a perfect stranger, I guess, never even crossed the screenwriters' minds!): here we witness another hilarious moment as the faces of the Inquisitors are dissolved onto those of their descendants, presumably for us to note the kinship between them, but this is only apparent in three of the cases - and that's because the same actors are used! So, he insinuates himself into each of their households and, turning into the Brainiac, kills them all - save for the last member, obviously the heroine; another rib-cracking moment occurs here when he excuses himself to his guests (who have come to him rather than the other way around) - sitting on the sofa merely feet away - so as to go to the cupboard where he keeps his supply of brains in a jar and nibble from it (actually, he does this a number of times, on each occasion complaining of an old ailment for which he needs a special medicine!).
Comic relief is provided by the clumsy assistant (with a penchant for American slang) of bald-headed cop David Silva; they finally catch up with the fiendish Baron and arrive at his house armed with flamethrowers (one of which refuses to work!) and they fry him - though he never actually catches fire and, when he finally dissolves into a skeleton, parts of his body are inconspicuously missing!! However, for me, these are the five moments in the film which make it a camp classic: Abel Salazar laughing at his accusers in the opening trial sequence, and then turning serious all of a sudden when the Inquisitors throw him a severe look; the rock falling from the sky announcing the arrival of The Brainiac; German Robles' paralyzed look while the monster is feeding on his voluptuous daughter; Rene Cardona's similar gaze - but, this time, he seems to be doing his damnedest to suppress laughter!; and the corpse hanging upside down (face underwater) in the bathtub.
The supplements, even more than the other Casanegra releases, impart the fun that the film so obviously provides; as with THE WITCH'S MIRROR, the Audio Commentary itself is a gas - even if, in that film's case, the subtext was discussed as well while it's not here...but that's because there isn't any!! As I had never watched the film before, I couldn't compare it to previous editions; suffice to say that that the transfer isn't problematic save for the very last scene - where, for a couple of minutes, there's the presence of some distracting extraneous flickering (that's how I can best describe it!) that, in all the reviews of the disc I've come across, is mentioned only by DVD Savant.
- Oct 13, 2006