On the surface ‘Caltiki The Immortal Monster’ could be considered nothing more than Italy’s answer to America’s popular creature feature ‘The Blob’. However, critics and connoisseurs alike, know that when you look under the hood this movie becomes so much more, with one Mario Bava filling in both directorial and cinematography duties despite Riccardo Freda being more prominently credited as such. The result, a collaboration of two of Italy’s titans of cult cinema, and a tantalising teaser for what was to come from more established future works.
Outside of this tempting nugget of information – which let’s be honest is likely to be enough of a hook to see most horror aficionados making the purchase this April (2017), ‘Caltiki’ is a monster movie featuring a creature born from ancient South American mythology and a startling reaction to radiation. The film opens in South America, where a team of scientists and explorers think they have hit gold – quite literally – when prospecting in the ruins of an ancient Mayan civilisation. Quickly, however, they realise that everything comes at a cost and by entering such a sacred place they have disturbed ‘Caltiki’, an ancient deity, from its slumber. After losing a couple of their team, a sample of the creature is taken back to Italy for further study, here they realise the threat is far from over.
Indeed, the plot is quite entertaining, there is a satisfying amount of cinema science, my favourite aspects being that the creature grows in response to exposure from gamma radiation, and therefore its only logical that when studying the creature, they should use the ‘Betatron’ to excite the creature’s growth! Not to mention that ‘Caltiki’ is set to dominate the earth because of an astrophysical event which sees gamma levels naturally rise – good job the people of the 1950s were immune to that then!
OK, so I’m being a smart arse, but I’m not being facetious, more sarcastic; I love these films because of such silly exposition. Other than that, the film features the usual dramatic love life issues which seem to plague the men of Italian cinema and there is a nice balance between endearing relationship strengthening and the mistreating of women in not so loving relationships.
The movies highlights are the gore effects and the scenes which see the creature combating mankind. Here you can see the flourishes and gruesome touches which would become a staple trademark the collaborators future projects. The deaths from the titular monster seem to result in a gooey skeletal corpse, with the insinuation that the creature is absorbing the person. Whilst we don’t really get to see any ‘absorption’ we do get to see some rather gruesome aftermath shots which were above and beyond the standard of the times. These are shown in all their gratuitous gory glory also which was a nice touch. The creature effects are perhaps not quite as impressive. The blob monster seems to more resemble a giant scaly sleeping bag as opposed to the Americans gelatinous mass. It grows and grows and despite being perhaps a little understated, the model work is exceptional, especially the final sequence where it grows uncontrollably through a house, tearing apart rooms and corridors with relentless abandon. Indeed, the final scenes are presumably where most of the films limited budget was spent, with real life flame thrower troops spraying the volatile compounds until the whole country it seems is ablaze. Hell, even the tanks have similar accelerant!
Arrow’s presentation of this classic film is as strong as we have come to expect from the UK brand, and this film is easy to recommend as an upgrade should anybody own any earlier releases. The darkness issues which plague previous releases has been fixed, and it is remarkable how much detail has been retained from the black and white presentation. The sound is mono, and whilst the music is quite a bit louder in the mix than the voices the sound effects are presented well. The newly translated subtitles no doubt help to keep non-native speakers in the loop when it comes to the film fantastical ‘scientific’ exposition!
Overall, for fans of B&W creature movies, this purchase is a no brainer! I wouldn’t really consider my passion for such films as anything more than ‘fleeting’ but I thought this was a great way to spend 76 minutes on a Saturday night!
The Arrow remaster is out on DVD and Blu-ray April 10th 2017.