Monday, March 19, 2007

CALTIKI, THE IMMORTAL MONSTER


This stunning film, directed by Ricardo Freda (or was it Mario Bava?), released in 1959, is an undeniable gem. It is, perhaps, the jewel in the crown of the Piscatorial Love subgenre. (OK, maybe if you exclude Deep Blue Sea.) This film can give EVERY ONE OF US hope for the future.

I KNOW WHAT YOU’RE GOING TO SAY: What’s so piscatorial about a shapeless one-celled animal the size of a bank building? I urge you, ladies, to think back to the shape and construction (if not the dimensions) of your very earliest ancestors. Think back to THE MOVIE ITSELF and be reminded of where the intrepid explorers found Caltiki. Bottom of a pond, right? A pond strewn with the bones of human sacrifices, right? CONNECT THE DOTS.

Tip: If scuba gear is involved in finding the star of the film, it is probably NOT about the Easter Bunny.

What I have to love is the way the humans involved TOTALLY OVERLOOK THE ACTUAL MENACE. They take a cutting of it. They expose the cutting to radiation and thereby make it grow alarmingly. They realize just in time that the comet passing overhead is going to make it grow to stupendous, world-eating proportions. From here on in they focus entirely on the cutting, defeat it bravely, and FORGET ALL ABOUT THE PARENT ORGANISM, which is undoubtedly growing to the size of Texas out of camera range. This is what we are up against, ladies: a species with no sense of essentials. Sometimes I think I could just post every detail of all our plans on the Net with impunity. Even if I did, even if we got 500 landscum hits a day on this blog, the humans involved would just read it, shrug and get back to the serious business of deciding which species of saucer alien really shot John Lennon. I watch this film and come away with a happy little glow, knowing WE CANNOT FAIL.

OTHER THINGS TO LIKE ABOUT THIS PICTURE:

>> The creature effect was really cool. At no point was I able to say, "Yeah, but that’s just a guy inside a sack. See, there are his knees sticking out."

>> The creature was 99% more convincing than any of the human characters. Remember the blonde wife wearing the elaborate hairdo out in the jungle? Wait’ll you get a load of her later in the film, wearing her everyday, city clothes – let’s say her costumes are bit fanciful for, um, anyone who has a drop of taste. Seriously, where did the hero find this woman, and where the hell has she been shopping?

>> And the Kenny role! This little girl flouncing around the family’s mansion in starched chiffon dresses like a little princess – hoo boy. Do the families of archaeologists, even in affluent Mexico, really live like this? The kid is made all the more compelling by the fact that her hair is cut like a boy’s, which kind of clashes with the gauzy ruffles, and by the fact that they used an adult to dub in her voice. I found it very difficult to believe that anyone would go out on a limb, a ledge, or a tank to save this empty-headed, over-indulged, hair-traumatized child. But you know how humans are about their offspring.

>> The Noble Savage roles were fantastic. At one point we see the approximation of an ancient Indian ritual – danced to totally African rhythms pounded out by what appears to be a bunch of antebellum slaves. Yes! They used persons of African descent to play Mexican Indians! Except the dancer, who was played by what looks like an Italian fashion model. (I say "model" because she sure wasn’t a dancer. Yikes!) The main Noble Savage, a "half-breed" Mexican Indian, has the tidy black braids, gingham-checked granny dress and loyal solid-gold heart of a tame Comanche or Arapahoe from your favorite Western.

>> The bad guy is wonderful, too: a grinning, scenery-gnawing madman scaling walls and climbing through windows to get to the woman he loves and wants to violate. Yep, he’s after the archaeologist’s blonde wife. I guess all those ruffles and tailfins on her dresses drive him simply wild.

>> Oh, the hero? He’s your typical egghead from any Fifties sci-fi picture: great bone structure, gray flannel suit, no common sense.

>> The ending of this movie is even happier than you’d suspect: Not only does Caltiki get clean away, without even the director appearing to notice, but ALL THE GOOFY OUTFITS IN THE HOUSE BURN TO ASHES!

This film should be in the home of every American woman who is turning into a fish.

2 Comments:

Blogger Ur-spo said...

any film that has the Kenny Archetype can't be all bad.

7:22 PM  
Blogger Merricat said...

Sure it can!

2:33 PM  

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