The Aztec Mummy (La Momia Azteca)

June 1, 2010 at 12:27 am (6 Heads, Aztec Mummy) (, , )

The Aztec Mummy – 1957 – Mexico

The Aztec Mummy is first in a trilogy of Mexican horror movies from the 50s (followed by Curse of the Aztec Mummy and Aztec Mummy vs. the Human Robot). I learned of The Aztec Mummy in Peter Tombs’ book, Mondo Macabro, a superb introduction to foreign horror/fantasy cinema (where I also found Jose Marins). While slow moving (read: boring), The Aztec Mummy is original, mashing together sci-fi, crime, and horror into a Universal-style creature flick.

In a plot that “has reality and fiction intertwined” (from the narrator), a scientist performs past life regression hypnosis on his girlfriend, and discovers she was once a virginal Aztec sacrifice. The scientific community (fools living in denial of ancient black sorcery, unlike us) demands proof, so the scientist sneaks into an Aztec temple to unbury an artifact described during the hypnosis—please disregard how he knew which of the many Aztec temples to search. Against her wishes, the scientist steals a breastplate belonging to his girlfriend’s ancient Aztec lover, triggering a horrific and ghastly (what other kind is there?) curse in the form of a lumbering Aztec mummy. Tossed in the mix, never meaningfully developed or resolved, is The Bat, a masked super criminal (belonging in a 30s serial) out to steal Aztec loot.

Visually, The Aztec Mummy is primitive. The photography is dark and often incomprehensible (compounded by an awful DVD transfer), but there are some striking images. The Bat, swathed in a black cape, is occasionally fearsome—stalking about like an anthropomorphic shadow. The shots of actual Aztec temples are great—even the worst photography couldn’t rid those pyramids of their sinister majesty (not unlike my own castle deep in the subterranean jungles of the Hollow Earth). And the mummy is pretty cool—although only on screen for 10 minutes.

On the sum of its parts (holey plot, creaky visuals, and sluggish pace), The Aztec Mummy sounds lousy, but it’s elevated by originality. For instance, utilizing Aztec motifs (including an elaborate sacrificial ceremony), exploring the controversial science of past-life regression, and maintaining a seriousness that most movies couldn’t pull off with such a hodge-podge of strange subject matter.

Rating: 6/10 Shrunken Heads. The Aztec Mummy seems like a chore, but it’ll reward you, and it’s a good introduction the roots of Mexican horror.

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