Caltiki The Immortal Monster (2-Disc Special Edition) [Blu-ray + DVD]
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Arrow Video presents a collaboration between two giants of Italian cult cinema Riccardo Freda (The Vampires, The Horrible Dr Hichcock) and Mario Bava (5 Dolls for an August Moon, Blood and Black Lace)!
A team of archaeologists led by Dr John Fielding (John Merivale, Circus of Horrors) descends on the ruins of an ancient Mayan city to investigate the mysterious disappearance of its inhabitants. However, the luckless explorers get more than they bargained for when their investigation of a sacrificial pool awakens the monster that dwells beneath its waters the fearsome and malevolent god Caltiki.
Though Riccardo Freda received sole directing credit, a significant portion of the film was in fact the work of Mario Bava, who also served as its cinematographer and was responsible its striking special effects. Drawing on a diverse array of influences, from The Quatermass Experiment to the works of HP Lovecraft, Caltiki the Immortal Monster is a unique and unforgettable sci-fi chiller which showcases these two legendary filmmakers at their most inventive. Presented here for the first time in a newly restored high definition transfer, Caltiki shines and terrifies! like never before.
SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS:
FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector s booklet featuring new writing by Kat Ellinger and Roberto Curti
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Top Customer Reviews
This is a must have for fans of 'Caltiki' and fans of Mario Bava and Riccardo Freda.
This is a 5 star presentation.
I reviewed this after watching this movie 3 times. Once with no commentary followed by once each of both commentary tracks.
My comments on the commentary tracks are below.
I first saw this movie a few years ago on a bootleg copy and am quite impressed by this version.
For those of you who already have this movie in your collection you will probably want to check the sections, Blu-Ray and Extra's.
BLU-RAY: This print is a real beauty. Without question you will want to upgrade. It is a brand new 2K restoration from the original camera negative. presented in 1.66:1 ration with mono sound. You also get the unmatted full frame version. In the regular version part of the picture is cut off. The print has a dark look to it but according to the commentary that was deliberate.
When you go to setup and choose your audio track, the menu tells you that it recommends that you use the Italian soundtrack with English subtitles. It says that the English dub comes from several sources and is of questionable quality. I chose to watch the English dub with English subtitles and had no problem with the dubbing. I know that many dubbed movies are criticized for poor dubbing but I am not one of those critics. I often think the criticism is unfair. Of course it's not perfect but it's not terrible either. In this case I did not feel like it detracted from the movie. I watched part of the Italian dub but found it unnecessary to watch.
EXTRA'S: This release really shines here. Five Stars for the extra's. The extra's are as follows:
1) Reversible sleeve with original art - One side has the titles in English and the other side has them in Italian. Each side has it's own artwork.
2) 36 page booklet insert - This is supposed to be limited to the first run of this release only. There is a section on the cast and crew, photographs of the movie, notes about the transfer, and articles from Kat Elinger, Roberto Curti and Tim Lucas.
3) Audio Commentary by Mario Bava historian Tim Lucas. Lucas is the author of 'Mario Bava - All The Colors of the Dark.' I preferred this commentary track to the one by Troy Howarth. I much prefer commentary tracks that focus on the production of the movie as opposed to the histories of the people involved. This track does some of both. I felt that it was one of the better commentary tracks for a movie from this time period. Often commentary tracks from the period focus a lot more on the lives of the actors, directors and people behind the scenes with not a lot on the production of the movie itself. Lucas for the most part, comments on most of the scenes and how they were made and interjects the biographies as he goes.
4) Audio Commentary track by Mario Bava historian, Troy Howarth. Howarth is the author of 'The Haunted World of Mario Bava.' Howarth spends a good deal of the commentary focusing on the careers of the people involved. As noted above, I prefer more time spent on what is going on in each scene. Howarth does point out the Mario Bava cameo.
5) Alternate full frame presentation - The unmatted full frame picture is shown. This is good for historical purposes as it show some of the effects that are chopped out but other than that I would prefer to watch the regular version. I didn't spend much time watching this. I only watched a few minutes at the beginning which show the jungle, temples and erupting volcano.
6) Original U.S. trailer - This trailer is unrestored and doesn't look all that great. But to Arrow's credit...it is here for historical purposes.
7) There are two audio dubs, one in Italian and one in English
8) There are subtitles for both the English and Italian dubs
9) Riccardo Freda, Forgotten Master - this is an archival interview with Italian film critic Stefano Della Casa (about 19 minutes). It is in Italian with English subtitles. He was a friend of Riccardo Freda and elaborates a bit on Freda's lonely life and it is filled with 'flowery' art critic speak.' Overall, not that interesting but it is here.
10) Archival introduction to the film - This is done in Italian by film critic Stefano Della Casa. Very short and doesn't add much.
11) From Quatermass to Caltiki - This is a discussion by film historian, Kim Newman, in English. It discusses the influences of movies like The Quatermass Xperiment, X the Unknown and The Blob influenced Caltiki.
12) The Genesis of Caltiki - This is kind of like a documentary by filmmake Luigi Cozzi. He discusses how Caltiki came to be.
13) 54 page French Caltiki photocomic - I did not notice this while going through the menu's. That is not to say it isn't there. I just noticed this on the DVD case as I'm review this.
Overall, a very impressive list of extra's!!!
PLOT/SUMMARY: The movie opens with a scene in the ancient Mayan city of Tikal. Nieto, an archaeologist comes stumbling into John Merivale's camp mumbling about Ulmer (probably a shout out to Edgar Ulmer) and Caltiki. He will die shortly thereafter in a Mexico City hospital. John Fielding is in Tikal with his wife, Didi, friend Max and Bob. Early in the movie John is arguing with his wife but the tension dies down shortly thereafter. Max, who the half breed, Linda, is in love with....hits on Didi. Didi promptly blows him off. Meanwhile Bob goes to watch a Mexican voodoo ceremony ?!?! Linda warns him against this. Bob films it, thereby throwing a curse upon himself.
The gang heads to the volcano where they find the cave where Ulmer disappeared. They go looking for him and find a newly formed opening into an underground grotto. There is a state of Caltiki and deep pond(lake). An inscription says:
"Caltiki is One"
The only immortal God"
"When her mate appears in the sky"
"The power of Caltiki will destroy the world"
Bob decides to dive into the lake to see if Ulmer is down there. He discovers all kinds of treasure at the bottom. He comes up and tells everybody and goes down again. This time he runs into trouble and his skeletal remains are brought up. Caltiki surfaces and attacks. Max gets his had caught in Caltiki and John chops away at Caltiki till Max's hand comes free. They get away and John manages to destroy Caltiki with a truck set on fire. They bring Max to Mexico City for treatment. They cut away the Caltiki remains and we see the gruesome remains of Max's arm. The disease slowly spreads and reaches his face. The disease also effects his mental state.
Fielding brings home the remains of Caltiki for observation and examination. He brings it to a lab where a supercomputer tells them that it is 20 million years old. At home he begins experiments on it.
We also see a scene at an astronomical observatory of a comet that is approaching earth. This is supposed to be the comet of legend from the inscription in the cave.
Max murders a nurse and escapes. A roadblock is set up.
Caltiki also gets loose. All hell breaks loose from here. There is a lot of action as Caltiki starts munching on Fielding's house and anything else that gets in it's way. It actually breaks apart into several Caltiki's. Max comes for Didi and Fielding ends up getting arrested for running a road block while trying to get back to the house. The military is called in and John escapes prison and heads for home before it is too late.
PRODUCTION: The movie was shot entirely in Italy.
Caltiki was apparently made of tripe. Of course I didn't know what tripe is so I had to look it up. Tripe is apparently the stomach lining from farm animals. Most commonly it is from cattle.
Most of the time it was manipulated by hand or by being thrown on top of actors. But occasionally it was manipulated through other means.
Riccardo Freda felt that Italian audiences would not take seriously an Italian science fiction or horror film. He had the movie set in Mexico and he hired an American lead actor, John Merivale and had the actors speak in English. Even so, the entire movie was dubbed.
Riccardo Freda is credited as the director (he uses a pseudonym.) However he walked off the set two days before completion. He wanted his friend, Mario Bava to learn to direct and left many of the duties up to him. Bava is responsible for all of the movies over 100 special effects. As a result this movie is the first movie Mario Bava is credited with directing even though it's not in the credits.
This movie was obviously influenced by 'The Quatermass Xperiment' and 'X the Unknown.' There are similarities everywhere.
Max's arm being enveloped was very similar to what happens to characters in both 'The Blob' and 'The Quatermass Xperiment.'
Mario Bava makes a cameo appearance around the one hour and five minute mark. He is in a scene very briefly in the police station. He is a Mexican smoking a cigarette. Bava did not consider himself an actor and did not like to appear in his films.
OBSERVATIONS: This movie is probably the first 'found footage' movie every made. This type of movie has been very popular since 'The Blair Witch Project' came out.
The influence for the 'found footage' scene came from 'The Quatermass Xperiment.' In that movie they find footage on the spaceship. But the difference is that that footage was not hand held the way it is in 'Caltiki.' The footage in Caltiki was supposed to have been filmed partly by a guide and partly by Ulmer.
In a dubious scene, along the lines of" Dr. Livingston, I presume?" The question is asked....."Isn't that Ulmer's camera?".......uhm....well who else would have left behind a camera in a secret cave that hasn't been open for thousands of years. It sure wasn't the Mayans.
When I first saw Caltiki without knowing how they made it, I thought Caltiki was a bunch of wet towels covered in mud and gel and bubbles.
I like when movies try to give a scientific basis to creatures. To me it adds something to the movie. It makes it seem more realistic even if the science is faulty or poor. Often I hear criticism of movies that spend time providing an origin. I disagree with this criticism.
In this movie, Caltiki is described as a one celled organism, similar to an amoeba. It apparently can grow by absorbing or merging with other creatures.
You can see that the actors mouth movements that sometimes they are speaking English and sometimes they are speaking Italian.
I thought that the laboratory in Mexico City with the computer that can date all living matter was out of place. It seemed somewhat anachronistic. The rest of the movie pretty much seems to be moving along in the time period it is filmed and then suddenly there is this futuristic supercomputer in Mexico with all kinds of lights that can do incredibly scientific measurements.
The newspaper's say that Caltiki is 1 billion years old even though the computers say 20 million years. I suppose they caught this discrepancy because later during a conference, John Fielding says the newspapers exaggerate.
John Fielding doesn't seem all that concerned for his family. He brings home the very dangerous remains of Caltiki and just gives a warning to his wife and kid to stay out of the laboratory. His wife then appears seconds later in the lab. You'd think he might worry a bit more for his kid before bringing home something so dangerous. But oh well, we can live that plot hole.
This movie reminded me of 1940's and 50's detective movies in the way that it was shot. It has a distinctly 'film noir' look to it. It is very dark and has many shadows in most scenes.
There is some sort of voodoo ceremony early on in Mexico. I guess we'll have to give Freda and Bava a pass. It's not like they are from North America and would know better that they had the wrong region.
Max appears to have makeup on in some scenes and other's it is missing. Small complaint. I know it's nitpicking.
In today's politically correct world, try getting away with calling a character a half-breed! Linda is called such on a few occasions and even told to go marry one!
RECOMMENDATIONS: This release is highly recommended for fans of 'Caltiki' and for fans of Mario Bava and fans of Riccardo Freda. This is as good as it gets.
I give the movie itself only 3 stars. I give the extra's 5 stars and the picture 4 1/2 stars. Overall it's 5 stars all the way.
Thanks to Arrow Video for giving us such a nice release.
In Spring of 1963, my brother and I had an off-brand monster magazine that ran a big picture-story article on Caltiki, featuring all of the commonly available stills. Significantly, they did NOT show any of the FOUR BIG SHOCK SCENES--so I had no idea what I was in for when, on Saturday night, May 18th, 1963, a Chicago station showed CALTIKI for the 1st time on local TV. My brother and I sat there in our den with the lights out, attentively following the film as it unfolded. Suffice to say, when it ended, I was grateful for the phony looking doll-house furniture and toy tanks used in the final scenes, since they helped alleviate the severe sense of SHOCK caused by the first 25 minutes of the film.
CALTIKI is an astoundingly dark, disturbing film experience....up until the first hospital scene. Mario Bava and the Italian horror culture of that era were masters of the ominous, morbid, and grotesque, possessing that unique ability to probe the depths of the truly horrific, stomach-turning...but subtle fear that lurks within us all. For a low-budget film, the first 25 minutes of CALTIKI are remarkably well designed and directed---and the script and acting are also generally above average.
OF the four big SHOCK scenes, the fate of the hapless Bob--the diver-- was undoubtedly the most traumatic for me. WOW-- what a stunner! And so well staged and edited.....the terrifying underwater scenes (and extremely effective musical score) and the expert pacing as the wet-suit clad body is pulled out of the water...and the fact that the guy is still BREATHING when he is unmasked..really knocked me out on first viewing. It's an image that keeps on giving over the years, a moment that I never really recovered from as the film progressed.
Then there's Max's gory, outrageous death scene--but by the time it came around, my 12-year old brain was pretty numb. Then there's the infamous and truly disgusting hospital scene, when the hunk of Caltiki peeled off of Max's arm....GEEZ, guys...could you have thought of anything more sensational and sickening? But that's the peculiarly gory stylistic "sensibility" of the Italian/Mexican/Spanish horror industry of the time.
(However-- if you look closely, as the nurse walks toward the camera with the blob encased in glass, you clearly see Max's right arm stretched out on the table, looking perfectly normal.
The fourth SHOCK (for me, at least), which is rarely mentioned, is the sight of Ulmer's corpse...so deeply disturbing, yet almost beautiful in its nightmarish way--a minor piece of cinematic high art that confirms the viewer's worst fears, points to the upcoming plot developments, and explains Nieto's delirious rants about "the mummy...!"
Viewing CALTIKI again on this superb new DVD is quite an experience; the very generous commentaries perform a valuable service in documenting the Bava/Italian cult-like appeal of the era, and Tim Lucas' expert observations are greatly appreciated--especially his explanations of the techniques used to create the opening jungle montage with glass-paintings, miniature set pieces, mattes, etc, which have always mystified me.
However, my overall opinion of the film hasn't changed much in the 54 years since I first saw it: after the first 25 minutes--in which the sense of dread and ominous, suffocating terror slowly, methodically build and overpower the intrepid band of scientists---- the film really takes a nose-dive, becoming a rather drab, uninspired, routine sci-fi action/melodrama. The only scenes which really maintain the creepy, lurid tone of the opening are the scenes in which Max (Gerard Herter) is onscreen. He's one fascinating and crazy guy to watch.
In any case, this new DVD rescues one of the great, low-budget cult horror films from obscurity. Who knows?-- maybe CALTIKI will now get a little more respect, thanks to this new, admirably documented release.
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