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Caltiki The Immortal Monster
Special Edition, 2-Disc Special Edition
DVD + Blu-ray
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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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Back to CALTIKI. I first saw it in the early 1960s on a local TV station. The program was called SCIENCE FICTION THEATRE and it featured most of the atomic radiation creature features from the 1950s like THE DEADLY MANTIS and THE BLACK SCORPION (which gave me nightmares).. I now realize that much of CALTIKI was influenced by 3 earlier Hammer sci-fi films...THE QUATERMASS XPERIMENT, QUATERMASS 2, and X THE UNKNOWN. It was the latter film rather than THE BLOB which made the greater impact. Both have radioactive blob creatures that cause people to melt in what are still startling special effects today.
CALTIKI is a remarkable hodgepodge of styles. The closest I can come to describe it is Italian Gothic Horror Sci-Fi. The actors come from international. backgrounds. The hero is Canadian, the villain is German, and the female leads are English and Italian. There are some remarkable special effects from a visual standpoint but the miniature work is very obvious. It doesn't matter as that's the sort of thing one expects from a low budget film. The monster is made up of, believe or not, lots and lots of beef tripe. Now that's a first. It does give the monster a real sense of verisimilitude.
As has been mentioned in several other reviews, This Arrow DVD/Blu Ray package is absolutely loaded with extras from various commentaries to both the Italian and English dubbed soundtracks. Since there are no well known stars involved with this project, I recommend going with the Italian w/subtitles. It defines the story better and doesn't sound as ludicrous. The English dub has its own set of subtitles and it's interesting to compare the differences. The picture quality is amazing. A true blast from the past that was worth revisiting.
In Spring of 1963, my brother borrowed an off-brand monster magazine from a friend that included 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 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 sense of SHOCK caused by the first 25 minutes of the film.
CALTIKI is an astoundingly dark, disturbing film experience....up until and including 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--played by Daniele Vargas) was undoubtedly the most traumatic for me. WOW-- what a stunner! Expertly staged and edited.....the terrifying underwater scenes (and extremely effective musical score) and the intense 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. And how about the infamous and truly disgusting hospital scene, when the hunk of Caltiki is peeled off of Max's arm....GEEZ, guys...could you have thought of anything more sensational and sickening? But that's the peculiarly gory "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...deeply disturbing, yet almost beautiful in its nightmarish way--a bizarre piece of cinematic high art that confirms our viewer's worst fears about Ulmer's fate, 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. I wish, though, that one or these expert commentators had something REALLY unique about the film to show us: behind-the-scenes production photos, an original script or storyboard, the National Geographic clippings that Lucas mentions were matted into the opening shot...ANYTHING that might still remain of the film. But there's nothing. We DO get a lot (and I mean a great deal) of chatter about the influence of the British Quatermass films on Caltiki...which gets a bit tiresome, especially in the absence of any of the above mentioned rarities which would have greatly enhanced the disc's special features.
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.
PS-- If you'd like to see and hear Gerard Herter's (who played the demented "Mad" Max in CALTIKI) real (German accented) voice, check out the episode "The Great Casino Caper" from TV's "It Takes a Thief" (posted on You Tube), and the scene at 21:55". Herter lived and worked in Italy, where this episode was shot (with Robert Wagner, Fred Astaire, and Ed Binns). Make sure you watch an ENGLISH-dialogue version, not the Italian dub that's also posted. LR