Friday, 1 April 2011


This is the first horror movie I never saw. I did see the opening credits but that was enough for me and I left the cinema.

It was early 1963 and I'd gone to a local flea pit where it was easy for underage kids to get in to see X-Certificate (no-one under 16 admitted) films. I was 14 years old. Now in America there's a long-standing tradition of kids watching horror movies but in Britain at the time this was definitely not the case. When it came to violence and horror, the British censors were extremely careful about what us tender little angels be allowed to see. Hell, even Godzilla movies got an X-Certificate. So naturally going to see a horror film under age was a rite of passage. Sensitive little me got so worked up about that even the spooky credits scared the crap out of me and scared me out of the cinema leaving the friend I'd gone with to watch it alone. I pretended to feel ill.

I certainly felt humiliated with myself and so it wasn't long before I tested myself again, this time on my own. I can't remember for certain what the next horror film was that I tried but Corridors of Blood looms vivid in my memory so we'll say, as it may well have been, it was that one. My memory tells me it was a pretty good film. For a start, it was set in Victorian times and focussed on early attempts to discover anaesthetics and was actually very accurate in that much of the incidents really did happen. Starring Boris Karloff as the surgeon who becomes addicted to his own medicines and Christopher Lee in an early villainous role as a body snatcher who blackmails Boris, it's very effective as both an historical drama and horror movie. There are several knives slicing open flesh (tame by today's medical dramas like Casualty and Holby City) but gruesomely effective at the time, with the piece de resistance being acid hurled in Lee's face and seeing it being eaten away in dissolve shots like they used for wolfman transformations.

While I can't say I was hooked on horror from then on, they did become a regular part of my cinema diet either on my own or with friends. I also had an advantage when it came to gory/scary sequences: being short-sighted, I could look over the top of my glasses and only see a blur, though most of the time I ended up watching the gory bit anyway. It was, however, several viewings before I could steel myself to watch the eyeless head dropping down in the hole in the boat scene in Jaws. Now, however, with two cataract implants, that doesn't work any more.

So you can understand why I finally had to buy a copy of Caltiki The Immortal Monster some 48 years after I never saw it (except for the credits sequence). And, damn it, that credits sequence is still pretty scary with sonorous voice, erupting volcano, Mayan ruins, and tales of a goddess that lusted for blood! The opening section is also still pretty effective with the exploring of ancient abandoned ruins full of shadows and statues, a deep pool full of gold, jewels, and skeletons, and Caltiki itself. The monster, when it eats somebody, only dissolves the soft tissue and doesn't do it all that quickly. The second victim escapes (and later becomes the human villain) with a partially eaten arm and ugly scarring down one side of his face. Another has the skin eaten off his face but with eyes intact -really quite gruesome for the time.

Then we get the middle section back in civilisation. Caltiki has been destroyed by fire but the scientists have saved a piece which they scraped off the second victim's arm (who is getting nuttier and nuttier, the victim not the arm). Exposing it to radiation it comes back to life (Caltiki not the arm) so they stop exposing it to radiation. However, a comet is closing in on Earth, the same comet that was last here when Caltiki forced the Mayans to emigrate in a hurry.

The nut gets nuttier, Caltiki comes back to life and eats a few people, the nut kills his wife because he loves/desires our scientist/hero wife, Caltiki chases her and her kid after eating the nutjob including the eyes this time, splits and gets really big and is finally destroyed by the army.

For the time, it's okay, with the first section actually being pretty good. I might have liked it better had the print been in better condition. Caltiki is, however, very difficult to get hold of and I paid over £15 for what is actually a bootleg (sold on Amazon) doubled up with a Gamera movie which is so awful I can't bring myself to type the title. The print I saw is dubbed and the names in the credits are anglicised. Out of interest, the original (and still listed) director of this Italian movie (Ricardo Freda) walked off the set and Mario Bava finished the film thus taking his first step to becoming a horror movie maestro. I'd still like to see a good condition version of this film.

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