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Aztec Mummy, The

Entry updated 15 May 2023. Tagged: Film.

Mexican film (1957); original title La Momia Azteca. Cinematográfica Calderón S.A. Directed by Rafel Lopez Portillo. Written by Alfredo Salazar and Guillermo Calderon. Cast includes Crox Alvarado, Rosita Arenas, Luis Aceves Castañeda, Ángel Di Stefani, Ramón Gay and Jorge Mondragón. 80 minutes. Black and white.

A narrator tells us this film blends reality with fiction, with the former based on scientific experiments carried out by the Institute of Hypnotherapy at the University of Los Angeles. There follows a shoot-out between the police and The Bat (Castañeda), a masked and caped gangster (see Crime and Punishment) who is also a Scientist who vivisects animals, creating Monsters (though we see no evidence of this). The main plot now starts: widower Dr Eduardo Almada (Gay) has returned to the University of Mexico following his studies in Prague, arguing to disbelieving colleagues that he can use Hypnosis to regress subjects to a past life (see Reincarnation) – but needs to find a suitable test subject. As he admits, it is a dangerous procedure that could cause Psychological damage: his fiancée, Flor Sepúlvedam (Arenas), volunteers; he reluctantly agrees.

The experiment is a success: Flor remembers she was once Xochi, a young woman from Tenoxtitlan (the 15th century Aztec capital), who is to be sacrificed to the god Tezkatlipoka (see Gods and Demons; Mythology). Despite this being forbidden, she has a lover, Popoca (Di Stefani); but their relationship is discovered and he is given a Poison to drive him mad, then buried alive to guard the tomb of the now sacrificed Xochi: the poison presumably also makes him a living mummy. Eduardo believes if they can locate Xochi's tomb it will be the proof he needs, though Flor warns him it will be cursed. That evening Eduardo, his laboratory assistant (and comedic relief) Pinacate (Alvarado), Flor and her father, Dr. Sepúlveda (Mondragón), drive to the ruins of Tenoxtitlan and break into the tomb – Flor has the unpleasant experience of seeing her own skeleton – where they take a sacred breastplate to present as evidence. Following their departure from the tomb, a blanket which covers the mummified Popoca stirs.

The breastplate sways Eduardo's doubters in the scientific community (including a Dr Krupp), though they too mention the curse: and indeed, when Eduardo, Dr. Sepúlveda and Pinacate return to the tomb they are attacked by the mummified Popoca – but manage to flee and block up the entrance; they agree not to tell Flor of their experience. However Popoca escapes the tomb and arrives at Eduardo's house, where he recovers the breastplate and – recognizing her as Xochi – carries Flor back to the tomb. Eduardo and his colleagues pursue – as does The Bat, who has been following events and believes the breastplate can lead him to a lost Aztec treasure: both parties arrive at the tomb at the same time, as do the police (who have been chasing their speeding cars) – anticlimactically, The Bat is promptly captured and unmasked, to reveal Dr Krupp. Leaving him with the police, Eduardo and friends enter the tomb to find Popoca about to sacrifice Flor: their guns have no effect, but Dr. Sepúlveda holds up a crucifix, which has Popoca backing off, allowing the others to rescue Flor and leave: he then throws a stick of dynamite into a fire, the explosion killing him and, it is assumed, Popoca. Eduardo consoles Flor, saying her father "was able to conquer the spirit of evil with truth".

The film is clearly influenced Universal Studios' The Mummy (1932), though adding the Pseudoscientific past-life regression elements, likely inspired by the 1950s Bridey Murphy case (see The Undead (1957)). The Aztec Mummy is part of a trilogy which was shot consecutively, the sequels being The Curse of the Aztec Mummy (1957; original title La Maldición de la Momia Azteca) and The Robot vs. the Aztec Mummy (1957; original title La Momia Azteca contra el Robot Humano). In these The Bat plays a major role, but here his presence is a distraction, having no influence on events; just when he seems about to, he is quickly moved offstage. Eduardo and Dr. Sepúlveda, though their actions and disbelief in the supernatural are presented as erroneous, are not unsympathetically portrayed. The Horror elements only really appear towards the end and are fairly mild; for most of its run the film is more of a slow moving drama, a little dull at times but on the whole interesting.

The Aztec Mummy was released in the USA as Attack of the Mayan Mummy (1963), dubbed into English with the plot changed and scenes cut, replaced by new ones using US actors. [SP]


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