Friday, 3 July 2015

Robbery of the Mummies of Guanajuato

Wrestle Maniacs

Robbery of the Mummies of Guanajuato
Mexico/Guatemala 1972
Directed by Tito Novaro
Westminster Films DVD Region 0

So here I am again, scraping the bottom of the barrel to bring you a look at this fun, logic defying flick, Robbery of the Mummies of Guanajuato and, wow, what can I tell you about this one? If you’ve ever seen any of these Mexican luchador movies of the 1960s and 1970s, like the famous Santo movies, for example, you’ll know just how bad they can be. Sometimes madly brilliant, yes. Often highly entertaining, certainly. But usually they’re also quite terrible. This one scores big on the “terrible” and “ironically entertaining” factors... not so much on the brilliant front, I’m afraid.

Although, saying that, the opening titles are pretty cool. It’s a lively, fast moving credits sequence with footage from the film projected in portioned off squares created by animated lines set to an overbearing, in your face jazz score. A bit like a poor man’s Saul Bass but with an overly enthusiastic trumpeter who, if you had a headache while trying to watch this, you would just want to shoot.

The film then starts proper and it takes a good twenty minutes for the heroes to be introduced because they are trying to set up a story here and concentrate on the villains, In fact, the opening moments, post credits, are of “the grim reaper”, complete with skeletal face, dark hooded robes and a big scythe, leading a horse drawn wagon into a town at night... and it’s quite atmospheric, I have to say. If only nobody in this film opened their mouths at any point, this movie might have been able to get away with some of the stuff it tries to laughingly pull off later. However, the wagon stops and a guy resembling a Mexican Count Dracula pops out of the top and makes his way to the ground. Before talking into the air, he looks furtively around with eyes so bizarrely shifty, you wonder if at one point they’re just going to roll right out of his head on their own and scout ahead.

As I said, he talks into the air (I think, the print I managed to ‘obtain’ is pretty cloudy for the sequences when the director has used a night filter) and announces that he is Count Alexander of Cagliostro. Really? I could have sworn he was supposed to be some other famous Count? He is then answered by another guy who is... oh, obviously... viewing him on a magical view screen. He gives the man access to his... um... temple of science, so the two can talk.

The guy behind the view screen turns out to be Doctor Raymond and this is his lair - a primitive but colourful looking laboratory - perhaps a little more childish in tone than you might comfortably be expected to believe and certainly nowhere near as sophisticated as the kind of set ups you’d see in a Hollywood movie made 40 years before this one... which is kinda interesting. They’re definitely trying for the same vibe here though.

The conversation takes a turn for the interesting as it's revealed that both Count Alexander and Doctor Raymond have a vested interest in wanting to take over the world. However, while the Count wants to take over the world to hold power over humanity who have hunted and killed his kind (warlocks, apparently, not vampires) since time began, the good Doctor just wants to take over the world “for its own good... or else” so we can all live in peace and harmony as prescribed by him. So when the Count, who has been summoned by Doctor Raymond, suggests they team up and seek world domination together, the Doctor doesn’t like the idea because the Count is clearly evil whereas, Doctor Raymond is more... um... well-wishing in his evil, I guess. Sorry but... why the heck did Doctor Raymond summon the Count of Cagliostro anyway, then?

And we’re about five minutes into the movie at this point. Seriously!

So anyway, while Doctor Raymond wants to impose peace and justice on the world, the Count wagers that the power will corrupt Doctor Raymond to the point that he will become an evil villain just like himself, once Raymond controls the world, so the two should obviously work together to achieve that end. Doctor Raymond takes that bet so... the two decide to collaborate in a crazy plan for world domination. A kind of half contradictory crazy plan which would, it seems, only make sense in a Mexploitation movie of this kind... if it made any sense at all, that is... which it clearly doesn’t once the movie begins to play out. Although the mad scheme does seem to have some kinda warped logic at first. The plan seems diabolically simple: the Doctor has an idea for a device to control men’s minds but, it turns out, he needs the incredibly rare element of Hernium (no, I’m not making this up) to be able to complete the vital component required to activate his diabolical device. But nobody has seen any for centuries... it’s a lost element.

However, luckily for him, the Count knows a way of finding the exact place which houses the element, forgotten over the years when people stopped working at the mine where it can be found. All he needs to do is raise the corpses of the miners who worked at the mine all those many years ago, and who conveniently all seem to have been buried together in the same place (that was lucky then), exerting his own special warlock mind powers over them so that they become the Mummy slaves of the Count and the Doctor. They can then lead the two to the correct mine and dig for the element on behalf of our future world rulers. He knows where to find these workers because his old, centuries long dead buddy from many years ago, The Count of Frankenhausen, told him where to find them (no, I promise you, I really am not making this up... watch the movie if you don’t believe me... go on, I dare you). So the Mummies of Guanajuato are restored and they walk down the street at night, observed by the local street urchin Efram. They lead our antagonists to the right mine, which presumably and quite luckily is not too far from where Doctor Raymond’s villainous science lair is, and start to dig. Being as they’re mummies they dig fairly slowly and so they won’t be getting a hernia digging for the Hernium, I would guess. Actually, I’d probably challenge their mummy status. For the most part they are just zombies wearing suits with ghoulish, decayed looking, paper mache enhanced heads... more your typical walking dead than mummies, I would say. Anyway, as long as they take their time digging up the stuff so the film can fit in a few action sequences, nobody seems really worried about the technical details.

So now that Count Alexander, Doctor Raymond and their five midget assistants (oh yeah, I didn’t mention them, did I) are preoccupied, it’s time to meet the heroes of the film...

That street urchin seeks out his low intelligence, comic relief “shoe shine guy living on the streets” friend and tells him about the mummies he saw. Much admiration for the subtitle translator who, ironically I hope, puts words into this character’s mouth like... “You will lose the desire to wake me again.” Anyway, Tomas, the comic relief guy, goes with Efrain to tell the local and typically disbelieving police... who seem to number three and have their office in a very relaxed hotel corridor by the looks of it... what was the budget of this movie? After Tomas and Efrain have tried to interest the authorities, Tomas takes Efrain to meet his friend, the wrestler Mil Máscaras, aka Thousand Masks, played by real life wrestler... um... Mil Máscaras, aka Thousand Masks. And, of course, because it’s a luchador movie, we are not allowed to properly meet Thousand Masks until we’ve seen him in tag team action in the ring with one of his mates, taking on two obvious tag team villains... which lasts a while. I used to watch tag team wrestling matches on TV as a kid and it's nice to know the mexicans had exactly the same kind of "plotted cheating" and bad guy/good guy conventions present in the "sport". Once Tomas and Efrain explain about the walking mummies, Thousand Masks goes back to his gym with his mates and a bevy of beautiful ladies. His friends are also wrestlers - Blue Angel and Jalisco Lightning, played by... yeah... Blue Angel and El Rayo de Jalisco.

One of Thousand Masks personal assistant ladies has some pretty hot costumes whereas the other one tends to wear sweaters. The first of these two must be a PA because she does things like hand Thousand Masks a microphone when he needs to talk to his friend and then puts it back after him, even though he's sitting right by the main receiver. What with sweater girl and midriff lady, when Masks, Blue and Jalisco are on the trail trying to follow the footprints of the missing mummies with their magnifying glass, I really couldn't help but think of Scooby Doo, to be honest. The choice of music helped complete the illusion considerably, it has to be said. Like the jazzily scored (by composer Rafael Carrión), clue searching montage including lots of walking around or driving around in a car accompanied by motor bikes.

There then follows the expected amount of wrestler’s fight scenes you’d expect but, the majority of them seem to be against the dynamic duo of evil’s five assistant midgets who, it has to be said, usually seem to get the better of our wrestling heroes... I can’t imagine even Santo losing to a bunch of midgets, to be honest. However, when they are fighting mummies, the “wrestling mummies” walk in an even more exaggerated fashion, as opposed to the “normal mummies” in non-wrestling shots. It's quite funny to see the actors in the fight scenes suddenly, mid shot, remember to be doing the strange arm movements which they'd forgotten, halfway through a scene.

However, and here’s the rub, when the Count’s mind powers finally wear off on the mummies, which he had clearly stated they would, it’s no problem for the bad guys since Professor Raymond installs his mind controlling devices in their heads to keep them loyal... wait! Hold it right there Mr. Script Writer. I thought the whole idea of getting hold of the wrestling-appropriate named Hernium was so that the Professor could actually complete his hitherto non-working mind control devices... but he already has them working, then, is that right? Is that why the famous world domination plan seems to suddenly change mid-film to something along the lines of, arm the missiles with Hernium which will create an explosion even bigger than a nuclear warhead? So let me get this straight, Doctor Raymond wants to control the world for it’s own good so we can all live in peace and without the pesky illusion of freedom... by blowing us all up if we don't agree with him. Bravo. I wish I’d come up with that plan.

Luckily, when the mummies do find the dangerously unstable seam of Hernium, Professor Raymond tells his new bad guy friend the Count that he has been studying the stuff for years, and knows just how to handle it. Wait? He's been studying it for years but nobody's ever had any to study because nobody knew where it was buried before? This movie makes no sense at all now people. This is like watching an autopsy of a movie... albeit a hugely entertaining one. Well, I say entertaining but, after a while, the strange and “inappropriate to many scenes” jazz noodling with accompanying bongos will slowly start to get on the nerves of any patient audience, I suspect.

Luckily, there’s not too much left of the movie to go because, after finally finding a way to fend off the brutal midgets, Thousand Masks, Blue Angel and Jalisco Lightning defeat the mummies by ripping out their mind control units... a task which you would think would mean you now have mummies with free will roaming about but which, actually, kills them. Well, okay, so they’re already dead so I guess it just deactivates them if you want to get technical about it. However, in a suicidal bid to see their plan through, the villains self destruct all the now fully loaded up Hernium bombs and our wrestling heroes and their chums leg it out of the secret lair in time to see the base explode with the villains still inside. Except... wait a minute. Weren’t the Hernium bombs supposed to reduce gazillions of miles to charred ash... all this did was conveniently knock out the villain’s not so secret lair. It’s a bit thin and, considering movies like this weren’t especially made for children, from what I can tell, the writers must have really been relying an awful lot on the audience not paying attention in this one.

Robbery of the Mummies of Guanajuato is not a good movie but, because it’s so awful, I have to admit I had some fun with what is, probably, the weakest of these kinds of movies I’ve seen so far. It’s not one I’d recommend for any serious movie maniacs out there but for fans of these kinds of “so bad it's good” Mexploitation classics, there’s a lot to laugh at and it’s not the worst thing you could be watching. I only hope that I can somehow source a copy of the same director’s wrestling movie from a year later, The Castle of the Mummies of Guanajuato, which seems to have more or less the same plot (including midget minions) and Blue Angel in it again... along with two other masked wrestlers... to see if it’s actually a sequel to this terrible rubbish or just utilising a lot of the same footage (or possibly both). Until then, however, I still have a couple of these kinds of movies in my ‘to watch pile’ to get through at some point... so more supernatural flavoured wrestle mania will be coming to this blog at some point, you can rely on that.

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