Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Oddball Film Report: ATTACK OF THE MAYAN MUMMY (1964)

Note: this review was originally written's Video Cheese, and has been published here by the kind permission of Mr. Ken Begg.

    "Jerry Warren vs the Aztec Mummy."

    Another of Jerry Warren's imports. Few things can fill the dedicated B movie fan with such dread. 

   As I noted when I examined CREATURE OF THE WALKING DEAD, I have a bit more patience with Warren's actual, real, not made from leftover parts, movies than most videonauts. Going into one of his imports, though, can be painful even to a man like myself. 

   In a sense, ATTACK OF THE MAYAN MUMMY fares better than CREATURE OF THE WALKING DEAD by making it's narration a bit more founded. This is by having the bulk of the story be a flashback as related by a relative of one of the original characters. Also helping is that there's a bit less narrated footage this time. On the other hand, this is because there are more scenes of new-shot footage of people rambling on about minor story details (while leaving larger issues ever so merrily glossed over). 

   Watching the film is an exercise in unfulfillment. One minute, you're longing to hear a human voice actually coming from a character's mouth, the next you're wishing the narration would start again! Thankfully, this experience will only last 77 or so minutes. A major plus is that Bruno VeSota appears in the bookending material, and at least he's a good actor. In a way, however, his natural line readings just add to the off-kilter feel of the flick. 

   Warren's source film, meanwhile, had already been seen Stateside as CURSE OF THE AZTEC MUMMY, courtesy of K. Gordon Murray. In addition, the bulk of this chapter was replayed as flashback footage in the sequel film, THE ROBOT VS THE AZTEC MUMMY! Are the Aztecs and the Mayans the same guys? This must have confused the kiddies tuned in for the Saturday afternoon movie, seeing as both versions would have received a bit of play.

   ATTACK OF THE MAYAN MUMMY centers around a scientist/broadcaster attempting to sell his story about the titular fiend to a newspaper, and he's recounting the episode to the editor.  

   In flashback, we get the story of a scientist who, experimenting with hypnosis, has regressed busty "Ann Taylor" back to a previous life as a Mayan princess. An expedition is planned to test how clearly Ann's exposed previous-life memories will guide her about the ruins that her ancestor called home. Knowledge of a hidden treasure trove of gold that Ann will be able to reveal has the non-scientific community interested too.

   (The original Mexican film came out in the mid 50's, at a time when the public was fascinated by the well-publicized Bridey Murphy case. This revolved around Virginia Tighe, an American housewife who claimed to have past-life memories of a 19th Century Irish lass named Bridey Murphy. This became the subject of a best-selling book, The Case of Bridey Murphy, which in turn inspired a motion picture titled THE SEARCH FOR BRIDEY MURPHY. The whole affair had already been exposed as a hoax before the film version hit screens. Still, it inspired a handful of exploitation movies like this one. The most famous of these was probably AIP's THE SHE CREATURE in 1956.)

   Sure enough, Ann guides her fellows through the pyramid, but senses danger. That danger soon emerges in the form of The Mayan Mummy. 

   And here is my biggest problem with the film. (I haven't seen CURSE OF THE AZTEC MUMMY, by the way.) The Mummy's action scenes must have included a lot of dialog, because we get quite a bit of the mummy shambling along dark corridors, but whenever it really interacts with anyone, we cut away. We see the mummy attack, then we cut away and we're told the mummy killed a guy before the others could subdue it with tear gas and ship it to the States! 

   The creature (sedated, I guess) is currently being held at a hospital. For reasons I can't really recall (listening to a typical conversation in this thing is like sitting in on a debate about which material makes the best shoelaces, you hear a lot, but you don't retain much), a hood is hired to break into the hospital and take the mummy to, uh... well, somewhere!

   When the hood opens the door he sees footage of the other movie, er, the revived mummy, and tries to run away. He hits a tree and wakes later in the movie. 

   Meanwhile, the mummy has tracked down Ann, and broken into her home. He does this by standing quietly and using telekinesis (?)  to make the door open by itself. Odd, when you consider that SOP for mummies is to come smashing through glass doors in these movies. 

   He's there to reclaim his stolen gold, but sees Ann in bed and makes the connection to her former life. He scoops her into his arms and wanders off. Meanwhile, the hood comes to, tries to drive off, then sees more stock footage, er, the mummy carrying Ann, he swerves-----

   And a screaming headline claims that Ann, the hood, and the mummy are all dead by the crash! 

   As if you didn't feel ripped off enough already, the editor doesn't believe this story and stops the presses! This whole yarn seems to be the get-rich-quick scheme our main character has cooked up, and the editor is seeing right through it! That's almost clever, were it not so infuriating. I really need to see the Aztec version of the story to find out what happens to Ann!

    I take a lot of satisfaction from knowing that my copy of ATTACK OF THE MAYAN MUMMY was factory sealed! So, if nothing else, the tape itself was in fantastic condition. And, of course, I got to scratch another one off the list of old monster movies I hadn't yet seen. That's always a good feeling.

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