What I love most about this sub-genre of horror/scifi flicks even though each is about a giant, unicellular organism threatening to engulf all of humanity, is that each one has its own identity, and “blob” biology. There are five of these movies I know of in existence, starting with the British science fiction flick, X The Unknown (1956), which is about a form of near-sentient “mud” from the center of the earth, that in turn gets us to the most popular “blob” movie, the U.S. made, The Blob (1958), which is about a jelly-like substance from outer space. A sequel was made, Beware! The Blob (aka Son Of The Blob, 1972) that continues the terrifying adventures of the space jelly. The Stuff comes along in 1985 and shows us how a semi-sentient yogurt-like organism can wreak just as much havoc on humanity as “jelly” from the outer reaches of the universe. A remake of that aforementioned “jelly” was made in 1988, appropriately titled The Blob that drastically re-imagined the “space jelly” as a government science project run amok, and as I write this review we’re on the cusp of getting our first twenty-first century remake in the era of computer generate technology. Whether that becomes a hindrance or an asset we’ll just have to wait and see.
The Italian made Caltiki, The Immortal Monster (1959) fits in right between the original Blob and its sequel, and a Blob movie I didn’t know existed until seven years ago, though I have a very, very vague idea of, perhaps, coming across the name of the movie in a monster movie book when I was a kid, but don’t quote me on that. For all intents and purposes I never consciously heard of this movie until I finally got a home computer in 2009 and discovered message boards and forums. I first heard about it through someone’s post and then googled it. I was amazed a Blob movie had gone under my radar for so, so long, and ever since then I’ve wanted to see it.
Having finally seen it last night, for the most part I liked it, though the effects of the “blob” could have been a little better, which brings me back to why I like all these “blob” movies to begin with. Each of them presents our unicellular monster in a different light, but Caltiki departs the most from the norm of a “jelly/liquid-ish” form. I’ve heard they used tripe to represent the creature. Having no idea what the hell tripe is I had to Google it, and according to Wikipedia it’s “…a type of edible lining from the stomachs of various farm animals.” Using tripe is sort of a double edged sword in my opinion. In the shots of the massive “blob” it looks good, the scenes where it’s huge and slimy is where it looks the best, but when a scientist is handling a small portion of it with a pair of metal tongs I had to ask myself why he was handling that wet towel like it’s dangerous? In some of the shots of the small monster it does sort of look like some kind of glorified fabric, which could have worked a hell of a lot better if they had just slimed it up more. Genre filmmakers, never underestimate how well your otherwise “fake” looking effect can look under the judicious slathering of whatever it is the FX artists use for slime. Slime brings out the cool monster in any effect. Just look at any monster movie from the 80s. The miniature effects of the “blob” marauding through the house were well done. Not so much with the toy-looking tanks. There’s also a few scenes where the monster looks like a hunk of moving shit, especially when a couple of pieces are squeezing through a window to get outside. It looked like the house was taking a shit! Yet another reason I can point to for liking this movie, which also adds a whole new unintentional dimension to the plot—SEMI-SENTIENT SHIT?! Dear God, the mind reels!
What I really responded to the most about Calitki was its Lovecraftian origin. I mean this was so Lovecraftian I could easily believe it may have been an adaptation of something H.P. Lovecraft he had actually written. This all starts with the Mayans and at some point in history they abandoned their massive city and migrated north, leaving it to the ravages of the jungle and time, and no archaeologist could ever figure out why they did this. Caltiki is a Goddess the Mayans worshiped, and when sacrifices needed to made to her the High Priestess would take them down to this underground lake (as history has described it, but in reality it’s more of an underground pool), and drown them. There’s a troubling prophecy surrounding this Goddess too: “Caltiki is One. The only immortal god. When her mate appears in the sky, the power of Caltiki will destroy the world.”
Archeologist John Fielding (John Merivale), his wife, Ellen (Didi Perego), fellow excavator Max Gunther (Gérard Herter) and his girlfriend, Linda (Daniela Rocca), are all down in Mexico on a Mayan dig when a volcano eruption exposes a set of stairs leading to this sacrificial pool underground. Bob (Daniel Vargas), another scientist, is sent into the pool to check it out, and it’s a surprisingly deep pool too. He goes all the way down to the sandy bottom and finds the skeletal remains of the sacrificed, but there’s something else down there too—Caltiki! What the Mayans were actually and probably unknowingly worshiping was a 20-million year old unicellular organism that feeds solely on man. It’s massive and Bob doesn’t make it back up alive. “Caltiki’s” mode of feeding is also unique among these blob movies. As a doctor explains to Fielding, after Max’s arm has gotten “caltikied,” it looks like third-degree burns, but it’s not. It’s like his arm and parts of his face were mummified. My interpretation of this is that this creature did the equivalent of what you or I would do when we suck on a wet washcloth. Keep sucking and you’ll end up with a dry rag.
The only defense against Caltiki is fire! Fire kills off the creature and seals up the fissure leading to the pool, but Max’s arm is engulfed in a piece of the monster and he’s taken to the hospital. Well, now, we kind of know why the Mayans said ‘adios’ to their city. But the question remains how the hell did this amoeba-like organism get so fucking huge? Ah, that’s where this movie reminded me of X The Unknown. Radiation, my dear, Watson. The near-sentient mud of that movie was radioactive and fed solely on radiation, but radiation in this movie turned this creature into a giant man-killer, and you can blame a meteor for that. Now we come to the explanation of that prophecy of her mate coming from the sky. A meteor that passes the earth every 1,352 years is set to return. This particular meteor alters the atmosphere making it more radioactive thus explaining how Caltiki came to be, and if something isn’t done about that specimen Fielding has in his lab at his house the altered atmosphere is going to make it grow and multiply, which is exactly what ends up happening!
Fielding doesn’t make it back in time to dispose of it and the final act is watching this “blob” enlarge and multiply until the whole house is slithering with these things. Wondering what became of Max? Well, in good ol’ Lovecratian tradition that dictates any human running afoul of his Great Old Ones is destined for madness, and that’s what happens to poor unlikable Max. Not only did Caltiki mummify his arm and fuck up part of his face, but the poison in his blood stream turned him mad. Of the early blob movies Caltiki is also unique for having a human villain, and Max is it. He’s always had a thing for Jim’s wife and goes after her in the final act as the creature is overrunning the house. He ends up shooting his chick, Linda, to death before meeting his ultimate demise in the lethal embrace of a Caltiki amoeba.
This now brings me to the subject of gore. For a black and white Italian science fiction/horror flick it has its moments which I suspect were more noteworthy back in the day, but are still a welcome sight when dealing with flesh dissolving monsters. There was some of that in X, but that was due to radiation, and none of that in the two early Blob movies. In Caltiki we get to see the dissolved face of a scientist that’s still breathing (a scene that reminded me of that security guard in The Fly II that has his face melted off, but is still breathing), a dissolved arm, and another dissolved face, this one only half glimpsed in the folds of the undulating protoplasm as Max is lovingly engulfed.
Above photo is from the included booklet
The Mexican Army is called in to deal with the creatures at Fielding’s estate and fire is what finally puts an end to Caltiki’s prophecy. And, can you believe it, there’s no final shot hinting at Caltiki’s secret survival somewhere. When you get to the end of this film you will believe a Blob-like monster can be killed off once and for all.
I wonder of Dean Koontz is a fan of this flick, because his 1983 novel, ‘Phantoms,’ shares some elements, like the nature of his creature and the disappearance of the Mayans in relation.
Caltiki, The Immortal Monster has never had any kind of legitimate release here in America at all. Bootlegs is how you had to go if you wanted to see own it, or buy an overseas copy. Thanks to Arrow Video USA we now have a legitimate disc here in the states and a blu-ray one at that! Come this April 25th you can buy Arrow’s DVD/Blu-ray combo on Amazon or on their USA site!
Below is the reverse cover art
Video/Audio/Subtitles: 1080p 1.66:1 high definition widescreen—1.0 English (dub) LPCM (mono), 1.0 Italian LPCM (mono)—English subs for both the Italian version and the English version.
Transfer looked real good to me.
Extras included . . .
- Commentary By Author, Tim Lucas
- Commentary By Author, Troy Howarth
- From Quatermass to Caltiki (18:13)
- Full Aperture Version (1:16:54)
- Riccardo Freda, Forgotten Master (19:05)
- The Genesis of Caltiki ( 21:33)
- Archival Introduction (:21)
- US Opening Titles (2:24)
- US Theatrical Trailer
- 35-Page Booklet
(NOTE: The “Full Aperture Version” is a full frame version of the movie that looks a little rougher. The presence of this version is explained before the movie starts and in the included booklet. It’s essentially included to give a better appreciation of the FX in full frame).
Tripe is mentioned being in use (in part) in the booklet!
As an added treat, here’s two pages from the 1959 press book I found on the web! Click photos to enlarge and read.