Saturday, May 17, 2014

Museo del horror

Museo del horror
Directed by: Rafael Baledón
Horror, 1964
Mexico, 84min

Classic! Yeah, Rafael Baledón’s Museo del horror is undoubtedly a genuine piece of classic Mexican horror fare! This movie has it all, and one I sincerely recommend you to seek out if you like old gothic creepiness done with a Latin flair.

In the wake of the surprise success that Chano Ureta’s El monstro Resucitado (The Resurrected Monster) 1953, one of the very first mad doctor/Frankenstein movies with exploitative scenes et all, and La Besta and La Bruja (The Witch) kind of a Les Yuex sans visage (Eyes Without a Face) 1960, predecessor, atmospherically laden gothic horror with mad scientists threatening the world, became the name of the game for Mexican low budget filmmakers. Amongst them the likes of Chano Urueta, Fernando Mendez, Federico Curiel, Miguel M. Delgado and Rafael Baledón.
Where Mendez, possibly the finest of all Mexican horror filmmakers, would make a career for himself with films like El grito de la muerte (The Living Coffin), Misterios de ultratumba (Black Pit of Dr. M), both 1959, and his seminal goth pieces El ataúd del vampiro (The Return of the Vampire) 1958 and El vampiro (The Vampire) 1957, so would also Rafael Baledón, with a mixture of dramas, action and comedy movies. Although it’s perhaps his horror themed movies like El hombre y el monstruo (The Man and the Monster) 1959, Orlak, el infierno de Frankenstein (The Hell of Frankestein) 1960 and La malediction de la Llorna (The Crying Woman) 1963 that he will be best remembered for. But without a doubt, I’ll be adding Museo del horror to that list as of now.
Supposedly Baledón once wanted to be a doctor, but due to lack of funding, he started working with films instead. He started out as an actor as he built a name for himself as a director. Although he continued directing, he also worked as an actor through out his career. Perhaps this is something of a key to the solid performances he get’s out of his cast, and the desire to be a doctor his eye for details when it comes to the medical atrocities and graphic moments of the grotesque he mastered in his string of horror stories.

Museo del horror is gothic horror, with a dash of German Expressionism, Mexican style, and done to perfection I must say. This is a movie that is nothing less than a masterpiece!
A young woman walks dark shadowy streets. The shadows are bold and stern, menacing. As she walks through the park, she’s kidnapped. Sparing time, this is all done during the title sequence. The masked figure that snatched her, takes her to his underground lair where she has molten wax poured onto her screaming face… Pretty strong for 1964! The Police are stood clueless as to where the young women of the city are disappearing. A classic newspaper headline zoom-in explains that at least three young women have disappeared previously. The manager of a wax museum, Luis [Joaquin Cordero, who you may recall from Julián Soler’s Pánico] guides tourists around his exhibit of female Opera characters and ecstatically explains about two empty places where the missing pieces are to be created by his own hands within a near future. At the same time the police are trying to figure out the latest kidnapping, and just a few blocks away from them Dr Raúl [Julio Alemán] is performing some odd kind of experiment. No slow sludge, here Baledón moves at fast pace and establishes a grand gallery of characters that will be the leads of this piece. Within a few minutes we’ll see Dr Raúl lift a head out of formaldehyde in a true moment of Mexican shock cinema, and Baledón proves that he’s going for the jugular with this one.
Basically Museo del horror plays out of a love triangle, between Dr. Raúl, Luis and Marta [Patricia Conde], with an investigation plot with horror themes at the core. Museo del horror sees Police Commissioner [David Reynoso] searching for the kidnapper. Not only a kidnapper, but also a murderer, as the same assailant is killing off those who know his true identity by shooting them with poisonous darts!
Marta has a superb nightmare at the half point mark, showing her profound fear of the dead being reanimated – ironic as we all know what fiendish Dr. Raul – with a constant craving for fresh corpses to use in his “research” is up, Professor Abramov [Carlos López Moctezuma who also starred in Rene Cardona’s Luchadora Horror La horipilante beastia humana (Night of the Bloody Apes) 1969] has spent the majority of the movie tampering away with his secret taxidermy, and Luis with his wax sculpting… we know that in this genre, this will all lead to something terrible!
One doom-ridden night, Marta’s mother has a sudden fatal encounter with one of the “secret killer’s” deadly darts as she realizes his identity! Seconds later, the fiend tries to kidnap Marta. Saved by the police at the nick of time Marta tells them that the kidnapper looked like a mummy! The cops round up a bunch of suspects, as in Dr Raúl and Professor Abramov, whilst Marta goes to Luis at the wax museum to tell him the of dreadful news as the movie kicks into the last act and its baleful climax.
Screenwriter José María Fernández Unsáin was undoubtedly penning a free adaptation of André De Toth’s House of Wax, possibly a dash of Gaston Leroux’s Phantom of the Opera, and using that classic Mexpoitation trait of the mad scientist… well actually several in this case! But nevertheless, Museum of Horror is a splendid piece of Mexican horror. Full of great gothic atmosphere, creepy secret laboratories, loads of sinister characters and a whole bunch of fantastically grim moments of terror.  A masterpiece of thrilling and fascinating Mexican horror not to be missed!

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