Caltiki, the Immortal Monster (1959) Review

Opening with a description of the ancient legend of the Mayan’s regarding a vengeful goddess named Caltiki, which seemingly forced the civilized society to abandon their homes and temples in 607AD in mysterious circumstances, the film then shows the aforementioned ruins of the superstitious yet advanced people and a crazed archaeologist frantically fleeing them back to his camp.

Delirious and raving about Caltiki and the missing associate he was exploring with the rest of the group including biologist Prof. John Fielding (John Merivale) and his wife Ellen (Didi Sullivan) head back to the site to find out what happened.

Discovering a striking statue of Caltiki the Immortal Monster inscribed with her legend as well as strange radiation readings and a pool filled with skeletons of sacrificial offerings covered in treasure the greedy group think they have literally struck gold.

When one of their number dives down he emerges not with gold but with his skin melted off and the formless unfeeling fiend of legend is unleashed attacking them all. The team barely escapes taking some of the monster with them as it dissolves the skin of archaeologist Max’s (Gérard Herter) arm.

Back home John becomes obsessed with the centuries old beast experimenting on the sample he saved determined to discover its secrets and origin and save Max who is slowly losing his mind after nearly losing his appendage. Caltiki the Immortal Monster is more of an enigma than John ever imagined and unbeknownst to all of them a long lost prophecy is about to come true bringing with it chaos, death and possibly the end of all existence.

Although credited as being directed by Riccardo Freda the movie is actually described by Italian horror auteur Mario Bava as his very first film after being hired as cinematographer and then being put not only in change of the creatures design but also directing most of the film when Freda left hoping his colleague would finally be recognized for the talent he truly was.

Shot in Black and White Bava’s eye for great shots and horror are both evident with the film feeling far more modern than it actually is. The effects are excellent and quite gruesome including a flesh stripped face and Max’s arm burned down to the bone and although the model work is very dated Caltiki itself, made out of tripe, benefits from its abstract and amorphous design evoking the unknowability of Lovecraftian creatures of the past and the fear of fluid flesh in body horror of the future.

With a relatively short running time the story builds brilliantly bringing together ideas of modern science and ageless history with Bava teasing the viewer of the true power of the pulsating blob until the epic ending which sees John, Ellen and the entire army battling for their lives against the now humongous and seemingly unstoppable Caltiki.

Alongside this is the transformation of the manipulative and spiteful Max into an insane deformed murderer as his injury infects his brain causing deep psychosis and pushing his perverse desire for Ellen into overdrive ultimately taking him on a killing spree to claim her for himself.

More than a Mexican riff on the Mummy legend where the western world upsets something ancient it doesn’t understand Caltiki, the Immortal Monster contains plenty of entertainment and interest to hold the attention of even a modern more cynical audience making it a solid example of classic cult Sci-Horror and a must have for monster movie fans for sure.

Movie Rating: ★

★ ★ ☆ ☆ 

Caltiki the Immortal Monster – The Arrow Video Story:


Alex Humphrey

Alex studied film at the University of Kent and went on to work for Universal Pictures in their Post Room gaining an inside look at the movie industry from the very bottom. Constantly writing reviews in everything from local magazines to Hip Hop sites Alex honed his critical skills even spending a brief period as a restaurant critic. Read more

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