One might be tempted to call this an Italian copy of a Mexican horror film. But that would be almost completely wrong.
At first glance, we have the usual archaeological dig, a horrible idol, talk of an ancient Mayan god, and the disappearance of the Mayan people. Familiar territory, right?
Except that this time it isn’t an Aztec mummy which is released from that temple.
Instead this is a marvelously atmospheric take on the giant blob monster.
Now there’s a bit of a legend about this one: the director, Riccardo Freda, walked out on the production and left his cinematographer, Mario Bava (who would become one of the greatest Italian directors), in charge, as he did earlier on I Vampiri. Freda claims that he did this to give Mario a chance to direct. However, while Mario insisted that he only did some of the editing, that hasn’t stopped people from claiming that Bava directed this one. He does seem to have worked on the special effects in the stunning final sequence, though.
But, as you’d expect, the film looks great.
That final sequence is the showstopper in this solid Italian “B” Monster movie: the creature starts growing out of control and rampages through a large villa. The model work is incredible and they manage to make a big, shapeless blob a horrific menace as it bursts through walls and climbs up through the house. From what I’ve heard, the creature was made of cloth and tripe (the edible lining of the stomach): it looks very organic, but apparently the entire set stank!
As it has been some time since I saw this one, it came as a bit of a surprise to recognize that it also references The Quatermass Experiment, as a character with a badly damaged arm escapes from the hospital, and the police hunt for him as he becomes more and more deranged.
Caltiki is one of the best blob movies ever made, far better than the 1958 original. Not that that is saying much as The Blob is a minor effort, despite the way its monster has caught the public imagination! Sadly, Caltiki isn’t very well known, even though it is one of the classics of the Fifties monster movie — and perhaps the best Italian monster movie ever made (not that there are many contenders).
As it is, Caltiki isn’t well known and might be hard to find a good copy.
But it doesn’t matter. Even the pale and faded copies of this film that are out there are well worth seeing.
Whether Mario Bava directed it or not.