Caltiki – The Immortal Monster
|Caltiki, The Immortal Monster|
Italian theatrical release poster
|Screenplay by||Filippo Sanjust|
|Story by||Filippo Sanjust|
|Distributed by||Allied Artists|
|81 minutes (76 minutes in the U.S.)|
|Box office||≈₤100 million|
Caltiki, The Immortal Monster (original Italian title: Caltiki, il Mostro Immortale, British title: The Immortal Monster) is a 1959 Italian-American black-and-white science fiction-horror film that was produced by Samuel Schneider and Massimo De Rita and directed by Riccardo Freda and Mario Bava. The film, starring John Merivale, Didi Sullivan, and Gérard Herter, was distributed by Allied Artists.
The film's storyline concerns a team of archaeologists investigating Mayan ruins who come across a creature that is a shapeless, amorphous blob. They manage to defeat it using fire, while keeping a sample of the creature. Meanwhile, a comet is due to pass close to the Earth, the very same comet that passed near the Earth at the time the Mayan civilization collapsed, raising the question: "Is there a connection between the creature and the comet"?
A delirious archaeologist stumbles into his group's camp without his partner, both of whom have been exploring a nearby cave. He quickly goes mad, requiring hospitalization. Their interest piqued by this strange turn of events, the group sets out for the cave.
Once there, they find a deep pool of water, behind which is a large statue of Caltiki, the vengeful Mayan goddess who was ceremonially presented with human sacrifices. Hoping to find artifacts, the group sends one of their own down into the pool. At the bottom, he finds a menagerie of skeletons clad in gold jewelry. Running out of oxygen, he comes back up, clutching as much gold as he can carry. Although wishing that he not go down again, he insists on doing so, suggesting that they could become millionaires from the wealth below. Relenting, they let him descend once more. As he collects more and more treasure, his cable to the surface suddenly begins to move erratically. Fearing for his safety, the group pulls him back to the surface, only to find, upon removing his face mask, that his body has been reduced to a decayed mass over his skeleton.
Moments later, the shapeless creature that attacked him rears up from the pool, attempting to digest anyone within reach. One of the group is briefly caught by the arm but is then rescued. As the team escapes, the shapeless mass begins to crawl out of the cave. Nearby, there is a tanker truck full of gasoline. One of the scientists drives the truck directly into the moving mass, which violently explodes and sets fire to the blob, destroying it.
The team returns to Mexico City to take their injured colleague to a hospital. Still on his arm is a small piece of the blob, which is slowly digesting him. The surgeons carefully remove the creature, wrapping it up. They find that his arm is nothing more than a few moist scraps of flesh still connected to the underlying bones. After further experimenting on the creature, scientists discover that it is a unicellular bacterium that quickly grows when in the presence of radiation. A comet emitting radiation, that crosses Earth's path only once in every 850 years, is quickly approaching. At the comet's closest approach to Earth, the remaining piece of the blob removed during the surgery, begins expanding to an enormous size and reproducing. Unfortunately, the removed sample of creature is stored in the home of expedition member Dr. John Fielding (John Merivale).
While attempting to convince the Mexican government to send its army to destroy the reproducing blobs, Fielding is arrested but manages to escape. A colleague finally convinces the authorities to sound an alarm because the multiplying creatures will soon be beyond even their ability to control. The government marshals a regiment of soldiers equipped with flamethrowers and jeeps and sends them to Dr. Fielding's home. Upon their arrival, they find that the amorphous blobs have continued to multiply and have overrun the house and grounds. Dr. Fielding's wife and child have been forced to hide on a second-floor window ledge to escape being devoured. Fielding arrives just in time to save them, just as the arrayed soldiers lay waste to the creatures with torrents of fire.
- John Merivale as Dr. John Fielding
- Didi Perego as Ellen Fielding
- Gérard Herter as Max Gunther
- Daniela Rocca as Linda
- Giacomo Rossi-Stuart as Prof. Rodriguez's assistant
- Daniele Vargas as Bob (expedition member)
- Vittorio André as Prof. Rodriguez
- Nerio Bernardi as Police inspector
- Arturo Dominici as Nieto (expedition member)
Director Riccardo Freda was angered by the way producers had treated his cinematographer Mario Bava on their previous film, I Vampiri.  Freda concocted a way to push Bava into the director's chair of Freda's next film, Caltiki, The Immortal Monster; he left the project early. Bava had been hired again as the film's cinematographer, while Filippo Sanjust was hired as the film's screenwriter, having co-written Freda's previous film Beatrice Cenci (1956). Along with now being the director and cinematographer, Bava was also responsible for the design of the film's amorphous creature, which was made using tripe.
Freda felt his previous film I Vampiri was unpopular with Italian audiences because of a perception that Italy could not make high-quality genre films. So his future casts were credited to English-language aliases during the film's promotion and in its credits. During the filming of Caltiki, the Immortal Monster, Freda left the project early, forcing Bava to complete the film. Freda felt that this would lead producer Lionello Santi into recognizing Bava's talents as a film director. Bava described Caltiki, The Immortal Monster as "my very first film" while noting that Freda had fled the set "because everything was falling to pieces. I managed to carry it out, patching it up here and there".
In Italy the film was less successful than Freda's and Bava's film I Vampiri, which had grossed ₤125.3 million Italian lire; Caltiki, The Immortal Monster grossed a quarter million lire less. The Italian version of the film has a running time of 81 minutes, while the American release was cut down to 76-minutes. The English-language dub of the film was done in New York by Titras Studios, which dubbed many of the Italian films from this period.
In a contemporary review, The Monthly Film Bulletin commented that "phony sets, bad acting and limitations of a small budget seriously hamper the first half" and that "once the monster asserts itself things begin to liven up." The review concluded that the film was "so incredibly banal that it almost entertains."
AllMovie gave the film a generally positive review, calling it "a neat and compelling science fiction-horror amalgam, squeezing cosmology together with archeology and myth to create a genuinely fascinating and original thriller." In Phil Hardy's book Science Fiction (1984), a review described the film as a "minor outing [...] though the acting is routine and the script leaden, Bava injects a few stylish flourishes."
- List of Italian films of 1959
- List of horror films of the 1950s
- List of science fiction films of the 1950s
- Paul 2005, p. 102.
- Howard 2014, p. 23.
- Howard 2014, p. 24.
- Shipka 2011, p. 24.
- Howard 2014, p. 172.
- Curti 2015, p. 21.
- Shipka 2011, p. 27.
- Mitchell 2001, p. 41.
- Eder, Bruce. "Caltiki - Il Mostro Immortale (1959)". AllMovie. Retrieved 20 November 2015.
- "Immortal Monster, The "(Caltiki, il Mostro Immortale)"". Monthly Film Bulletin. London. 29 (336): 39. 1962. ISSN 0027-0407.
- Hardy 1984, p. 187.
- Curti, Roberto (2015). Italian Gothic Horror Films, 1957–1969. McFarland. ISBN 978-1-4766-1989-7.
- Hardy, Phil, ed. (1984). Science Fiction. New York : Morrow. ISBN 0-688-00842-9.
- Howard, Troy (2014). The Haunted World of Mario Bava. Midnight Marquee Press, Inc. ISBN 978-1-936168-45-3.
- Paul, Louis (2005). Italian Horror Film Directors. McFarland. ISBN 978-0-7864-8749-3.
- Mitchell, Charles P. (2001). The Complete H.P. Lovecraft Filmography. Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 0313316414.
- Shipka, Danny (2011). Perverse Titillation: The Exploitation Cinema of Italy, Spain and France, 1960–1980. McFarland. ISBN 978-0-7864-4888-3.
- Warren, Bill. Keep Watching the Skies: Science Fiction Films of the Fifties, 21st Century Edition. 2009. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company,(First Editions Vol. 1, 1982, Vol. 2, 1986). ISBN 0-89950-032-3