What are the odds of a Mayan comet showing up at exactly the worst moment? Pretty good in cheeseball sci-fi.
Caltiki—The Immortal Monster was an Italian production originally titled Caltiki il mostro immortale, but made in English starring Canadian actor John Merivale in a tale revolving around Guatemala's Tikal ruins. We used to live in Guatemala and visited the Mayan ruins at Tikal, so we simply had to watch this movie. But the actual ruins shown are an amalgam of pyramids and what look like buttes and rock spires from the southwest U.S. There's a volcano thrown in there too, though Tikal is flat rain forest and low lying swamps. Creative license, we suppose. It all looks kind of otherworldly, which we guess was the goal, so nice work by the efx department.
The basics of this story are that there's a legendary Mayan monster or goddess in a lake, and when a group of scientists is attacked, one of them returns to Mexico City with a piece attached to his arm. Doctors manage to carve off a sample and learn that radiation makes it grow. They of course keep the piece safely stowed away, but unfortunately a highly radioactive comet spoken of in Mayan lore choses that week to pass close to Earth. It only comes once every 1,352 years, so this is really unfortunate timing on the comet's part, but that's just Maya luck. Celestial bodies are nothing if not implacable and aloof. The lake specimen is irradiated, grows to monstrous size, and oozes terrifyingly across the city.
But the solution to this problem isn't so difficult. Fire kills Caltiki, so it's really just a matter of directing some flames onto the beast. Cue flamethrowers, army guys, and soundtrack tympani. Caltiki turns into a Caltiki torch then goes down like an undercooked soufflé. This is b-sci-fi at its goofiest, but we'll admit the blob effects are actually pretty cool, aided as they are by the fact that all of them take place at night. Mario Bava, who is uncredited but actually did most of directing here, does a decent job and the acting is passable. Recommended? We wouldn't go that far. Caltiki—The Immortal Monster premiered in Italy in 1959 and reached the U.S. today in 1960.
Seeing him so peaceful almost makes me forget how much I'm going to enjoy humiliating and torturing him.
Above, a July 1966 cover of the Mexico City-based true crime magazine Mundo Policiaco, with a random male about to have his blissful slumber interrupted by a gun toting femme fatale. The text says, “He called for help for seven hours.” The art is by the as yet unidentified A.Z., whose signature you can see cleverly placed on the carpet border. We find this failure to credit the painter annoying, especially since others got their names on the masthead, from director Alberto Ramirez de Aguilar on down. Oh well. Moving on, the insides of these have no illustrations, just unattributed black and white photos and a lot of text, though the rear covers are sometimes painted. Magazines of this type were generally called nota roja. Want one of your own? We've seen them online for about $300.
Ericsson robot bridges the communication gap.
This interesting photo of a giant robot holding a telephone was shot in Mexico City and documents an advertising effort from the Swedish communications company Allmänna Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericsson, known in Mexico as simply Teléfonos Ericsson. The robot was one of many temporarily suspended above the streets of Mexico City's historic center around 1930. Want to see another 1930s promotional robot? Check out Elektro.
Lina shows off her elegant lean.
Evangelina Elizondo was born in Mexico City and worked during the golden age of Mexican cinema, which was between 1936 and 1959, according to most sources. In addition to appearing in dozens of films, she recorded a couple of albums, wrote a couple of books, and remains active today, at least online. The above photo, with its striking noir style and leaning pose that has to be more difficult than it looks, dates from around 1955.
Aren’t you a little old for this sort of thing?
Bernard Wolfe is known for several reasons, not least of them for being Leon Trotsky’s personal secretary in Mexico City, but he was also a novelist of wide-ranging interests. Come On Out, Daddy was his Hollywood book, about a New York author who moves out west to cash in on an easy screenwriting job. While making a couple thousand dollars a week for doing very little he runs into the usual assortment of jaded Tinseltown characters—from big stars to little wannabes—and trysts with an assortment of disposable beauties before of course meeting the woman of his dreams. It’s episodic due to it being partly cobbled together from short stories published in Playboy and Cavalier, but reasonably well regarded as a cultural satire. Life described it as “garrulously and surrealistically told by a huge cast of people in varying stages of corruption.” 1963 on the hardback, and 1964 on the above, with cool cover art by James Meese.
Once upon a time in old Mexico.
Mexico’s old west mythology is as strong as the U.S.’s, probably owing to the fact that most of the old west actually was Mexico at one point. That love of western stories comes across strongly in these cover paintings made for Mexico’s 1970s and 1980s comic book market. Many of them were made for the series Sensacional de Vaquero, or Sensational Cowboy, published by Mexico City-based Editorial EJEA, which was founded by Everardo Flores. The scenes depicted are incredibly chaotic and violent—everybody that can be killed, seemingly, is killed, including horses and innocent bystanders. The backgrounds of some of the scenes are interesting, and are worth taking a close look at. The creators here have names such as Beton, Nique, and Jaime S., while others we cannot identify because their signatures, while stylish, are illegible. The art is perhaps not of the quality seen on pulp novels, but it’s certainly effective. Twenty total scans for your enjoyment, and you can see a few examples here, here, and here.
If they aren’t in your city already, they’ll be there soon.
We would love to have been part of this. Yesterday Mexico City had their annual La Marcha Zombie, or Zombie Walk, with the goal of setting a new record for the number of zombies (held by Buenos Aires, which had assembled 25,000 shambling undead just a few days earlier). As you might deduce, zombie walks are growing more popular globally, and have been staged in places as far flung as Vancouver, Pittsburgh, Mar de Plata, Exeter, Santiago, and Singapore. According to Wikipedia, the first walk was held in Sacramento, California in 2001, and now hundreds of cities have them. Perhaps in a decade or two, social scientists will tell us the complex reasons behind the rise of zombie walks, i.e., the trampling of individuality in the modern world, the rise of ravenous greed and the death of caring, etc., and that, ironically, one day sooner than most people think, the masses will rise up and destroy the elite few that have enslaved them. Okay, maybe that last part is just what we think. But complex reasons aside, from our non-scientific perspective, we’d do a zombie walk just because it looks fun. And do you think there’s any zombie sex going on afterward? Why of corpse there is.
A politics-free Olympiad? Only in our dreams.
Something we've had lying around for two years, this is the week we finally get to share this Japanese poster for the 1968 Summer Olympic Games in Mexico City. History books and our fathers tell us what a turbulent Olympiad that was. It was the height of Vietnam and the civil rights struggle, and African American runners Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised up a black power salute on the medal podium while the U.S. national anthem was played. That is the event many seem to remember, but of great importance was the Mexican government’s massacre of unarmed student protestors in the Tlatelolco barrio of Mexico City. Although it happened before the Olympics began, the protest was tied to the games because part of the students’ dissatisfaction had to do with the Mexican government’s spending of the equivalent of $7.5 billion to stage the event. Meanwhile, in Europe, the Soviet Union had invaded Czechoslovakia, prompting medal winner Vera Caslavska to turn her head away during the playing of the Soviet anthem. 1968—you wouldn’t really call it a good year. But at least we have this good poster.
Wolves of the city.
More random Mexican goodness today, this time a photo of an unnamed woman stoically braving the wolf-filled streets of Mexico City, circa 1950. We absolutely love these shots, though clearly, the model probably had to shower for six hours just to feel clean again. Leave it to men to turn a simple afternoon stroll into a testosterone obstacle course. Four more images of the same person below.
Note: She has been identified as Mexican movie and television actress Maty Huitrón.
One of the most striking artifacts of the jazz age survives not in the U.S., but in Mexico.
During our constant search for pulp we often come across interesting images and above is a prime example. It’s a shot taken inside the Mexico City nightclub El Salón Colonia, circa 1935, where the drinks were cold, the band was hot, and the stage decorations were… racist? Well, not necessarily. In the Mexico of that time the laughing ebony mask you see would not have struck the same discordant racial notes as in the U.S. Mexican culture is sprinkled with black saints and icons, and even blackface characters that appear on television when you least expect it. The owners of El Salón Colonia were clearly indulging in the timeless tradition of co-opting African-American flavor for cool effect. The phenomenon occurred in many places, notably in Europe, where early jazzmen would later tour, awed at the respect locals had for their music, culture, and style. Style-wise, El Salón Colonia’s mask was more than just striking—it was incredibly clever. As you can see in the 1935 photo, a piano stood in its open mouth, and its lower lip acted as a piano bench. Surprisingly, the mask survives today, residing at the Museo de Juguete Antiguo in Mexico City. While it certainly shocks the few Americans that wander through, for older Mexicans it’s simply a beloved reminder of those hot nights at a once great club.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1950—Alger Hiss Is Convicted of Perjury
American lawyer Alger Hiss is convicted of perjury in connection with an investigation by the House unAmerican Activities Committee (HUAC), at which he was questioned about being a Soviet spy. Hiss served forty-four months in prison. Hiss maintained his innocence and fought his perjury conviction until his death in 1996 at age 92.
1977—Carter Pardons War Fugitives
U.S. President Jimmy Carter pardons nearly all of the country's Vietnam War draft evaders, many of whom had emigrated to Canada. He had made the pardon pledge during his election campaign, and he fulfilled his promise the day after he took office.
1915—Claude Patents Neon Tube
French inventor Georges Claude patents the neon discharge tube, in which an inert gas is made to glow various colors through the introduction of an electrical current. His invention is immediately seized upon as a way to create eye catching advertising, and the neon sign
comes into existence to forever change the visual landscape of cities.
1937—Hughes Sets Air Record
Millionaire industrialist, film producer and aviator Howard Hughes sets a new air record by flying from Los Angeles, California to New York City in 7 hours, 28 minutes, 25 seconds. During his life he set multiple world air-speed records, for which he won many awards, including America's Congressional Gold Medal.
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