La Momia Azteca

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Half a millennia ago, an Aztec maiden (Rosa Arenas) and a fierce warrior are executed for forsaking the laws of their gods. Then, in the present, Dr. Almada (Ramón Gay) and his girlfriend Flor (Rosa Arenas again) discovers their remains, hoping that the maiden’s sacred breastplate will prove his theory of reincarnation. Little do they know that criminal mastermind The Bat (Luis Aceves Castañeda) is on their trail, hoping to seize lost Aztec gold. Nor are they aware that the mummy of the fierce Aztec warrior has been reanimated to act out the curse of the Aztec gods.

La Momia Azteca or The Aztec Mummy (1957) clearly isn’t anything new to the horror genre. Director Rafel Lopez Portillo and producer/screenwriter Guillermo Calderon draw heavily upon the horror films that Universal made in the thirties, borrowing not just visual aesthetics, but also certain narrative motifs. Elements like the character of The Bat and his subplot are more akin to serials than they are to the horror genre, though in Calderon’s hands they do seem to compliment each other tonally.

La Momia Azteca is most interesting as a sort of reckoning with Mexican history. The “mummy” sub-genre of horror is a versatile narrative means to examine the legacies of conquest, colonialism and imperialism. Though La Momia Azteca never really delves into this aspect of the narrative, it does live sub-textually in the film. The main reason La Momia Azteca never really succeeds as a commentary on Mexico’s history with indigenous peoples is that the pageantry of the flashbacks to Aztec times are ridiculous and absurd. The spectacle of Aztec culture is rendered with all of the accuracy and subtlety of Hindi culture in Robert Siodmak’s The Cobra Woman (1944).

Honestly La Momia Azteca is pretty good for a low budget monster flick. I’d even say that there’s more to enjoy here than in the Ritz Brothers’ classic The Gorilla (1939). La Momia Azteca may not be as atmospheric or visually sophisticated as its cousins at Universal Pictures, but it holds its own. It may even be worth checking out the other two films in this cult classic series.