Directed by: Fernando Méndez (The Vampire’s Coffin)
Written by: Ramón Obón (Scream of Death)
Starring: Gastón Santos (Scream of Death), Rafael Bertrand (The Fearmaker), Mapita Cortés, Carlos Ancira (Santo and the Vengeance of the Mummy), Carolina Barret (Scream of Death), Luis Aragón (The Brainiac), Beatriz Aguirre, Antonio Raxel (Santo & Blue Demon vs. Dracula & the Wolfman)
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Dr. Mazali (Bertrand) runs an insane asylum, where he alternates his time between conducting ambiguous experiments on the inmates, and attempting to contact the spirit of his deceased partner, Dr. Jacinto Aldama (Raxel). Aldeman was executed for a crime he did not commit, and Mazali believes that if he can just make contact with Aldeman, then Mazali will unlock the the secret to returning from the dead.
Meanwhile, Aldama’s estranged daughter, Patricia (Cortés), is contacted by a mysterious man, and he tells her to seek out Dr. Mazali, and collect her father’s effects from him. Dr. Mazali is immediately smitten by Patricia, and he convinces her to stay on and work for him. She agrees, though she does not return the doctor’s feelings, as she only has eyes for the dashing young Dr. Eduardo Jiminez (Santos), Dr. Masali’s new intern.
And that question is, “Who the Hell finds Carlos Mencia funny?”
One night, during one of Masali’s experiments, a violent patient tries to escape, and Masali’s assistant, Elmer (Ancira), is critically injured when the patient smashes a jar of acid directly onto his face. Dr. Masali manages to save the orderly, but Elmer is scarred for life, and driven mad as a result. He kills the patient who injured him, inadvertently framing Dr. Masali for the crime, and flees the scene. Unable to cope with his guilt, Elmer flees the scene, leaving Dr. Masali to face the consequences.
Now, Dr. Masali finds himself awaiting execution, and he calls upon the spirit of Dr. Aldama, pleading for the dead man to show him the way to escape death’s icy grasp. Unfortunately, Dr. Masali’s pleas go unanswered, and he realizes there may be no escaping death after all.
Thanks to the success of Blackula, we got all sorts of culture specific
vampire films. This is an image from the Spanish
version of Dracula, Spatula.*
The Black Pit of Dr. M starts off slow, and continues on that way until there are only 20 minutes left to go, at which point the movie picks up considerably, ending with an fairly entertaining and involving conclusion. Unfortunately, there are still 62 interminably slow minutes to slog through before reaching that point, and ultimately, it almost not worth it.
The film spends most of it’s running time trying to build a Gothic atmosphere, but it mostly comes off as melodramatic and silly, with the actors delivering performances that consist of little more than overacting and scenery chewing. It feels more like a soap opera than a horror film, and director Fernando Méndez seems incapable of building any sort of tension or suspense. The film is mostly boring, and it’s very easy to lose interest long before the climax arrives, which is a shame, because it’s a good one.
Okay, seriously, I think Alan Colmes needs to lay off
the plastic surgery and Botox for a while.
It didn’t help that when the film started, it introduced three characters who looked almost exactly alike. As such, it was difficult to follow what was going on, as the viewer has no idea who is who. Not to sound like Mr. Culturally Insensitive White Guy, but the opening scene is Cesar Romero convention. Seriously, the guys had pretty much the exact same hair style, and were wearing the same outfits. Note to costume, hair, and make-up departments; unless they’re supposed to be twins or clones, make sure the actors are easily distinguished from one another by giving them distinct looks. kthxbai!
The actors all acquit themselves well, for the most part, though their performances really feel like they belong on afternoon television. It’s the kind of the thing that would really impress bored housewives, with lots of longing glances and pauses so big you could drive a Mack truck through them. They’re not terrible by any means, but they’re not particularly good either. It’s community theatre level stuff, not something that deserves to be in a movie. Granted, the film was made in a different era, and comes from another culture, but it really doesn’t even feel up to snuff when put against other films of the decade.
Must have been something you said.
Overall, The Black Pit of Dr. M suffers from the same problem as the acting; it’s not a particularly terrible film, but it’s not all that good, either. It’s just kind of boring, and thus not very memorable. Had the entire film managed to maintain the tone of the third act, I would not hesitate to recommend it, but as it is, I would say that this is one you really don’t need to go out of your way to see.
THE SIGHT AND SOUND
According to the case, the film features “completely remastered picture and sound from newly restored vault elements,” and it shows. The picture on this DVD is very nice, with a beautiful black and white transfer presented in 1:33 full frame. Occasionally, there are scratches here and there, but that’s to be expected with a film this old. Whoever is responsible for the transfer did a great job, and they really should be proud of their work here.
The sound is every bit as good as the picture, though it only comes in Dolby Digital Mono 1.0. It may not sound like much, but with this film, it’s all you really need. This is a quiet, somber film, so it’s not like you need sound coming at you from all directions.
“Seriously, don’t delete if from the Tivo. It’s a new episode,
and I have to see how the lovely Ms. Arquette
gets out of trouble this week!”
The disc isn’t what one would call loaded, but it does have a handful of interesting features. First up is a photo essay titled “Mexican Monsters invade the U.S. It’s pretty much what it sounds like; a visual retrospective of Mexican horror films that were brought to the states by exploitation movie maven, K. Gordon Murray. It’s slight, but it’s kind of fun being able to check out some of the great posters and stills from films like Santo vs. the Vampire Women and The Brainiac.
Next up is an exclusive Black Pit rock video composed by 21st Century Art. The video is introduced by founding member, Frank Coleman, who also provides the commentary track for the DVD. The song is a pretty decent jam band tune with a sort of freaky horror vibe. The best way I can describe it is the Grateful Dead by way of Goblin. Unfortunately, the introduction to the video is extremely long and rambling, and you can’t skip it. As good as the tune is, it’s probably not something you’ll want to revisit, as you have to sit through Coleman’s intro each time.
Speaking of the commentary, it’s dry and academic, but it’s pretty informative and fairly interesting nonetheless. It’s worth listening to at least once, but again, probably not something you’ll ever feel compelled to revisit.
Holy crap! Look out behind you! It’s Odd Job!
Rounding out the special features are an essay on director Fernando Méndez written by film historian David Wilt, a biography of star Gaston Santos, the rare original 1961 English continuity script, and the film’s original theatrical trailer.
So as you can see, not a lot, but the company that put this package together was obviously going more for quality over quantity, and they succeeded for the most part, as all of the special features are fairly interesting, and worth checking out at least once.
Boring, but nearly worth checking out just for the above average ending. Just don’t go too far out of your way to see it.
*Yeah, I know this movie is from Mexico, but the joke wouldn’t have worked otherwise. Work with me here.