Beginning August 14, the Hammer Museum and the UCLA Film & Television Archive join forces to present Aztec Mummies & Martian Invaders: Mexican Sci-Fi Classics, a three-weekend series of black-and-white films from the ’50s and ’60s that must be seen to be believed. Not often screened north of the border, Mexican sci-fi and horror films are known to U.S. viewers (if at all) through broadcast on UHF stations, yet many of them are slickly done in a classic style that harkens back to Universal’s horror films of the 1930s and 1940s. Besides the Aztec Mummy and the Martian invaders. the Human Robot and the masked wrestler Santa will be on view.
The series screens at the Billy Wilder Theater in the Hammer Museum. The address is 10899 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90024. Call (310) 206-8013 for more info.
Admission is free.
Read more from the official webpage below.
In the mid-‘50s, on the trailing edge of the Mexican cinema’s storied “Golden Age,” stark realities began to transform Mexico’s motion picture industry. Economic downturns rapidly led to nationalization, the introduction of production and distribution quotas, slashed budgets, censorship and highly bureaucratic production practices. One of the most intriguing products to emerge from this restrictive atmosphere, “Mexploitation”, combined elements of several popular genres to efficiently churn out mass entertainment with pre-sold appeal. Monsters, mad scientists, space ships, robots and shapely space-women now shared the screen with the charros and campesinos of Mexico’s romantic past; the mummies and Spanish nobles of its colonial and pre-colonial legacies; and the modern, masked, “lucha libre” wrestlers who had fast become the leading heroes of working class entertainment. These sci-fi and fantasy culture jams proved enormously popular and remained a staple of Mexico’s commercial cinema until the mid-1970s. Hilarious and endearing for their rock-bottom production values, stilted acting and gimmicky devices, the films are also a treasure-trove of information about Mexico’s ambivalence toward tradition, modernity, religion, ethnicity, sex roles and economic development—tensions which persist to this day.
Friday August 14 2009, 7:30PM ( Free Admission )
Join us in the courtyard on opening night for a post-screening fiesta, featuring music and a cash bar!
LA MOMIA AZTECA CONTRA EL ROBOTO HUMANO (The Aztec Mummy vs. The Human Robot) (1957, Mexico) Directed by Rafael Portillo
The sinister Dr. Krupp covets the ancient treasure guarded for centuries by the dread Aztec mummy Popoca. Dr. Almada, a modern Mexican scientist, tells his incredulous colleagues about Krupp’s earlier attempts to hypnotize Almada’s beautiful fiancée Flor into stealing the treasure. The final confrontation in a cemetery between the mummy and Krupp’s metallic robot (both of them more kooky than menacing) is a spectacle reminiscent of Ed Wood. Can Krupp’s tin monstrosity finally rob Mexico of its ancient patrimony, or will Popoca vanquish the evil invader? Producer: Guillermo Calderón. Screenplay: Guillermo Calderón, Alfredo Salazar. Cinematographer: Enrique Wallace. Cast: Ramón Gay, Rosa Arenas, Ángel di Stefani, Crox Alvarado, Luis Aceves Castañeda. Presented in Spanish dialogue with English subtitles. 35mm, B/W, 65 min.
Friday August 21 2009, 7:30PM ( Free Admission )
EL SEXO FUERTE (The Strong Sex) (1946, Mexico) Directed by Emilio Gómez Muriel
A fascinating, 1940s precursor to Mexico’s later sci-fi craze, this art deco fantasy imagines a parallel world to macho Mexico. After a shipwreck, Adan—a handsome “charro” from Guadalajara—and his dashing Spaniard friend Curro, wash ashore on the island of Eden, a land where women are waited upon hand and foot by men. This social order is threatened when Queen Eva XLV falls in love with her guapo visitor Adan, even adopting his curious Mexican ways to win him. A rare peek into an alternate universe, with sexual politics surprisingly little changed. Screenplay: Humberto Gómez Landero, Miguel Morayta. Cinematographer: Agustín Martínez Solares. Editor: Jorge Bustos. Cast: Mapy Cortés, Ángel Garasa, Rafael Baledón, Alma Rosa Aguirre, Emperatriz Carvajal. Presented in Spanish dialogue with English subtitles. 35mm, B/W, 81 min.
Sunday August 23 2009, 7:00PM* ( Free Admission )
EL PLANETA DE LAS MUJERES INVASORAS (The Planet of Female Invaders) (1965, Mexico) Directed by Alfredo B. Crevenna
The female inhabitants of the planet Sibila want to invade Earth, but in order to breathe the Earth’s atmosphere for more than a day, it’s necessary to create breathing adaptors from the lungs of living humans. A vanguard force comes to Earth seeking human specimens. Landing near an amusement park on Earth, they manage to disguise their ship as an innocent ride, thereby trapping several Earthlings and bringing them to Sibila. This sets up an intergalactic confrontation that pits rational, masculine, scientifically advanced Mexico against hysterical, overdressed and over-coiffed, feminine outer space. Seguro, it’s clear what has to happen. Producer: Emilio Gómez Muriel. Screenplay: Emilio Gómez Muriel, Alfredo Ruanova. Cinematographer: Alfred Uribe. Editor: Raul J. Casso. Cast: Lorena Velázquez, Elizabeth Campbell, Maura Monti, Guillermo Murray, Adriana Roel. Presented in Spanish dialogue with English subtitles. 35mm, B/W, 85 min.
* Please note the early start time.
Friday August 28 2009, 7:30PM ( Free Admission )
LA NAVE DE LOS MONSTRUOUS (The Monsters’ Ship) (1959, Mexico) Directed by Rogelio A. González
The last man on Venus has died. Beta and Gamma, two Venusian women, have been sent on an intergalactic mission to collect bizarre male specimens from throughout space. And a monstrous collection they are too, all scales and fangs and exposed brains. An emergency crash landing in Chihuahua, Mexico puts the Venusian women face to face with handsome Laureano and his brother Chuy. Beautiful Beta is enthralled by Laureano’s good looks and sweet singing, but Gamma is set on conquering Earth, using her captive “men” as soldiers. Laureano takes it all in stride, an attitude befitting this Norteño. But can he prevail against the extraterrestrial goons? Or the Venusian beauties themselves? (We haven’t mentioned their vampire-like bloodsucking… but this should give you enough to work with.) Producer: Jesús Sotomayor Martínez. Screenplay: Alfredo Varela. Cinematographer: Raúl Martínez Solares. Editor: Carlos Savage. Cast: Eulalio González, Ana Bertha Lepe, Lorena Velázquez, Consuelo Frank, Manuel Alvarado. Presented in Spanish dialogue with English subtitles. 35mm, 81 min.
Saturday August 29 2009, 7:30PM ( Free Admission )
SANTO VS. LA INVASION DE LOS MARCIANOS (Santo the Silver Mask vs. The Martian Invasion) (1967, Mexico) Directed by Alfredo B. Crevenna
Extraterrestrials invade Earth seeking human specimens. Announcing themselves in apocalyptic television broadcasts, then tele-transporting themselves to private homes and public sporting events, the platinum-bewigged, mylar-clad, macho Martians, backed by scantly dressed female beauties as counterparts, kidnap select humans, obliterating others with vaporizing rays. But heroic masked wrestler “Santo” neutralizes the invaders with his incredible wrestling prowess, after respectfully consulting a famous scientist and the local priest—thus mediating between Mexico’s high-tech future and its traditional past to restore peace and order to the nation. ¡Bien hecho, luchador! Producer: Alfonso Rosas Priego. Screenplay: Rafael García Travesi. Cinematographer: Jorge Stahl Jr.. Editor: Abraham Cruz. Cast: Santo , Wolf Ruvinskis, El Nazi , Beni Galan, Eva Norvind. Presented in Spanish and English dialogue. 35mm, 85 min.