Caltiki – The Immortal Monster (1959)

Consumed by a blob monster!
Consumed by a blob monster!
The flesh is eaten from the skull!
The flesh is eaten from the skull!

A team of archaeologists investigate some Mayan ruins and encounter a blob-like creature that lurks in a cave’s deep pool. This creature begins attacking the team and crawls from the cave, where it is destroyed by fire after a tanker truck full of fuel is crashed into it.

Poster
Poster
Beware! There's a blob in that pool!
Beware! There’s a blob in that pool!

The team returns to Mexico City and one of its members, who had been hurt by the monster, is operated on. A surviving piece of the blob is removed from the patient and it is discovered that radiation causes the monstrous organism to grow larger. This is not good news… because a comet, that emits radiation, is currently crossing Earth’s orbit! Now this remaining piece of the blob starts expanding in size, then begins to subdivide, so it’s up to the Mexican military to take-on these flesh-consuming, viscid blob-creatures with flamethrowers, before the monsters get out of control and become impossible to stop.

The hero (John Merivale) and his wife (Didi Sullivan) should never have taken the surviving piece of Caltiki back to their home...
The hero (John Merivale) and his wife (Didi Sullivan) should never have taken the surviving piece of Caltiki back to their home…
There's a blob on the loose!
There’s a blob on the loose!

Riccardo (THE TERROR OF DR. HICHCOCK) Freda was hired by Galatea Film to direct this early example of Italian science fiction, but he left the project during the filming, leaving Mario (PLANET OF THE VAMPIRES) Bava, who was the movie’s cinematographer and special effects artist, to take over as the (uncredited) director.

It's probably best not to blast the blob with radiation...
It’s probably best not to blast the blob with radiation…

Bava’s contribution to CALTIKI is very clear: a lot of care and attention was obviously put into the making of this modestly-budgeted film on a technical level. I especially love the opening scenes at the Mayan temple, with the glass shots of the ruins and the volcano smoke effects that were created in a water tank.

Effective volcano FX by Mario Bava
Effective volcano FX by Mario Bava
Lobby card
Lobby card

I love blob monster movies! So, of course, I love CALTIKI!

Throbbing blob
Throbbing blob
Poster
Poster

The ancient, single-celled blob monster in CALTIKI – THE IMMORTAL MONSTER is a wonderful Quatermass-inspired creature. Actually, it was made from tripe, the same ingredient used to create the shapeless monster seen at the end of THE QUATERMASS XPERIMENT!

Rampaging blobs wreck a fridge!
Rampaging blobs wreck a fridge!

There are some cool examples of early gore, including faces dissolved down to their skulls, plus some good use of miniatures (okay, I admit the tank models do look like, well, models at the end) and, basically, the movie just looks great, with some atmospheric, shadowy photography.

The skin of a scuba diver's face has been consumed by Caltiki
The skin of a scuba diver’s face has been consumed by Caltiki
Quite a grisly scene for 1959
Quite a grisly scene for 1959
Atmospheric lighting
Atmospheric lighting

One plot thread deals with Max, the injured team member, becoming a bitter, dangerous stalker. It’s a shame that a fair amount of time is spent on this storyline as it just stops us from seeing more blob-related action! Yes – I watched this film for the blobs, not the unhinged psycho-dude!

Scarred Max becomes a psycho
Scarred Max becomes a psycho

It’s worth hunting down Arrow Video’s restored high definition transfer of CALTIKI – THE IMMORTAL MONSTER. It boasts two audio commentaries (by Bava historians Tim Lucas and Troy Howarth), a feature with Kim Newman talking about the movie and 50s Italian genre movies in general, blu-ray & DVD discs, a different ratio version, with Italian and English dubs. The full frame presentation version showcases Bava’s special affects photography without the ratio matting. The restoration has new English subtitles. There are also various archival interviews and a 36 page booklet. Now that’s a nice package!

Arrow Video commissioned Graham Humphreys to provide the new artwork - nice!
Arrow Video commissioned Graham Humphreys to provide the new artwork – nice!
Eaten alive by Caltiki!
Eaten alive by Caltiki!

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