Friday, July 19, 2019

The Robot vs. The Aztec Mummy

The Robot vs. The Aztec Mummy (aka La Momia Azteca contra el Robot Humano)
Rafael Portillo

Super-criminal The Bat aka Dr. Krupp (Luis Aceves CastaƱeda) wants nothing more than the breastplate and bracelet of the ancient Aztec warrior (and now mummy) Popoca. He hasn’t had much luck in his previous attempts, so this time he settles on building his own remote-controlled robot out of lead shielding… and a dead body.

The Robot vs. The Aztec Mummy is actually the final entry in a trilogy of Aztec mummy films, the other two being The Aztec Mummy (aka La Momia Azteca) (1957), and The Curse of the Aztec Mummy (aka La MaldiciĆ³n de la Momia Azteca) (1957). There is no need to watch the previous two films (although you should because they are fun slices of golden age Mexican movie horror) because out of Robot’s sixty-five minute run, a good thirty-five minutes consists entirely of flashback scenes from the previous two films. It’s all linked together by some narration, but there’s nothing terribly completed going on: there’s a mummy, there’s the bad guy who wants the mummy’s breastplate and bracelet, repeat three times.

Someone has been watching the first half of the movie I see...
What each movie does offer is a slight twist each time on the scenario, the first two movies present the story as a classic Universal style horror movie and a luchador action film respectively. The Robot vs. The Aztec Mummy serves up some science-fiction with the inclusion of a radium powered human corpse in a robot suit. The robot suit is suitably goofy looking with its square body and long arms ending in clamps, but there is something slightly unnerving about seeing it topped with a human head inside the silver domed helmet.

It is some kind of unspoken rule that when a genre movie promises a spectacular showdown that it only happens in the closing moments of the film, and also that is short and that it is underwhelming. (see Sadako vs. Kayako (2016), Friday the 13th part VII: The New Blood (1988), and two dozen Asylum movies featuring one monster fighting with another.)  The Robot vs. the Aztec Mummy honors this tradition with a battle scene consisting of both combatants shoving each other around for two minutes.

"Every time I'm in the middle of my eternal slumber I gotta get up and take a leak."
Even if the individual parts of the movie don’t work, there is a kind of joyous trainwreck in splicing three narratives together along with an equal number of genre conventions. For all their budget constraints, Mexican horror films from this period just ooze with a creepy atmosphere that is filled with dark crypts and misty graveyards. The sound of the mummy shuffling through the dark is an effective horror moment, as is the mummy tossing The Bat into a pit of snakes. One of the Bat’s henchman railing over how the mummy ruined his face is an unexpected emotional beat. There numerous little quirks like this that keep it engaging.

The Robot vs. The Aztec Mummy is a big cheap mess, but there is campy fun happening and just a little bit of legitimate horror to be found. If you are looking for something quirky to fill an hour of your life it is worth digging up.

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