Film (1959, released 1960 US). Climax Pictures/Allied Artists Pictures. Produced by Sam Schneider and Bruno Vailati. Directed by Riccardo Freda and Maria Bava (uncredited). Written by Filippo Sanjust (credited as Philip Just). Special effects by Bava (credited as Marie Foam). Cast includes Gérard Herter, John Merivale, Danielle Rocca and Didi Sullivan. 76 minutes. Black and white.
While in Mexico, archaeologists Dr John Fielding (Merivale) and his wife Ellen (Sullivan), along with Max Gunter (Herter) and his wife Linda (Rocca), meet an explorer who stumbles into their camp rambling about a cave of treasures. They investigate and find a statue of the Mayan death goddess Caltiki above a deep pool. The pool was used for human sacrifice, with much gold and jewels among victims' skeletons at its bottom. Max dives down and retrieves some treasure, but disturbs a blob-like Monster which surfaces and attacks the party. They crash their nearby gasoline supply truck into the creature, destroying it in the resulting inferno, but not before Linda is killed. Max loses the flesh of one arm to the creature.
Back in Mexico City, traces of creature taken from the remains of Max's arm – now only bone – are identified as a mass of unicellular bacteria and saved for research. Max becomes deranged. It is found that radiation makes the bacteria grow, and that a Comet currently passing very near the Earth was last seen around the time of the Mayan civilization's collapse. Perhaps comet radiation stimulates the creature? Absorbing radiation in the laboratory, the thing does indeed grow and even reproduce; blobs begin to overrun Fielding's home. He tries to warn the authorities, but is jailed instead, until confirmation of the creatures arrives. Mexican military units are dispatched with flame-throwers. Max, still mad, arrives at Fielding's house just ahead of the monster and is about to kill Ellen. But a blob consumes him, and the military destroys the monsters before they can do further harm.
The monster's flesh-consuming attacks, leaving its victims' bones behind, are particularly graphic for the period. Caltiki is possibly the first film directed by Bava, after Freda walked away for uncertain reasons. [GFi]
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