Blu-ray Movie Review – Caltiki the Immortal Monster (1959)

Caltiki the Immortal Monster
Directed by Riccardo Freda (as Robert Hampton) & Mario Bava (as John Foam)
Courtesy of Arrow Video & MVD Distribution
Original Year of Release: 1959
Blu-ray Release Date: April 25, 2017

I would wager many horror fans like me consider the 50s and 60s to be the building block years of modern day horror. Many iconic directors cut their teeth during these decades, and most of the films they made are still very much relevant today. Italian horror legend Mario Bava is one of these filmmakers, and his “collaboration” with director Riccardo Fred in making CALTIKI THE IMMORTAL MONSTER helped define his trademark style.

CALTIKI THE IMMORTAL MONSTER is one of those classic, black and white giant monster movies that were popular during that time, but it still has merit today. With an interesting premise and some clever special effects, the movie is a lot of fun and very entertaining. Granted, it’s obviously dated in many aspects, but the tension and terror still remain. If you’re any kind of horror fan, you’ll want to add this title to your collection immediately.

If you are not familiar with CALTIKI THE IMMORTAL MONSTER, here is the synopsis courtesy of Arrow Video & MVD Distribution:

Arrow Video presents a collaboration between two giants of Italian cult cinema Riccardo Freda (The Vampires, The Horrible Dr Hichcock) and Mario Bava (5 Dolls for an August Moon, Blood and Black Lace)!

A team of archaeologists led by Dr John Fielding (John Merivale, Circus of Horrors) descends on the ruins of an ancient Mayan city to investigate the mysterious disappearance of its inhabitants. However, the luckless explorers get more than they bargained for when their investigation of a sacrificial pool awakens the monster that dwells beneath its waters the fearsome and malevolent god Caltiki.

Though Riccardo Freda received sole directing credit, a significant portion of the film was in fact the work of Mario Bava, who also served as its cinematographer and was responsible its striking special effects. Drawing on a diverse array of influences, from The Quatermass Experiment to the works of HP Lovecraft, Caltiki the Immortal Monster is a unique and unforgettable sci-fi chiller which showcases these two legendary filmmakers at their most inventive. Presented here for the first time in a newly restored high definition transfer, Caltiki shines and terrifies like never before!

I honestly wasn’t expecting to enjoy this film as much as I did. It’s very engrossing, and it pulls you in pretty much from the start. This is one movie I’ll probably revisit again soon.

As mentioned, CALTIKI THE IMMORTAL MONSTER is shot in black and white, but that actually adds a lot of dimension to the film. The special effects work better as a result, and the underwater scenes are truly chilling. The HD transfer looks simply amazing. Many films from that time period have only cruddy copies, full of screen pops and fuzziness. Not so here. The restoration looks excellent, and the Blu-ray gives this film a very nice upgrade.

The acting is pretty decent, although it is crammed full of the overly dramatic characterizations that plagued films of that time period. Still, the cheesiness is part of the film’s charm, and I got a particular kick out of watching Didi Sullivan portray the “damsel in distress” wife, Ellen; Sullivan is the typical suburban housewife, yet her character appears very frail and waiflike.

The special effects in CALTIKI THE IMMORTAL MONSTER are surprisingly good. I was wondering if we would get a hokey, gel-filled bag rolling around on the floor as the monster. Thankfully, the filmmakers got inventive and created a realistic, life-like, “pulsing” creature. There’s also a bit of gore, which looks gruesome. Of particular note is when fellow scientist Max has his arm partially dissolved by the monster’s saliva. This looks very real and is a sight to behold.

CALTIKI THE IMMORTAL MONSTER is an aged masterpiece, and I highly suggest giving it a look. It is an interesting glimpse into Bava’s training years, and it helps showcase the massive talent that would quickly emerge. In addition to the film, the Blu-ray boasts some great special features, including:

SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS:
• Brand new 2K restoration of the film from the original camera negative
• High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations
• Original mono Italian and English soundtracks (lossless on the Blu-ray Disc)
• Newly translated English subtitles for the Italian soundtrack
• Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing for the English soundtrack
• New audio commentary by Tim Lucas, author of Mario Bava: All the Colors of the Dark
• New audio commentary by Troy Howarth, author of The Haunted World of Mario Bava and So Deadly, So Perverse: 50 Years of Italian Giallo Films
• From Quatermass to Caltiki, a new discussion with author and critic Kim Newman on the influence of classic monster movies on Caltiki
• Riccardo Freda, Forgotten Master, an archival interview with critic Stefano Della Casa
• The Genesis of Caltiki, an archival interview with filmmaker Luigi Cozzi
• Archival introduction to the film by Stefano Della Casa
• Alternate opening titles for the US version
• Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Graham Humphreys
FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector s booklet featuring new writing by Kat Ellinger and Roberto Curti

The film will be available tomorrow, so make a note.

MSB

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