Caltiki, The Immortal Monster is a rare beast: an Italian science fiction film. It came out at the tail end of the ‘atomic scare’ film era, and it’s basically a rip-off of The Blob, which had been released the previous year. It’s debatable whether the filmmakers had actually seen The Blob when they made it—they could’ve just been ripping off the poster!
It’s set down in the desert in Mexico, where archaeologists are investigating some Mayan ruins and soon stumble upon Caltiki, a monster that the Mayans had considered a god. The creature is a blob, and they seem to succeed in destroying it, but one of the men made contact with the blob so there is a piece of it remaining. They keep the sample, and we all know that’s not a very good idea… Caltiki is soon on the rampage, and Dr. John Fielding, in whose house the sample has been stored, must convince the government to the send in the troops.
The film’s credited director was Riccardo Freda, but at least half of it was actually shot by Italian horror maestro Mario Bava, who is credited as cinematographer. It’s been revealed over the years that Bava was responsible for most if not all of the special-effects footage, which is about half of the film, but it’s rumoured that he directed a bit more as well. It certainly has some of the hallmarks of the gothic horror he would create in other movies, with some beautiful shadows and absolutely gorgeous matte paintings in the opening.
Caltiki is a fairly effective sci-fi monster movie for its time. It has a bit of a Lovecraftian vibe, probably from Bava, who knew his Lovecraft—even though, as Kim Newman says in his interview on the disc, the perceived influence is probably exaggerated. It’s more obviously influenced by the Quatermass films, which are often considered Lovecraft copies. However, as Newman also says, the Quatermass series’s creator Nigel Kneale had probably never even heard of Lovecraft when he created Quatermass.
Caltiki, The Immortal Monster moves at an extremely quick pace across 76 minutes, and so does not overstay its welcome. The disc is fairly packed, with both the English and Italian dubs, commentaries from two different Bava biographers, and the aforementioned interview with Kim Newman. Some archival interviews, the trailers and more are also included.