DirectorRicardo Freda/Mario Bava
Release Date(s)1960 (April 25, 2017)
Studio(s)Allied Artists (Arrow Video)
- Film/Program Grade: B-
- Video Grade: A-
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: A
Caltiki The Immortal Monster (Caltiki, il mostro immortale) may appear, on the surface at least, to be an average, run-of-the-mill creature feature from an era when drive-ins and late night TV broadcasts ran them ad infinitum. Upon closer inspection, however, it reveals itself to be a partially underappreciated piece of work from Mario Bava. Released in 1960, the film was originally directed by Ricardo Freda, but he left the project due to his friendship with Bava and his frustration that no one was hiring Bava to direct more films. Because of his departure, Bava, who was the cinematographer, was tasked with finishing the film.
The plot of Caltiki is fairly straightforward: a group of archeologists make their way through rugged terrain and find remnants of an ancient Mayan civilization. Unfortunately for them, a radioactive, blob-like substance lies in wait, grafting onto anyone that gets in its clutches and removing the skin from their bones. Brought back with them for further analysis, the blob manages to infect one of them while also threatening the lives of one of the archaeologists, including his wife and child, who are held in a grip of terror.
Effective atmosphere and strong visuals are what make Caltiki The Immortal Monster stand up amongst its temporaries. Though much of the film’s reliance on a gelatinous monster makes for some entertaining special effects, some of the dialogue and character moments are ultimately uninteresting, regardless of which language they’re in. There is a love triangle of sorts that eventually works its way into the story somewhat organically, but it cheapens it as a consequence, making it more about the humans and less about the monster – the movie’s most interesting aspect. One thing’s for sure though, the monster itself is pretty disgusting to look at, especially if you suffer from trypophobia. Because there were two directors helming the movie, there are some obvious and not-so obvious touches that both men brought to it, which helps to make it more interesting than most movies of its kind.
Debuting on Blu-ray for the first time in the U.S., Arrow Video’s presentation is sourced from a new 2K restoration from an original (dupe) camera negative. The results are robust, with mostly solid grain levels and an excellent encode, which helps reveal fine texturing and detail in facial features and the special effects. Black levels are deep with great shadow detailing, while gray scaling is well-handled. Brightness and contrast levels are ideal, and there are next to no film artifacts leftover, other than a few minor lines. It’s also a very clean and stable presentation. The audio is presented in Italian, as well as its English overdub, both in mono LPCM. They are well-rendered and potent for mono tracks. Clear, precise dialogue can be heard with some surprising life to the score. Sound effects are also quite clear and strong. Some mild hiss is present, but otherwise, both are clean and satisfying experiences. Optional subtitles are available in English SDH as well.
For the extras, Arrow Video has cooked up a batch of mostly new content. There are two audio commentaries, one with the always great Tim Lucas, Mario Bava connoisseur, and the other with author Troy Howarth; From Quatermass to Caltiki – an interview with author and critic Kim Newman; the Full Aperture version of the film, which exposes all edges of the frame as it was originally shot; a set of Archival Features (The Return of Caltiki – an interview with critic Stefano Della Casa, The Creation of Caltiki – an interview with filmmaker Luigi Cozzi, an introduction to the film by Stefano Della Casa, the U.S. theatrical trailer, a set of U.S. opening titles); a DVD copy; a vintage 54-page French Caltiki photo comic, accessible via the BD-ROM/DVD-ROM content; and a 36-page insert booklet with essays on the film by Kat Ellinger, Roberto Curli, and Tim Lucas.
Despite underperforming in Italy when it was released, Caltiki The Immortal Monster did fairly well in the U.S. where it was released through Allied Artists. It stands today mostly as a museum piece, due in no small part to the men sitting in the directors’ chairs. However, it has enough old school movie charm to hold one’s interest throughout. Arrow Video’s Blu-ray presentation is a worthwhile one. For Mario Bava fans and monster movie fans alike, it’s a gem rescued from the rough.
- Tim Salmons