Caltiki, The Immortal Monster – Review (Arrow Video Blu-ray)
The beautiful thing about reviewing movies is I often get the chance to watch a film I would not have otherwise seen. Caltiki, the Immortal Monster is one such film that would have easily passed under my radar if it wasn’t for the Arrow Video Blu-ray release.
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.
Caltiki was released in theatres in 1959, having been directed by two rather well known Italian directors, Riccardo Freda (The Vampires, The Horrible Dr Hichcock) and Mario Bava (Blood and Black Lace). Freda directed the scenes involving dialogue, and Mario Bava directed all the practical effects scenes, which there are a lot.
The idea behind Caltiki, the Immortal Monster is a conglomeration of different sci-fi/horror films of the time. Most audiences members will quickly recognise the monster as a rip-off of The Blob creature, with the ability to morph in size and consume the flesh instantly off of its victims. Nevertheless, the creature effects by Mario Bava, with his wonderful use of miniatures and often disturbing kill scenes, makes Caltiki stand on its own.
What Caltiki does suffer from is a plot that is a bit scatterbrain. The film bounces back and forth between being a straight monster flick to a stalker movie where one of the creature’s surviving victim ends up going crazy and hunting down a girl he loves while being chased by the police. These scenes intermix with the plot around the blob and its origins and what relation it has to the Mayan culture. It’s all rather ridiculous, but charming in a way. Although, charming may be a bit of stretch when the movie calls one of the female characters a half-breed. Yeesh.
Caltiki ditches originality and opts for fun instead. That fun comes from the keen eye of Mario Bava, the quick pace, and a lean runtime of 76 minutes. The film manages to be an enjoyable way to spend a rainy afternoon.
Of course, the best way to watch the movie on that rainy afternoon is with the fantastic Arrow Video Blu-ray. Arrow Video has restored Caltiki with a 2K transfer, that has cleaned up a lot of the dirt and debris. There are times when the footage comes across a bit rough, but most often the film is impressive looking. The same goes for the Italian audio, which features English subtitles. The Blu-ray also provides an English track, but Arrow Video warns us that the materials to make a proper restoration where lost and advises watching the video in Italian for the best viewing experience.
Special Features are surprisingly on the abundant side when given the age and popularity of the film. We have a new interview with Kim Newman that runs 18 minutes long. Newman discusses the films that inspired Caltiki and is highly enjoyable to listen to him talk. We also have not one but two new audio commentaries and a helping of archival interviews. Not be missed is the collector’s booklet with even more additional information to peruse.
Caltiki, the Immortal Monster is a fun film thanks mostly in part to Mario Bava, and his incredible special effects work and his keen eye for what looks good. As previously mentioned, the story is rather laughable, but the quick pace and interesting creature are what makes Caltiki worth watching over and over. The Arrow Video Blu-ray is a worth a purchase.
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 Colours 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