Sunday, November 24, 2013

From the Lucha Diaries Vaults: La Invasion de los Muertos (Mexico, 1973)

[Yes, it’s true! The Lucha Diaries is a site dedicated entirely to reviewing classic Mexican wrestling films. If the below example ignites your curiosity, its welcoming maw awaits you.]

The art of filmmaking sure has changed in the last forty years. Take La Invasion de los Muertos, for instance. It was originally intended to be the sequel to El Increible Profesor Zovek, but then Zovek went and got himself killed during a break in filming. If that had happened in this day and age, the producers would have simply created some kind of creepy virtual robot or something to finish Zovek's scenes and nobody who didn't pay attention to the news or care whether or not Zovek was dead would be the wiser.

The producers of La Invasion de los Muertos, however, not having access to that kind of technology, had no choice but to insert a bunch of unrelated footage of Blue Demon standing around in what looks like the boiler room beneath a suburban high school and talking on and on at people to fill out the picture. And the shocking thing is that that really doesn't make La Invasion de los Muertos that much worse. By which I mean to say that La Invasion de los Muertos is pretty fucking awesome.

The film wears its debt to Night of the Living Dead on its sleeve - but to get a sense of what La Invasion de los Muertos is like, you'd have to imagine Night of the Living Dead minus social commentary, realistic characters, suspense, human drama, and gore, and plus a masked wrestler, a portion of Zovek's stage act in which he escapes from a flaming coffin, and comic relief. There are some effectively atmospheric moments -- a scene where Zovek battles a bunch of zombies in an underground cavern, the moment when the zombies first rise from the grave and shuffle en masse through the cemetery -- but the scenes with Blue Demon serve to pretty much scuttle any chance of there being any kind of consistent tone.

It's understandable why the producers turned to Blue in their hour of need -- seeing as he seemed to be pretty much game for anything that was thrown his way -- but why they then chose to use him as little more than a talking head is somewhat mysterious. From what we see, it's as if Blue has moved beyond using his fists and has resolved to subdue his enemies by simply boring them into unconsciousness.

A typical scene (keeping in mind that I had no idea of what was actually being said) will have some official type person coming into the boiler room and reporting some event to Blue, after which Blue will begin to talk, and talk, and talk while we alternately cut to shots of the official looking like he's battling both confusion and the sudden urge to take a nap and Blue's comic relief sidekick mugging and grimacing furiously. (And that comic relief sidekick really represents an impressive low point in the genre, seeing as he can best be described as a Carlos Suarez wannabe.)

The apparent desperation to pad out La Invasion de los Muertos' running time makes you wonder just what the consequences would have been for director Rene Cardona Sr. had he not turned in the film at feature length. Could it be that he would have been … killed? Well, that's the explanation I'm going with, anyway, because it's easy enough to believe that, somewhere behind the scenes, there was a gun to someone's head here -- and the price on that someone's head was the imperative that La Invasion de los Muertos be as much of a clusterfuck as was humanly possible. An entertaining clusterfuck, mind you, but a clusterfuck nonetheless.

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