Wednesday, 18 June 2008

The Curse of the Crying Woman (1963)

Rafael Baledón’s The Curse of the Crying Woman (La Maldición de la Llorona) starts off with a scene taken almost directly from Mario Bava’s Black Sunday, released a year or so earlier. The twist here is that in Bava’s film the evil witch-looking woman turns out not to be what you expect, whereas in Baledón’s movie she most certainly is a witch, and a particularly malevolent one. She has the usual plans to gain immense powers, and she also intends to restore to life one of her ancestresses, the finder of a line of witches. To do this she needs the help, willing or unwilling, of the dead witch’s youngest female descendant, Amelia. She summons Amelia and her new husband to her very gothic mansion. It doesn’t take Amelia too long to figure out that her aunt (who looks much younger than she has any right to look) is up to something sinister, but can she thwart her diabolical plot?

Like the other Mexican horror movies I’ve seen, The Curse of the Crying Woman is absolutely dripping with gothic atmosphere – there’s the house itself, there are the spiderwebs, there are the three enormous dogs looking like hounds from Hell, there’s the physically deformed servant who looks exactly like the sort of henchman that a horror movie villain would employ, there’s the ever-present fog, in fact there’s every gothic horror cliché you can think of.

The sheer excessiveness of the atmosphere actually works, aided by some rather nice black-and-white cinematography courtesy of José Ortiz Ramos. The special effects are mostly crude, but fortunately Baledón doesn’t overdo them. The acting is fairly impressive, with Rita Macedo making a wonderful villainess, while Rosita Arenas makes a spirited heroine. It does have a few rather nice touches – the floating eyeballs provide an impressive visual effect. And Baledón keeps the action moving along at a cracking pace.

The Casa Negra DVD release looks superb, which is what we’ve come to expect from this company, and there’s also a commentary track. It’s not quite in the same league as the other Mexican horror movies I’ve seen, The Black Pit of Dr M and The Witch’s Mirror, but it’s a competent and thoroughly entertaining little movie.

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