In the mid-'50s, on the trailing edge of the Mexican cinema's storied “Golden Age,” stark realities began to transform Mexico’s motion picture industry. Economic downturns rapidly led to nationalization, the introduction of production and distribution quotas, slashed budgets, censorship and highly bureaucratic production practices. One of the most intriguing products to emerge from this restrictive atmosphere, “Mexploitation,” combined elements of several popular genres to efficiently churn out mass entertainment with pre-sold appeal. Monsters, mad scientists, space ships, robots and shapely space-women now shared the screen with the charros and campesinos of Mexico’s romantic past; the mummies and Spanish nobles of its colonial and pre-colonial legacies; and the modern, masked, “lucha libre” wrestlers who had fast become the leading heroes of working class entertainment. These sci-fi and fantasy culture jams proved enormously popular and remained a staple of Mexico’s commercial cinema until the mid-1970s. Hilarious and endearing for their rock-bottom production values, stilted acting and gimmicky devices, the films are also a treasure-trove of information about Mexico’s ambivalence toward tradition, modernity, religion, ethnicity, sex roles and economic development—tensions which persist to this day.
La Nave de los monstruous
(The Monsters’ Ship)
PROD: Jesús Sotomayor Martínez. DIR: Rogelio A. González. SCR: Alfredo Varela. CINE: Raúl Martínez Solares. EDIT: Carlos Savage. CAST: Eulalio González, Ana Bertha Lepe, Lorena Velázquez, Consuelo Frank, Manuel Alvarado.
The last man on Venus has died. Beta and Gamma, two Venusian women, have been sent on an intergalactic mission collecting bizarre male specimens from throughout space. And a monstrous collection they are too, all scales and fangs and exposed brains. An emergency crash landing in Chihuahua, Mexico puts the Venusian women face to face with handsome Laureano and his brother Chuy. Beautiful Beta is enthralled by Laureano’s good looks and sweet singing, but Gamma is set on conquering Earth, using her captive “men” as soldiers. Laureano takes it all in stride, an attitude befitting this Norteño. But can he prevail against the extraterrestrial goons? Or the Venusian beauties themselves? (We haven’t mentioned their vampire-like bloodsucking… but this should give you enough to work with.) (35mm, b/w, subtitles, 81 min.)
Funded by the UCLA Arts Initiative and co-presented with the UCLA Film & Television Archive.
Public programs are made possible, in part, by a major gift from Ann and Jerry Moss.
Additional support is provided by Bronya and Andrew Galef, Good Works Foundation and Laura Donnelley, an anonymous donor, and the Hammer Programs Committee.