Year: 1965 Company: Producciones Sotomayor Country: Mexico Runtime: 78′
Director: Alfredo B. Crevenna Writer: Jose Maria Fernandez Unsain Cinematography: Raul Martinez Solares
Music: Raul Lavista Cast: Kitty de Hoyos, Javier Solis, Columbia Dominguez, Jose Elia Moreno, Carlos Cortes
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A woman survives an accident during a tour of some caverns and recounts a terrifying story – that something inhuman killed her husband. Convinced that prehistoric animals must still exist beneath the surface of the Earth and believing the woman’s story to be evidence of just that, professor Diaz contracts a disparate band of adventurers to trek into the uncharted depths of the cavern system in which the man was killed . . .
Well this is certainly an odd one, though one should expect as much from production house Producciones Sotomayor – responsible for the delightfully bizarre musical comedy horror mash-up La Nave de los Monstruos five years earlier. As with that effort, an homage to the 50′s monster boom that had occurred in America a few years previously that referenced everything from Invasion of the Saucer Men to The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, Aventra al Centro de la Tierra has inspirations from all over.
The most notable of these inspirations is Jules Verne’s classic fantasy novel Voyage au centre de la Terre from 1864, from which Aventura takes its title. The barest of the basics of the plot are retained, with a scientist leading an expedition into the depths of the Earth and finding prehistoric animals there, but not without considerable tinkering. Several points also seem to be taken from the 20th Century Fox film version of the story, Journey to the Center of the Earth, from 1959 – notably the discovery of the ruins of a sunken ancient civilization (which remain unexplored here out of budgetary necessity).
While its title indicates adventure, Aventra al Centro de la Tierra is more a straight monster-driven science fiction / horror film than anything else with nods to classic Universal efforts and more recent Roger Corman pictures to be found throughout. Characterizations are typical for the genre – manly men, shrieking women, and a daft elderly professor to hold them all together. The cast is kept busy through a number of diversions, like death-defying climbs along precipitous cave walls and even a poorly-devised love triangle, but it’s obvious that most of the large exploration party is here as monster fodder.
And there are monsters a-plenty to be seen. On the low end are a few incidental creatures – some horribly unconvincing giant bats as well as some endearingly laughable floppy dinosaur puppets here seen alongside stock footage from One Million B.C. and Unknown Island. That staple of the genre, the googly-eyed giant spider, is here as well, only with no ray-gun toting figure of square-jawed masculinity to stop it.
The most satisfying of Aventra al Centro de la Tierra‘s monster assortment are a weird toothy cyclops (likely modeled after the one seen in La Nave de los Monstruos) that poses no end of pesky trouble as it mauls through the outer ranks of the research party and a more mysterious bat-person that seems derived, in personality and action at least, from the Gill-Man from The Creature From the Black Lagoon. While only fully revealed in the final twenty minutes, the bat-person is seen stalking hottie Kitty de Hoyos from the moment the expedition starts, eventually kidnapping her and dragging her back to his lair (a process that, oddly, involves the bat-person swimming with his victim through a previously unseen waterway). His demise likewise echos that of Gill-Man’s from the first Creature film, though there’s little in the way of ambiguity to this army-assisted bullet-heavy ending.
Aventra al Centro de la Tierra is a reasonably produced effort that makes the most of its vast cavern locales (the only sets to speak of are offices early on, and the film lingers on them only briefly) and sparse effects budget, cleverly (and sometimes not so cleverly) intermingling more expensive library effects footage with its own bargain basement variety. Even with apt direction from the prolific Alfredo B. Crevenna (La Loba) and a cast of bankable Mexican genre regulars, it’s the uncredited effects crew that’s really the star of the show. The suit work on display is in league with the similar work done by Paul Blaisdell in the States and the close-up creature make up for the bat person, which allows for a good range of emotion the less animated suit can’t provide, is pretty fantastic.
Thanks to the growth of the immigrant population in America and increasing demand for Spanish language entertainment, the number of obscure Mexican genre treasures available on home video here has grown drastically over the past five years or so. Aventra al Centro de la Tierra has been released to these shores by Xenon in a bare-bones and, unfortunately, subtitles-free edition that is blessedly inexpensive if one is able to avoid the ridiculously marked up Amazon retail price. Transfer quality is on par with similar low-rent releases – a full-frame combo job that’s slightly zoomed in but that still offers an excess of headroom at the top of the frame. The SD transfer looks to be from tape and is a bit soft, but is certainly watchable.
This is another little-known creature feature that I’m perfectly happy to have stumbled upon. While certainly nothing special Aventra al Centro de la Tierra is a fun and surprisingly graphic (for 1965) genre romp that will be a real treat for those monster fans un-daunted by the language barrier it poses. I say see it.
This review is part of the October Monster Mayhem roundtable: