La Nave de los Monstruos (“The Ship of Monsters”) is a 1960 Mexican sci-fi/horror/western film, that was for a long time a much-mocked relic of its era, rife with tin-pot ideas and execution of even lower quality materials. However, to not enjoy this film is to not enjoy life itself.
Beta and Gamma, two voluptuous Venusians on a round trip to their home planet, have been collecting male examples of life from various planets to help rebuild their own planet which has been ravaged by nuclear war. Gamma is the relatively sensible one of the duo and is played by Ana Bertha, star of many low-budget Mexican films of the period; Beta is played by the stunning Lorena Velázquez who can be seen in many Santo and mummy films in the ’60s and ’70s. Also along for the ride are their annoying robot, Torr and their monstrous captives.
Meanwhile, in Chihuahua, Mexico, local cowboy and spinner of tall tales, Lauriano (played by Eulalio ‘Piporro’ González, a popular actor/comedian in both film and TV) is breaking out into the first of many songs we’re treated to, here serenading his horse with his dreams of a lovely lady falling into his arms. Beta and Gamma inevitably land their ship, which is in need of repair, in the vicinity of Lauriano and are eager to quiz him on the locality. To their advantage they are able to freeze him with a device that goes ‘doi-yoi-yoing’ when he mentions something they don’t understand, so they can run it past their ship’s computer. Particularly charming is their definition of a circus: “the animals do the human’s jobs, the humans do the animal’s jobs.”
Whilst they fix their ship, the Venusians store their monsters in a local cave, oddly taking them out of hibernation – clearly a mistake. As the plot progresses, it transpires Beta is actually a vampire (and looks even hotter with fangs!) and when Gamma finds out, Venus HQ decrees she must be disintegrated by morning for sucking the blood of a human. Throwing a strop, she coerces the monsters into helping her overthrow the Earth.
So, the monsters. They all rather resemble the kinds of monsters you would draw when you were around eight years old. This is in no way a negative criticism; they are admittedly poorly constructed but are utterly unique and intriguing, all with their own mini-background stories and quirks. Elsewhere, Torr falls in love with a jukebox and one of the monsters takes his anger out on a cow called Lollabrigida – all of which culminates in a fight scene, a bit more singing and a happily ever after.
Splendid. This is sci-fi horror fantasy as joyous escapism; barmy, ridiculous and cleverer than it may first appear, taking swipes at other films that may have taken themselves unnecessarily seriously.
Daz Lawrence, moviesandmania
Oh and the unforgettable monsters:
Buy Ship of Monsters + El Rata on Spanish language Lionsgate DVD from Amazon.com
Buy Mexploitation Cinema 1957-1977 by Doyle Greene from Mexploitation Cinema: A Critical History of Mexican Vampire, Wrestler, Ape-man and Similar Films, 1957-1977Amazon.co.uk | Amazon.com