Pete Tombs, co-author of Immoral Tales and author of the incredible Mondo Macabro, chose 2002 as the kick-off year for his own UK-based DVD label, Mondo Macabro, spotlighting the wildest pieces of celluloid from around the world. The trio of PAL discs that debuted the line included Jose Mojica Marins' AWAKENING OF THE BEAST, Paul Naschy's DR. JEKYLL AND THE WEREWOLF, and Juan Lopez Moctezuma's ALUCARDA. All three are worthy, if not essential, additions to a cult film fan's collection, but the crown jewel of the collection was ALUCARDA, which made my list of Top 10 Discs of 2002. A film that has been released on U.S. home video with a variety of different titles (MARK OF THE DEVIL 3, INNOCENTS FROM HELL, SISTERS OF SATAN), the Mondo Macabro disc burst forth with vibrant color and superb audio quality. Tombs has since established Mondo Macabro USA, his State-side branch of the label, and the debut release is a much better-looking version of ALUCARDA, with a brand-new batch of extras and a spiffier transfer well worth the upgrade.
In an abandoned monastery, a young girl gives birth to a daughter; after she allows a witch to whisk her away to a nearby convent, evil forces close in on the woman. 16 years later, innocent Justine arrives at the convent after her parents pass away. She befriends Alucarda, the baby girl from the prologue, all grown up, dressed in black, and a bizarre creature indeed. The two girls encounter a hunchbacked gypsy who introduces them to Satan worship, and after Alucarda unleashes the spirits which killed her mother, the forces possess the two girls, resulting in some of the most outrageous horror setpieces you'll ever see!
Moctezuma, a collaborator with Jodorowsky (who claims Moctezuma stole money from him to make his films!) and one of the creators of the infamous Panic Theatre, has created a minor masterpiece with ALUCARDA. Those who associated Mexihorror with Santo monster pics are in for a rude awakening with this baby. But the film is still just as wild as those films and then some! As Michael Weldon points out in his review for the film in Psychotronic, you'd be hard-pressed to find a horror film with more screaming. There are bloodier horror flicks and of course those with more nudity, but ALUCARDA is so jam-packed with both that even the most jaded fan will be rubbing his eyes in disbelief! Satanic rituals, coffins filled with blood, sadomasochistic flagellation amongst priests and nuns, nasty decapitations, and a fiery finale complete with Satanic scripture and multiple instances of spontaneous combustion that must have influenced DePalma's CARRIE, this flick is simply never boring! Some viewers have found fault with the script not deciding who the villains are, the church or the girls, but this adds a schizophrenic element to an already delirious viewing experience! The cast varies from superb to over-the-top, but most turn in admirable performances. Tina Romero in particular creates a very memorable character in Alucarda, and Susanna Kimini is an acceptable Justine. Claudio Brook (also in Moctezuma's MANSION OF MADNESS and the awful THE BEES!) in a dual role as the hunchback and as Dr. Oszek, the man of reason, and Tina French as the overly protective Sister Angelica are both quite good.
Pete Tombs uncovered an original negative for ALUCARDA, resulting in a far cleaner picture on this US version. The colors are much richer and fuller, with less bleeding. There is still a good amount of dirt, blemishes, and grain present in the transfer, but the general look and texture of the presentation more than makes up for it. The blacks that were solid before are now almost unbelievably deep. The English mono mix is acceptable, weak in some spots, just right in others. A Spanish audio track is offered, but as the film was shot in English, this is really only for completists' sake.
The extras for the US disc of ALUCARDA have significantly changed, but for the better. First up is the theatrical trailer, missing from the UK disc, and featuring alternate angles and unused footage!! Most of the trailer is live sound shot on-set, proving that the actors dubbed their own voices. The Mexican cinema episode of "Mondo Macabro" has been edited down to spotlight Juan Lopez Moctezuma alone, including brand-new clips from MANSION OF MADNESS and additional interviews with co-workers and scholars of his work. A brand-new interview with contemporary Mexican horror director Guillermo del Toro (THE DEVIL'S BACKBONE) discusses his love for Moctezuma (who was also apparently a late show TV host!) and his working relationship with ALUCARDA star Claudio Brook. Del Toro is very well-educated in these films, showing a real love for them, even dropping the name of Mario Bava as another one of his favorites. The Moctezuma biography, filmography, and short text interview has been carried over from the UK disc, as is the brief stills gallery.
Do yourself a favor: go out right
now and buy ALUCARDA! One of the best discs of 2002 has now metamorphosed into
one of the best discs of 2003, a must-own for any horror fan who wants to consistently
surprise himself by pulling this down from the shelf. Essential viewing and
a more than worthy addition to every DVD Drive-In reader's collection.
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