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K. Gordon Murray was a Florida-based film producer who is best known for distributing countless low budget exploitation and kiddie films imported from other countries. Seasoned late-night and Saturday afternoon boob tube gazers will know his name from 30 or so Mexican horror titles produced at Azteca Studios in the 50s and 60s, that he had dubbed and distributed straight to TV though American International Television (AIP-TV). This double feature package is the first in Image Entertainment's and Something Weird Video's "K. Gordon Murray Collection," a series with many more pairings in the works. Call these films campy, call them atmospheric, or call them just plain bad, we love them and this winning release is a sign of more great things to come.
Directed by the unequaled master of Mexican exploitation, Rene Cardona, DOCTOR OF DOOM (La Luchadoras Contra El Médico Asesino) is the first (and probably the best) in a series of south of the border "Las Luchadoras" (wrestling women) flicks. As far as B movie thrills go, you can add this one to the top of your list.
The plot has a "mad" scientist (who hides his identity with a Ku Klux Klan type hood) murdering pretty young girls to perform ghastly brain transplants. All his experiments fail, so his assistant suggests using the brain of an "intelligent" girl. A female scientist is captured and operated on, but the end result is null. It turns out her sister is a famous wrestler, Gloria Venus (played by young Liz Taylor look-alike Lorena Velázquez) who works with the police to solve the murder.
In comes a gorgeous Amazon-girl wrestler named Golden Rubi (Elizabeth Campbell) who befriends Gloria, and when the two aren't busy fighting butchy gals in the ring, they're out fighting the mad scientist's bunch of imbecile henchmen and a human gorilla named Gomar (a character that would later be revamped in Cardona's incredible NIGHT OF THE BLOODY APES). After rescuing their detective boyfriends from the hands of a deadly torture device, they foil the scientist (whose identity is still unknown) as he appears to perish with his lab amidst a violent fire. But he survives the flames, and gets revenge by successfully transplanting Gomar's brain into the body of a homely female wrestler he calls Vendetta. He poses as a wrestling manager (complete with a Santo-like mask), and plans to have his new creation destroy the meddling "Las Luchadoras" once and for all.
DOCTOR OF DOOM is camp-filled, high spirited enjoyment, much in the tradition of old-time serials. There's daffy dubbing, unintentional humor, unconvincing stunt doubles, an overacting villain, an gorilla monster with bad make-up, and a couple of beautiful babes who spend most of the running time kicking everybody's ass in. Velázquez and Campbell (a visiting American) are stunningly charming, and they went on to star in two sequels (the third which was never shown here).
Also helmed by Cardona, WRESTLING WOMEN VS. THE AZTEC MUMMY (La Luchadoras Contra La Momia) is a direct sequel, with Campbell and Velázquez reprising their roles, though this time the later is called "Loreta" Venus and has a new hairstyle. The previous film's detective duo return as their boyfriends (Loreta Venus is even engaged) and new heroes and villains are introduced. The plot has archaeologists being murdered by the evil Black Dragon (a "Fu Manchu" type) and his gang of Orientals, who try to hide the fact by wearing "Blues Brothers" shades. The Black Dragon is after these archaeologists since they are all connected to a three-piece codex for an Aztec treasure map.
Since the good guys posses the third part of the codex, the under-arrest Black Dragon proposes that his two manly Kung-Fu sisters battle the tag-team of Loreta and Rubi in the ring for possession of it. Naturally, the lovelies win (with the help of some well-fed stunt women), but the bad guys double-cross them and get away. Later, our heroes arrive at the Aztec pyramid and unleash an ancient mummy who moans and groans and turns into a floppy rubber bat.
While not as fun as DOCTOR OF DOOM, WRESTLING WOMEN VS. THE AZTEC MUMMY is still amusing hokum. It too feels like a 40s serial for a lot of the running time. The mummy doesn't appear until the last 20 minutes or so, and when he does, it's mainly footage culled from LA MOMIA AZTECA (1957), the first Aztec mummy film which was never dubbed into English. There isn't much "wrestling women vs. the mummy" action as the memorable title implies, but when the mummy transforms into a bat and back, hilarious dialog like "Look, he's a vampire now!" followed by "He's a mummy again!" will having you chuckling for certain.
The new DVD transfers for DOCTOR OF DOOM and WRESTLING WOMEN VS. THE AZTEC MUMMY look pretty much the same, taken from the original materials made for their English-language releases. Presented full-frame, the print sources used here are in pretty good condition. The black and white images have some light scratches and speckling on occasion, and look a bit soft in spots, but generally the picture is bright and nicely detailed. The dubbed audio tracks are rendered fine. Get rid of your inferior Beverly Wilshire DVD of DOCTOR OF DOOM and the old Rhino "rock and roll" hideously revamped versions of both (if you even bothered with those). This disc presents definitive, attractive versions of what K. Gordon Murray originally unleashed upon us.
The extras on this disc are plenty, and serve as an amazing tribute to K. Gordon Murray. Since most of the Mexican horror titles he distributed went right to television, there are no theatrical trailers, but TV spots for when they initially aired. These great one-minute TV spots are a rare gem and reportedly narrated by Murray himself! Titles include: THE BRAINIAC, THE WITCH'S MIRROR, THE BLOOD OF NOSTRADAMUS, THE CURSE OF THE CRYING WOMAN, THE GENIE OF DARKNESS, THE INVASION OF THE VAMPIRES, THE LIVING HEAD, PHANTOM IN THE RED HOUSE, SAMSON VS. THE VAMPIRE WOMEN and THE VAMPIRE. There are also theatrical trailers for other Mexican-originated cult titles: THE BLACK PIT OF DR. M, CREATURE OF THE WALKING DEAD, FACE OF THE SCREAMING WEREWOLF, LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD, LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD AND THE MONSTERS. Rounding out the trailers is one for a double bill of THE VAMPIRE'S COFFIN and ROBOT VS. THE AZTEC MUMMY, two rare examples of Gordon Mexi-monster imports that actually got some theatrical play. I assume these extras will be repeated on all the discs in the series, but their presence is welcomed, as you'll especially want to revisit the rare TV spots.
An episode of the current monster musical kiddie TV show, "Ghoul A-Go-Go" is also included. Unrelated to the world of K. Gordon Murray, this unique half-hour cable access program (produced on Long Island, NY) is shown totally in black and white and includes cute kids dancing to 60s garage rock. Ghoulishly made-up characters do skits and such, and vintage pop culture clips are also tossed in, most having to do with spiders in this specific episode. Picture a mix between the early 70s Canadian program "The Hilarious House of Frightenstein" and a "Mel's Rockpile" sketch from SCTV and you can imagine what this is like (each consecutive disc in the K. Gordon Murray Collection will include a different "Ghoul A-Go-Go" episode).
A truly amazing still gallery is included, which is very lengthy and includes tons of pics and advertising promotional material from Murray's kiddie features, his exploitation features, and the Mexican horror features. Also included is a booklet entitled "The Wonder World of K. Gordon Murray" by Charles Kilgore and Rob Craig, with quotes from producer David F. Friedman who knew the late Murray personally back in the day. The text is taken from past issues of Ecco magazine, and presents a nice bio with some interesting anecdotes, one which tells of a Long Island devil cult who held rituals when never on of Murray's pictures was aired on New York's Channel 7! (George R. Reis)
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