Mario Bava’s Caltiki comes to Blu

June 5, 2017 | By

The fire-breathing tanks happen, but whole skyscrapers smothered by the slimy burlap bag? Nope.

 

The story behind the making of Caltiki – The Immortal Monster (1959) could be summarized as a case where one director’s respect and maneuverings enabled a colleague to start stepping away from cinematography, second unit and effects jobs and do what he was born to do: direct.

Whether Riccardo Freda formally walked away from directing Caltiki due to budget issues with the producers or feigned illness and various issues to force Mario Bava into the director’s chair is moot, because while not wholly directed by Bava, Caltiki was enough to impress peers (and producers) of how much value the versatile cinematographer could bring to a film.

Bava was inventive, clever, and witty, and when I first heard about the film, it was in relation to the old NoShame Region 2 DVD that emerged in 2007. NoShame had built up a reputation as label who crafted exceptional special editions of primarily Italian films on DVD, often unknown or lesser known classics and cult items.

Caltiki was among the label’s last releases, and when they folded, a big void was left among collectors. Fat booklets with liner notes and art, bonus soundtrack CDs, interviews, uncut editions, and fine transfers were their standard, and you could argue Arrow Films took note of NoShame’s strategy to tackle European works which either received mangled, limited, or no distribution in North America.

Caltiki received the deluxe treatment, but its Region 2 restriction reflected the sticky dilemma of many of Bava’s work: whatever edit emerged in the U.S. during its original theatrical run, the rights are still held by a studio, and sometimes they just keep saying NO.

 

Are their screaming heroines? Sure. Ravaged maidens? Nope.

 

U.S. distributor Allied Artists was later bought by Lorimar, who in turn were usurped by Orion, and then MGM/UA, whose catalogue is distributed by Fox. Way back in 2007 when Anchor Bay was prepping their 2-volume Mario Bava Collection, the original P.R. sheets mentioned the inclusion of extra footage shot by distributor American International Pictures to pad out the U.S. edits after AIP did some trimming & rescoring for their domestic market. Since MGM/UA owned the U.S. rights, AB’s sets ultimately lacked those bonus features, although Arrow’s U.K. Region B Blu-rays (around 2010) marked the first time all versions, footage, alternate music soundtracks and proper dub tracks were packed into singular releases.

Caltiki wasn’t recut – its zippy running time needs no adjustments – but some gore was trimmed for TV, and  the rights headache kept it out of distribution on this side of the pond, save for YouTube rips from very old TV airings likely taped on VHS.

Arrow’s 2017 special edition, distributed by MVD Visual stateside, is the near-perfect release fans and Bavaphiles have wanted for years, and I’ve updated my review of the 2007 NoShame edition with comparative details, since there are significant differences between the two.

One particular point: I first reviewed the film in 2014 to support an all-things-The Blob wave, since Caltiki has more than a few similarities with the 1958 and 1988 Blob incarnations, but as the historians on Arrow’s disc clarify, a lot of Caltiki’s genesis is rooted in the Hammer classic The Quatermass Xperiment / The Creeping Unknown (1955), a film I still haven’t seen (for shame!), so expect a future revision of the current review when I sit down and watch that film, most likely part of a Quatermass sit-down that includes the teleplay, the films, and more recent TV mini-series of Nigel Kneale’s ever-popular sci-fi classic.

Cheers,

 

 

Mark R. Hasan, Editor
KQEK.com

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Category: EDITOR'S BLOG

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