La Nave de los Monstruos (Mexico: 1960)

The first time I attended a showing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show in Boston, Massachusetts was a special experience. There were other people who were also obsessed with culty movies, bad acting, and campy dialogue? For those two hours in the Cambridge AMC I felt I was no longer an outsider. Then I left the movie theater and returned to sad reality. Such is life. Which is all to say, seeing La Nave de los Monstruos with a live audience at the Hammer in L.A. this past Friday had to be the culmination of this blog. Not only are there people who enjoy campy American film, but campy foreign film, too!

And man was this campy. Let me try to explain the plot: Venus is facing a man shortage. There are no more men on the planet. Two space vixens, Beta and Gamma are faced with the overwhelming mission to rescue one “man” from each planet, ala The Bachelorette, except these men are octopi, skeletons, and a giant space brain. Obviously they were soliciting on the wrong interplanetary dating website. But fine, it’s science fiction. Then they crash on Chihuahua and things start making even less sense, if that’s possible. They somehow meet a singing cowboy, Laureano, whose fervent wish on a star to find a woman unsurprisingly comes true, and both Gamma and Beta fall in love with this guitar-slinging homesteader. Laureano chooses the less assertive Venusian Gamma and jealousy turns bitter Beta into a vampire, and she and the not-too-happy interplanetary dudes wage war on northern Mexico. Still following? Good. Just throwing it out there, this is also kind of a musical. And it has a robot. And a monkey who sings.

OK. I just made that last one up, there is no singing monkey, but I am trying to illustrate a larger point: this movie makes no sense. It is the movie equivalent of throwing in everything and the kitchen sink. I understand cross-genre exploration, but vampires, singing cowboys, and a jealous vampire should not be in the same movie–at least not a movie whose budget equals the bill for a meal at Denny’s. Not only does this movie not make sense, the director, Rogelio Gonzalez isn’t even trying to be coherent at a certain point (minute two). Why is it night and then suddenly day? Why does the robot fall in love with the jukebox? Where in Chihuahua did Beta buy fangs and a black cape?

And yet. And yet this movie made the audience laugh (Laureano’s useless explanation to other bar patrons about space vixens), cry (when Laureano nearly died at the hands of a space gorilla) and get up off their seats and applaud at the end (OK, I made that last part up again, but they should have). It was that campy and it was that good. Let’s not try to explain away this movie by invoking the motivations the director must have had to make it, whether to create a distinctly Mexican sci-fi picture, to titillate a truly conservative 1960s Mexico with space vixens, or to comment on the burgeoning threat of nuclear warfare that promised to disturb our world as much as any interplanetary gang of angry space bachelors. Let’s instead enjoy this with no context, because a movie this bad doesn’t need it; let’s laugh, reel, cry, be surprised, and celebrate it in museums like UCLA’s Hammer, because let’s face it, to make something this bad is a work of art.

A Taste.

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