Thursday, June 2, 2016

Monster Team-up Reflection #29: Ship of Monsters (La Nave del los Monstruos)

Rogelio A. Gonzalez's “Ship of Monsters” (“La Nave de los Monstruos”) is a 1960 Mexican monster-comedy classic. It also utilizes a western backdrop and ample song, supplied by its charismatic lead, Eulalio "Piporro" Gonzalez. It also makes excellent use of its shapely stars and lives up to its title, delivering several far-out extraterrestrials. 

The story, rendered by Jose Maria Fernandez Unsain and Alfredo Varela, is unpretentious and cheerfully goofy, in a sort of "Mars Needs Women" reversal way. 

Venus, we learn, has lost its male population due to atomic war, leaving Gamma (Ana Bertha Lepe) and Beta (Lorena Velazquez of Santo/"Wrestling Women" fame) to trek the galaxy in search of males to repopulate their planet. Unfortunately, they've rounded up specimens that don't look in the least bit human. As such, when a malfunction forces them to land on Earth, they finally have their chance to collect some compatible mates...or at the very least, one in particular.

He's Lauriano (Gonzalez), a bumbling, singing cowpoke of Chihuahua, Mexico. He spots the descending ship, assumes it's a shooting star and makes a wish upon it, hoping it might grant him a lady friend. Little does he realize his wish will exceed his wildest expectations. (It should also be noted, Lauriano is prone to telling tall tales, rather like Andy Devine's character in the Rod Serling "Twilight Zone"classic, "Hocus-Pocus and Frisby"; and as with Frisby, Lauriano's exaggerations exasperate his friends to no end, increasing the film's guffaws.) 

The gorgeous Venusians waste no time in revealing themselves, but find Luriano's behavior perplexing, particularly when he references Earth customs (and often use their "freeze" gun to pause him whenever he utters something they find confusing). Despite being attracted to him, they initially decide that fixing their ship should remain the priority, leaving their towering, data-brimmed robot, Torr, to place the monster captives in a nearby cave, ensuring they won't interfere with repairs. The monsters are, after all, inclined to rebel, perceiving themselves prisoners and not the guests the Venusians otherwise say.

The monsters are a fascinating and varied group. There's Tagual, a stocky, brainy looking entity who claims to be the Prince of Mars; Uk, a large, furry, Cyclops who says he's King of the Fire Planet (Mercury, perhaps?); Crasis, a grouchy arachnid; and Zok, a skeletal thing that explains his kind lost material form somewhere down the ambiguous line (and a clear forerunner to "The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra"). 

For a time, Lauriano works his comedic and serenading skills on the ladies and even introduces them to his amiable kid brother, Chuy (Heberto Davila, Jr.), but whether the gals intend to take the hombre to Venus or remain with him on cozy Earth is never quite defined. Lauriano, meanwhile, is content in believing the ladies are circus performers and Torr a big wind-up toy, but when he finally catches on, his "Boy Cried Wolf" reputation works against him. 

As a clever twist, Beta, who's grown jealous of Lauriano's blossoming courtship with Gamma, turn into a vampire and attacks a man. The assault prompts Gamma to report her friend to the Venusian leader, who requests that Beta be disintegrated. This leads the parasitic partner to flee and join the aliens to commence Earth's conquest.  

Regardless of such, things do work out in the end, preceded by a nifty, cave-based, song-and-dance number and a monster-brawl climax. Even Torr gains a girlfriend (of sorts) in the guise of Lauriano's jukebox. 

Mucho credit must be given to "Piporro" for his empathetic appeal. Something tells us he shouldn't come out on top, but at the same time, the story's strange lopsidedness redefines reality's terms, allowing us to delight in his awkward prosperity.

Like the best Woodian whimsies (or any given Pee-wee Herman reverie), "Ship of Monsters" doesn't try to rationalize its circumstances, instead relying on naivete to keep the story moving. In this respect, it plays a lot like "Invasion of the Star Creatures" meets "Santa Claus Conquers the Martins", enchanting us with its profuse child-like charm. 

Though low-budgeted, "Ship of Monsters" nonetheless supplies fine craftsmanship, including well designed spaceship exteriors/interiors. Torr more than holds his own with other blocky robots of the time, albeit with more personality, and the monster costumes/puppetry are detailed and memorable: in essence, cartoons characters come to life. In fact, they'd fit seamlessly into any number of Sid and Marty Krofft Saturday morning productions. 

With their long legs and pronounced bosoms, Lepe and Velazquez are another production plus and will delight cheesecake and Hammer scream-queen fans alike (especially the fanged-formed Velazquez for the latter). Their characterizations are passionate and for the most part sweet, their interactions with Lauriano endearing in light of the preposterous set-up. 

For space-babe/monster/musical/western fans, this subtitled, black-and-white gem can't miss: one of the finest blends of genres ever fixed to entertain--and boy, does it ever!

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