• The Curse Of The Crying Woman (Casa Negra) DVD Review

    Released by: Casa Negra
    Released on: June 27th, 2006.
    Director: Rafael Baledón
    Cast: Rosa Arenas, Abel Salazar, Rita Macedo, Carlos López Moctezuma, Enrique Lucero
    Year: 1963
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    The Curse Of The Crying Woman – Movie Review:

    Produced by Churubusca Azteca Studios and shown theatrically in its native Mexico 1963 (then later picked up by American International for television distribution later in 1965), Rafael Baledón’s La Maldicion de le Llorna , or The Curse Of The Crying Woman, is a surprisingly atmospheric and creepy gothic horror film in the vein of Mario Bava’s Black Sunday. According to K. Gordon Murray’s official website, the dubbed version of the movie was released theatrically in North America on a double bill with The Brainiac in 1969, which would have been a pretty mind bending experience for any kids lucky enough to get to check that pairing out on the big screen.

    Based on an old Mexican folk tale, the film begins when a creaky old carriage traveling down a dark wooded road comes to a stop and the three passengers inside get completely spooked by a woman in a long black dress with three massive Great Danes at her side. Her assistant (Carlos Lopez Moctezuma of Night Of The Bloody Apes) comes out of the forest and catches them unaware when he throws a knife at one of the men and kills him on the stop. One of the women takes off and runs for it but she’s killed by the dogs.

    From there we meet pretty young Amelia (Rosa Arenas of The Witches Mirror and more than a few of the Neutron films) who, shortly before her twenty-third birthday, makes it to home of her Aunt Selma (Rita Macedo of Spiritism) along with her man Jaime (the instantly recognizable Abel Salazar of The Brainiac). Strange Aunt Selma will be taking care of her after the death of her parents. As Amelia looks around and starts to settle into her new home, she starts to notice a few things about the home – namely, it’s creepy and at night outside she hears the sounds of a woman crying! There are cobwebs everywhere, it’s dark and dimly lit, and there’s even a dungeon underneath the house itself that still holds the decomposing corpses of some of her distant relatives.

    Selma tells Amelia that the corpse in the dungeon belonged to a relative who was put to death down there for practicing witchcraft and that the supernatural powers that the witch had have made their way from generation to generation in her family and that soon the witch will come back to life. It seems she’ll resurrect with the intention of using Amelia to bring her into the afterlife where she and her aunt will enjoy all the evil joys of drinking blood and practicing black magic!

    Good thing for Amelia that Jaime has fallen in love with her and will do whatever it takes to save her from the throws of eternal damnation that her family would have her partake in. Unfortunately, Selma is the titular crying woman and she’s got powers of her own and is wise in the ways of voodoo and black magic.

    If you’re able to look past some of the low budget flubs that occasionally pop up throughout the movie, you’ll find that The Curse Of The Crying Woman is a film that is rich with gothic atmosphere and that contains some surprisingly unnerving set pieces. A completely eerie Black Mass is shown in negative, dogs kill a woman in a gruesome act of murder, rotting corpses come to life and the Crying Woman herself has only deep, black holes where her eyes once were – this movie has it all, and Abel Salazar to boot!

    Rafael Baledón starts the movie off with a bang, the opening sequence with the carriage in the woods is handled very well, with style and with ferocity you wouldn’t expect from a Mexican horror film of this vintage. It’s a creepy scene and it sets up the mood that carries on throughout the duration of the film. It’s hard not to think of Bava’s Black Sunday, made three years before, while watching The Curse Of The Crying Woman. There are a couple of scenes that bear more than a passing resemblance to those scene in the Italian film from 1960, but where there are scenes that have been influenced by older movies, there are also scenes that would appear to have gone on to influence later films, including Dario Argento’s Inferno.

    The performances are strong through and through (particularly if you opt for the Spanish language option as the dubbing does tend to cheapen the movie and ruin some of the atmosphere), with Arenas and Macedo playing off of each other quite well. Macedo does an excellent job with her truly sinister part and she has a similar sort of screen presence to that of Barbara Steele, while Arenas brings some understandable sympathy to her character which ensures we can relate to her and as such maintain some hope that she’ll make it out of this ordeal in one piece.

    Salazar is as reliable as always, he’s charming and dashing and fun in the part, and his inevitable show down with Moctezuma is a highlight of the film.

    The Curse Of The Crying Woman – DVD Review:

    The movie was shot for a fullframe presentation which is how it is shown on this DVD, with a brand new transfer that has been taken from restored vault elements and completely re-mastered to damn near pristine condition. Casa Negra has obviously put some serious effort into making this transfer as clean and as nice as possible and it shows. Those who have only seen the film by way of the crappy beyond words Beverly Whilshire DVD release a few years back are in for a treat as Casa Negra’s transfer is very, very nice. Print damage has been all but completely eliminated save for a trace of grain here and there, and the black levels stay strong throughout. Detail levels are strong and contrast appears to be set properly. There aren’t any problems with edge enhancement or mpeg compression though some aliasing does rear its head in a couple of scenes. Aside from that, however, this transfer is a God-send for fans of this film – it looks great.

    The original Spanish language track is here in Dolby Digital Mono as is the dubbed English track that will be familiar to most American and Canadian viewers. The difference in quality between the two tracks is negligible with the Spanish track getting the edge over the dubbed version just because it plays better. Dialogue is clean and clear and there aren’t any problems with hiss or distortion. There are spots where things sound just a little flat but that’s not surprising considering the age of the movies and there really isn’t anything to complain about here in terms of the audio presentation.

    Mexican cinema expert and Panik House affiliate Michael Liuzza provides an informative audio commentary for the film, the main extra feature on this release. Liuzza knows his stuff, this much is apparent within the first few minutes of his talk, as he covers some interesting biographical details of a few of the cast members and adds some insight into the history of the film and the themes and folk stories that it plays around with. Though there are one or two breaks in the talk, for the most part Liuzza has a good time with the material and keeps the information coming pretty quickly. He covers the basics of Rafael Baledón’s career and talks about the influence this film had as well as of the films that influenced The Curse Of The Crying Woman.

    Aside from the commentary track, there are a few other nice bonus features on here starting with a fairly extensive essay on the man behind the movie, actor/director Rafael Baledón, written by film historian David Wilt. Additionally, biographies are also provided for the key cast members which are definitely worth reading through for those curious about such things. Casa Negra has also dug deep into the vaults and produced a rather impressive still gallery of promotional artwork, one sheets, movie posters and stills from the film.

    Rounding out the extra features are animated menus available in both English and Spanish, an insert booklet containing liner notes from Entertainment Weekly’s Peter Landau as well as some slick cover art from Ghoulish Gary Pullin from Rue Morgue Magazine. These notes explain the history of the folk story behind the film, an exclusive Casa Negra Loteria game card, and of course, chapter selection options. The packaging for this release is also quite slick, as it comes in a clear keepcase with reversible cover art (an English side and a Spanish side). Mexican horror films have usually received pretty shoddy treatment on DVD so far in the formats history, it’s nice to see that changing lately.

    The Curse Of The Crying Woman – The Final Word Review:

    A classic of Mexican horror cinema, The Curse Of The Crying Woman gets a fantastic DVD release from Casa Negra, and it’s about time! The movie looks and sounds great and the extras are informative and genuinely interesting. An all-around excellent package.