• The Black Pit Of Dr. M (Casa Negra) DVD Review

    The Black Pit Of Dr. M (Casa Negra) DVD Review
    Released by: Casa Negra
    Released on: August 29th, 2006.
    Director: Fernando Mendez
    Cast: Gaston Santos, Rafael Bertrand, Mapita Cortes, Carlos Ancira, Caroline Barrett, Luis Aragon
    Year: 1959
    Purchase From Amazon

    The Black Pit Of Dr. M – Movie Review:

    The Black Pit Of Dr. M, or in Mexico Misterios De Ultratumba, tells the macabre tale of one Dr. Mazali (Rafael Bertrand) – the Dr. M of the title - who runs a hospital for the mentally deranged. One of his comrades, Dr. Jacinto Aldama (Antonio Raxel), has made a strange deal with him stating that if one of them dies before the other, that one will return from the grave. Sure enough, Aldama passes into the great beyond and shortly after Mazali decides to host a séance in order to speak to him in the netherworld. Aldama tells him that within the next ninety days or so he’ll explain everything about life after death to him, he just needs to be patient.

    Meanwhile, Aldama’s ghost is wandering the Earth in hopes of talking Patricia (Mapita Cortés) into visiting the asylum to learn more about the father she never knew. Shortly after her arrival at the hospital, she meets Mazali and his assistant, Eduardo (Gaston Santos), both of whom take quite a shining to the lovely new arrival. While Mazali does his best to charm her pants off, Eduardo has that natural charisma and the kind of good looks that young ladies tend to fall for, much to Mazali’s dismay.

    If that weren’t complicating things enough for poor Dr. M., in a rather bizarre move he decides to unlock the doors to the holding room of one of his more dangerous patients, a woman who runs out as soon as she can and tosses a bottle of acid onto the face of unfortunate Elmer, one of Mazali’s assistants. Not too soon after that horrible event, the woman turns up dead and Mazali is the one that cops figure to be responsible as they saw the door close while he was holding her dying corpse in his arms. It looks like he’s soon going to hang for a crime he didn’t commit, with the real killer still on the loose.

    As atmospheric and gothic flavored as they come, The Black Pit Of Dr. M is a great example of how good a low budget horror movie can be when armed with a strong script, good actors and some creative set design. Directed with no small amount of style by Fernando Mendez, the same man behind El Vampiro and it’s sequel, the film moves along at a nice pace ensuring that things happen quickly but managing to ensure that we learn enough about the characters and their specific motivations along the way. There are a few memorable scenes in the film that stand out nicely and give the movie some genuine character – the opening scene with Aldama passing and the acid splash to the face to name a few – and these are accented particularly well by some very evocative camera work and dark, moody sets (many of which have a charming artificiality to them, the kind that you can only get when shooting on an obvious soundstage).

    The story is also pretty interesting and it does a nice job of pulling the various sub-plots together when the movie is finished, particularly the one involving Patricia’s father – even if this one is easy to figure out it does add a nice air of mystery to the plot. The twist that comes towards the end of the film is also easy to catch if you pay close attention but that doesn’t spoil any of the fun involved in getting there thanks to the fantastic visuals and creepy sets.

    The Black Pit Of Dr. M – 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 and their 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.

    The Spanish language Dolby Digital Mono soundtrack isn’t bad at all, despite a little bit of background hiss in one or two spots. The defects that are there are really minor and don’t detract much from the film at all. Optional English subtitles are included and they’re clean, clear and easy to read from start to finish. No English dub is supplied this time, a first for a Casa Negra release, but unfortunately the English version appears to be lost for good.

    The primary extra feature on this release is an audio commentary from Frank Coleman, founder of IVTV. While he does a decent job of relaying some interesting trivia about the film and he does a decent job of giving us a quick crash course in the history of Mexican horror cinema, he also spends a lot of time covering K. Gordon Murray and the impact that his ‘import versions’ of many classic Mexican horror films had on kids and fans of the era who would catch this stuff on TV. The problem with that is that The Black Pit Of Dr. M was never one of the Murray titles (just take a look at the website to confirm!), which makes much of the commentary irrelevant when discussing this film, just as it does the Mexican Monsters Invade The U.S.A. article which does a nice job of covering the history of Murray and his work – none of which relates to the film on this disc. Oops.

    Rounding out the extra features are a music video that uses clips from the film from a band called 21st Century Art, an excellent text biography of director Fernando Mendez, some cast biographies, a nice gallery of stills and promotional artwork, and the film’s original theatrical trailer. Additionally, though the English dub is lost the English dub continuity script is not and it’s included here. While it’s unfortunate that this wasn’t included as an alternate sub-title option, it’s still nice to see it here for completion’s sake. Menus in both English and Spanish are here and there are chapter stops included for the feature. A Casa Negra Lotteria card and an insert with an advertisement for their website are included inside the clear keepcase and the reversible cover art contains English text on one side and Spanish text on the other.

    The Black Pit Of Dr. M – The Final Word Review:

    While the extra features leave room for improvement the transfer is fantastic and the movie holds up really, really well. The Black Pit Of Dr. M is a fantastic gothic horror with a unique Mexican slant and some great, atmospheric sets and photography – Casa Negra has done a really nice job bringing this obscurity to DVD.

    Comments 5 Comments
    1. Gary Banks's Avatar
      Gary Banks -
      I love this movie and was more than happy to provide Casa Negra with the English dubbing script. It really was one of those last minute deals, shipping the script out to them asap before manufacturing started.
    1. Scott's Avatar
      Scott -
      This is my favorite of the movies Casa Negra released. It has a dark gravitas that the other films don't. The scene with the woman in the mental institution is a tour de force. I don't know who that actress is or if she was in anything else but it's one of my favorite horror movie performances. Just wall to wall tragedy. The movie lives up to it's title.
    1. Andrew Monroe's Avatar
      Andrew Monroe -
      I agree with Gary and Scott. This one's very different from the other CN releases. Every scene that woman in the institution is in is genuinely eerie and disturbing. The whole film has a really haunting quality.
    1. Gary Banks's Avatar
      Gary Banks -
      Quote Originally Posted by Scott View Post
      This is my favorite of the movies Casa Negra released. It has a dark gravitas that the other films don't. The scene with the woman in the mental institution is a tour de force. I don't know who that actress is or if she was in anything else but it's one of my favorite horror movie performances. Just wall to wall tragedy. The movie lives up to it's title.
      She had a bit part in THE LIVING COFFIN, but not near as wild as this one.
    1. Paul L's Avatar
      Paul L -
      This is a cracking film. Rich with Gothic texture. Thanks for reposting the (excellent) review, Ian.