Friday, July 29, 2011

The Aztec Mummy Double Feature

One user comment:  "What do you do when you find an Aztec Mummy?  You build a robot to stop him!"

An Important Documentary

I've not seen this.  I've been waiting to get a copy of it since it first came out for every Miccailhuitl (dia de los Muertos, Day of the Dead), and finally when I looked it up again and it was out!!  Glad to have it and look forward to watching it.  I'm sure I'll something to say about it later

For the IMDb page click here.

Official Site:  here

The "Angel" Aztec Episode

The Aztec demon in this "Angel" episode is sort of a cross between the Aztec mummy characters from movies and a kind of real Aztec demon class called Tzitzimime.  It's a pretty cool episode.  If you are fans at all of old horror movies or Mexican horror, you're aware of the Mexican wrestler's that show up in the Mexican mummy movies.  This episode manages to reference just about funny wrestler moment in just about all of the Aztec mummy flicks.  Our poor hero Numero Cinco asks Angel if he's ever heard of him and his Number Brothers defeat over a being that can only be the "human robot" from the 3rd Aztec mummy movie, except this robot "El diablo robotico" sounds sooo much cooler!  Of course, Angel has never heard of it.  Cinco sighs "nobody remembers the good stuff!"

Man this guy looks rough!!

Lost Treasure Of The Grand Canyon

I don't have a lot to say about this Syfy channel production, other than it's really a mess.  It has something to do with so-called Aztecs living in some hidden area in the Grand Canyon, some a lizard like monster which is supposed to be Quetzalcoatl, but I guess is some kind of devil, who everyone keeps calling (keetzacotal).  These Aztecs do not speak Nahuatl, in fact, mostly they just grunt, whatever language that is supposed to be "Aztec" is obviously a made up language when it's used at all.  And somehow, most bizarre of all, these Aztecs are able to get their hands on Cuari to poison their the Grand Canyon???  Mexican natives do not even use Cuari, which is central and south American tribal thing.  Oh, and apparently Quetzalcoatl is the "Aztec rain god"--which is also not true, that would be Tlaloc.  No mention either of the all important Huitzilopochli, the real Aztec patron god.  If it were well acted and had real Mexican flutes, well maybe, just maybe I wouldn't complain so much.  

As far as what they get right.  Well, the temple is OK, the high priest sort of OK dress wise.  But that knife of his, along with his heart sacrifice "technique" leave a lot to be desired.  The quauhxicalli, the bowl that the heart go in, pretty good. As is the quauhxicalco, the little room where the heart bowl resides--just think really spooky breakfast nook!  The columns, though a Toltec architectural signature, not an Aztec one, a nice little touch--since these are found on the real "turquoise road" into the southwest US.

Also the monster is pretty damn grody!  Well, maybe I should say gooey--but it's never really explained what it is.  I guess some type of demon--are we really supposed to think it's some kind of supernatural god, when it needy to feed on dead people???  I don't know, I'm confused; but with Syfy movies, that is often the case, so I'll just move on to the next selection.

Theme Recipe: Feathered Serpent Beans

Feathered Serpent Beans

This comes from an interesting little book by Sonja Atkinson The Aztec Way To Healthy Eating.  These are sort like the more modern, but equally Mexican, Huevos Rancheros.  The beans can also be left whole and served as a really nice side dish.  I've adapted some of the ingredients and measurements to make it easier.

1 cup dried pinto or other bean (painted beans like Anasazi beans are great)
1 medium onion (white onion are best), diced
Up to 1 tsp of salt to taste
4 ripe tomatoes, diced
1/2 to 1 tsp. pure chili powder (you may also use the regular kind)
6 tbs. honey (or Agave nectar, I use this rarely because of pesticides)
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves

1 to 2 eggs per person
Salsa (any type homemade or not)

1.  Almost all non native cooks will tell you to soak beans overnight.  I've never known any Native American cooks, no matter where they came from (tribe, etc) to ever soak.  I don't, I wasn't taught that way.  If you like, wash and soak them.  I just wash, pick them over and pot them right away.

2.  Cover with water, add all the other ingredients, except the eggs and salsa.  Bring to boil and cook simmering over low heat for at least 2 hours, most beans are done in that time, some painted beans will take an extra half hour and black beans need 3 hours of cooking time.  

3.  If serving with eggs, plate and mash the beans some.  Cook egg how you like them, sunny side up, over easy, over medium, poached, etc.  Lay eggs on mashed beans and top with generous amount of salsa.  Serve extra salsa on the side.


If you want to serve them whole as a side dish, add some chopped peppers of any kind or color after the beans are cooked, cook ten more minutes.

Green onion is a good addition add the end of cooking.

You may serve them, mashed on toasted corn tortillas topped with the eggs.

Add some shredded cheese.

The Aztec Kolchak Episode

Episode:  Legacy of Terror

This is part of the original, and one season wonder, that was "Kolchak:  The Night Stalker" television series of the 1970's starring Darren McGavin (a favorite actor of mine.)  For a show that only lasted 1 season, it managed to have several Native American themed episodes.  This is one is "the Aztec one."  It guest stars Puerto Rican American actor Erik Estrada (famed from another 70's show....) as the very gullible Pepe Torres.  The theme is part pure Aztec and part total monster bull.  The part that is pure Aztec involves the real practice that they had of "the handsome captive."  It was a practice were the most handsome of captives taken in war was kept for a year, treated like a god/king, with women, good food, music, poetry, and as much pulque (Maguey beer) as he wanted.  At the end of a year, he was lead out to the main teocalli (temple) and lead up the stairs, along the way he smashed flutes.  When at the top, he was ritually sacrificed.  That part is the true part.

The part that is monster bull is the whole Aztec mummy thing.  Oh but what wonderful monster bull!!  The Aztec NEVER mummified their dead, either on purpose or by accident.  They almost always cremated (unless you were an executed criminal or a certain type of sacrificial victim).  Even their emperors were cremated.  So the mummy here to take the sacrifice of Pepe is pure fiction--but cool fiction none the less!

The Aztecs typically cremated important people, such as high priests and kings and emperors (other members of the royal family) and interred them beneath fierce looking gravestones sometimes with the image of the god/goddess Tlaltecuhtli who was so fierce his/her image was always either buried and carved on the bottom of things so as not to show.  In 2006 E. Matos Moctezuma announced that they had found a huge buried image of the god and that it was thought to cover the cremated remains of emperor Ahuitzotl.

Here he/she is!

Here's the ending of the episode.  Man I really dig the headdress and that mummy is dynamite!

Today is 13 Atl (water) of the ritual month ruled by Tlazolteotl on the 13 day/20 month Aztec calendar.

Q (1982)

This is b movie director Larry Cohen's remake of the George Zucco The Flying Serpent, so obviously it makes a great creature double feature.

A lot of people just don't like Cohen's films.  They are put off by the sometimes gratuitous or exploitative nature of them.  I happen to be a fan of his horror style.  I think his movies have a real tongue and cheek style to them.  They are in no way subtle, but that's not the point.  If I want subtle horror, I'll go watch Amenab├ír or Elias Merhige or even del Toro (although he's not so subtle sometimes).  There is just something about the way Cohen garishly goes about telling a monster story that seems both funny and gritty--it just seems to work.

Cohen brings the winged serpent Quezaltcoatl to New York City as a real monster that lives in the top of the Chrysler Building, which apparently is in the same shape as some of the buildings in The Bronx at the time--who knew it was so slummy.  But it's not just that a monster flying snakey thing is on the loose biting off the heads of window washers and models alike.  There is also the an Aztec element here as well.  The cops looking into this one find all types of gruesome sacrificial victims around and about town in addition to bird/snake fodder.  They figure that some high priest flew into town (on an airplane, not a flying reptile) to help himself to some willing sacrificial victims.

OK this is all good fun.  But knowing what I know about actual Aztec belief, it is amusing the things that the script gets just plain wrong.  First of all Quetzalcoatl is a real god of the Mexican pantheon.  He is the god of life and mankind and his color is white.  He is both depicted as a man and as a feather, though flightless, serpent.  As a serpent he is sometimes shown devouring men, although from very old times, going back at least as far as the Toltec empire, he is revered as the giver of life and as deity presiding over peace. 

While it is true that heart sacrifice to him did occur, it was not nearly as often as it was to other deities such as the rain god Tlaloc or the patron god of the Toltec empire the feared Tezcatlipoca  (the "Smoking Mirror) who is both the god of darkness and sorcery!  Of course, his color is black.



The whole flaying sacrifice in Cohen's Q, has nothing to do with Quetzalcoatl.  That was a form of sacrifice reserved for the deity Xipe Totec, whose name translates to "Our Lord, the Flayed One.  He is associated with new life, the sprouting seeds and thus with early spring.  In modern times, he is associated with renewal and the bringing back of Native Mexican arts and customs.

Xipe Totec

Aztec sculpture showing a Xipe Totec priest wearing flayed skin of a sacrificial victim

Quetzacoatl is also a curious figure because he was one of two deities that was apparently part of an internal conflict (a kind of civil war) after the founding of the Toltec empire.  An early emperor Ce Acatl Topiltzin Quetzalcoatl apparently opposed human sacrifice, was a man of peace, wrote philosophy and poetry, but was considered a wise and fierce when he needed to be leader.  He wanted Quezatlcoatl to be the Toltec patron god.  The warrior class, which had a great deal of power, opposed this, thought that human sacrifice was necessary for both religious and political reasons and wanted the feared black Smoking Mirror (Tezcatlipoca) as the patron god of Tollan.  In the end they won out, his was run out of town to the east and never heard from again.  He is still an important figure!  He was that important to the Nahuatl speaking Mexicans, that it is common to see his image on Aztec dance regalia even today.  He is always depicted as sporting a beard and often with deathly white skin.  

A traditional image of Topiltzin
Below is the cover of Mexcian recording artist Xavier Quijas Yxayotl's Aztec Dances.  On the over is Maestro Lazaro Arvizu from the Xipe Totec Danza Azteca in L.A.  Not to be lurid or anything, but if you notice his loin cloth, you will find the image of Topiltzin at the bottom.

There is a stupid (at least I think it's stupid) myth that Motechuzoma Xocoyotzin thought that Hernan Cortez was Topiltzin returned, as he had promised to return when he was run out of town on a poll hundreds of years before, kind of like the Hawaiian Loni or Jesus maybe.  The emperor had been a priest before he was crowned and was known to be the most religious of the Aztec rulers, but the is NO real proof that he thought of Cortez as anything other than a real threat from some far off place that might not be so nice.

Quetzacoatl is an old deity in Mexico.  In the great ancient city now known as Teotihuacan, he had his own teocalli/temple/pyramid structure.  There is every evidence, from all the human remains found ritually interred inside it, that as an important deity there he was a fierce god that warranted significant human sacrifice.

Part of the building at Teotihuacan of the Feathered Serpent

The Flying Serpent (1946)

Can't be serious all day.  So here we have a B-grade George Zucco creepy from 1946 with an Aztec twist.  Basic plot is the same as any monster flick from the time.  Something is killing people is strange ways, and it turns out not be anything normal.  There is a lot of police working with specialized scientists (in this case ornithologists) to work out what the hell is going on....only someone may have known the truth all along!

I remember when AMC really gave a damn about their "Fear Fridays" enough to actually show at least one old B to Z grade film each Friday, this way always one of my favorites (along with The Maze---where the strings on all the bats are very visible!!).  

One of the things that they actually get very right here, is where the Aztecs actually came from.  They have them coming from the area around Azteca New Mexico, claiming that they were responsible for the building of the ruins found in the Aztec National Park, then moving down to the Valley of Mexico to found their mighty empire.  While it is highly unlikely that the Mexica were inhabitants of this area when the ruins were built (they claim that were already in Mexico at the time, moving south), their migration story does claim that the original Aztlan (their name for their homeland) does lie somewhere in the southwestern United States.  Given their description of living on yet another island in a fresh water lake, the best bet is they are from Pyramid Lake when the lake was at least 3 times the size and not at all salty.  To this day the area is an Native community of the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe!  Anyway it's kinda cool that monster film from the 40's would actually get this right.

Ain't he cute!

Below are some photo of the actual "Aztec" ruins in New Mexico.  Their architecture indicates that the builders were a people called in modern times "Anasazi"--the ancestor of the modern Tonoan pueblos.

Did you know?  The so-called "Aztec language" never really existed.  Whatever language they originally spoke they gave up when they entered the Valley of Mexico, where they adopted the Nahuatl language which became the official language of their empire.  Around 25 dialects are still spoken today in Mexico.

Internet Archive has the full movie for free, click here