Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Curucu, Beast of the Amazon (1956)

Another of those obscure B-movies which seems to have vanished into the mists of time, this trailer is about all of you are likely to see of Curucu - Beast of the Amazon these days.  Never released on VHS or DVD, this cheapjack horror/jungle adventure movie seems simply to have vanished. Certainly, I don't ever recall it turning up on UK TV.  Apart from an eye-catching title which wouldn't have disgraced the pages of a contemporary men's magazine, the film has a few other points of interest.  For one thing, it was written and directed by Curt Siodmak who, in the forties had written several of the classic Universal horror movies as well as the popular novel Donovan's Brain, (which has been filmed at least three times).  His directorial career was far less distinguished tha that of his brother Robert (who directed several acclaimed film noirs, including The Killers), being confined to a handful of fifties B-movies.  It was also unusual in having actually been filmed on location in Brazil and, unusually for a B-movie of the period, was shot in colour.

In typical pulp-style, its plot mixes together several genres, with intrepid white explorers penetrating the Amazon jungle in search of a cure for cancer.  There they have to brave both hostile natives and the local wildlife - not to mention the title menace: a legendary local monster.  But this latter element - Curucu - is the film's biggest weakness, being a ludicrous concoction which is all too obviously a man wearing a bad mask and fake claws.  Which is OK, because, as it turns out, Curucu turns out to be just that - a fake monster played by the local witch doctor who is trying to scare his people away from the 'progressive' ways of the white man and back toward traditional superstitions.  Which was undoubtedly a major disappointment for audiences thinking that they were going to see a monster movie with an exotic location. 

While all the imagery of blow pipe wielding natives, lush jungles, giant anacondas coiling around women, ferocious alligators and jaguars come straight out of the pages of the average men's magazine, I can't help but suspect that it was films like this that, at least in part, inspired Italian Mondo film makers.  The raw material of location shooting and exploitation of local culture to provide a spectacle for audiences are all there.  Not to mention the exploitation of local wildlife and the inevitable animal cruelty involved in getting them to 'perform' for the cameras.  Indeed, it might not even be too much of a stretch to imagine that this sort of jungle schlock exerted some influence on the later Italian jungle cannibal films.  According to cinematic legend, when he had completed photography on Curucu, Siodmak found that he had a significant amount of colour film left over.  So, he promptly used it to shoot a secomd B-movie on the same locations: Love Slaves of the Amazon.



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