In 1525 a ritual was performed and the head of the great Aztec warrior Acatl (Mauricio Garces) was placed in a tomb. With it were two sacrifices that were to defend the tomb against any defilers. The High Priest Xihu (Guillermo Cramer) and the Princess Xochiquetzal (Ana Luisa Peluffo).
In 1963 three archaeologists find the tomb and break into it. The three men are Professor Muller (German Robles), Professor Urquizo (Antonio Raxel) and Professor Rivas (Salvador Lozano). Inside the tomb they find the head of Acatl, the Priest Xihu and the Princess Xochiquetzal. The Princess turns to dust but the ring she was wearing is still intact. Professor Muller gives the ring to his daughter Marta (Ana Luisa Peluffo). The head and the non-mummified mummy are taken to his house so he can study them.
Now that his sacred tomb has been defiled Acatl’s head comes to life and orders the High Priest Xihu to avenge the desecration. The ring that Marta wears also activates and hypnotizes the young woman, who incidentally is the spitting image of Princess Xochiquetzal.
First on the agenda is Professor Rivas. He is attacked and his heart is cut from his body. The police are called. Inspector Toledo (Abel Salazar) is now in charge of the case. While searching for clues he finds that the mummy of the high priest is still in his niche but the sacrificial knife in his hand is covered with dripping blood. This poses unanswered questions since the knife and the mummy have been petrified and the knife cannot be removed without breaking either it or the mummy.
Later that night Marta has a dream that she was instructed by the head of Acatl to bring it to the home of Professor Urquizo so that it could watch as Xihu kills him and removes his heart. The dream shakes her out of her sleep. She later finds that Urquizo was indeed killed. Fearing that she is part of the ritual she takes the ring off her finger and throws it out the window. But escaping an ancient curse is not that easy. Still under the rule of Acatl, Marta is ordered by Xihu to kill her father.
“La cabeza viviente” AKA “The Living Head” was released in 1964 in Mexico, 1968 in the US and was directed by Chano Urueta. It is a Mexican horror film produced by Abel Salazar. Reportedly it is also one of the films that K. Gordon Murray brought to the US and dubbed into English, although not very well. I couldn’t find that one but I did find one with really bad closed captioning.
Many people didn’t really like this movie. They found it slow and boring. For the most part, I was OK with it. It’s not the best Mexico has to offer but it’s got some good actors and who could resist a head on a plate. Especially one that’s over four hundred years old.
The so-called mummy wasn’t exactly the usual central casting, gauze wrapped, foot dragging Universal daily special. In fact he could move rather quickly when it was necessary. He also looked quite quenched and suntanned for such an old guy. Then again Mexican horror films were never lock-step with Universal or Columbia when it came to standard monster lore.