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Curse of the Crying Woman

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Curse of the Crying Woman (1961)

A rickety carriage rattles its three passengers through a desolate, fog-swept woodland populated with shadowy, skeletal trees resembling ragged claws thrust from ancient graves. In the distance a spectral figure dressed in black awaits the arrival of said carriage - a meeting that does not bode well for the weary, and increasingly wary, travellers.

Not all travellers in the region fare so poorly however. A lovely and charming young lady named Amelia arrives safely at the lonesome, fog-sequestered gothic mansion of her widowed Aunt Selma, with whom Amelia plans to celebrate her birthday. Despite her plans however, shortly after crossing the mansion's threshold Amelia enters into an unfurling, phantasmagoria-filled mystery replete with witchcraft, diabolical discoveries, murder most foul and the ghastliest of birthday surprises.

Mexican filmmaker Rafael Baledon's Curse of the Crying Woman is gothic horror at its most deliriously melodramatic, visually arresting and entertainingly spectacular. The film is a sheer pleasure to watch - with its sensational black and white cinematography, and rich, detailed sets - nearly every frame of the film is lavished with the type of lush textural visuals that fans of gothic horror will be quite happy to luxuriate in.

Fans of Roger Corman's classy, fun-filled Poe cycle, or Mario Bava's gothic chillers The Whip and the Body and Black Sunday - a quintessential horror film which Baledon gladly tips his hat to with this movie - will surely have a great time delving into Curse of the Crying Woman. Despite its familiarity however, Curse of the Crying Woman is never trying or tedious, and includes an eerily effective flashback sequence that was printed in negative (think of E. Elias Merhige's Begotten as an example) that really stands out as a touch of originality. It could be argued that in some ways this flashback recalls the "fantasy sequences" that were a hallmark of many of Corman's Poe films, yet Baledon's hallucinatory, nightmarish montage has a decidedly distinct character that genuinely sets it apart.

Again like Corman and Bava's films, Curse of the Crying Woman is also a low budget endeavor that, at times, exceeds its budgetary limitations with some low-tech movie magic that is both imaginative and ingenious. There is the occasional hokey effect, but the movie is most successful when it employs tried and true Meliesian trickery. The movie's makeup effects are also quite good - although black and white film is rather forgiving in this regard - and Baledon doesn't shy away from violence which at the time must have been considered quite graphic.

The film's story and plot are engaging throughout, with archetypal gothic elements piled higher than a stack of dusty rubber bats in a cobweb-strewn, rat-ridden torture chamber set. The Curse of the Crying Woman is also highlighted by a riveting, if slightly protracted, finale that's more fight-filled than fright-filled. Nevertheless, it's a fitting end to an excellent film that has long been championed by a small group of admirers, and fully deserves to find a new legion of fans with this recently released DVD.

CasaNegra, which is an offshoot of Panik House that focuses on Mexican cinema, has re-mastered the uncut version of Curse of the Crying Woman using "restored vault elements" and the film looks absolutely wonderful. Curse of the Crying Woman is such a treasure to look at, so it's great to have a DVD with pristine image quality that allows viewers the opportunity to fully appreciate the film's exceptional visual splendor. Thankfully the DVD presents the film with the original Spanish audio track with optional English subtitles. However, those who might want extra cheese with their gothic horror can listen to the K. Gordan Murray English dub, which CasaNegra has been kind enough to include.

Special features include, bilingual menus in both English and Spanish - the DVD sleeve is also reversible with the English title, Curse of the Crying Woman on one side, and the film's Spanish title, La Maledicion de La Llorona, on the other - commentary with authority on Mexican cinema/vice president of Panik House and CasaNegra, Michael Liuzza, an illustrated color booklet about the legend of La Llorona (minor elements of which are incorporated into Curse of the Crying Woman) written by Entertainment Weekly writer Peter Landau, an essay about director Rafael Baledon written by film historian David Wilt, cast bios, a poster and stills gallery, and a really cool "loteria game card" that features paneled artwork from Mexican horror film posters. With the generous extras and the high quality restoration, this is an exceptional DVD release for this classy, cult horror film which I gladly recommend.

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