Conquistador de la Luna
aka Conqueror of the Moon
Story by José María Fernández Unsáin
Adapted by Alfredo Varela
Directed by Rogelio A. González
Conquistador de la Luna (Conqueror of the Moon) is a Mexican science fiction comedy that deals with a bumbling genius and his adventure after accidentally getting blasted to the moon and meeting the evil moon aliens. Who are totally not where they got the ideas for Sleestaks from! These Moon Sleestaks clearly have four arms, thank you very much!
Despite being a cornball comedy featuring a Mexican comedian with a one-word nickname (we’ve all learned from FourDK that one-word nicknames on Mexican comedians are a warning signal that only brings pain!), there are some inventive elements that borrow from classic American and British alien and space travel films. The Martians found on the Moon have four arms and appear to be green in appearance in what I can only believe is a reference to the John Carter of Mars stories from Edgar Rice Burroughs.
The Great Brain of Mars is a complete non-humanoid creature with an all-seeing eye on a stalk and a big box that the brain is housed in. Like all movie monsters, he can’t resist Mexican women, and when one practically lands in his doorstep, he’s hot to trot to mate with her. Since he’s a brain in a box with an eye tentacle that oozes bubbly liquid, exactly how this mating will occur gets grosser and grosser the more you think about it. And he doesn’t care about consent, because the Great Brain is just going to hypnotize Estela to get the job done. Never fear, there is a man around to rescue her, even if he’s not much of a man.
If Conquistador de la Luna is strongest in one effect, it is in the alien costumes and design. The Sleestaks are just human enough to have recognizable emotions, but just alien enough to be menacing. The Great Brain’s entire setup is impressive, and calls back to the fun era of 1950s science fiction drive-in films with it’s creatively weird design straight out of Roger Corman.
Outside of the costumes, Conquistador de la Luna has some practical effects mixed in with some visual tricks. During the rocket sequences, the effects of g-force are shown by the actors’ reflections being contorted. G-force is one of those things that space movies stopped using decades ago, but talking guinea pig movies are still using. There is also a big bag of stock footage “borrowed” from other recent rocketship films, for those of you who like to play the “Where is that from?” game. There are visual effects rocketship shots created just for the film, especially during the climactic showdown to save the planet.
If the writing and directing credits (Story by José María Fernández Unsáin, adapted by Alfredo Varela, directed by Rogelio A. González) look familiar, that’s because they are identical to fellow 1960 Mexican science fiction film La Nave de los Monstruos/Ship of Monsters. Alfredo Varela would adapt dozens of stories by José María Fernández Unsáin through the 50s and 60s. By 1970, José María Fernández Unsáin had moved on to adapting his own scripts and even directing some of them. Alfredo Varela both wrote and acted through the 50s to the 70s.
Bartolo’s inventiveness is shown off from frame one, by his his Rube Goldberg alarm clock shower. Bartolo lives next door to Professor Don Abundio and his daughter, Estela. As the Professor is building the experimental rocket that will take Mexican astromen to the moon in his backyard, Bartolo is a good neighbor by not complaining to the city council about what is going on. It’s helped because the backyard is a wide open desert plain, which we’ll just go with. As Professor is so busy with the rocket, he hasn’t had time to keep up repairs on his home, and Estela calls Bartolo over to do some electrical repair on an iron.
In his eagerness to show off how he fixed the iron, Bartolo accidentally goes into the rocket and sets it on an irreversible blast off sequence with Estela trapped inside with him. Part of the fun of these old Schmoes in Space flicks is how inventors keep building backyard rocketships with countdowns that can’t be aborted, yet set off by controls that a slight breeze would push. And they all have automatic pilots that will take them to the giant rotating and revolving space body and land them on it, despite not taking off at the optimum time. There is a bit of a lick of sense when they’re informed that the scientists back on Earth will need to figure out the formula to program in for the return trip, and it will take at least a day to calculate it. Set slide rules to speedy, ladies and gentlemen!
They land on the moon, and Bartolo declares he will either claim the moon for Mexico, or reclaim it (as the fansubs I am using say). Things go from science fiction to science FICTION when a drill elevator pops up from the surface of the moon. Because this is obviously creepy, Bartolo and Estela go inside and are pulled beneath the surface of the moon.
Underground, a giant eyeball on a stalk with a constant stream of bubbles running down the front stares at them. It beams away Bartolo’s gun via eye rays (why do people always bring guns to the moon???) The Eye vanishes when Bartolo tries to punch it. Punching at it was a dumb idea since it can disintegrate things, if I do say so myself.
A squad of moon Sleestaks beam in and want the Earthlings to come with them. They force them over when they refuse, yanking off their helmets to reveal air on the moon.
The Great Ruler of the Moon, the chief commander serving the Great Brain of Mars, welcomes them to the moon and communicates by telepathy. They are now prisoners, The Great Brain is in the next room, it’s a brain in a tank on a table and the giant eye on a stalk belongs to it. Also it’s keen on Estela. Or he’s keen on Estela, since I’m guessing this means the brain in a box is a dude. It certainly acts like a dude, being a giant creeper and all that jazz.
On Mars, they have pills for dinner (is this the same Mars as Santa Claus Conquers the Martians?) Kalia the punishment chief hits on Bartolo while Estela is mind read by the Great Brain.
Great Brain tells Bartolo the Martians will drop a bomb on Earth’s oceans that will cause huge massive flooding via stock footage that wipes out everything and then the planet blows up. Kalia has dropped an invisibility pill that Bartolo now uses to steal stuff so he can return to the rocket ship, and radios a warning to Earth.
Newscasts show how the entire world is freaking out over the news. This is both an interesting touch, but also a bit weird.
The Great Brain tells Estela that she’s going to marry him and have Martian babies. She’s none too pleased with the notion that she’ll be “sharing the incoming greatness of Mars.” That’s pretty gross, Giant Brain!
Giant Brain turns a doomed Martian soldier into a pile of goo (and also we briefly glimpse stock footage of that star creature with one eye from the Japanese film Warning From Space)
It’s wedding time, Estela is all dressed up in a beauty queen outfit and the Giant Brain begins to hypnotize her into forgetting Bartolo. Bartolo grabs her from the wedding thanks to the power of invisibility and the two run for the ship and blast off for home.
The Martians are ticked off now and launch the bomb at Earth!
Bartolo goes out to do something, but the Giant Brain’s Eye knocks him loose from the spaceship. Estela then goes out to help, uses an oxygen tank to maneuver in space. Hey, wait a minute. Gravity stole everything from this movie!!!
She saves Bartolo, sort of making up for her not having agency for the majority of the film. Outside the Eye is messing with the rocket’s engines…so Bartolo and Estela fire up the rocket flames and roast the Eye – which causes the Giant Brain to die screaming and the bomb to explode harmlessly in space! Huzzah! Suck on that, Space Patriarchy!
Now that the Great Brain is dead, the Martians will go back to Mars and live in peace, also the Martian Moonbase Commander will marry Kalia and rule in peace together. Good to know it’s all wrapped up so easily, but also bad to know the Martians will just abandon peace the next time a box of brain matter is elected King for Life.
Everyone on Earth is happy they aren’t going to die, which is a natural reaction to finding out you ain’t gonna die. I’m not going to fault people for celebrating. Two planets are saved because some idiot accidentally went to the moon. Why don’t you build a moon ship in your back yard? Get to it, slacker!!!
Rated 7/10 (Robot Candle Holder?, Why isn’t the invisibility pill invisible?, space stuff, stock footage stuff, tired tv man, best place in space to pee!)
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