No… you aren’t seeing double, Gentle Visitors… This time your Favorite Catgirl is taking the “wayback machine” on a trip back to the sunny Mexico of yesteryear for a look at the 1968 version of “Hasta El Viento Tiene Miedo”. Just think of it as the movie version of “deja vu”….
The synopsis?: “Young schoolgirl Claudia is haunted nightly by recurring dreams of a hanging girl calling her to the forbidden tower on her college campus. Eventually she learns her dreams are more than mere nightmares, that a former student, Andrea did indeed commit suicide by hanging there some five years earlier under mysteriously tragic circumstances rumored to be the fault of strict college Director Miss Bernarda.
Worse… as school vacation approaches, history seems to be repeating itself, forcing Claudia and her fellow students to fear for their lives “when even the Wind is afraid…” and the angry spirit of Andrea seeks her revenge upon the living once more…”
Yes… I know I just recently reviewed the more recent Mexican re-make of this one, but despite the failure of it to score big with your Favorite Catgirl, I was intrigued enough to hunt down the original 1968 film it was based upon. It wasn’t an easy thing to find…. as apparently it was never released here in the US, although a subtitled VHS tape had been some years ago. Still… I’m one stubborn lil’ kitten when stalking those rare movie goodies, and it didn’t take long to trace a copy of the South American Brazilian release on DVD and a copy of the subtitles timed to that old VHS tape. One afternoon of tinkering and tweaking later brought the two into synchronization and allowed me to experience the film for myself that evening.
So… was all that silly effort worth my time and energy? Does this old film deserve the title of “horror classic” or was it as much a failure as the recent incarnation? Well… you’ll just have to “Read On” to find out… won’t you?
Our story begins on yet another of those dark and stormy nights…. but this time out, our heroine, Claudia (played by Alicia Bonet…. Surprisingly, I find she played Claudia’s mother in the 2007 remake I just watched…. gotta love that!!), is restlessly tossing and turning, her sleep interrupted by a strange echoing voice calling out her name over and over. As she groggily awakens from her troubled sleep, a flash of lightning illuminates her room, revealing a pair of hanging feet dangling above her…. Cue that classic Gothic heroine scream!!
Outside, as our title sequence commences, the freakish wind of the tile howls and moans like the very souls of the damned set loose from Hell itself. We’re already off to a more promising start than our sequel…. and the entire film continues to hold this same classic old horror feeling throughout. Here is the “schoolgirl horror” movie your Favorite Catgirl expected to get in the last one… just goes to show you, sometimes something old can be far better than “new and improved’…
The next morning Principal Bernarda (played by Marga López) and Vice-principal Lucia (played by Maricruz Olivier) discuss the situation with Doctor Oliver (played by Enrique García Álvarez) in the principal’s office. He’s convinced it’s merely the result of youthful nerves coupled with normal school stresses, and that with rest Claudia will easily move on. It’s apparent here that we’re on a totally different sort of school here from the rehab clinic of the remake…. gone is the oppressive atmosphere of that film, replaced by the sunny normalcy of your typical private college campus for young women. Without the mysterious goings on it could easily be mistaken for any similar campus from films of that period…. or even the familiar girls schools of those more recent Korean ghost stories your Favorite Catgirl is so fond of.
Of the two approaches to this story, I have to say this one might lack the “edginess” of it’s remake, but it’s that very contrast between the seemingly sunny carefree nature of such a setting and the weirdness of the ghost story that unfolds that makes it work so much better I think. Here there’s still most of the same characters, but this time out Neko actually found herself liking and sympathizing with them rather than finding them almost somewhat deserving of the nasty stuff that befalls them as I did in the remake. Part of that I suppose is the modern tendency to think that making female characters mean, bullying, and downright nasty is somehow “empowering” women…. Trust me, it’s not. If your character is an ass, male or female… you’ll just be an ass, whether you have breasts or not. And nobody likes an asshole…. (or cares if they survive a horror movie or not…)
All that aside…. here we get a slower paced film, done the way such stories used to be done. If the bloodier European inspired horror of the 60’s is your thing, you’ll be disappointed. If however, you want a more Gothic ghost story, then you are definitely in the right place. Here, our group of girls are mostly friends… united in their dislike of the stern Principal Bernarda and her draconian approach to running things. The character of Lucia is their friend… the only sympathetic ear when they need one and the one thing shielding their youthful zest for life from being completely squelched by Bernarda. And she’s worried about Claudia…. things are unfolding in a way that’s too reminiscent of a tragedy from years earlier that the girls are ignorant of.
The suicide of poor Andrea (played by Pamela Susan Hall)… although this time out it’s not a murder covered up to look like suicide. Nor is it the result of a tragic Lesbian love affair gone terribly wrong. (Sorry, guys… Neko knows how disappointed most of you will be to hear this, Hehehehe!!) In fact, the film completely ignores that particular idea in favor of a motive in which Andrea becomes despondent over the death of her mother while she was being kept at college during vacation as one of Bernarda’s punishments. Feeling that her mother died without her help, she hangs herself in the familiar tower that was also so central to the sequel.
That, I think, is the weakest element of the story this time out, as it seems more a likely motive for Andrea to murder Principal Bernarda rather than simply kill herself…. and I half expected that to turn out to be the real plot twist. You know… the old trusty “I’m not really dead… I just faked it to be able to “haunt” you and drive you to suicide” story approach. But no… Andrea really is dead. As a ghost, she’s going to pretty much follow the idea we saw in the sequel… haunting Claudia until she is killed by a fall from the tower and then resurrecting her to use Claudia to drive Bernarda to that penultimate scene in the tower we remember from the 2007 sequel. At least here… the idea of Claudia returning from the dead is handled better and… for the most part actually works. Of particular note is the very classic and creepy scene of her resurrection in the school’s chapel while Bernarda is praying for forgiveness for having driven yet another young girl to an untimely and unnecessary death.
Here, the film does better than it’s sequel…. drawing out Claudia’s possession over a couple of days, giving plenty of time for some lavishly Gothic scenes that have the girls and Vice-principal Lucia slowly figuring out that it’s really Andrea who’s really walking among them yet again. Plenty of dark, shadowy nights, with entranced schoolgirls wandering about in nightgowns while the eerie winds blow…. creepy midnight piano playing by Claudia/Andrea…. and even an extra romantic subplot between the school’s resident “wild girl” Kitty and hunky boyfriend Armando. It all works well…. with very little extraneous plot getting in the way of the story.
By now, you are probably getting the idea that of the two films, this is the one your Favorite Catgirl liked the best… and you’d be right. For the most part, this 1968 version is superior to it’s sequel in almost every way. While not the match of modern special effects and lacking the more suitably exploitative “scandalous” sexual undertones of the sequel, it nonetheless uses it’s strengths well to tell a very classic period story. Mind you… this lil’ lady is a sucker for Gothic ghost stories, so you have to take that into account, but overall I think most viewers would agree with me that sometimes… especially in ghost stories… it’s what you don’t see that can be the most scary.
So…. Does Andrea still get her revenge? Does our heroine Claudia miraculously manage to survive her untimely death yet again? Yes, yes…. you almost had to expect that, but luckily for us… this time out it doesn’t seem all that stupid or out of place, story-wise. In a way… given the material they were trying to work with, Neko can almost forgive the sequel for also going with this plot…. I just wished they’d have handled it as well as the 1968 version does. Here it actually works… and in the sequel it really doesn’t… coming across more as a lame “tacked on” sort of ending. Oh well…
Given all of this, Neko can tell you she really did enjoy this one, and yes…. if period ghost stories are your thing… you’d probably like it too. I can give 1968’s “Hasta El Viento Tiene Miedo” a well deserved 4 “Meows” out of 5, quite a contrast to it’s rather lackluster sequel. Even my sweet Carolyn agreed… and that alone made the efforts I put into finding and subtitling it worth while. It truly is a classic… in wide-screen and gorgeous Technicolor… truly a top notch effort from the Mexican cinema industry of the late 60’s.
However… if you wish to see it too, that may prove to be a bit harder…. unless you speak or understand Spanish. As far as I could discover (although I might be wrong), it was never released here in the US by it’s International distributor, Columbia Pictures… although I did find reference to a subtitled version on VHS having been made at some point or other. No currently available legitimate English subtitled DVD seems to exist, although the subtitles from that earlier VHS release will work with the South American DVD if can find them and you are willing to do a wee bit of tweaking to fix some synchronization problems that exist, probably due to film breaks in the copy used to master that particular DVD. If those things are beyond you… then you’ll probably have to wait until some more English friendly version gets released somewhere down the line. If that ever happens… Neko definitely says go for it!!
There is, however, a Trailer available…. and naturally Neko managed to snag a link for those of you interested… Enjoy!!