Black Pit of Dr. M (The) AKA Misterios de ultratumba (Blu-ray) [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - United Kingdom - Powerhouse Films
Review written by and copyright: Rick Curzon (3rd June 2023).
The Film

These four macabre titles from the vaults of one of Mexico’s best-known film companies offer uniquely Mexican takes on the ghosts, witches, and monsters familiar to fans of horror cinema and fiction.

Fernando Méndez’s Black Pit of Dr. M (Misterios de ultratumba) sees a doctor make a pact with his dying colleague in order to learn the secrets of the afterlife. In Chano Urueta’s The Witch’s Mirror (El espejo de la bruja), a murderer is tormented by the ghost of his dead wife, whilst in Urueta’s The Brainiac (El barón del terror), a nobleman executed for necromancy returns in diabolical form to eradicate the lineage of his killers... by sucking out their brains! Finally, in Rafael Baledón’s The Curse of the Crying Woman (La maldición de la Llorona), a young bride visits her aunt's Gothic mansion, where she finds that she is the descendent of one of Mexican folklore's most terrifying figures.

With their star-studded casts, beautiful photography, eerie production design, and bone-chilling atmosphere, these films have terrified audiences for decades, and are now available in this strictly limited, individually numbered Blu-ray box set, which includes an array of new extra features – including four new audio commentaries, and rare English-language dub tracks – as well as a set of art cards and a fully illustrated 100-page book.


This set presents four films from the Almeda vaults, all of which were presented in 2009 on rather good DVD editions from Casa Negra in the USA. However, these are more recent restorations and offer significant improvements on those old discs. The booklet that accompanies this set (see extras below) has this to say about the transfers:
The HD remasters of Black Pit of Dr. M, The Witch’s Mirror, The Brainiac and The Curse of the Crying Woman were supplied by Alameda Films.

First up, in the case of The Black Pit of Dr. M, The Witch's Mirror and The Curse of the Crying Woman they're presented in the original negative Academy aspect ratio of 1.37:1 and have a significant amount of additional information in the frames when compared to the 1.33:1 DVDs. On the old US DVD The Brainiac was also presented 1.33:1 but is here for the first time since it's theatrical release presented in the matted widescreen ratio of 1.85:1. It has some additional image on the left and right but is cropped top and bottom. Having watched all four discs the image (and sound) is much the same on all four films with the matted Brainiac being slightly different due to the matting.

The Academy Ratio Films: The Black Pit of Dr. M, The Witch's Mirror & The Curse of the crying Woman

There's no information as regards the source of all four of these films, but given the quality I'm assuming one close to the OCN as these are all gorgeous, sumptuous monochrome presentations with virtually no damage at all (I only saw the odd speckle here and there). Black levels are deep and rich with excellent supportive contrast that allows detail to shine on all focal planes. These are old, photochemical films so don't expect razor sharp images ala modern digitally lensed productions; there is a natural, grainy softness that provides plenty of atmosphere. Grain is brilliantly handled by Fidelity in Motion's encode ensuring no digital splats and everything looks filmic. I saw no compression issues and no signs of digital tinkering. Gamma is expertly balanced to remove or prevent any colour bias creeping in. There are some fluctuations according to density and optical layering inherent in the way these films were made die to optical printing (mainly noticeable in the credits and in scene transitions or where optically impose SPFX are present.

The matted 1.85:1 film: The Brainiac

The only additional comment here is that being matted grain is increased slightly do to the 1.85:1 matte forcing zooming in to the image. In every other way The Brainiac is pretty much the same as the other three films.

Overall the presentations warrant an "A" although individually The Witch's Mirror is ever so slightly weaker and probably would get "A-".

1080p24 / AVC MPEG-4 / 4 x BD25 / 1.37:1 for all bar The Brainiac which is 1.85:1 / 81:27, 75:34, 77:06, 80:09


Spanish LPCM 1.0 (49kHz) (all four)
English LPCM 1.0 (48kHz) (on The Witch's Mirror, The Brainiac and The Curse of the Crying Woman only)
Subtitles: English (for the Spanish tracks), English HoH (for the English tracks) (optional)

These low budget but professionally done mono tracks are generally in great shape. Dialogue remains the main focus with swells of scoring also taking centre stage at times; booming, bombastic, melodramatic music kicking in. However, it never hinders clarity. Hiss is mildly ever present but is unlikely to be heard by most unless one pumps the 1.0 tracks through a 5.1 (or greater) system and channels the sound to all speakers). There's occasional sibilant issues and base on some dialogue but these films feature production sound recorded on set and generally sound great. Excellent subtitles in English are optional for the Spanish tracks and English .hard of hearing tracks for the English dubs.


Audio commentary on "The Black Pit of Dr. M" by historian Abraham Castillo Flores (2023)
Audio commentary on "The Witch's Mirror" by historian David Wilt (2023)
Audio commentary on "The Brainiac" by historian and filmmaker Keith J. Rainville (2023)
Audio commentary on "The Curse of the Crying Woman" by historian Morena de Fuego (2023)

Flores begins in an avuncular fashion by hoping we're sitting comfortably and with a beverage of choice in hand. He begins by recounting the origins of the film covering the sources starting with mentions of W.W. Jacobs (The Monkey's Paw) and Edgar Allen Poe, and then segues on to what he feels is the true origin - The Phantom World, or the Philosophy of Spirits and Apparitions etc, Volumes 1 and 2 (1850) by Augustin Calmet. After that we get a potted history of Mexican horror films and plenty of fascinating information on the cast and crew as well as technical accomplishments and traits and analysis of the films' themes. Very occasionally, Flores accent is a tad hard to decipher but that's to be expected (English isn't his first language) but this only happened on a handful of occasions and I had to rewind and increase the volume to help. Presented in lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 mono with no subtitles.

Wilt's track is based on forty hears of experience and is filled with everything one could want from such a track, a breathless examination of the film covering all bases starting with the director (Chano Urueta) and his early career in Hollywood. Other topics covered include Urueta's influences, the film's motifs and themes, technical aspects of production, production design and various members of the cast and crew amongst many other topics. Presented in lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 mono with no subtitles.

Rainville was the publisher of From Parts Unknown magazine (in the 1990s), dealing with Mexican pop culture and is the co-author of Rencor: Life in Grudge City (2016) and author and editor of Lucha Noir: A Lucha Libre Sketchbook (2006) amongst others and is the screenwriter of Los campeones de la lucha libre [The Wrestling Champions] (2008). A man who obviously has a passion for Mexican cinema and wrestling! As one would expect this track is on point and filled with trivia about The Brainiac. Presented in lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 mono with no subtitles.

De Fuego's yaktrak covers the film in detail and compates it to other films such as the two 1931 Universal Dracula productions, especially George Melford's superior Spanish-language version and Mario Bava's Black Sunday (1960). Other topics include the origins of the La Larona legends, the film's visuals, themes and subtexts, the cast and crew in detail, the mangling of Mexican horror films in English-speaking territories amongst lots of other great trivia. Presented in lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 mono with no subtitles.

"Black Pit of Dr. Méndez: Eduardo de la Vega Alfaro on Fernando Méndez" 2023 interview (26:02)
"Preserving a Legacy: Daniel Birman Ripstein Reminisces About Alfredo Ripstein" 2023 interview (19:19)
"Rosita Arenas at Mexico Maleficarum: Resurrecting 20th Century Mexican Horror Cinema" 2022 interview (13:08)
"¡Qué viva Chano!: Eduardo de la Vega Alfaro on Chano Ureta" 2023 interview (23:00)
"The Daughters of La Llorona: Julissa de Llano Macedo & Cecilia Fuentes Macedo Remember Their Mother Rita Macedo" 2023 interviews (25:36)
"Daydreams and Nightmares: Eduardo de la Vega Alfaro on Rafael Baledón" 2023 interview (17:43)

A collection of interviews totalling 45:21 (on the Black Pit of Dr. M disc), 13:08 (on The Witch's Mirror disc), 23:00 (on The Brainiac disc) and 43:19 (on The Curse of the Crying Woman disc). That's a grand total of 124:48 worth of analysis of the four films in this set. With the exception of the "The Daughters of La Llorona: Julissa de Llano Macedo & Cecilia Fuentes Macedo Remember Their Mother Rita Macedo" which is from point of view of family, these are interviews with historians and journalists covering various aspects of the films concerned. Plenty of interest here presented in 1080p24 1.78:1 with lossy Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo with optional English subtitles.

"Mondo Macabre: Mexican Horror Movies" 2001 TV episode (24:34)

This is an uncut episode (As far as I can tell) of the cracking Mondo Macabro TV series (2001-02) that sought to bring various wonderful films from around the world to a wider audience. Made by the team who would go on to create the successful DVD / BD label of the same name. Features interviews with Ignacio Duran Loera (director general mexican cultural institute) and David Wilt (film historian and writer). Narrated by the wonderful Penelope McGhie who became THE voice of the series. Presented in 1080i60 1.78:1 with lossy English / Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo with no subtitles for English dialogue but burnt in subtitles for any non-English bits. This is found on The Witch's Mirror disc (#2 in the set).

The Black Pit of Dr. M Theatrical Trailer (3:07)
The Witch's Mirror Theatrical Trailer (3:29)
The Brainiac Theatrical Trailer (3:46)
The Curse of the Crying Woman Theatrical Trailer (4:12)

Vintage promos presented in 1080p24 1.37:1 with lossy Dolby Digital 1.0 sound and optional English subtitles.

The Black Pit of Dr. M Image Gallery: Original Promotional Material (41 images)
The Witch's Mirror Image Gallery: Original Promotional Material (20 images)
The Brainiac Image Gallery: Original Promotional Material (33 images)
The Curse of the Crying Woman Image Gallery: Original Promotional Material (24 images)
The Brainiac Image Gallery: Original Fotonovella (35 images)

Chunky set of HD image galleries ... 153 images in total!

100-page liner notes book with new essays by José Luis Ortega Torres, David Wilt and Abraham Castillo Flores, an archival essay by Andrew Syder and Dolores Tierney, an obituary of Abel Salazar and film credits

Another superb hard copy companion filled with material of great interest that boosts one's appreciation of the films. Worth the price of the set by itself!

Limited edition exclusive set of five art cards

Not sent for review.


Unknown, not sent for review.


This superb set is easily one of the sets of the year as far as I'm concerned. These four films (hopefully with more to come!) are appearing on BD for the first time in the UK (and are worldwide premieres as well) and are strongly recommended to fans of horror, fans of Universal and Hammer horror films ... they can more than hold their own against those more well known items. Image and sound are excellent, the extras superb and provide plenty of contextual added value. The only caveat is that Frank Coleman's excellent commentary on the 2009 Casa Negra Brainiac DVD hasn't been ported over. Of the films conventionally the weakest and silliest (but also the most fun) is The Brainiac. It's the one with the highest profile in English-speaking territories; the others are all great, more conventional examples of gothic horror cinema.

Transform yourself into your creature of choice and fly, run, swim or teleport to the nearest website and get this set ordered and on it's waybto you soonest! Highly recommended!

The Film: A- Video: A Audio: B+ Extras: A+ Overall: A


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