The Living Idol (1957)

Article 3550 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-11-2011
Posting Date: 5-4-2011
Directed by Rene Cardona and Albert Lewin
Featuring Steve Forrest, Lilane Montevecchi, James Robertson Justice
Country: USA / Mexico
What it is: Reincarnation and ancient curses

A young woman becomes the focus of a scientist fascinated by the history of human sacrifice who believes she might be the reincarnation of the victim of an ancient ritual involving sacrifice to a jaguar god… and he’s intent on testing his theory.

This movie sat on my hunt list for the longest time before a copy showed up. I’m very glad to have finally seen it; in some ways, it’s a variation on your basic “mad scientist” movie, only centered on reincarnation, superstition and ancient rituals. The end result is often fascinating; I’ve never really seen a story like this, and there are moments that are startlingly effective. Yet, for all that, the movie is a misfire; despite a fascinating story, it suffers from awkward and bizarre pacing, and its potentially scary scenes are badly ruined by an over-reliance on clumsy narration. I suspect that the problem may be that co-director Albert Lewin also wrote the novel on which the movie was based, and I found myself wondering if he just couldn’t let go of certain prose passages. Yet, between the fascinating characters and ideas, I firmly believe this could have been a classic. In my personal opinion, this is the type of movie that should be remade in the hopes that someone can circumvent the problems and make it work. As it is, I’m very glad to have seen it, but understand why the movie is rather difficult to find and appreciate.

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