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El Esqueleto De La Senora Morales AKA Skeleton Of Mrs. Morales
Dr. Pablo Morales (Arturo de Córdova) works as a taxidermist. He makes a decent enough living and manages to support his hypochondriac wife, Gloria (Amparo Rivelles). Their marriage, however, is quite troubled. While it's fair to say that Pablo enjoys a drink with his friends on a regular basis, he's hardly the raging alcoholic that Gloria makes him out to be when speaking to the local priest (Antonio Bravo) and her judgmental church friends about him. In fact, the way she makes it out, Pablo is an abusive drunk, constantly trying to have his way with her, even when she's taken ill (which seems to be all of the time).
When he comes home from work one day, she insists on sitting with him at the dinner table but then chastises the maid for giving him a beer. He cuts up his steak, only to have her criticize him for eating meat in front of her, something she finds repulsive ever since she married him (his occupation has done him no favors in this regard). When he makes an arrangement with a shop dealer to purchase himself a new camera with money that he's saved, he comes home to get it only to find that she's given it to the church so that an altar can be repaired. He gets it back, makes the purchase and then, a short time later, she smashes it on the ground and yells out ‘No Pablo, don't beat me! Don't beat me!' loud enough that the nosy neighbors will be able to hear it and make a stir.
At this point, Pablo decides it's high time to do something about this, and so he comes up with a plan to get away with the perfect crime…
A surprisingly stylish and tense darkly comedic thriller, The Skeleton Of Mrs. Morales has a twisted sense of humor to it that really pulls you in to its tightly scripted plot. We don't get a lot of character development here, but we certainly get enough to make this work. We feel for Pablo early on. He really does try to have a normal relationship with Gloria. He just wants affection from her, physical and emotional, but after all these years of marriage all she can do is complain about his job, his eating habits and his drinking (which she grossly exaggerates) and then go on to tell people in her circle how he is a frequently abusive rapist. Pablo isn't perfect, not by any stretch, but he's got a likable and laid-back vibe to him thanks to Arturo de Córdova excellent performance and we feel for the guy as his story unfolds. Likewise, Amparo Rivelles is great as his shrewish wife. She does have some legitimate health problems but seems to constantly exaggerate them. She berates not only her husband but her hired help as well, and she lies fairly constantly. Despite her attempts to keep up appearances with the equally judgmental town priest, she is not a good person, no matter how much she pretends to be.
Director Rogelio A. González , working from script from Luis Alcoriza (who adopted Arthur Machen's story), paces the film perfectly. It builds quite nicely, setting things up in the first half so that the second half has the proper amount of impact. The cinematography from Víctor Herrera is top notch, especially once we head into Pablo's shop. Here the film gets remarkably atmospheric, and Herrera makes fantastic use of shadow and light, the ominous sight of Pablo's pet falcon leering over his shoulder as he deals with a steady stream of animal carcasses (sensitive viewers may want to know ahead of time that these carcasses are real). It makes for an eerie setting, particularly once Pablo's mind turns to murder.
The Skeleton Of Mrs. Morales arrives on Blu-ray from VCI (well, technically on BD-R, as this is a burned/made on demand disc and not a pressed one) in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.33.1 full frame (which would appear to be the proper aspect ratio for the film) with the feature taking up just over 21GBs of space on a 25GB disc. Noted as being taken from a new 4k scan, this would likely have been an excellent transfer were it not for some noticeable noise reduction. There's no noticeable grain here at all, and skin tones look more than a tiny bit smooth. This doesn't obliterate all of the fine detail in the image, but it does definitely smooth over some of it, which is a shame because otherwise this would have looked very nice. The image shows very little print damage outside of a few white specks here and there and the elements look to have been in great shape. Contrast looks good and black levels are solid, and there are no issues with compression artifacts or edge enhancement. It just doesn't look as filmic as you'd hope for.
The only audio option on the disc is a Spanish language LPCM option. It sounds fine. It's properly balanced and the track is clean and clear. The score has a bit of depth to it, not a ton but a bit, and the dialogue sounds decent enough. Optional English subtitles are provided, though there are fairly consistent, albeit minor, typos noticeable throughout.
Promo spots for a few other Mexican titles available from VCI play before the menu screen loads. From there we get the option of turning the subtitles on and off and some chapter selection, but that's it.
The Skeleton Of Mrs. Morales is a seriously enjoyable film, one that should appeal to anyone with an appreciation for darkly comedic mysteries or thrillers. It's extremely well shot and the performances are great. So too is it paced well and, at times, quite tense. VCI's BD-R release could and should have looked better than it does, but it is more than watchable even if it is overly digitized. No real extras, but the movie itself is absolutely worth seeing. Recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.