Sunday, April 1, 2012

Bonus Week: 3 DEV ADAM (3 Giant Men: Captain America and Santo vs. Spider-Man, 1973)

       So there's one more movie we've got to cover with the year of el santo. Truly this is the most demented thing I've had to endure yet with this blog. Apparently Santo's popularity spread across the atlantic ocean. Not really surprising news, as the man was just as famous in Spain as he was in South America. However, it appears his reach went as far as Turkey. 

A...loose adaptation of an American icon.

       He was so famous in Turkey, that apparently Turkish filmmakers felt the need to make their own Santo picture. It's not actually a Santo starring vehicle though, as he's teamed up with Captain America, also ripped off, to combat the nefarious Spider-Man, also ripped off, and turned into a murderous counterfeiting/antique dealer. The final product is 3 Dev Adam (pronounced "UH DUM"). 

Fake spider-man ass stomping!

       Captain America and El Santo arrive from North America (obviously played by turkish actors) to aid Turkish law enforcement in their efforts to capture the Spider-Man, who has fled his bloody conflicts with the Mafia in the US, and is now on a strange and mostly unexplained mass murder spree throughout Turkey. It's seriously messed up. He buries women up to their necks in beach sand, and then has his henchman push a spinning boat propeller into his screaming face, FOR NO GOOD REASON AT ALL! He breaks into couples' homes while they're having sex in the shower (?!) and stabs them to death with fire pokers, FOR NO GOOD REASON AT ALL! He even jumps out of a wood pile to stab a man he perceives to be a mafia tail, FOR NO GOOD REASON AT ALL! 

El Mullet

     So while this nonsense is going on, fake Captain America and fake El Santo roam around Turkey, sans superhero costumes. Not that big a deal where Captain America is concerned, even though he's obviously not caucasian or even American. On the other hand, we see fake El Santo's face a great deal, which is a big no no in the genuine movies. In real life, no one saw Santo's face, except for his closest loved ones. A public unmasking was about the worst shaming a luchador could suffer. There are a few instances in the Santo movies where he's about to be unmasked that are played to great dramatic effect. Not here though. He spends most of the movie out of costume. What's even more frustrating is how little effort is put into making the costumes look good. Fake Captain America runs around with the cowl of his mask flapping about, never bothering to tuck it into the top of his tights and make it look right. Even more grievous is that fake El Santo has a MULLET!


      Watching this batshit insane movie, I wonder how much of it was made out of a crass need to cash in on the name recognition of this characters, and how much of it was totally inept ignorance of them. I have a feeling its a little from column A, and a little from column B. It's pretty clear that the filmmakers are having fun taking the piss out of these western pop culture icon, Spider-man in particular. While Captain America is portrayed as somewhat superhuman, Spiderman displays none of his usual superpowers, instead using doubles of himself (who are slaughtered in the dozens by fake Captain America) and mostly getting his ass kicked. There's a genuine sloppiness to the filmmaking, as scenes begin before the actors have heard action called. Fights are showns from multiple angles, with hits shown in their entirety multiple times, and obviously not on purpose. 


No Silver Masks given as this shit is obviously fake.

Fun Fact: The prints for this movie were supposedly lost in a fire at the Turkish film studio that made. All that's available now are video transfers. 

Friday, March 30, 2012

Epilogue: El Santo, en retrospectiva


       So here's something special I've planned for the end of the year of El Santo. Seeing all of these, there's a temptation to rank all of them in order of best to worst. Instead of doing a top ten, I've decided to pick the five best, as I see them, and the five worst, as I see them. 

Top Five:

Here's my five favorite Santo movies out of 52. These are the ones that I'd recommend to anyone who wants to see a couple of these films. If you see one of these on Telemundo, you should stop and watch it. These aren't just good for Santo, they're decent movies in general. 

5. Santo contra los villanos del ring (a.k.a. Santo vs. The Villains of the Ring, 1966)

This is one of my personal favorites out of all 52 movies. It's not the craziest or even most exciting film in the series by far, with Santo battling a group of grifters who employ wrestlers to do their dirty work. No ghosts, no zombies, no wolfmen or vampires. The villians are entirely earthly in nature, and that's part of the movie's charm. These are wrestling pictures after all, and seeing Santo clash with people involved in his chosen profession makes for dynamic storytelling, coupled with some of the best shot fight scenes found in the Santo anthology. 


4. Santo en el museo de cera (Santo In The Wax Museum, 1963)

Another personal favorite, and one of the more well known ones here in the states, due to it being dubbed and released in English during Santo's heyday, and then later being lampooned on Mystery Science Theater 3000. The film takes a Hitchcockian route in story telling by having most of the story told from the villain's point of view, an unscrupulous wax museum curator, using real people in his exhibits. How Vincent Price of him! 


3. Santo en Las momias de Guanajuato (Santo in The Mummies of Guanajuato, 1970)

Widely considered the greatest luchador movie to come out of Mexico, I'm not sure I'd call it the greatest Santo movie, however, it's plenty entertaining. Santo gets little screen time, with it mostly in favor of Blue Demon and newcomer Mil Mascaras. The three eventually have a marvel team up of sorts to deal with some demonic reanimated wrestlers. Silliness abounds.


2. Santo y Blue Demon contra los monstruos (Santo and Blue Demon vs. the Monsters, 1969)

Purportedly Santo's personal favorite of all his own films, this one is a text book example of silly luchador movies. A mad scientist takes control of a gaggle of goofy monsters and unleashes them on Santo and Blue Demon. There's not much more to it, and I guess there doesn't need to be. 


1. Santo en Operación 67 (a.k.a. Santo in Operation 67, 1966)

For my money, this is the best Santo movie, period. A sort of riff/knock off of James Bond and Euro spy thrillers from the 60s. Santo is teamed with an up and coming Mexican heart throb, and the two do battle with a clandestine criminal organization who could possibly be the World Crime League mentioned at the end of Buckaroo Banzai. Santo gets to be a bit of a sex symbol, as he macks on all the ladies without ever being the weird, sorta rapey Santo of the later movies. 


Honorable Mention: Santo en la venganza de las mujeres vampiro (Santo in the Revenge of the Vampire Women, 1970)

In the entirety of the Santo oeuvre, there's about a half dozen involving vampires of some sort. This is the best of that lot. Santo battles a classical horror monster, viewed through the lens of 70s exploitation horror. It's worth a look. 

Bottom Five:

...and here, are my five least favorites, out of 52. There's obviously more bad than good Santo movies. There's a lot of them that were bad, that I honestly don't recall, so they don't make the list. These are the ones so bad, that I remembered them in a negative light. I'd advise avoiding these five movies at all cost. 

5. Santo y Blue Demon en las bestias del terror (Santo and Blue Demon in the Beasts of Terror, 1972)

The best example of false advertising in a movie title that I've personally seen! There are no beasts, and very little terror. It's just Santo and Blue Demon looking bored.


4. Santo contra el estrangulador (Santo vs. The Strangler, 1963)
An annoying rip off of Phantom Of The Opera, featuring some crazed asshat who likes to murder sub par Mexican entertainers who sing at a crappy music hall. 


3. Santo contra hombres infernales (Santo vs. The Infernal Men, 1958)

An early, rough effort from Santo and his filmmaking buddies that's so tedious and dull, it almost derailed all of my enthusiasm for this blog, and it was only the second movie in the Santo oeuvre. The villains are boring, and Santo is relegated to being a super powered sidekick. It's snore inducing.

2. Santo en los profanadores de tumbas (a.k.a. Santo in The Grave Robbers, 1965)

One of the rarer Santo movies, if you should choose not to heed my warnings and see it anyway, you'll find out why its just so uncommon. Santo clashes with a group of ineffective ghouls who like to steal cadavers. The lead grave robber spends a great amount of time telling his subordinates about all his evil machinations, which never work, not even slightly. Santo is always one step ahead. The only time he feels under threat is when he's forced to fight an evil lamp shade. Yup, Santo wrestles a lamp shade.


1. Santo en el hotel de la muerte (Santo In The Hotel of Death, 1961)

Truly the worst El Santo movie out of all 52. It's true that there are some that were made even more poorly, or that were even most tedious and cornier. But the plot of this one is so obnoxiously stupid and nonsensical, (which is saying something for movies who's hero is a masked pro wrestler) that I found myself actively hating it, and chances are you will too, should you suffer the displeasure of seeing it. The most unfortunate aspect of it all is that it has one of the best movie posters for it. 


Dishonorable Mention: El espectro del estrangulador (a.k.a. The Ghost of the Strangler, 1963)

A direct sequel to Santo vs. The Strangler, a sidekick for the Strangler is introduced, and its quickly revealed that he's basically the brains of the operations. Stupid. 



Coming Soon: Santo teams up with Captain America to fight...Spider-man? In Turkish? What the hell?

Friday, March 23, 2012

Week 52: Santo en la furia de los karatekas (Santo in Fury of the Karate Experts, 1982)

      Well folks, here we are. This is it. The final official El Santo movie. We've waded through all the movies starring the original man in the silver mask. It feels like we've accomplished something. What that something might be, I have no idea, but whatever it is, it feels profound. There were times when I didn't think I'd make it, but I did, and since you're reading this, it means you did! Hooray!

NOT Courtney Love

         This week's movie is a continuation of last weeks. It's one of the few direct sequels in the Santo oeuvre. The only other set I can think of is the Strangler cycle, and the less said about those two movies, the better. The evil priestess and her glittery gold henchman from the last movie return to menace the Jungle Girl once more, now on her wedding day to Prince Chang, the titular "Karate Expert". Santo and Carlito parachute into action, literally. This time out, they decide to skip the endless travel involved in getting to this esoteric castle and just parachute in from a Cessna. 

Santo parachuting in.

And Carlito parachuting in...

     Some how the bad guys manage to steal the penis shaped space rock AGAIN, and use its magic to cause all sorts of trouble for Santo and his friends. I don't know how they keep getting their hands on this thing. You'd think after the events of the first movie, they'd put that shit under lock and key, instead of leaving it the open air temple they worship in. 

The bad guys, plodding. Get it? Plodding...?

       I'm not exactly sure why this is called Fury of the Karate Experts. The karate experts, or expert, since there's really only one in the movie, don't really do jack shit. Santo has to do most of the heavy lifting. The only scene where his skills come into play is a brief sequence where Santo is brainwashed by the evil priestess and sent to kidnap the jungle girl. Prince Chang is the only one who is a physical match for the 60 something Santo. The whole bit is an obvious plot device to get these two bruisers into a fight. The rest of the movie has Prince Chang sitting on the sidelines.

Santo's friends console him about the end of his movie career.

       The next time he comes into play is to be killed, that's right, killed, by a pack of killer apes, left as a trap by the bad guys. It's actually one of the more hilarious scenes in this, or any Santo picture, as the apes are obvious men in ape suits, and the entire fight scene erupts into a blood bath, with numerous heroes and villains being wasted. Just about all the heavy hitters show up for this scene, with most of the antagonists getting killed. The Good prietess' advisor, a man who spent the better part of two movies trying to convince the viewer that he's a zen master, hilariously pulls out a revolver and just starts filling killer apes with lead, until he's throttled to death by one of them.

Fun with Ape costumes!

      It's because of the hilarious and bizarre Ape filled re-enactment of the Wild Bunch, that I'm going to give this film a kinder rating than its predecessor, even though it pads out its own runtime by showing us the exact same Jungle Girl origin from the previous film. I would've liked for Santo's final feature to have been something grander, but I had a feeling, given how bad or forgettable some of the previous movies were, that the man wasn't going to go out on a high note. Still, however goofy this movie was, it at least gave him a grander villain than the run of the mill criminal types he started his movie career with. 


Two and a Half Silver Masks out of a possible Five.

Coming Soon: My top five recommendations for those looking to start watching Santo movies, and my bottom five movies that I'll implore you to stay away from! 

Plus! The "official" Santo movie series might be done, but there's one more movie we have yet to watch! Stay tuned...

Friday, March 16, 2012

Week 51: Santo en el puño de la muerte (Santo in Fist of Death, 1982)

     So here we are, the penultimate Santo movie. It's been a long year, filled with masked latin heroes, silly rubber faced monster men, and big bazongaed babes of all shapes and sizes. This week, we encounter more of the same, in the vaguely titled Fist Of Death. That title might mean any sort of thing. One imagines Santo evading the fists of a grim reaper sort of character. Instead, the movie unravels a tale of strangeness involving good and evil twin priestesses, a star child, and a bunch of Mexicans pretending to be Chinese martial arts experts. 

"You didn't have to steal the table too..."

     The evil priestess, with mammary glands the size of Texas, tasks her evil chief henchman, an unnamed luchador, to steal a glowing space rock from her goody two-shoe sister. Once he does this, the good priestess, also with a boob job so laughingly huge they could've seen these things from space, consults a suspiciously C-3PO like oracle, who summons Santo to aid them in their retrieval of the magic space rock.

Look! Boobs!

The Ewoks weren't his only worshippers.

   Seriously, look at that image. Its so awesomely shameless that they used a C-3PO halloween mask. Anyway, it turns out that the star child, known as "jungle girl", had come to the priestesses with the space rock long ago, and now that she is an adult, she is betrothed to a prince from, I guess, China, or at least some vague asiatic country. This prince arrives to collect his new bride, but has to throw into the mix of nonsense when the evil priestess and her luchador goon decide to sacrifice jungle girl to...whatever. None of this is ever really explained properly. 

It's a lovely day for a pontoon ride. 

      Santo and his sidekick Carlitos spend most of the movie commuting to the esoteric temples where all these goofy characters call home. They're in a swamp pontoon boat, and then an airplane, and then another boat, and then another boat, and another. I guess the producers decided to just film all the transportation details behind the scenes and add them into the movie. Santo does get a shockingly gory (for a santo movie) scene where he hurls an assassin into the propeller blades of said plane. 


    This is one of the stranger latter day Santo movies, and probably one of the strangest all around. There's all these weird, martial arts characters living out in a swamp someplace in a big stone temple. Who the hell are these people? Why are they living out there? Why do they all worship a big glowing salt rock shaped like a penis? Why does Santo never look around at all these goofy fuckers and ask "what the hell is wrong with you people?"


Two Silver Masks out of a possible Five

Fun Fact: Just a year after his retirement in 1984, Santo was a guest on Contrapunto, a Mexican television program. Without warning,  he removed his mask just enough to expose his face, in effect bidding his fans goodbye.[3] It is the only documented case of Santo ever removing his mask in public.[2] Santo died from a heart attack on February 5, 1984,  a week after his Contrapunto TV appearance.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Week 50: Chanoc y el hijo del Santo contra los vampiros asesinos (Chanoc and Son of Santo vs. The Killer Vampires, 1981)

The passing of Santo Mantle...

         So as we get towards the bitter end here, we come upon a bit of an anomaly with this week's movie. It features the Son of El Santo. Santo himself only cameos briefly in the opening prologue. He has a sort of passing of the torch moment with his son, who has become ready to don a silver mask of his own and defend the weak and put-upon. He's also saddled with Santo's latter day movie sidekick Carlitos, who's tells people he is the young man's guardian, even though son of Santo is old enough to grow a mustache and wear a speedo in front of grown women. Yup, we see his face.

The most awkward pool party ever.

       As you can see by the title, the fruit of Santo's loins isn't even the top billed hombre in this. He plays second fiddle to some dork named Chanoc, who when not singing, runs around with a knife on his belt, telling people about how he wants to save the seals. That's right, Son Of Santo has to put up with the antics of some pseudo green peace nut who's primary goal in life is protecting the cute water rats that inhabit the Mexican panhandle.  Chanoc also has his own insufferable tool of a sidekick, some clown in a bad wig and mustache so phony looking, that I'm not going to even dignify him by finding his name for you readers. 


      So what the hell does this movie have to do with vampires? Well, nothing really. You see, Chanoc is visiting with his seal friends, when he's clubbed over the head by smugglers and left for dead at sea, where Son Of Santo finds him. Son Of Santo is obviously not aware that the life you save is your responsibility from now on, and is saddled with this clown, who insists on investigating these smugglers further. So now does it have nothing to do with vampires, but the seals are out of it as well. A half assed attempt to include vampires occurs at the midway point of the movie, when our gang is informed of urban legends about vampires on the loose in Tijuana.  It's funny that the urban legends they hear from there concern vampires and not things like donkey shows. It turns out the smugglers are posing as vampires while moving their smuggled goods in and out of a graveyard hideout in Tijuana. 

Sweep the leg!

        As not exciting as any of this sounds, its even less so. A good deal of the run time is filled with the two sidekicks teaming up and getting into unfunny mischief. I'd say a good 45 minutes of the movie is filled with these two idiots bumbling around getting into trouble and being rescued by Chanoc and/or Son Of Santo. Son Of Santo acts more like his father did in his early movies, appearing and disappearing rather nebulously like Batman. He's a bit lighter on his feet than his old man, throwing in some martial arts moves for fun, but much like the early Santo movies, a lot of the fights scenes are shot from a static wide angle, with the action really far away. Throughout these 52 movies, there are a number of them I'd likely revisit someday. This is not one of them.


Silver Masks not applicable due to lack of El Santo. 

Fun Fact: Chanoc is actually a Mexican comic strip hero, whose origin is similar to Tarzan. 

Friday, March 2, 2012

Week 49: Santo contra el asesino de televisión (Santo vs the TV Assassin, 1981)

       So movie 49 is one of the more intriguing titles in the Santo oeuvre. If you take the Spanish title literally, it reads as "Santo vs. the Killer of Television", and one might ask, who would want to kill television? How does one even "kill" television? Do they want to smash the infrastructure that manufactures televisions for the consumer market, or is it the notion of television itself that they wish to dispatch? You cannot fight a concept, killing television is like having a war on terrorism. It's an intangible opponent. It's at least nebulous at best, and not something someone can really take up arms against. 

"...and that's getting their asses kicked."

    Anyway, since I've just wasted a paragraph over thinking the title, lets get to the meat and bones of the situation. Some masked goon calling himself Magnus overtakes all the Mexican airwaves with an obnoxious amount of white noise, followed by his blustering threats of committing violent crimes live over the airwaves for all of Mexico to watch. Such violent crimes include kidnapping obscure Mexican singers, and holding up pawn shops. Truly this man is a frightening menace. He'd probably be more threatening if he just mooned his pirated audience. Santo gets dragged into the mix when he's asked to be the bodyguard of a second Mexican pop diva whom Magnus has threatened to kidnap. 

Magnus, the TV Killer.

      My main problem with this movie is that there is a great concept promised right in the title, that's never really paid off. We're promised an ASSASSIN, someone who murders for profit, and yet Magnus, this titular TV killer, never actually kills anyone, except himself, at the end, OOPS! Spoilers. With such a crazy title, you'd expect the villain to do some crazy Videodrome shit to people. Brainwashing them, and having them see crazy shit that isn't really there. Alas, nothing of the sort ever happens. I guess Santo vs. the TV Assassin sounds better than Santo vs. the TV Kidnapper And Grand Larcenist though.

"Be sure to drink your Ovaltine....?"

    Compounding this issue is the return of the previous film's co-star Gerardo Reyes. Yup, that Mexican singing sensation is back, with far too many musical numbers this time out. They really pad this bastard of a movie out with musical interludes for Gerardo. Santo takes the consideration to cancel all his upcoming matches in order to deal with Magnus, meanwhile, Gerardo's character, an Interpol agent undercover as a lounge singer, takes the time to sing at least TWO musical numbers, while his love interest languishes in Magnus' dungeon prison. That's two musical numbers out of what feel like a grand total of 30. There's so many in fact, that the villain, and to some degree Santo, sorta get lost in the shuffle by the third act. You almost forget that all of Mexico is under threat from this Max Headroom wannabe. 

Reyes, singing, again.


      The movie actually isn't all bad, although it still feels pretty cheap, like a lot of these other latter day Santo films. I think a lot of money was spent on the big explosion of Magnus' hideout. Santo has one brief wrestling match in the beginning of the film, and I think him canceling matches during the movie was an excuse not to show the man's age in the ring at this point. He's given a few fight sequences against various henchmen, but usually he enters the fray halfway through, and even then, Gerardo, Carlitos, and the rest of his sidekicks do a lot of the heavy lifting. 


Two Silver Masks out of a possible Five.

Fun Fact: Beginning his musical career shortly after World War II, Gerardo Reyes is now looked upon as a father figure of the Latin Music community. 

Friday, February 24, 2012

Week 48: Santo en la frontera del terror (Santo at the Border of Terror, 1979)

     So here we are at week 48. These movies continue to be pretty terrible at this point, showing Santo well past his prime. In yet another recycled plot line, Santo finds himself entangled in the machinations of another mad scientist, who is harvesting human organs for the black market, or for dubious experiments, or both, who cares. 

Old ass Santo! 

     The unique spin put on things this time is that its an American scientist, preying on illegal Mexican immigrants. The film starts out with two hombres, Fernando & Gerardo, trying in vain to cross the U.S. border. After being unsuccessful, they go to a bar where Gerardo belts out a musical number. Then they go to another bar, where Fernando's fiance belts out another musical number. Two musical numbers in less than ten minutes. Thanks movie! It turns out that Fernando's fiance needs to get her kid sister an operation to fix her deteriorating eye sight. This is why Fernando is so eager to jump the border. He just can't make that bread for his squeeze's surgical needs here in their dumpy barrio town.

"Is that a south American coup in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?"

    For no reason at all, Fernando and his friends are jumped by would be robbers. For equally vague and random reasons, Santo happens to be driving by, and stops to come to their aid. After chasing their attackers away, Santo decides to become their new best friend and benefactor, and agrees to pay for the little girl's surgery out of his own pocket. Fernando and Gerardo hop the border into the states anyway. Smart. 

"why don't we have shirts on again?"

Puma Man star Miguel Angel Fuentes

      It's here that Fernando and Gerardo quickly encounter the mad scientist who has designs on their livers and other vital organs. His enforcer is Monk, a hulking beast of a man played by Miguel Angel Fuentes, he of the Puma Man fame (if you an MST3K fan, you know what I'm talking about). Fernando and Gerardo are locked up inside a barn, where they wait in terror until Santo comes to free them. 

Looks like Santo's got himself in another pickle!

     Most of the movie makes it painfully obvious that Santo just wasn't up to snuff at this point in his career, and likely was mostly bored with this kinda crap. He has two wrestling matches early on in the film, and you can tell they've sped the footage up ever so slightly, so as not to show just how much Santo has slowed down with age, since he was in his 60s at this point. Even in some of the choreographed fight scenes, he doesn't really do much, and is mostly reduced to the sidekick character he played in his earlier films. Much hay is also made of the little girl's lack of sight, but no one seems to point out her irritatingly high, squeaky voice, which is just grating to listen to. This being the late 70s, there's also the introduction of a synth score that's so terrible, it made me long for the stock library music of the 60s films.


One Silver Mask out of a possible Five

Fun Fact: Gerardo is actually played by Mexican singing star Gerardo Reyes.