Friday, December 30, 2011

Week 40: Santo y Blue Demon en las bestias del terror (Santo and Blue Demon in the Beasts of Terror, 1972)

         So we've reached a bit of a milestone readers! I've dragged myself, bloodied, battered, and possibly just a little less sane, to the 40th movie in the El Santo franchise. It's been a long hard road out of mexican wrestling hell, but there's finally light at the end of the tunnel, with only a dozen movies left to go now. Unfortunately, movie number 40 is a bit of a dud. 

Santo and Blue, together again, for their worst team up ever.

     That's probably shocking news for some of you, considering that its features Blue Demon, who usually tends to bring the best out of Santo during these team up movies, but sadly, he's wasted here. Honestly, both men are. I'm not exactly sure why they're even in the movie. It's another kidnapping drama, and for some reason, masked wrestlers are needed to handle such a situation. Of course, they only work on the case during the down time between wrestling matches. Gotta get those in after all! 

"hey, where's these terror beasts you promised us?"

      As I said, its another kidnapping drama. The title is extremely misleading. There are no beasts, and almost no terror in The Beasts Of Terror. One would think misleading titles would be a fairly common thing with these movies, considering how cheaply they're made, but this is the only one I can really recall being the only overtly misleading title. It's certainly the most annoying. If you're going to give your movie a title like that, you damn well better have some kind of monster thing in it. Shit, put a couple guys in gorilla suits and have Santo and Blue beat the living shit out of them. 

"Face my barbed penis of justice evil doer!"

     The only time the movie ever comes close to matching its title, and this is in the vaguest of terms, is when the kidnappers and their prey all become prisoners themselves of a mad scientist. He blathers on about his experiments, and has a hunchback working for him, but his experiments are never elaborated upon. There's one scene where he feeds one of the kidnappers to three angry dogs. Are these the beasts of terror? If they are, they are the lamest terror beasts I've ever seen. Take a gander at the screen grab below and try to tell me with a straight face that you'd feel threatened by those three dogs. Get some rottweilers, or dobermans or something! Sheesh...

The most non-threatening dogs ever.

      The only really other interesting bit to be found in the movie, is a reference to Santo and Blue Demon being old timers now. The same guy who is always a henchman in these things is back as a henchman here, and given the name Marco. He's even given a backstory, as a failed wrestler who got into the kidnapping racket. Santo and Blue Demon know him from "their time" as wrestling stars. A contact of Blue's refers to Marco as "a guy from your time." It's the first time I've noticed any of these movies referencing the fact that both these gentlemen are getting up there, at this point in their movie careers.


One Silver Mask out of a possible Five

Fun Fact: Kidnapping is quite a common criminal enterprise throughout Mexico and South America.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Week 39: Santo contra la magia negra (Santo vs. Black Magic, 1972)

      So this one starts out promising. Santo combatting black magic, yet I honestly can't really tell you much about it, because the movies was so damned dull. This time out, Santo finds himself embarking for Haiti, under the pretense of a series of wrestling bouts, but in actuality, he's there to keep a clandestine group of radicals from obtaining a new form of uranium, that could render stronger nuclear weapons. Wait, what? What the hell does any of that have to do with black magic?

Scrapbooking with El Santo.

     It turns out that these radicals intend to overthrow the current haitian government, and install themselves in its place, using the weapons rendered from this rare form of uranium to make their new Haiti government a formidable world power. To do this, they need to enlist the services of an unscrupulous voodoo priestess who uses zombies to do her bidding. These aren't george romero, flesh eating zombies though, so don't get too excited. They're more of the Serpent And The Rainbow variety. They menace Santo and his friends early on in the movie, and then just sorta get forgotten about. I assume they're the workers mining the uranium.

"Manage a what?"

      It all has the makings of a compelling 70s era Roger Moore 007 movie, yet it never really comes together. Santo parades around in a white tuxedo a couple times, takes in the sites, and the movie just crawls along. A lot of it honestly seems like documentary footage on Haiti, with a nebulous Santo movie built haphazardly around it.


      I don't know what else to say really. It's not the worst one of these I've sat through so far, but its far from the best. It's just an ultimately lazy effort. The concept is solid, but it seems like all involved didn't know how to go about executing it, as if a brainstorming session resulted in someone suggesting Santo fighting a voodoo priestess, but the plot wasn't developed beyond that. 


Two Silver Masks out of a possible Five

Fun Fact: Voodoo was created by African slaves who were brought to Haiti in the 16th century and still followed their traditional African beliefs, but were forced to convert to the religion of their slavers.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Interlude: El Estado De Cosas Hasta El Momento

       Below is all 52 of Santo's films listed in chronological order. The ones I've viewed and reviewed already will have a hot link next to the title "SEEN!" that will take readers directly back to those reviews. The rest will have "ERD:", meaning Expected Review Date next to the title, with the date I expect the review to be up for your reading pleasure. I try to have these things posted every friday, and will hopefully stick to the dates I have listed here. The plan is to update this list quarterly, or about every 90 days. Its a way for readers new and old to catch up and keep up with all things El Santo, and maybe get a chuckle out of some of the funky titles in store for us down the road...

Santo filmography (in order)

Friday, December 16, 2011

Week 38: Santo contra los secuestradores (Santo Vs. The Kidnappers, 1972)

      Hey Santo! You forgot to put the kidnappers in your kidnapper movie! Also, you forgot to be in it yourself. The 38th time out, you can feel the genuine lack of effort in this movie. It opens strong enough. Santo is on a boat, combating a number of shirtless, angry men. After pummeling eight to ten guys into submission, Santo exits the ship, and informs a police chief who lazily ambles up to him on the dock, that he's captured the smugglers and is going on vacation now.

Santo, in another cheap looking, sound stage match.

    While on vacation in Ecuador, Santo is pulled into a kidnapping case involving a money forger he helped to go straight. Apparently his reformed criminal pal has gone missing, and the authorities, and his enormously big breasted sister (more on her in a bit) fear he's been grabbed, and is being forced to take up his old ways. 

The titular kidnappers, and their kidnappie.

      Once again, this makes for what *should* be an interesting set up to a movie featuring Santo, but once again, there's never a proper pay off. After the gist of the plot is set in motion, the movie suddenly diverts its attention to Baristo, a hobo-ish cab driver. This guy is chauffeuring the forger's sister, Elsa, around, and he takes her, eventually Santo, and the movie et large on a number of unnecessary subplots. Actually, they're not even subplots, so much as vignettes. One involves a car accident, while on his way to cash a winning horse racing ticket. Another is a vacation for himself and all his friends, paid out for by his friends against his impending winnings. Later on, Baristo drinks half a bottle of old grand dad while hiding in Santo's hotel room, tries on a Santo mask, and then passes out and has a Manos hands of fate style dream sequence.

Baristo, getting good and tight.

     The kidnapping story line more less disappears until the third act, while we spend an inordinate amount of time focused on this Baristo asshole. Santo weaves in and out of the story line here, rather nebulously. It's as if he's Aslan the lion. I haven't seen a lead character appear so little in their own movie since Steve Guttenberg in Police Academy 4. 


     The movie's only really saving grace is Elsa. I don't know where they found this specimen, but I hope we see more of her in the movies to come. Elsa is the counterfeiter's go go dancing sister. When she's not fretting over her missing brother, she's shaking her massive mammary glands at the camera lens. We see so much of her in her two big dance numbers, basically everything but the nipples, that it left me wondering why they stopped there, and didn't have her bare all.


And more Boobs.

     The kidnappers don't really show up at all until the third act. They're around before that, but in such a clandestine, vague way, that you wonder why the movie was even called vs. The Kidnappers. It's so little, so late, that you don't even give a crap anymore, because you know Santo is going to save the day. The actual mastermind behind the kidnapping is such a telegraphed twist, I was left wishing it turned out to be big boobed Elsa, or Baristo the drunken idiot. That would've at least explained why we spend so much time on such a worthless character. 


One Silver Mask out of a possible Five

Fun Fact: Rossy Mendoza, who played Elsa, actually started out as a Mexican exotic dancer in the 1960s.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Week 37: Santo y Blue Demon contra Drácula y el Hombre Lobo (Santo and Blue Demon Vs. Dracula and the Wolf Man, 1972)

         Hey! Blue Demon is back! Hooray for Blue Demon! He injects some much needed fresh air for the 37th Santo film. We've also got Dracula and the Wolfman thrown into the mix, although I suspect there is no continuity with previous films featuring such monsters. Also I suspect the actor portraying Dracula is the same from the previous Santo vehicle Dracula's Treasure

Santo loves his PDA

     "How do these four titanic personalities comes together for a tag team match between good and evil" you ask? I'll tell you! It turns out that Santo is dating the descendant of a powerful wizard, who in the 16th century, vanquished Dracula and "Rufus", the king of the werewolves, (or "Beast Men" as they're referred to in the film) as they were about to form an alliance between their two monster races, in order to enslave mankind. Resurrected in 70s Mexico by a malevolent hunchback seeking riches from Dracula's favor, the two monster men declare vengeance on their 16th century persecutor's last remaining family. 

Dracula, complete with porkchop sideburns

      Santo takes it upon himself to protect his girlfriend and her family from these supernatural threats, and calls on the expertise of his friend and fellow crime fighter Blue Demon to assist. It's interesting how both wrestlers are introduced in the film, in that its done cheaply. However cheap, and however intentional or no, it manages to be a very moody introduction. Both Men enter the story in mid bout with an opponent in the ring.  It's obvious that these rings are staged environments on a sound stage someplace, and not in real arenas. It's the same ring for both scenes, only with Santo set against a painted blue background, and Blue Demon against a red one. There's even phony audience cheering, and an announcer giving the viewer a play by play, but it all serves to give these moments of the film an expressionistic tone. 

Rufus, the fancy wolfman

       What I found to be sort of a bummer is that the film isn't quite as outlandish and silly as previous "vs. monsters" movies from these two. Dracula and Rufus are played mostly straight, and most of their machinations are from a distance, never really engaging the luchadors in physical combat until the film's climax. Dracula in particular is a mostly static antagonist. He makes a couple of attempts to get at his intended victims, but it warded off by the dagger used so long ago to slay him and Rufus, sorta making it a holy artifact. Unable to be proactive in his own revenge plan, Dracula decides to spend most of the film's run time wandering around his cave, looking on ominously. Its left to Rufus and his growing army of wolf men to do most of the dastardly dirty work, and I'm left wondering why Rufus bothers aligning himself with such an ineffectual loser like Dracula. 

Santo and Blue, out for another ride.

      One of the things that made me happy was the choice to not re-use the lazy wolfman design from Santo & Blue Demon vs. The Monsters. Instead, the movie goes for a classic Universal knock off. All the wolf men in the movie sport this, or similar designs. What they don't all sport is Rufus' flashy yellow disco shirt. Rufus spends most of the movie looking like he's got Saturday night fever.

Fun with pyrotechnics!

        Another plus is that this the first Santo/Blue Demon team up where Blue doesn't spend at least part of the film's run time as a villain. The first three team ups between these two had Blue Demon co-opted by the bad guys and pitted against Santo, much to Blue Demon's chagrin off screen. However, Blue is still a second fiddle of sorts, and even manages to get himself captured by the monster men, leaving it solely up to Santo to once again save the day. 


Three Silver Masks out of a possible Five

Fun Fact: At the time of this film's release, wrestling was banned on Mexican TV, therefore the emphasis on the wrestling matches gave fans a much desired glimpse of their heroes in action. 

Friday, December 2, 2011

Week 36: Santo y el tigresa en el aguila real (Santo and the Tigress in the Royal Eagle, 1971)

       Here we are at week 36. The number almost feels like a milestone of sorts. I'm not sure why.  It certainly has nothing to do with the movie, which is another mundane, cookie cutter exercise. One of my fears lately with this experiment is that after seeing films like Santo & Blue Demon vs. The Monsters, and Mummies of Guanajuato, both considered high water marks for Santo, and the the genre at large, a lot of the movies that followed would be a downhill decline in quality. After all, Santo is older, and these movies have become progressively cheaper looking as I've moved along through them.The Tigress in the Royal Eagle indicates that my fears may be valid.

Santo, macin' on his dead friend's daughter.

    This time out, Santo and his comic relief sidekick, find their expertise being requested at the Morales estate, in a rural, isolated part of Mexico. It turns out that Santo was once friends with the late Don Morales, a land baron who has long been in dispute with some of his neighbors over property lines and livestock. This rich people feud has been taken on by Don's descendants, already claiming his oldest son's life, and now, his daughter, the last remaining Morales, is under threat of repeated clandestine assassination attempts. Having the ego to call herself "The Tigress", she struts around in leather biker get ups, accompanied everywhere by a vicious pet eagle, its not hard to understand why all of her neighbors might hate this silly bitch.

Those are upside down people hanging from that thing...

      If any of this plot sounds like there's a good deal of intrigue involved, I assure you, there is not. Sent against the back drop of a large, multi-day cultural festival of sorts, one watches this movie and speculates if the whole effort was merely so Santo and friends could take a paid vacation. Large chunks of the movie are almost like tourist videos for a travel brochure. At approximately 100 minutes, (making it one of the longer Santo movies so far) it feels very plodding. There are actually some interesting cultural moments though. In particular, a sequence where Tigress has a sort of mexican sing off with her rival's main squeeze. This is immediately followed by a cock fighting sequence, shown in pretty much full, gory detail. 

Cock fighting!

    El Tigresa En El Aguila Real isn't the worst Santo I've seen yet. But its damned close. Not much effort is put into moving the plot forward. And none of the characters are really compelling enough to keep one interesting. There is some interesting coverage of the local culture, but with almost too much emphasis, dragging the film out to somewhat unbearable lengths. 


One Silver mask out of a possible Five. 

Fun Fact: Eagles are neat.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Week 35: Santo contra los asesinos de otros mundos (Santo vs. the Killers from Other Worlds, 1971)

          So its Black Friday here in the states. If you're home reading this, and not out shopping, than good for you for not being a lemming. In honor of your independence, here's a review of one of the better Santo movies I've seen in a while. 

  The Killer From Other Worlds is actually one of the funkier Santo movies in the wrestler's oeuvre.It's mostly a knock off of The Blob,  with the man in the silver mask clashing with a carnivorous mutant microbe from beyond the stars. Thrown in for good measure is a mad scientist, unleashing the monster on various political and scientific heads of Mexican state, in an attempt at blackmail. 

Santo's first encounter with his titular enemy.

      Before addressing anything else, I have to talk about the actual blob monster in the movie. The "special effects" utilized to bring the other worldly man eater to life are awesome, in the worst cheapy monster movie sorta way. It's simply a bunch of people crawling and stumbling around under some large sheets of rubber that are sewn and painted together. There's no real attempt to even conceal that sewing seams, until the third act of the movie, and at that point, the effect is totally ruined. It's cheap, and awesome, and yet this thing manages to still look unsettling when on camera. 

"self Portrait"

       Another thing that really stood out to me with this particular movie is its score. I usually don't talk much about the music in these films, mostly because if I even notice it, its because its the same repetitive, cheap sounding score over and over. It's usually not even worth mentioning. This entry has musical cues that are so...strange. In particular, there is a scene at the start of the third act, where Santo is infiltrating the Mad Scientist's hideout. The music for this scene is really out there. It sounds like a purposeful attempt to have an orchestra play all its instruments at once, as a sort of symphony of chaos. There are similar scenes throughout the movie, where its funky score gives it a disquieting vibe.

Santo fights a Gladiator.

        There's also no genuine, in the ring, wrestling match this time out. It's the first one I can recall that doesn't have some sort of sanctioned match in a ring of some sort. These are wrestling pictures after all. Hell, the one that was a western from a few weeks back had a wrestling match in it. In its place, Santo is forced to meet three different, and strange, opponents in mortal combat. He's captured by the bad guys, and pitted against what appear to be two gladiators from ancient Rome. How did they get there? I don't know. Has the mad scientist baddy time traveled them here? I don't know. It's never explained. When he defeats both, Santo is forced to fight a guy wielding a flame thrower, and wearing a fire retardant suit. What's sort of ironic about the lack of a real match in this film, is that Santo spends the entire run time in his wrestling attire. Gone are the tacky sweaters and turtlenecks, and back is the sparkly cape and wrestling tights. 

Santo fights a flame thrower.

       After defeating these opponents, Santo comes face to face with the titular other worldly killer. It's a breathless scene, as Santo, visibly panic stricken by the onslaught of this rubbery space amoeba, tries to flee. I've never seen him move faster in the previous 34 movies. This is a guy who jumps head long into combat with zombies, vampires, and werewolves. I guess the invincibility powers of his magic mask crap out against blob monsters. It's not long after this that the movie sort of falters, and my main gripe with it happens. Santo escapes the monsters, and advises the government to send the air force in to deal with it, and then its promptly forgotten about until the third act. No real mention of it is made again. It would've been interesting to see Santo help the military combat the monster. Instead the movie grinds to a halt while Santo searches for a missing scientist who might know how to deal with it. 

Look at those seams.

      Santo vs. the Killers from Other Worlds is a nice return to the monster movie form that made these movies famous in the 50s and 60s. It tries to be a marriage of the monster movie Santo films and the secret agent, political intrigue films that make up a lot of the lesser Santo flicks, and its not really successful. Still, it attempts something different, if not all that original, making it one of the better latter Santo movies thus far. 


Three Silver Masks out of a possible Five

Fun Fact: This is also known as Santo vs. The Living Atom.