Friday, April 8, 2011

Week 2: Santo contra hombres infernales (Santo vs. The Infernal Men, 1958)

           Boy was this one a hard slog. What's most amazing about it is that it was a hard slog at a whopping 75 minutes. One of the earlier feature film adventures of Santo, this one is more film noir than wrestling adventure movie. This time around, a man named Enrique is being pursued by criminal types. Santo arrives just in time to witness Enrique get gunned down in the streets of Havana. Enraged, Santo flies into action, battering these infernal men! Of course, the movie halts in the middle of Santo walloping an hombre to give us its opening credits, set against an ambulance that is racing to the scene of Enrique's plight, seemingly shot in real time...

      The Ambulance arrives, Santo and these infernal men! he was pummeling are nowhere to be found. As Enrique lay dying in the street, his internal monologue informs us that he must tell the authorities of the dark things he's seen. We're then treated to the lengthy flashback that is the majority of the movie. It turns out that Enrique has been sent into havana to go undercover. He meets a lovely lady who sings what seems to be the mandatory mariachi song these movies always have. What is the song about? I'm not sure, there were no subtitles, but considering that Enrique is kissing her hand through it, I'd imagine it's just wonderful.

Mandatory Mariachis!

          Enrique's people stage a bar fight for him on the beach front cafe he's taken his date to (I think bar fights are another mandatory element to these films). Enrique takes the opportunity to flee amongst these infernal men!, leaving his date to deal with the police I guess. He quickly becomes one of them by killing a pursuing police officer, something again obviously staged by Enrique's people. 

    Who are these infernal men! I keep referring to? I'm not really sure. They're obvious criminal types, but its never made clear what their aim is. They're smuggling something in and out of the dock area they call their turf. It's first hinted to be something volatile like TNT or explosives of some sort. Later on, as Enrique fully integrates himself into the gang, they do what appears to be a drug pick up out at sea. It's never made clear what these infernal men! are dealing in though. It never shows what exactly Enrique and Santo are trying to put a stop to, so we never really know what's at stake.

Creature from the black lagoon? Nah, just El Santo.

            Speaking of El Santo, after disappearing during the opening credits, he doesn't show up again until about 18 minutes in, when he comes creeping into the gang's dock like he's the Creature from the Black Lagoon. He does recon on the gang by swimming in from the ocean, in almost full wrestling gear, Mask, boots, tights. I'm surprised he doesn't also have his goddamned cape on. It's just as practical when swimming! He doesn't do this just once, but three or four times. 

       Something else I noticed about this movie is how terrible the editing is. Things are often shown multiple times from different angles, mundane things, like someone lighting a cigarette, and the the angle choices are just as mundane. It makes the movie come off as really odd and inept. Of course, the best moment of the movie comes out of this incompetence, when, in a moment of pure inept editing, Santo magically appears on the dock to rescue his new friend Enrique, who's ruse has been discovered. One moment, the dock is empty, and the next El Santo is there, as if he's been teleported. 

Nope! Nothing wrong with this picture...

          Another thing that's noticeable, only having seen these two movies so far, is that guns never really come into play as a threat to El Santo, only other characters. Antagonists do drawn down on Santo, but he easily evades their gunfire. It's silly, but its also the same kind of logic you'd find in any number of martial arts movies. During his first appearance, Santo dives into the ocean and swims off when someone tries to open fire on him. At the film's climax, Santo is mopping the floor with these infernal men! Five guys are getting their asses handed to them by a maniac in a silver mask, and it never occurs to any of them to shoot him, even after they've incapacitated him with a 2 X 4. 

Santo being a creeper

            Dull and turgid at only 75 minutes, El Santo vs. The Infernal Men makes a half assed attempt to be more of a crime noir than wrestling picture, even creeping close to giving Santo a sort of Batman like mission statement at the conclusion. However, it never really lives up to its attempts. It was more than likely meant to be a second feature on a double bill with last week's installment, but I can't imagine a mexican sunday in the 50s being boring enough to endure these two films back to back.


One Silver Mask out of a possible Five. 

Fun Fact: After the El Santo pictures hit their stride and gained popularity in the 60s, this film and last week's were re-released. Santo dismissed them both, claiming them not to be true starring vehicles for him.

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