Friday, April 29, 2011

Week 5: Santo en el hotel de la muerte (Santo In The Hotel of Death, 1961)

          It's week five, and, I wish I had better news, but I'm afraid we've got another dud. I've heard many film critics say that a terminal flaw for a film is for it to be boring. Even "bad" films can be entertaining, or interesting, due to technical aspects, or ambition, or just having parts that outweigh the sum. If a film is just plain boring though, than there's nothing really there to salvage it. Hotel De La Muerte is utterly boring, so terminally boring that it's basically dead on arrival. 

      But wait, it can't possibly be that terrible can it? It's a Mexican Wrestling picture for God's sake! Surely there must be some dumb, frivolous entertainment value in it somewhere....? No! There's none of that. However, there is plenty of Fernando, Virginia and Fernando's partner Conrado, a.k.a. Kangaroo Kick (I'm quite certain that during his previous two appearances, Conrado was never, ever introduced by name.) From now on, when these characters show up at all, I'm going to punish the movie. It's like spelling your name wrong on your SATs! Any movie they're in from now on automatically loses two silver masks!

Santo disapproves of his lack of serious screen time.

      Making matters worse is that Santo not only doesn't show up until the 30 minute mark, but he's barely in the movie for any great capacity after that. The bulk of the film is Fernando and Conrado investigating a series of murders at a hotel resort built over top of some Aztec ruins. Of course Virginia manages to shoehorn her way into the proceedings. She shows up at the resort with a friend, who is promptly murdered in the next scene. Things sorta play out like the classic ten little Indians scenario, where characters are picked off one by one. The movie makes a half assed attempt to throw a red herring out there, in the form of a Amish bearded blackmailer that Virginia refers to as "that bearded kid". Amish beard is so overtly sleazy and uncooperative with Fernando that it obviously can't be him committing all the killings. 

Mister Amish Beard.
            As the bodies pile up, and then disappear (more on that later), Virginia pleads with Fernando to radio Santo for help on his fancy watch communicator, but Fernando refuses, I guess trying to prove that he's not totally inept and dumb. Of course that all goes out the window when an unknown assailant smashes a wooden chair over Fernando's useless gourd of a head. While unconscious, Virginia radios Santo, who along with Mathias, seems to be sitting around in his Not-Batcave doing nothing at all. Maybe they were waiting with baited breathe for Fernando to call in? I doubt it, because as soon as Virginia begs for help, Santo agrees to come to their aid...after his big wrestling match. Santo goes to said match, wins, and then he and Mathias spend another ten minutes off screen driving to the resort/blood bath. 

In his spare time, Fernando cooks Meth.

          It turns out that the quiet Dr. Cobera is behind all these grisly murders. Why? Well, let me try to explain this to you so it makes sense to the both of us. Dr. Cobera is a historian, specializing in the Aztecs. He's secretly been hunting for Aztec gold in the catacombs under the resort for years. This is briefly hinted at early on in the film as a shadowed figured orders generic Mexican henchman to dig. Of course, its never explained what they're all looking for until the end, so these vague, dark shots of guys digging up the dirt floor of tunnels really don't make a lot of sense in the context of the murder plot. Confusing your audience is fun! 

Santo and Mathias out for a leisurely drive.

       Why is he killing women on the resort then you ask? Well, technically he's not. Apparently Cobera has been abducting them, making exact wax castings of each woman, and then placing the wax castings, lovingly detailed to look real, and murdered, at strategic points at the resort, thus the woman get reported murdered. Then, somehow, his henchman steal the wax figures back, all the while, Cobera is keeping these women prisoner in the catacombs. What the hell does any of this have to do with Aztec gold? Nothing at all. Dr. Cobera just likes to do this to pass the time while his goons do all the grunt work, trying to find gold. Makes sense right? Yeah, no, it doesn't, at all. Stupid...

A wax figure...submerged in a pool...

         To make this idiot plot even more idiotic, Cobera pronounces to captured Fernando, Virginia and Conrado in a Santo disguise (El Santo has pulled a switcheroo here on the villain) that he had no intention of killing the abducted women, but now that they've interfered, his hand has been forced. What the hell else was he going to do with them? Was he going to keep them prisoner for years and years in the Aztec ruins? Use them as sex slaves? Make more and more wax castings of them and dress those castings up in various costumes? When they're revealed to be alive still, they're all wearing maid outfits, so perhaps he was going to force them to clean his hotel room forever? It makes no sense. 

Santo's cut scene from "Evil Dead 2"

             Five movies in, Hotel De La Muerte is the worst Santo movie so far. A plot that doesn't make much sense, a villain with inane motivations, and lead characters that are about as exciting as watching a book convention on C-SPAN. Aside from being boring, the movie's other great sin is its lack of proper screen time for its lead character. At approximately 80 minutes, Santo maybe appears in about 1/4 of the total run time, and even when present, he's mostly there to clean up after the the useless lead characters. 


ZERO Silver masks out of a possible Five.

Fun Fact: The Aztecs could see into the future, and after seeing their name used in this movie, committed mass suicide. 

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