Friday, May 27, 2011

Week 9: Santo contra el estrangulador (Santo vs. The Strangler, 1963)

(The copy of this I viewed was taken from a VHS recording, and that's where the screen caps come from, hence the poorer quality.)

              So we've reached week nine. Santo was rolling pretty strong there for a couple weeks, and so was I. Then we hit this dud. Honestly, I'm finding myself hard pressed to come up with anything to write about. El Estrangulador isn't really much of a movie. Clocking in at 79 minutes, its hard to even qualify it as a feature length movie. 

"everyone says he's got Santo eyes"

         Santo finds himself hunting down a Phantom of the Opera wannabe at the Variety Theatre. This dickwad likes to haunt a crappy theatre where other wannabes pretend to be Mexican pop stars and sing hits they didn't write or even compose. Imagine if the Phantom of the Opera liked hanging out on the Lawrence Welk show and occasionally murdering performers. That's how exciting this movie is. 

      Actually, its during one of these variety shows that our non-wrestling lead, whose name I couldn't be bothered getting, does a rendition of 16 Tons, in English. It's strangely arranged and performed, and comes off as somewhat Kubrickian in nature. It's just about the only interesting flare of film making the movie has. 

The Kubrickian rendition of "16 tons"

            So what is this villain's motivation, you ask! Well, its not really made clear, beyond him killing the lead female performers at the variety theatre. It seems to be how he gets his jollies for the most part. A convoluted explanation towards the end explains him away as a former magician who was horribly scarred during his act at the variety, and now takes revenge on women who had absolutely nothing to do with it. What I found odd, was that this Santo movie chose to never really give us a perspective from the Strangler. There are some vague hints to him here and there. We might see him making a phone call or something, but unlike the previous entries, he's left to be mostly an enigma until the film's climax. After a number of films where the villains are at least as strongly developed as Santo and his pals, this one felt jarring and under cooked. 

The Strangler in drag.

          Of course the film's worst choice is its decision to give Santo a kid sidekick. I don't know about you, but I always hate it when a character has a kid sidekick. It's always intended to appeal to younger fans, and it always backfires. The kid is always some obnoxious, grating shitbird-in-training. Santo's is no exception. His name is Milton, and he is horror & madness. 

Milton's intro...

       Milton is introduced as a kid orphan who stows away in Santo's convertible after one of his wrestling matches. He's decided that Santo is going to be his new dad, and since Milton won't give up the name and location of his orphanage origin, (even though Santo could probably beat it out of him) Santo just goes along with this for the duration of the movie. What is Milton's big contribution as a sidekick you ask? Well, he can kinda sing. He demonstrates this by singing a truly horrid rendition of Blame it on the bossanova. 

Jerry "Red Herring" Muscles

            El Estrangulador is one of the weakest entries in this series in some time, and possibly ever. It's boring and poorly plotted out. There are some subplots introduced, but they're so half assed that they're not even really worth mentioning, let alone examining. The similarities to the Phantom of the Opera are far too on the nose to be ignored or viewed as cute. It's just lazy. The next film is a direct sequel, where Santo fights the Stranglers ghost (SPOILER), so maybe these were intended to be a matinee double bill, hence the laziness in the storytelling. Even if that's the case, its still not an excuse. 


One silver mask out of a possible Five. 

Fun Fact: Lawrence Welk dabbled in professional wrestling during a stint in Mexico. It's unclear if he and Santo ever crossed paths. 

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