Sunday, June 26, 2011

Interlude: La paginación oficial del ventilador del facebook!

So I've gone ahead and created a facebook fanpage. Check out the link below, "like" it, or don't. No pressure. It's still in the process of being updated. 

Friday, June 24, 2011

Week 13: El hacha diabólica (Santo in The Diabolical Axe, 1964)

        Well, we've come to week 13. It feels appropriate that the 13th movie deals with Santo combating yet another satanically empowered enemy. That's what makes the diabolical axe just so diabolical you see. This time out, the filmmakers behind the El Santo movies must have decided that Santo needed a grand, arch enemy of sorts. Enter the diabolical axe. 

     While a good deal of the film deals with the conflict between the wielder of said Axe, and Santo, it uses this device as a through way to Santo's ultimate origin. There have been hints in the past as to what exactly his deal is, but this film deals mostly with Santo's lineage. We know that the mantle of El Santo has been passed down through one family for generations. Now we're privy to the establishment of this title, in the 1600s. What's interesting is that this information doesn't come until half way through the movie. The film begins, once again, rather jarringly, with a parade of monks at twilight, burying what is revealed to be Santo. Only, its not OUR El Santo, since his freshly carved headstones reveals the date to be in the 1600s. We then see the Black Mask, wielder of the diabolical axe, who vows at this Santo's grave to take his revenge on subsequent Santos for generations.

The Axe is so diabolical, it even hacks up the opening credits.

       We then pick things up present day, where Santo is suddenly assaulted by the Black Mask in the middle of a wrestling match. How bloody rude! It was a match where his opponent was a classy sportsman too, so you know it was going to be broken up for the sake of the plot, a change of pace from the plot usually working around these matches. After the Black Mask disappears, (and his magic axe too!), Santo regroups with his scientist friend Dr. Abraca, who informs him that the axe they saw has the mark of the devil on it. Santo then causally reveals that while he doesn't know much about his own silver mask's origins, he does know that it makes him impervious to physical harm. 

       At this point the movie really goes bat shit when Dr. Abraca reveals he has a magic time machine that can send his and Santo's souls back in time to quietly observe Santo's secret origins. The two of them strap into Dr. Abraca's funky soul time machine and through them, we bear witness to the anointing of the first Santo, who combats the Black Mask (PLAYED BY THAT STUNT DUDE FROM THE PREVIOUS MOVIE!) who sells his soul to "Ariman", a demon who forces him to wear an executioner's garb and wield the titular diabolical axe. We also see an old fashioned fencing match. 

Black Mask praying to his rubber bat god "Ariman"

       It turns out that, unable to defeat the Ariman backed Black Mask, Santo's ancestor seeks the aid of a benevolent hermit wizard who gives him the silver mask and cape that becomes the signature El Santo get up. The only difference between the 1600s era El Santo and the modern one is the 1600s one wear SILVER pirate boots instead of the standard lace up, wrestling boots. This particular part of the story is a period piece after all...

Santo in Dr. Abraca's "time machine"

      We then jump back to modern times, where Black Mask quickly slays Dr. Abraca, who turns out to be the smelly wizard hermit who started all this Santo nonsense in the first place. Santo then heads off to a wrestling match, where Black Mask tries to kill him by possessing his opponent and fighting him in a long, drawn out, boring match that Santo eventually wins. 


       I mentioned that the opening is jarring. I've said this about a number of these movies by now. It seems to be a theme with this flicks. They just love to do these cold openings where a bunch of strange, wild shit is going on, and you the viewer are totally confused, and then it starts to make some sort of sense after the credits, or later on into the first act. I've start to actually admire the boldness of it. They're sticking to a certain sort of formula, not necessarily a sensible one, but a formula none the less.

Santo sleeping, in full wrestling gear, something he does a lot.

       Another major issue I had with this entry was the introduction of two love interests. I say its an issue because of how half assed its handled. There's this ghost named Isabel, who turns out to be the 1600s love interest of Santo and Black Mask that touched off their  rivalry in the first place. The only problem is that she's not much of a factor in the story at all. Santo is suppose to find her remains so she can find peace, but he doesn't really seem to care, and why should he? His ancestor never made much of an effort to find her when Black Mask abducted her and chained her up in his dungeon, leaving her to die. He even consults the Wizard/hermit about her, who actually tells him not to worry about her, because his descendant will find her remains in a few hundred years. It kinda makes Santo seem like an incompetent. 


      I'm not sure the second love interest is even given a name. She gets to see Santo without his mask (we see the back of his head), but she's only introduced and shown enough times to make you realize she's there for Santo to have to rescue, but then, Black Mask Axe murders her off camera while she's wearing old-head lingerie. Why even bother with such a character, if that's how you're going to shuffle her off? 


       I'm pretty certain this film was made on the back of last week's Witches Attack, since some of the same actors return in new roles, and locations from the previous movie are passed off as new ones in this. Even still, I'm going to be kind to this entry. I've complained for a couple months now that these movies lack a distinct arch villain for Santo, and while he isn't the most totally effective antagonist, his reach exceeding his grasp is a flaw I can forgive. 


two and a half silver masks out of a possible five.

Fun Fact: In ancient Persian religions, Ariman is thought to be the first personification of "the Devil".

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Interlude: El Estado De Cosas Hasta El Momento

         So I've decided to add something to the year of el santo. I wanted to put together a form of record keeping, both for myself and for you readers. 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, June 17, 2011

Week 12: Santo en Atacan las brujas (a. k. a. Santo in The Witches Attack, 1964)


         So we're now two months into the year of el santo. We've had weeks where its fun, and weeks where its an endurance test. I should say I have had weeks that are either fun, or an endurance test. It's probably amusing to the rest of you to watch me suffer through some of this nonsense. Well, that's the point of this thing, right? This week's film is one of the many that falls in the middle of those two extremes. At times entertaining, and at times maddening, and managing to do both within a 79 minute run time, las brujas at least manages to do one thing right, which is stay away from tedious sidekicks like Milton and Fernando.  The actor who previously portrayed our buddy Kangaroo kick returns, as the concerned boyfriend/captive, but he's fairly harmless this time out. 


         Las Brujas is pretty much a retread of the previous film Santo vs. The Vampire Women. Instead of Santo combating a pack of horny female vampires, he's matching wits with a coven of frigid witches. Their plot is very similar to the vampires. Medusa, the head witch, is manipulating the sole heir of the castle the witches call home, into living there for a year. Her plan is to sacrifice this young maiden, AND El Santo, to their master, the Prince of Darkness, hilarious played by an insert shot of a guy in a Halloween store devil mask. 

The worst prince of darkness ever...

       My biggest gripe with this film is its jarring narrative, caused mostly by its strange editing choices. The cold intro has Santo breaking into the castle. We're not really sure why yet, as this is the very beginning of the movie. He promptly encounters two ninja like henchman who beat him senseless in a protracted, poorly lit, and boring fist fight. It becomes apparent that this is a premonition the movie's damsel in distress is dreaming. Of course she doesn't come out of this dream until after the opening credit sequence. There's a lot of other strange editing choices, like scenes ending abruptly, with nothing resolved. It's downright confusing at times.

Break those chains of love Santo!

     My other main problem with the movie is that there's almost an Ed Wood level of shoddiness to it. The light changes from day to night in one scene! How can you have continuity that bad? It can't be day time on one side of a 10 ft wall Santo is scaling, and be totally dark when he jumps down to the other side. I don't care if these are movies made in Mexico in the 60s with next to no budget. There's been too many of them at this point for someone to NOT be paying attention to that.

Something I've noticed throughout these movies, is the reappearance of this guy...

       He has to be in almost all of these Santo movies. He's usually someone grappling with Santo, whether it be a henchman, or an opponent in the ring. He must have been part of Santo's stunt team or something. He actually appears in the Infernal Men as an undercover cop working amongst those infernal men. What's interesting here, is that not only does he play one of the Witches' warlock henchmen, but he's also in the only wrestling match in the entire picture, AND said wrestling match is the exact same bloody affair from last week's Blue Demon film! You can dismiss it as cheap stock footage being reused by the producers to save money, but I'm not! It's obviously meant to convey that this Santo movie takes place at the same time as Blue Demon vs. Satanic Power


     Another great moment in this entry was when one of the Witches attempts to seduce Santo. I say its great because its the first time in this film series that Santo is sexualized at all. There has yet to be any sort of love interest introduced up to this point. You have to figure, this man is Latin, and an athlete. He's gotta want to put the wood to something some time. 

It looks like its sexy time for El Santo!

       Of course, the whole scene goes to pot, partly because Santo is fully aware that its a trap, and partly because the witch doing the seducing has hairy legs. Put some Nair on that shit! 


         Getting back to what I spoke of earlier, about this being mostly a rehash of the previous Vampire film, it becomes apparent that the laziness involved not only seeps into the story, but they don't even try to make it any different by the film's climax. We find out that these witches are vulnerable to sunlight, fire, and crosses. While they have to be in contact with fire and sunlight, the site of Santo waving a giant cross at them is enough to cause spontaneous combustion in most of them! It doesn't make any sense. 

Santo taking his new found spiritism a bit literally...

       Las Brujas has some interesting elements, and is amusing at times, but is too lazy a rehash of previous, better entries to be anything truly special. It wouldn't be a big problem if the technical side of the film was at least slick, but its obvious shoddiness works to worsen the cracks in its facade instead of plastering over them. 


Two silver masks out of a possible Five

Fun Fact: Witchcraft is big business in Mexico, similar to voodoo in some Caribbean countries. 

Friday, June 10, 2011

Week 11: Blue Demon contra el poder satánico (Blue Demon vs. Satanic Power, 1964)

         Week 11 has arrived, and so has our first Blue Demon movie. Santo mostly cameos in this, as it is a solely Blue Demon vehicle. Before I delve into the plot of Poder Satanico, I feel I need to explain Blue Demon a little bit, for the uninitiated. El Santo had tried to ask for more money for his starring roles in his wrestling pictures. The producers worried he was going to be a problem, and decided to cultivate another masked wrestler, in case Santo's demands became too difficult to accommodate. The decision was made to groom Santo's popular rival Blue Demon into a wrestling picture leading man. Blue Demon would prove a popular draw, and himself would amass a whopping 25 films, until his retirement from acting in the late 70s. As far as quality and content, while his films are considered to be extremely similar in plot devices as the Santo pictures, there are many that prefer Blue Demons films to Santo's, as he was considered the "edgier", "meaner" luchador hero. One might say that Blue Demon is to Santo what War Machine is to Iron Man, only less black.  

Santo congratulates Blue Demon on his coming matinee success.

       The particulars of Blue Demon's adventure, this apparently only his second, involve him coming to blows with an Occultist. The film opens in 1912, with Geravo Fernandez, a land owner, man of influence, and accused warlock, standing trial for perversion, trouble making, and being an all around bad egg. He's sentenced to death, something he casually laughs off, telling us via internal monologue that he's going to put himself in a form of suspended animation (he actually names it something like "Catalytic", but the subtitles never use an exact enough spelling to use the word here). Fernandez is found in his cell, dead by all appearances, and is entombed in his grave for 50 years. Upon being released in the modern day by grave robbers, Fernandez promptly finds his hidden lair and begins his trouble making anew. 

Blue Demon and his favorite Mayan ancient astronaut sculpture

     This is where Fernandez runs afoul of Blue Demon. Being entombed for 50 years for a loooooooong nap, Fernandez awakens with quite the morning wood. The trouble he decides to get up to is kidnapping ladies to bed down. Fernandez just so happens to encounter Blue Demon's best friend and manager, who's out on a date with his best girl. Fernandez kills the manager, and hypnotizes his date, having his way with her, before burning her to death in his secret furnace. Yup, he's a real charmer.

Blue Demon is sad...

         Distraught over the death of his friend, Blue Demon spends most of the movie being mopey and reading up on hypnotism. Somehow he suspects hypnotism is involved, even though he and the police have absolutely no evidence at all. Unlike Santo, Blue Demon doesn't really seem to be a full time do-gooder, at least not in this film. His casual acquaintance with the police not withstanding, Blue Demon seems mostly to be revenge minded. When not moping about his dead friend, Blue Demon spends the rest of the run time wrestling. In fact, its not until Fernandez astral projects himself throughout the city to find anyone who might be onto his plots that the two main characters become aware of each other. Blue Demon definitely lacks the batman-esque detecting skills that Santo uses to pursue his quarry. 

Beware the bloody eyes of Satanic Power!

    It's one of these wrestling matches that makes up one of the two most compelling action scenes I've seen in these movies yet. 3/4s of the way through the movie, Blue Demon has to wrestle a man almost twice his size. The contrast in size is like seeing Andre The Giant wrestle Ray Mysterio Jr. Actually, that's probably a gross exaggeration, but you get the idea. Blue Demon gets thrown about the ring like a rag doll for the better part of the match, before using his smaller size to out-maneuver his opponent.

Blue demon was a big fan of the dutch angle.

    The other most compelling action scene is Santo's, and only Santo's. He participates in a match that gets bloody very quickly. I haven't really addressed Santos presence in this film, because its an extended cameo, although the two wrestlers mention having each other's back if there's ever trouble, obviously setting things up for future adventures. He first appears in this bloody wrestling match, his tights covered in his opponent's Red. After this clown gets rowdy and out of hand, Santo quickly pummels him to red pulp. He doesn't appear again until late in the second act, mostly as a glad handing scene, probably to placate Santo fans who paid good money to see his Rival's movie with the promise of his appearance.

Santo gets brutal...

   Our first encounter with Blue Demon is a less than stellar one, as it doesn't really play like a good introduction to the man and his abilities. Santos presence doesn't really help, as it just serves to remind us of better wrestling pictures. The Villain isn't really a huge threat, as the extent of his "Satanic Power" seems to only be hypnotism and astral projection. They're more psychic powers than Satanic powers, as Satan and Hell and evil things never really seem to come into play. 


Silver Masks not applicable due to lack of El Santo. 

Fun Fact: Blue Demon and El Santo were actually very long time rivals, due to Santo losing to Blue Demon several times in the 1950s. 

Friday, June 3, 2011

Week 10: El espectro del estrangulador (a.k.a. The Ghost of the Strangler, 1963)

     It's week 10, and we're back with a direct sequel to last week's Santo vs. the Strangler. A lot of the same characters return, even the Strangler. There's no ghost. He's back, body and soul. It makes no sense, since he's obviously dead at the end of the last film, and is obviously dead at the beginning of this one. Oh yeah, Milton's back too...

Feats of Strength!

     Picking up right where the previous film left off. We see The strangler's corpse hauled away and stored in a morgue. Somehow, the Strangler's arch goon, Tor, who's never been seen or mentioned before, gets wind of this and heads to the morgue, under the pretense of being a relative of the Strangler. He promptly murders the guard and steals the Strangler's remains. We then go Santo's first arbitrary match. The police inspector (again, this character, like many others in this series, is never given a name beyond his title "inspector") informs Santo that the Strangler's body was stolen, meaning his has help, and is obviously still alive. This strange leap in logic, going against everything that's been presented to us thus far, cuts to the Strangler being alive and well, playing his organ, once again obviously ripping off Phantom Of The Opera.


    There's a number of inexplicable things afoot in El Espectro, with the lack of an explanation for the Strangler's resurrection being just one. Who the hell is this Tor character? A great hulking behemoth, who apparently does all the heavy lifting for the Strangler. He creates his false faces and disguises, digs up graves like a ghoul, and fetches his remains from the city morgue. Since he seems to be the brains of this operation, and more than a physical match for Santo, why the hell is he playing second fiddle to this bozo with a Vincent Price fetish? It doesn't make a lot of sense. 


  There's some other awkward story arcs that are introduced and then left to peter out. Like Irene, the pretty damsel in the distress from the previous film, is turned into a jealous prima donna this time out. Refusing to let the variety theater shut down temporarily until the Strangler and Tor can be apprehended.

The Stranglers master plan!

    Another element introduced to add a sense of risk to Santo's arc this time out, during a match against another masked wrestler known as "The Haunt", Santo almost gets unmasked, something that could cost him his career, if it were to actually happen. I guess its some sort of code amongst masked wrestlers. It's suppose to give Santo a sense of self doubt or something, but the very next match is against Tor in disguise, and he immediately tries to kill Santo in the ring. You expect him to try and unmask Santo, thus disgracing him, but nope. He immediately pulls out a rope to strangle him with.

This hold never works on Santo...

   My favorite part of the movie is a set piece where Santo catches the Strangler and Tor robbing the grave of one of their victims. It turns out to be a trap, as they planned to bury Santo alive. After Santo gives Tor the beating of his thankless life, the Strangler hits Santo with some chloroform, and then he and Tor throw him into their victim's open casket, and bury him.

Buried alive!

Santo awakens inside, shown in a well crafted side view, and then proceeds to escape, but rolling himself over, and pushing on the casket lid (and six feet of dirt) with his ass...

Ass Escape!

      I haven't touched on Milton's presence yet. I haven't mostly because there isn't much to say. He's still taking up valuable run time by being an obnoxious child cypher. As Santo's ward, he doesn't really serve much more purpose than to be someone that villains can kidnap and torture/molest/murder in order to hurt Santo. Milton's now apparently become a big child star at this shitty variety theater. He helps pad out the film's run time with the rest of the boring variety acts, singing songs that aren't originally his.


     I actually was expecting to have to give the film a higher rating, as it *seemed* to be building to the Strangler going after, and possibly even succeeding in killing Milton. There are tons of hints and heavy handed foreshadowing towards Milton's endangerment in the third act, to the point that I was going to give the film four silver masks if Milton was actually killed by the film's climax. That really would've been something. It would've made Santo's worries more palatable, as well as giving them a better pay off, and rewarding the audience (ME) for putting up with Milton for two movies. Unfortunately, this movie doesn't have the balls to go that far...


Two Silver Masks out of a possible Five.

Fun Fact: Most Child Stars usually become drug addicts.

A special note: Next week's review will be of our first Blue Demon movie, which Santo cameos in. I hope you're as excited as I am!