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! 

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