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".


  1. Great blog! I do something similar over at

    You really seem to be finding and reviewing some of the more difficult to find films, which is refreshing to see in a lucha film blog.

  2. Thanks Jesse! I honestly know next to nothing about most of these films, but thats half the point of then I guess.