Friday, July 29, 2011

Week 18: Santo en Operación 67 (a.k.a. Santo in Operation 67, 1966)

Santo, now in glorious techniccolor!

      We've reached Santo's 18th film, and his first color film at that. In honor of being allowed to reach such a career milestone, Santo had his filmmaking buddies cook up something good for all the loyal fans who got him this far. The result is Operacion 67, a dizzying riff on the 60s James Bond movies. The movie starts out with Santo framed against a blood red background, strutting towards you, the viewer, like he's cock of the walk. As the credits begin to roll, the opening sequence switches from this cocksure Santo to a half naked japanese girl dancing, and you already know this movie is going to be awesome.

Santo underwater!

      Like most Bond films the villains' goal and machinations are convoluted and do not entirely make sense. An unnamed cabal of evildoers has decided that their first step in world domination is to decimate the economy of South America. It's a goal that I'd surmise isn't entirely unachievable through simple means, yet these guys go through an overly complicated heist of printing plates for what I guess are 100 note pesos. After this robbery montage takes place, we find out that this secret society's head operator in South America has replaced the stolen plates with counterfeits, and has printed "genuine" bills using the stolen plates, which her henchman go out and spend like crazy. So the bad guys will be spending real money that's actually fake, while the governments of South America will be circulating fake money that they think is real? Confused? Yeah, me too.

Spread that fake money around fellas!

    Interpol decides to bring Santo and his new partner Jorge Rubios in to investigate all these funny monies floating around. It's a funny dynamic between these two, as Jorge is the more obvious 007 rip off. Jorge's playboy ways have apparently rubbed off on Santo. Gone is the puritanical crusader vibe. Santo is a player. He has a swanky bachelor's pad, where he and Jorge can entertain ladies, and even wears a smoking jacket. You'd almost expect him to sport a John Holmes mustache under that mask of his.

Santo on the Beach.

       You might think I'd find Jorge's presence grating, given my aggravation with previous attempts to saddle Santo with a sidekick, but Jorge manages to hold his own. He's still sort of a beta male to Santo's Alpha dog, but he does manage to cut an imposing figure that rivals Santo's at times. He even gets to lead a couple of the crazier set pieces in this feature, at one point laughingly exploding a biplane with a rocket launcher. The whole thing is so obviously fake that you can't help but love the movie for showing much of the action via cutaway reaction shots of Jorge.

A still from the mexican remake of "Falling Down".

      While its a James Bond riff, there being two leads also makes it an early prototype for the action buddy comedy subgenre. Thankfully, Santo and Jorge are played like their first movie already happened. Ya know, the one where they're forced to team up and slowly develop begrudging respect for each other. There's none of that nonsense here. As I think about buddy comedies, I can't help but think that any buddy comedy out there could more than likely be improved by the addition of a masked wrestler. In fact, replace one of the leads with a masked luchador! Imagine Lethal Weapon, or Rush hour, but instead of batshit Mel Gibson, or grating Chris Tucker, you'd have Santo. That's a movie I'd throw down ten bucks to see at the local multiplex! 

Santo and his smoking jacket.

      Operacion' 67 is the high water mark for these movies so far. It picks and chooses some of the best elements from previous entries, while dropping a lot of the stuff that made Santo seem like a stiff. For a story about Santo and his sidekick trying to take down a counterfeiting operation, it has a great deal of craziness afoot. Cars explode! Boats explode! Biplanes explode! Wrist watches electrocute people! There's knife fights, underwater knife fights, and cane sword fights! Villains try to drop the house lights on Santo during matches! Oh, and did I mention there were boobs? Yup, BOOBS! It's not just a good Santo movie, its a goddamned masterpiece! 


Five silver masks out of a possible Five

Fun Fact: Santo's partner Jorge is played by Jorge Rivero, who in the previous film, played the Santo "clone" that fights Santo in the climax.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Week 17: Santo contra los villanos del ring (a.k.a. Santo vs. The Villains of the Ring, 1966)


     Well, after pitting Santo against Vampires, Zombies, Witches and even Martians, the powers that be decided that for Santo's 17th, and final black & white film (woo hoo!) he would fight an entirely more pedestrian adversary. Enter the villains of the ring, a dramatic title for antagonists, to be sure. The greatest of all masked wrestlers is forced to battle corruption inside and outside the ring. 

The Stud putting the...err...moves on Santo.

      The meat and potatoes of this outing involves Santo having to defend his "Goddaughter" Maria from a phony swami who has tried to defraud her estranged Grandmother of millions. When the Grandmother become worm food, the swami turns his attentions on Maria and Santo, who stand to inherit millions from the crazy old lady's estate. While the swami tries to defraud Maria by inviting her to seances where he fakes the ghost of her grandmother, he sends his gang of unscrupulous wrestlers to try and beat Santo to death in the ring during matches. When that doesn't work, they try drive by shootings. When their aim is too terrible for that to work (they hit the wall ten feet above Santo's head), they bring in a pro wrestler they call "The Stud", played by Beni Galán. It turns out The Stud has been disgraced in the ring by Santo and yearns to get even.

They're carrying him away to cook and eat him...

       In one of the recent previous weeks, possibly last week, I complained of the lack of tighter shots and editing during the fight scenes. Imagine my surprise when this week's movie suddenly sported some of the tightest and well shot fight scenes, which also seemed to be the best choreographed. There has to be about six different, protracted fight scenes throughout this movie. While they're not all the most thrilling thing ever, none of them are ever dull or worse, vague. With a lot of these movies, the fight scenes are shot so wide and distanced, that its really hard to tell or relate to the goings on.

Just two fun lovin' guys on a Saturday night!

      Its the well choreographed fights that make me feel more forgiving of the movie's other faults. There's an attempt to inject a sort of pro wrestling political intrigue angle, since a number of wrestlers are working with and for the villains against Santo. There are references to a "Wrestling Association" headed up by two vague masked wrestlers known as Grey Mask and Black Mask. Their roles in this Association are never really expounded upon beyond hints that they are higher ups within it. It doesn't make a lot of sense though as they seem to take marching orders from Santo the entire time. You'd expect big shot union bosses, if that's what they're suppose to be, to tell Santo to fuck himself, magical wrestling superhero or not. 

"You were adopted...and a mistake."

      Another vague angle is how exactly Santo has become involved with Maria's family to begin with. There's lip service paid to Santo being her Godfather, but how in the hell did that happen? Why does he get money from her Grandmother's estate? The money he's given is explicitly stated to be for him to establish health care for old and ailing wrestlers. Maria is dating a friend of Santo's known as Radolfo who is a professional wrestler like Santo. Santo's connection to these people is never really explained, but its this same connection that causes him so much trouble. 

Santo punishing this gentleman for his horrible sweater.

        17 movies out, Santo is still fighting along. This particular entry isn't too remarkable in plot or craziness, but that's made up for by a number of well shot, well choreographed fight scenes. This is a wrestling picture after all, so it only makes sense that the actual wrestling and fighting is the center piece. Santo gets to use his signature move a lot this time out, which is jumping from a high point and diving head first at his opponent, something that none of his opponent ever seems to be prepared for.  


Three silver masks out of a possible five

Fun Fact: Beni Galán was famous in the Mexican wrestling circuits for being a smarmy heel wrestler, so his appearance here as a villain is not a big surprise

Monday, July 18, 2011

Interlude: Promoción cruzada!

A gentleman named  has been kind enough to promote The Year Of El Santo on his blog Lioncorn. So I'm going to give him a plug here at Year Of El Santo! 


His blog is pretty cool. In addition to promoted awesome stuff like this blog you're reading right now, he also posts movie posters, 80s commercials & movie trailers, and even makes references to things like Cthulhu, Transformers and all sorts of off beat stuff. Why don't ya check him out! 

Friday, July 15, 2011

Week 16: Santo contra la invasión de los marcianos (a.k.a. Santo vs. The Martian Invasion, 1966)

        Well, Santo was bound to fight aliens at some point in this saga of madness. I'm amazed it took them 16 movies to come to this idea. Hell, the Godzilla series jumped to space invaders as antagonists by the sixth movie. Overall, this entry in the Santo series was refreshing, compared to the last two clunkers. While not being an all out winner, it does manage to do some things differently and be entertaining. I will say that my big disappointment with los Marcianos is that the martians are just people really, shapely lady martians and buff martian men (who are obviously wrestlers). No rubber suited green monster men...


Sexy Lady Martians!


      The martian invasion plan starts out simple enough. They're coming to earth to tell us to get our shit together. Apparently the rampant use of nuclear energy has made the rest of the solar system nervous, so in a plot device stolen from The Day The Earth Stood Still they've come to warn us of our troublesome direction. They take over the TV air waves to deliver this message, but when their pirate broadcast is dismissed as a prank, the martians get pissed and decide to interrupt a soccer match and kill a bunch of soccer hooligans, instantly earning a permanent silver mask from me, then the martians kills some innocent kids who Santo happens to be teaching to wrestle. Awesome. One more mask earned!

Mexico's idea of a Martian.

     One thing I found entertaining, which I'm not sure was intentional, was the lead Martian's obsession with Santo that grows increasingly unhealthy as the movie creeps along. It's severely homoerotic in nature, as he is consumed with the idea of obtaining Santo's "genes", and knowing his "secrets". He diverts the entire invasion operation to bring down Santo and his friend Professor Onorico. Somehow, the lead Martian, named "Argos" (more on that name later) believes that Santo's strength, and Onorico's intelligence are the perfect combination to breed a new race of humans for Earth (after the Martian war machines cleanse the current population of course). This idea is reiterated so often that it made me wonder if Argos actually planned to try and breed the two men, not realizing it wouldn't work, sorta like an inept zookeeper. 

Santo, getting ready to stomp some Martian ass.

   Let's take some time to address the Martians as a whole. As mentioned before, there's lady martians, who are shapely and sexy. Maybe it makes me sexist, but I feel like any time I'm watching a space invasion movie, and there are female aliens involved who are obviously being played up as sexy, then the word "lady" should be inserted before their race to describe them, i.e. "lady martians".

   Then there's the Martian men, who are all wrestler types, after all, they're obviously all going to wrassle Santo in and outside the squared circle. All of them sport aryan blonde wigs, held in place by dopey butt shaped helmets that sport an "astral eye" in the center of their foreheads, which is their chief weapon, used to vaporize people. Halfway through the movie, they decide their appearance is not palpable enough for humans to take them seriously, so they go through transformations inside their fancy transformation machine (a room that looks suspiciously like a drafting room in a factory). They don't look all that different, aside from the loss of the butt helmets and silly blonde hair. They decide to name themselves after Greek gods, cause that makes lots of sense.

The Martian invading horde!

The Martian idea of "blending in"

      Overall, the Martians are a serious threat to Santo, managing to beat him silly on more than one occasion. It's only prolonged exposure to our air that saves Santo during several fights. They try to even get him in the ring a couple times, as the villains in these things are wont to do. They manage to unmask him during one match, a trick Santo is ready for, since it reveals he's wearing another mask! HAHA! He gets away without being accused of cheating because his opponent is a Martian. One of the tropes of these things that has started to drive me nuts though is this constant need to show fight scenes from these great wide shots. I'm not sure why its done that way, as most of these fight scenes last a while. I know the fight from They Live was still several decades off, but still, there could be a close up, tight shot edited in.

A closer angle wouldn't kill ya movie...

     los Marcianos is one of the more entertaining entries in this series that I've seen so far. It's just as shoddily constructed, as most of the sets, especially the interior of the Martian space ship, are obviously made from plywood, and it's poorly edited (the aforementioned wide shot fight scenes), but its part of the film's charm, and it finally makes the effort to get Santo to jump to a more international scope of daring do. Hopefully the next set of alien invaders I see Santo encounter will be more alien looking and not laugh inducing


Three silver masks out of a possible five
Fun Fact: At this point in the Mexican film industry, movies needed to cross multiple platforms in order to guarantee box office success. Hence the kitchen sink mentality of this film. 

Friday, July 8, 2011

Week 15: Santo en el Barón Brakola (a.k.a. Santo in Baron Brakola, 1965)

     Vampires again. Yup, Brakola's a vampire, in case that title wasn't entirely obvious to you. Santo once again clashes with a Vampire. Watching this film, I'm not entirely sure what the point of it was, besides being a Hammer horror rip off. I'm assuming that it was made to justify the expense put out for the period costumes from Diabolical Axe, since those nifty outfits make a prolonged return in this entry.

"like sitting through the rest of this movie"

        Baron Brakola involves the titular title villain returning from a long slumber to seek vengeance on the descendants of the Knight in the Silver Mask, descendants who are obviously El Santo. It turns out that this Knight once upon a time slew Brakola's betrothed, Rebecca. For some reason, Mexican vampires are forced to go into a centuries long hibernation period when someone kills one of their vampire lovers. I say Mexican, because I've never heard that rule applying to any other vampires before this movie, so I'm assuming it only applies to vampires that live south of the border. 

Baron Brakola

   While pitting Santo against another vampire, the movie is mostly a rehash of week 13's Diabolical Axe. Brakola swears vengeance on the Knight descendants, just as the Black Mask did. Most of his motivation is getting even with Santo and Rebecca's descendants. See, Brakola turned Rebecca into a vampire after she spurned him as a suitor in "New Spain". Unable to defeat Brakola himself, the Knight and Rebecca's family decide to release her by staking her in the heart. Nice guys! 

Paging Dr. Santo

       A good deal of the movie takes place during a flashback. I mentioned that the period attire is back and boy, do we see a lot of it here. They must've paid a lot for these get ups, and felt the need to really get their value out of them. Since the Santo of New Spain is still wearing his fencing outfit, one must assume, looking at these event chronologically, that these flashback events take place BEFORE the flashback events of Diabolical Axe. So this encounter with Baron Brakola back in the day happened to Santo's ancestor before he fought the Black Mask and was turned into the first Santo by his stinky wizard pal. Maybe I'm over thinking this though...

Santo's great great great great great Grandfather

      Baron Brakola has to be the most craptastic villain these movies have had so far. This guy is such a shit vampire. What kind of high powered vampire with a Baron title can't overpower a professional wrestler? He also screams like a girl and runs away like an asshole whenever someone shows him a cross. Now, I know vampires are allergic to crosses or whatever, and that they're suppose to make them cringe, but at least have him do something dramatic and cool, like get choked up, or cover himself with his cape. Nope. He screams like a sissy girl and runs out of the room like he saw a mouse. What a loser. 

NOT Twilight!

    Sadly, we've hit another dud with Baron Brakola. There's nothing all that redeeming or exciting for me to write about. There's only two wrestling matches in this thing, and the first one is a tag team event where Santo's opponents fight dirty. He makes short work of those two bozos. The other event is just a plot device to have santo fight the woefully unprepared Brakola in a speedo. Stupid.


One silver mask out of a possible five.

Fun Fact: In Aztec mythology, the Civatateo was a sort of vampire, created when a noblewoman died in childbirth.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Week 14: Santo en los profanadores de tumbas (a.k.a. Santo in The Grave Robbers, 1965)

         We're at week 14 true believers and while I wish I had better news for you folks, I'm afraid we've come upon yet another dud in this film saga. De Tumbas involves a nefarious eastern european (READ: Russian) mad scientist, and his henchmen tormenting Santo and his Soccer friend Carlos. The concept itself is unique for a Santo picture, as it involves the villains actively pursuing the Protagonists from the get go.


       Unfortunately, the concept is where anything resembling a coherent motion picture ends. The villain of the piece is a fat, nasty Cur known as Dr. Toichier (pronounced "Touch-E"), a scientist, and ghoul, who's nebulous frankenstein like plans find him needing the heart of a super human to achieve perfection. This leads him on the hunt for the heart of El Santo, the greatest of all masked wrestlers, and obvious super human. His henchman include a cantankerous hunchback (is there any other kind), and that same stunt guy who's appeared in almost all of these damn things so far. 

A "dirty Santo" *snickers*

      Aside from tormenting Santo and his friend Carlos, and his girlfriend Martha, both of whom become targets themselves when Toichier sees them and realizes they'd be perfect physical specimens for his experiments, the Grave Robbers have a vague world domination plan involving a store front that sells items the hunchback has crafted from their deceased victims. These items run the gamut of merchandise, including, but not limited to, red paint made from still-warm blood, wigs that seem to be alive and murderous, and what appears to be a haunted violin. What the hell kind of store in 1960s Mexico would sell all that kind of crap in one place? Is it a pawn shop?

Santo enjoys his ham radio.

     There's actually a running bit throughout the movie that, while meant to be a superhero trope, plays more like a site gag. Santo pops up incognito at least three times through the movie. He's wearing his silver mask under a false face. He's a man in Martha's club, and a traveling corn on the cob vender. The last one is the most hysterical, because he sells two corns to Carlos, then rescues him, and still keeps his peso.


Santo in disguise! 

     I actually kinda hated this movie. It's pretty terrible. Its not the worst one yet, its somewhere between Infernal men and hotel of death. The villains are useless, and impotent. Spending countless scenes in their hide out, posturing about what they want to do to Santo when they get their grave robbing hands on him. Santo never really seems to be in any real danger from them, managing to always be a dozen steps ahead. They even try to bury him alive, but the grave is so shallow that Santo easily crawls out of it. Halfway through the movie, Toichier resorts to sending his hunchback to one of Santo's matches, with a needle full of rabies, the plan being to give Santo rabies...The only trick they use that seems effective is the hunchback's malevolent lamp shade. It makes loud noises that drive Santo insane, twice. Santo finally solves this by wrestling the lamp. It's inane and groan inducing, but now I can at least say I saw Santo fight a lamp. 


One silver mask out of a possible five.

Fun Fact: Hunchback syndrome can result from nutritional deficiencies, especially during childhood, such as vitamin D deficiency, which softens bones and results in curving of the spine and limbs under the child's body weight.