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

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