Friday, August 26, 2011

Week 22: Santo contra Blue Demon en la Atlántida (Santo vs. Blue Demon in Atlantis, 1969)


      It's week 22 and so begins a string of team ups with Blue Demon. I call this one a team up because its title is a misnomer. Yes, these two masked men do in fact do battle on numerous occasions throughout the run time, but the title infers a climatic confrontation (possibly in an undersea city) that never really comes about. 

Our central villain.

      The central plot to put these two Mexican titans together involves a villainous type going by the alias Achilles, who is apparently an escaped Nazi Scientist, bent on dominating the world with his own genetic engineered super men. In addition to threatening all nations with nuclear holocaust, he also feels the need to kidnap Blue Demon in the middle of his championship match against Santo, and try to convince him to join his cause. When Blue Demon refuses, he resorts to mind control. Why didn't he just resort to mind control to begin with? Who knows...

Two masked dudes.

       Something that shocked me about this movie was its rampant use of footage, stolen outright, from Godzilla movies. I counted at least three movies that I recognized where special effects scenes were appropriated, Monster Zero, Godzilla vs. The Sea Monster, and War Of The Gargantuas. There's one or two other movies where footage was obviously stolen, but I couldn't identify it. If it wasn't something I recognized right away, I knew it because of the grainy, bootlegged nature of the film stock during those scenes, which is how the Godzilla footage appeared. Due to this rampant thievery, I'm going to have to penalize the movie a silver mask right off the bat. 

One of many stolen SPFX scenes in the movie.

      Another thing I found odd, in an entertaining sort of way, was that while Santo is the main protagonist, the movie feels the need to keep introducing secondary ones, who turn out to be bad guys working for Achilles. It sort of plays with the long running theme of Santo needing a co-star who's face can be seen. There will be a good amount of time spent introducing these characters, sometimes in dramatic fashion, only for them to turn on Santo, forcing him to dispatch them in the next act. One is a new partner, and the next is a love interest. It got to the point where I wondered why Santo was bothering to trust these people. He even speculates aloud that he thinks there are double agents in "Global Security" (formerly Interpol in previous films), so why not tell his supervisor he works alone? 

Santo wreckin' the joint while dispatching doublecrossers.

      There isn't a lot of interplay between Santo and his co-star either. Blue Demon is essentially a bad guy throughout most of it, and they do have a number of confrontations, the best one being a helicopter battle. The physics of it don't make a lot of sense, since its never clear who is piloting each helicopter. Santo seems to be piloting his, until he's forced to shoot at Blue Demon's. Likewise, Blue Demon seems to be piloting his, until he opens fire on Santo's. When his pilot is killed, Blue Demon takes all the time in the world parachuting out. 

       Also, there's no Atlantis! Unless of course, your idea of Atlantis is a underwater cave off the coast of the Mexican panhandle. Achilles must've dubbed his hideout "Atlantis" and the name just stuck. It's not really all that fancy, unless of course you don't know the fake volcanoes erupting at the end are scenes stolen from a Godzilla movie.

Just two buddies, out for a drive.

      Their first official cinematic team up under their respective belts, These two masked dudes leave me wanting more. More wrestler mayhem, more zany adventures, more quips back and forth that hint at their professional rivalry. Here's hoping next week's team up has more of these things and is as legendary as its title portends it to be...      


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

Fun Fact: Blue Demon starred as the leader of a squadron of masked superheroes known as Los Campeones Justicieros (The Champions of Justice) in three films. 

Friday, August 19, 2011

Week 21: Santo contra Capulina (Santo vs. Capulina, 1968)

          So Santo and the gang decided that for his 21st movie, he should do a buddy comedy, or at least what the 1960s Mexican film industry's idea of a buddy comedy. The result is Santo vs. Capulina. "Capulina" is the artistic name of Latin American comedian Gaspar Henaine Perez, a pioneer in what he dubbed Mexican "White humor". I'm not exactly sure what white humor is, but I assume its the innocuous physical humor this fat gentleman performs through the movie. 

  The plot of the movie concerns Capulina working as a night watchman at a massive shipping & receiving warehouse. Of course, Capulina is a lazy poor bum, who not only wears a hat with no top, but  goes to elaborate lengths to sleep on the job. It doesn't make any sense at all. Capulina has turned a large empty crate into a sleep quarters where he brings the turn keys to somehow turn them off on his clock before his deadline, even though he's apparently sleeping. Thieves  break into the place to steal something, which is where Santo gets involved. Capulina proves just how bumbling an idiot he is by managing to totally let the thieves go while hindering Santo from chasing them down. 

He's sleeping on the job.....GET IT?!?!

       The movie's chock full of dopey physical humor like this. My first instinct is to maybe think that there's a cultural aspect to it that I'm missing. Maybe this type of physical humor makes more sense to Latin Americans. But as the movie progressed, I came to the conclusion that a lot of it is just dated. It's the kind of humor that died out in stateside cinemas with Laurel & Hardy, and managed to limp on via American television on shows like Gilligan's Island and Three's Company. The only site gag that I actually laughed out loud at was one where Capulina asks Santo to show him some wrestling moves. Santo says "I'll show you a key" and then produces a key ring from his pocket. It's all pretty innocuous. 

A half assed attempt to rip off the chase scene from Bullit.

        The only point in which the film got anywhere near risky humor, and when it did it seemed to flirt with pedophilia, was a scene where Capulina is coaching a group of elementary school boys to speed walk for the Olympics. A good portion of the scene is quick cuts of little boy asses shaking, interspersed with Capulina's big swaying ass. I'm not sure how much of this was intentional (I'm hoping none of it) but its questionable...

Pedo epic!

    Santo is almost a sidekick in this and for the most part seems bored. There's a plot involving a scientist being forced to make robotic duplicates of Santo's friends and colleagues in an effort to kill him. Capulina is even duplicated at one point. None of it is ever really explained properly though. For some reason, the titular villain of the piece is smuggling diamonds into the country. He spends most of the movie in a wheelchair, then suddenly gets up and flees from police gunfire. When Capulina asks Santo why he'd pretend, Santo says "who'd suspect a cripple?". Making fun of the handicapped is fun! 

If you could see Santo's face, you'd see disdain...

       One thing I did notice is that Santo has continued to wear Turtlenecks. The cape and wrestling gear he sports when doing his superhero Schick seem to be long gone, at least for now. This is a hipper El Santo. Gone also, is the white convertible. Santo now drives a fancy blue mustang fastback. They almost attempt to do a rip off of the chase scene from Bullit, only to get second thoughts about it and ditch the whole chase scene completely. 

Santo's thoughts on his co-star.

      Santo's big leap into comedy isn't really a laugh riot. Most of the movie is spent with Capulina, and a lot of innocuous physical humor. There's a moment in the movie where I thought we might get into some weird psychological themes, when Capulina purchases a replica Santo mask and parades around the neighborhood as him, to the point of even being mistaken by the antagonists as Santo (the explanation for his sudden weight gain dismissed as a bullet proof vest). Since the film is title Santo VS. Capulina, I suddenly had hopes of Capulina becoming a deranged fan of sorts, obsessed with the idea of replacing Santo with himself, but alas, it was never to be.


Two silver masks out of a possible five.

Fun Fact: Long before this team up with Santo, Capulina had made a number of comedic films with partner "Viruta". The pair were considered to be a Latin American counterpart to Laurel & Hardy.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Week 20: Santo en el tesoro de Drácula (a.k.a. Santo in Dracula's Treasure, 1968)

* A special note to any serious Santo fans reading this, the screen caps come from a rare color print, and not the more common B&W version.*

We've reached week 20 and we're back to vampires again. This time out its the titular vampire himself, Dracula, not some lame knock off, or a posse of horny vampire women. That said, Dracula doesn't really pose much of a threat here, as he's seen mostly in an odd sort of prolonged flashback, and he doesn't throw down with Santo until the very end of the movie. 

Santo sporting yet another turtleneck.

          It's a weird sort of tale spun this time out as its leads one to believe it's another Santo fighting a vampire movie, but the first half deals with Santo debuting his new time travel invention. Yup, Santo's not only an inventor now, but he's been tinkering with a massive homemade time machine. Of course the Scientists who  his financial sponsor, Dr. Supulveda, gathers for Santo's debut dismiss Santo's ground shaking news. Who would believe a guy in a silver mask when he claims he's perfected time travel? Anyway, Santo's time traveling machine only works by sending someone back into an ancestor's body. So Santo decides to send his new girlfriend Luisa, who is also Dr. Supulveda's daughter, back into her ancestor's body. 

Santo's new sidkick really loves his bling.

      It's here where the prolonged funky flashback begins. Luisa goes back in time, and somehow Santo, her father, and Santo's new comedy sidekick Perico, are all able to watch this on a TV. Santo's equipment is so fancy, he can even see back in time. It turns out Luisa's ancestors were plagued by vampires, which is where Dracula comes in.  Apparently he relocated to Mexico, under the alias "Alucard" with his entire family fortune, and his bevy of hot vampire ladies. They're not enough of course, and he wants Luisa's great great great great grandmother to be his numero uno senorita. 

That tricky bastard...

      Santo spends a good chunk of the film's run time watching these events unfold on his magic time TV. It makes for a dull movie, as its basically a movie about Santo watching a Hammer movie. There's a half assed attempt to introduce a third party to the storyline, in the form of some masked crook calling himself The Black Hood. The Black Hood conveniently has a professional wrestling son named Atlas, whom Santo conveniently has a match with. The Black Hood's whole motivation is to get his hands on Dracula's treasure. Santo wants to find it in the present day too, partly to distribute the wealth to those in need, but mostly to prove his time machine works. 

Santo's idea of a pick up line.

         With so many players involved, I expected there to be a three way brawl at the climax, between Santo and his entourage, Dracula and his vampire harem, and the Black Hood and his thugs, but the film never really manages to get all the pieces together properly. There's some funky elements to it, like the way Santo's time machine actually works, which was obviously stolen for the Austin Powers movies. The movie manages to effectively ape Hammer films and even classic universal monster films. There just isn't quite much else to it. 


Two silver masks out of a possible five
Fun Fact: A print of "The Vampire & Sex" was found, which is a softcore porno version of Santo en el tesoro de Dracula.  Santo didn't actually participate in any pornographic scenes.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Week 19: Santo en el tesoro de Moctezuma (A. K. A. Santo in The Treasure of Moctezuma, 1968)

Santo as a scientist.

        We're into week 19 and on our second color Santo film. I wish I could be as enthusiastic as I was about last week's movie, but while I found that one to be a zany revelation, this one just doesn't roll with the same amount of crazy as last week's entry. While a direct sequel to Operation 67, the difference in tone and thus quality, is similar to Casino Royale and Quantum Of Solace.

Santo and Jorge talk shop during a work out session.

        As stated, its a direct sequel to the previous film. Jorge is back as Santo's interpol partner. In the previous entry, Jorge became romantically involved with the lead villainess. As she lay dying at the films end, she provides Jorge with an emerald ring. We find out that this ring is being sought after by the organization, known simply as "The Gang". The ring is the key to finding the legendary treasure of Montezuma. If The Gang gets their hands on this treasure, then they can smuggle it out of Mexico and that will somehow lead to Mexico's economic downfall. 

You know they're bad guys when they wear creepy gas masks.

       If the villain's machinations sound vague to you, don't worry, they are. Much like the last film, and in the tradition of 60s spy movies, their plot for evil doing is convoluted and vague. The only problem is there isn't really much else to the movie to really help you forget or even ignore that information. The plot is so thread bare, that its works more like a series of episodes than it does a cohesive narrative. The title infers a massive Indiana Jones style adventure in the jungle. Instead, the movie is mostly Jorge and Santo cruising for chicks and occasionally evading attacks by The Gang. 

Santo in his snazzy turtleneck.

      Another annoying element is that we already know why the villains want this emerald ring in Jorge's possession, but it takes him and Santo another act and a half to figure this out. They're being hunted and dogged by all sorts of henchmen, and they can't really seem to figure it all out. 

The only european sport worse than Soccer...

       That's not to say that the movie is all bad. It's actually ambitious in the scope it tries to go for. There's an exciting set piece atop Aztec pyramids, where Santo, trading in his cape and tights for a turtleneck and slacks, is accosted by gun wielding henchmen. Jorge has to evade assassins at a bull fight. The two have a more smarmy back and forth than the previous film, even going so far as to play up a good cop/bad cop routine.

Santo, kickin' ass on a pyramid!

      The only problem with all this is that its too episodic. None of it really seems to play into a larger plot. The villains finally find and excavate Montezuma's stash, most of which has happened off camera. This is frustrating, because its the focal point of the movie, or at least thats what the title leads you to believe. It spends most of the run time off camera, and then as a MacGuffin for Santo and Jorge to try and get back from The Gang's battleship with their fancy missile shooting cessna. 


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

Fun fact: Montezuma's name means "he frowns like a lord".