Friday, September 30, 2011

Week 27: Santo contra los jinetes del terror (Santo Vs The Terror Riders, 1970)

       So here we are, on the other side of the year of El Santo, so to speak. There are more movies seen now than there are to-be-seen. I guess you could say its the downhill stretch. We've still got a ways to go though.

The Velvet Santo.

      This week is a change of pace, as we're treated to Santo in a Western. This time, Santo is called in to help mediate a situation in a remote Mexican village, which is located near a leprosarium. Six Lepers have escaped, and are stealing things along the outskirts of the village. It's up to Santo to capture the Lepers and keep the townspeople from burning down the leprosarium in a fiery act of mob violence.

A Leper trying on some jewelry.

       I guess its suppose to be understood that this is one of Santo's Ancestors in the old west, dealing with this conflict. One might assume its just a very remote part of Mexico in the 1970s, and it easily could be, but Santo seems to be the only one enlightened enough to know there is a "new" cure for Leprosy known as dapsone. Since dapsone was introduced in the early 20th century, I think its safe to assume that the story takes place at least around the time that The Wild Bunch did. There's also no signs of electricity or cars. 

Santo beating another hapless badguy senseless.

     There's some interesting moral quandaries thrown at Santo and the Sheriff, Dario, that he is assisting in this movie. The escaped Lepers aren't dastardly, mustache twirling bad guys, but only sick people who don't want to die fenced off from the rest of the world. They're not out to make anyone sick, and only steal what necessities they need. The real villain of the piece is Camerino, the local alarmist, who turns out to be the secret gang leader for a group of Bandidos. He convinces the Lepers to be a diversion to the townsfolk, while he goes about his criminal activities, planning to double cross them the entire time. 

A leper

      One thing that has become obvious with these later movies, is Santo's age. At this point, in 1970, he had to be in his early 50s, and it shows. In the movie's sole wrestling match, (more a bare knuckle brawl, considering the time period) Santo goes shirtless for the first time in two or three movies, and you can see the beginnings of a Ric Flair sloppy tittied chest. It's no wonder they've had him sporting turtlenecks and jumpers lately. This time out, he wears a fancy purple jacket/shirt thing.

Santo showing his age.

     The Terror Riders turns out to be a sturdy period piece for Santo, and while not a spectacular matinee treat, manages to be leaps and bounds better than the previous two installments.


Three Silver Masks out of a possible Five

Fun Fact: A separate adult version exists, known as "The Lepers & Sex", featuring nude scenes, not performed by El Santo.  

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Interlude: El Estado De Cosas Hasta El Momento

     Below is all 52 of Santo's films listed in chronological order. The ones I've viewed and reviewed already will have a hot link next to the title "SEEN!" that will take readers directly back to those reviews. The rest will have "ERD:", meaning Expected Review Date next to the title, with the date I expect the review to be up for your reading pleasure. I try to have these things posted every friday, and will hopefully stick to the dates I have listed here. The plan is to update this list quarterly, or about every 90 days. Its a way for readers new and old to catch up and keep up with all things El Santo, and maybe get a chuckle out of some of the funky titles in store for us down the road...

Santo filmography (in order)

Friday, September 23, 2011

Week 26: Santo frente a la muerte (Santo Faces Death, 1969)

        We're at the half way point with the year of el santo now, and I'm sad to say that we've delved into the dogshit movies again. La Muerte is just about the worst one of these movies I've seen so far, I dub it the worst due to its utterly boring plot line.  Not one moment of the movie is engaging or interesting. It's also in Black and White, which in and of itself is not a sin, but when compared to the past few, superior movies, all of which were in color, it doesn't seem to make a lot of sense. I'm guessing the reason for the lack of color this time out is that this was a film produced before the previous entries and held from release for whatever reasons, maybe because it was just so goddamned dull. I don't care really...

Santo in action!

     The plot, or what I gleaned from it when I actually bothered to pay attention, is that some rare jewel thief who calls himself the Stranger, is blackmailing female pro wrestlers into doing his dirty work for him. One in particular is being forced to be his apex henchman under threat of her captive father being murdered. Santo is brought in by Interpol to deal with the situation. 


       A tedious foot race ensues between Santo, the Police, and the Stranger with his lady wrestler henchwomen. Most of it is plodding and inane. The only amusing part, and its amusing because it doesn't intend to be, is when Santo and a Cop try to surveil their quarry on foot through city streets, ala The French Connection, only its painfully obvious to the crooks they're being followed, because one of the guys following them is in a SILVER SPARKLING LUCHADOR MASK! There's also some meant-to-be tantalizing stuff with a sexy belly dancer, and the return of That Guy who appeared in so many of these earlier movies as a villain. You know the one, I've mentioned him plenty of times. I'm not showing you a picture of him again, so go back through the previous reviews yourself. None of it really makes for anything exciting.

Yeah yeah...belly dancers, big F'ing deal...

      With a title as dramatic as Santo Faces Death, you'd think something really dramatic and shocking would happen. You know Santo's not actually going to die, but maybe he'd have to best the grim reaper in chess or a best out of three pins wrestling match. Alas, this entry is the most mundane and tedious yet. Fuck this movie. 


No silver masks out of a possible Five. 

Fun Fact: This film is also known as Santo vs. The Mafia Killers. 

Friday, September 16, 2011

Week 25: Santo contra los cazadores de cabezas (Santo vs. The Headhunters, 1969)

        So we're almost at the half way point with these movies. For whomever is reading this, it may or may not feel like I've been at this for almost half a year already, but for me, it does. Not always actually. It helps when the movies are entertaining, as they have been the past few weeks. 

Santo in yet another terrible sweater.

        Santo's run with Blue Demon is over for the time being and we're back to his solo efforts. This time out, Santo finds himself coming to the aid of a family terrorized by angry South American Natives. It apparently overlaps with his current investigation, as he has been trying to foil a gang leader who's origins lie with the Harbaros tribes that torment his new friends. It turns out that this nefarious gang leader has convinced the Harbaros tribes to unite and declare war on the "white man", white man referring to the Mexicans and Latins who surround them and are surely descended from, even partially, from mutual ancestry. The tribe uses a sleeper agent embedded in the family, as a butler, to kidnap Mariana, the hot piece of ass whom is obviously meant to be sacrificed, or as the Harbaros call her, "the Bride of the Sun". 

Santo wrasslin' a jaguar.

Santo wrasslin' a croc.

      Santo then leads her father, godfather, boyfriend, some red shirts, and some secret bad guys on a quest through...I guess the Amazon? It's never mad clear, to retrieve her before she can be sacrificed. What follows is a tedious march through the jungle that lasts for days, which is great because it actually feels like days to watch it... 

     Mariana must be sacrificed at some moldy Incan ruin at the next full moon, so they slowly march through the jungle, then Santo's posse slowly marches through the same patch of jungle. 

Santo can't even be bothered brushing away poison ivy...

        It's a shame that this is where the movie decides to go with its storyline, as it starts off strongly, even if it does seem a bit racist. Action pieces are set up, only for Santo to blandly foil them, almost with the wave of a hand. This happens repeatedly. His team encounters a massive Cayman, which Santo wrestles to submission. His team encounters a ferocious Leopard, which Santo wrestles into submission. There's unseen piranha, and electric eels, but Santo finds a reasonable work around. The electric eel scene is especially entertaining as Santo uses them to dispose of a traitor, hurling the man into the river, which instantly blazes intensely, and we're told the river is full of electric eels.

"We're Indians...get it?"

     There's also a reference by the villains to some obscure Incan god who is part man, part jaguar, who watches over them. This "god" reference pays off at the climax when some clown in a half assed jaguar costume attacks Santo. I bring this scene up because I laughed out loud at the beating Santo doles out to this poor bastard. This guy is seriously just in the movie to get his ass utterly stomped to pulp by Santo, and even then Santo just right hooks him, picks him up, and right hooks him again. I'm pretty certain this clown never lays a hit on Santo throughout their brief fight scene. I haven't seen Santo beat an opponent so utterly senseless since some of the early movies. 

Santo beating the Jaguar God senseless.

      The 25th El Santo movie is sadly a lackluster one, especially considering how strong the past few movies have been. What could've been an interesting jungle survival story to drop Santo in turns into an exercise in tedium as Santo and friends spend most of the movie walking. The villains could've been interesting antagonists, but end up coming off as witless savages with unrealistic life goals.


Two and a Half silver masks out of a possible Five. 

Fun Fact: electric eels are not actually true eels, but a member of the Neotropical knifefishes (Gymnotiformes), more closely related to catfish. 

Friday, September 9, 2011

Week 24: Santo y Blue Demon en el mundo de los muertos (Santo and Blue Demon in the World of the Dead, 1969)

       So we've reached game 3 of our three game series with Blue Demon. This one is billed as another team up, but the title is a bit of a misnomer. You see, this entry deals heavily in Santo's lineage and legacy, with the first 20 or so minutes taking place in 1600s Mexico. Santo again plays one of his own Ancestors, billed as the Silver Knight, who is waging a sort of one man war on a cabal of Witches and Satan Worshippers who are up to no good in this new spanish territory. Blue Demon also features as one of his own ancestors, trapped in a sort of phantasm state after being defeating by the forces of darkness and forced to work for them. 

17th Century Man!

       It's billed as a Santo/Blue Demon team up, but its mostly a Santo vehicle with Blue Demon getting an extended cameo. After the Extended flashback ends, and we jump forward to present day Mexico, Blue Demon's role in the story is mostly forgotten until the climax. Its technically not even "our" Blue Demon, as it is a past Blue Demon who is cursed. The plus side to this is that there is a vague sort of explanation as to Blue Demon's moniker. Once known as the Blue Knight in the 1600s, people started referring to him as a demon after he was cursed to walk the nether realms and serve the forces of evil, hence the name "Blue Demon". 

The Worst Satanic ritual orgry....ever!

         Once we're in the modern day, that is 1960s Mexico, we learn that the female descendent of the lead Witch Santo's ancestor sent to the stake to burn, is going to be possessed by her vengeful ancestor. This poses a problem for Santo, as this is his newest squeeze. I swear, for a dork in a silver wrestling mask, this guy sees more trim than a toilet seat. He definitely gives James Bond a run for his money, and likely changes his women out faster than he does his wrestling tights. 

Did you know they had mock turtlenecks in the 17th century?

        I have to admit to getting a strange enjoyment out of this return to Santo's lineage. It adds a greater weight and sense of a larger universe to these movies, knowing that there have been all these Champions of justice known as Santo through the ages. It's not the most terribly original idea for a superhero, as its been done with characters like The Phantom and even Batman, both of whom Santo is obviously modeled after, but still, its an effort to add a more complex storyline to these films and its welcome. 

One of their few on-screen moments together, in Hell...

   What's not welcome is the continued practice of stealing footage from other movies. This time out its Mario Bava's Hercules In The Haunted World. Footage of the dead rising from graves is used repeatedly from this movie. Aside from it being obviously stolen, due to its overly grainy appearance, there's no effort to match it up to the rest of the movie! Shots of zombies rising from their tombs cut to scenes of Santo supposedly fighting these same zombies, only now they're wrestlers in white fright wigs instead of rotting corpses.

A fine family film!

      24 films out, Santo and his filmmaking friends have decided to hue close to a tried and true formula, making this entry one of the more durable ones. It doesn't always fire on all cylinders and isn't nearly as strong as the previous film in this series, but its still one of the better entries. The effort to get the period stuff as right as possible on a Mexican film budget alone makes this a strong entry. There's some awkward stuff with Santo having a fencing match with two undead goons, but its more laugh inducing than groan inducing, as Santo's slow reaction time helps add to the film's offbeat charm. 


Three Silver Masks out of a possible Five

Fun Fact: Blue Demon actually resented having to be second fiddle to Santo in this picture, being relegated to villain status again. Being the better wrestler in the ring, Blue felt he deserved top billing, but Santo was already a living legend in Mexico at that point, so Blue has to play along.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Week 23: Santo y Blue Demon contra los monstruos (Santo and Blue Demon vs. the Monsters, 1969)

           So here we are with our second Blue Demon team up, and one of the more go for broke Santo movies. All involved must've decided they wanted to do something really zany this time out, and thus Santo & Blue Demon vs. the Monsters was born. While the name recognition monsters get top billing with Santo and Blue Demon, even getting their own respective title cards in the opening credits, this film also sports a bit of a who's who of previous adversaries. The monsters that appear are as follows...


The Mummy

A really shitty Wolfman

The Cyclops (basically a one eyed Gill Man)

The Vampire

Lady Vampires

And last but not least, the Zombies from Santo Contra Los Zombies, AND the hunchback midget from The King of Crime. 

        You'll also notice there is a weird, sort of alien looking thing with its massive brain on the outside of its head. It shows up a couple times in the monsters' hideout, and whatever it is, or suppose to be, is never explained. It's presence in the movie is never even acknowledged.

Santo in a 007 pose.

     The gist of the film, what gist they bothered to give us as an excuse for so much monster fighting, is that a mad scientist named Dr. Bruno Halder has not only found a means to reanimate himself from the dead, but also had managed to exert mind control over numerous forms of supernatural life. Halder intends to use his discoveries to murder his brother, niece and Blue Demon, who all contributed to his death somehow. I guess that was explained in a Blue Demon movie I didn't see? It's uncertain. Santo becomes involved, since Halder's niece Gloria, is his new squeeze. Also at Halder's disposal is a duplication machine, similar in function to the one used by Hugh Jackman in The Prestige. Of course, Halder being a bad guy, he uses the machine for his own shallow selfish ends, managing to capture and duplicate Blue Demon, he sends out this evil clone to wreak havoc while the real Blue Demon is imprisoned in his lair. 

A group shot of the Antagonists.

       The only thing that really matters with this movie is the monster fights, and they give it to you in spades. Santo fights as many as five monsters at once in any given fight sequence, and while the monster suits are amazingly shoddy (especially the Cyclops, whom you can see tears in the suit of by the climax), its part of the film's charm.

Fun with Frankenstien!

       My only real complaint, aside from making Blue Demon a bad guy AGAIN for most of the run time, is the use of footage stolen from other movies. Santo, Gloria and her father try to hide out at a night club during one scene, taking in a show. Footage is then inserted from an obviously much older mexican musical. If you can't tell by the change in color and film stock that its not something they shot, you can tell by the fact that its a massive studio set, and when they cut back to santo, he's inside a small restaurant. No way in hell does that even flirt with the illusion of matching up. 

More stolen footage.

        23 films out, we finally get a film that feels like the makers behind it let it all hang out. When one thinks of mexican wrestling movies, and the concept of a masked wrestler fighting evil doers in crazy situations, this is the movie one expects to discover. It's only major flaws are its need to pad out its run time with stolen footage again, and also the incessant need to pad things out by showing us the monsters emerge from the master's lair, over and over and over...


Four Silver Masks out of a possible Five

Fun Fact: This was actually Santo's personal favorite of all his films, citing the film's fun, goofy tone and story.