Friday, October 28, 2011

Week 31: Santo en Las momias de Guanajuato (Santo in The Mummies of Guanajuato, 1970)

         So its Halloween weekend, and what would be more appropriate for Santo and Co. to do battle with on Halloween than...mummies. I know, not exactly the most exciting of monsters. They're not even Egyptian mummies either. Shit, they're not even Aztec or Mayan mummies. They're the mummified remains of a wrestling opponent of Santo's great grandfather. Yet again Santo has to be punished for the good deeds of an ancestor. 

     Touted as the high water mark of luchador movies, Las momias actually has very little screen time for Santo. While he has more than just a cameo, its primarily a Blue Demon vehicle. Teaming up with Blue Demon is Mil Mascaras, which in Spanish means "Thousand Masks", more on him later. Somehow, they've been stuck dealing with "Satan", a mummified 7'2" wrestler from the 1800s, who after losing his title belt to that time period's El Santo, vowed revenge by making a pact with the Devil to come back in a 100 years as a mummy. Not exactly the best revenge scheme ever, is it? When Satan and his mummy goons harass Blue Demon's midget friend, known as "Penguin", Blue and Thousand masks take it upon themselves to stomp some mummy ass. Why don't they call in Santo to help? It's not entirely clear. After all, in addition to this being a problem caused by Santo's great grand dad, he's also a famous superhero, monster fighter, and all around do gooder. It's not exactly outside his wheel house to deal with mummies. (Even though he negated their existence in the previous film, a MUMMY movie!) Blue Demon's excuse for not calling in the silver masked reinforcements is that its exactly what Satan wants, and that they shouldn't play into his games. Shrug. 

Let's take some time now to talk about Mil Mascaras, a.k.a. thousand Masks. This character's gimmick is that he never seems to wear the same luchador mask twice, hence his moniker. Check out some of these screen grabs as examples. 

Exhibit A

Exhibit B

Exhibit C

       I noticed at least five different masks, counting the ones shown here. There were likely more throughout the movie, and I just didn't pay close enough attention to notice. Thousand masks is also more physically imposing on screen than both Blue Demon and Santo, to the point that when sharing screen time with one or both of them, he dwarfs them with his sheer size. 

The titular Satan Mummy.

       My biggest complaint about this movie, and this might not entirely be this movie's fault, is the lack of shared screen time between the three luchadors. I say it might not be the movie's fault, because based on what little information I had, I sort of expected this to be the Seven Samurai of masked wrestler movies. I go into each of these movies with as little prior knowledge of each film as possible, that way I have no bias before viewing it. It's my way of giving each film as fair a shake as possible. That said, it was hard not to avoid any information about this film while doing research for this blog. I sorta expected Santo, Blue Demon, and Thousand Masks to be summoned to the province of Guanajuato after it is menaced by mummies. Instead, Blue and Thousand masks are there by happenstance when the mummy antics start. Santo also doesn't come into play at all until the third act, his only other appearance being in the Satan mummy's flashback, and then its as his own ancestor. 

Satan Mummy, after a panty raid at Blue Demon's.

     Santo's eventual involvement comes about through pure coincidence. He and his manager happen to be on tour for a series of matches, and decide to stop off in Guanajuato to spend the night, unaware of the terror in the streets being wrought by the Mummies. Santo leaps from his gold roadster (making its return after a few films with a white mustang) to combat the mummies, only to be overwhelmed and repelled by their numbers. Santo even goes so far as to cause a panic in the streets by telling people to flee for the their lives. He then lets the local police department get slaughtered wholesale by the mummies. Go El Santo!

Santo firing his mummy killing gun.

        It's not until the climax of the film that all three luchadors are together on screen, doing battle with the mummy horde. It's frustrating because after a while, I knew that this is how things were going to play out, and yet I wanted to see these guys team up more. The coincident nature of how they finally form their luchador super team is irritating as well. The fact that Santo even has special gold guns in his gold roadster, designed specifically to kill mummies makes Blue Demon's choice not to involve Santo directly all the more dunderheaded. 

Still, the movie is full of enough craziness to warrant a recommendation to anyone, hardcore luchador fan, or novice. The one wrestling match in the entire movie is a tag team event between Blue and Thousand masks, facing off against a team of what appears to be cave men. It's a tightly shot, tightly choreographed match, one of the better ones I've seen in these films. There's mummies galore, child endangerment, big boobed woman endangerment, and midgets being murdered. 


Five silver masks out of a possible five. 

Fun Fact: Mil Mascaras actually starred in 17 of his own luchador films, from 1969 to 1990, and was also a member of Blue Demon's "Champions of Justice" luchador superhero team. 

Friday, October 21, 2011

Week 30: Santo en la venganza de la momia (Santo in the Mummy's Revenge, 1970)

         So week 30 is the first of two mummy movies in a row. I fear this week's movie will likely turn out to be the lesser of the two. The Mummy's Revenge is interesting, in that its plot is bookended by two, totally unrelated wrestling matches. These matches are interesting because Santo is really showing his age in both of them. It's mostly apparent in his speed, or lack there of. At this point, Santo has to be in his 50s, and jumping all around the ring, bouncing off the corners, had to be arduous. 

Santo help the professor out. 

       After the first match is complete, we jumpcut to Santo sitting in on an expedition meeting for a trip into "the jungle" to find the tomb of Nomoc, the prince of the Native Opalche Indians. Apparently this prince decided to defile a virgin girl meant for sacrifice to the God of the Opalche, and as punishment was entombed alive in a remote, relatively unknown grave site in "the jungle". Going on this expedition with the history professor determined to defile this man's tomb, are a big boobed photographer, who becomes Santo's new squeeze, Sergio, an engineer/big game hunter, and a senile old man everyone refers to as "the professor", who I assume is meant to be comic relief, but who's jokes are so lame, it becomes embarrassing. Why is Santo a part of this expedition? I don't know. Because he's famous? I'm not sure why you'd need a masked wrestler to go dig up mummies. 

Santo wrestling a jaguar.

       This movie feels pretty cheap, even by Santo standards. There's another jumpcut from the meeting to a shot of the expedition's jeep being stuck in the mud, and that's the ONLY scene that's seemingly shot on location in actual jungle. The rest of the movie takes place in three different, shoddy sets. A jungle set, a cave/tomb set, and inside a tent. These places are occasionally re-dressed to make them look like different locations, but its obvious they're not. A lot of audience reaction footage during both wrestling matches are recycled over and over during the matches too, I guess to pad them out. 

The Mummy, getting his revenge.

   The vengeful mummy comes into play when they reach Nomoc's tomb, where they're told by their native guide, that if they remove his necklace of death, he will rise from the grave and waste all of them. Of course this native's superstitions are dismissed as just that. In fact, Santo and Co. are fairly stubborn assholes to the natives they employ to find this guy's tomb. It's kinda funny to see Santo talk down to people whose heritage he is basically helping to pilfer. 

A Santo getting punched in the face POV.

   Once the necklace is removed, Nomoc reanimates, and roams the jungle set of our heroes, picking them off, Agatha Christie "and then there were none" style. Santo at first is too grounded in reality to accept mummies rising from the grave, even though he's fought a mummy previously, as well as vampires, werewolves, aliens, and god knows what else. I guess we're not suppose to remember any of that.

Santo's new squeeze with his new Milton.

    Of course, Santo's stance on mummies is proven valid when his third act confrontation with the mummy reveals it to have been Sergio the entire time. What a jerk. This is one of Santo's lesser motion picture efforts, to be sure. The production values and choppy editing really show the decline in this franchise during the early 70s. 


Two Silver Masks out of a possible Five

Fun Fact: Some mummies found in South American have proven to be so old, they predate the mummies of Egypt. 

Friday, October 14, 2011

Week 29: Santo contra la mafia del vicio (Santo vs. The Mafia of Vice, 1970)

        So Santo's back to fighting run-of-the-mill nogoodnicks this week. He faces off against a drug cartel who will stop at nothing to regain their drugs, seized by Interpol. While being much more grounded in reality than some of the previous, more fantastic Santo films, mafia del vicio still manages to be novel and entertaining at times. 

Santo with some ladies.


    The movie starts out with a music video of a guy Singing to Santo in a speedo, and a number of Latin beauties. Then it promptly cuts to a series of explosions. Warehouses of some sort are being destroyed. By whom, and for what purpose? Who knows. We have to wait through the opening credits to find out. It turns out that these are factories, manufacturing goods for the Mexican market. Its an attempt by a clandestine criminal organization to get even stevens with Interpol for seizing a load of valuable, nondescript "drugs" from them. Confounded by these terror tactics, The Interpol head of the Mexican desk enlists Santo's services to get to the bottom of these bombings. 

     If this sounds action packed, trust me, it isn't. After Santo cuts his vacation, and chances at menage a trois, short, things become a much more subdued crime drama/kidnapping tale, centered by a cartel of seemingly really stupid criminals. The cartel kidnaps the go go dancer niece of a fellow known simply as "Dr. Moon", and hold her to ransom. This is all a ruse on Dr. Moon's part though, as its revealed that he is in fact the head of the cartel. Why kidnap his own family? Well....I don't know? I guess to draw suspicion away from himself? Why would anyone suspect him in the first place though, if he is so well respected in the community? None of this is ever really made clear.

Fun with bad dance numbers! 

        Where the movie flies right off the stupid rails, in brilliant fashion, is the cartel's plot to deal with El Santo. It turns out that Santo had a hand in depriving of them of their invaluable drugs, and so they're looking to mess up his day. They manage to trap and incapacitate Santo, the plan being that they will execute him, and have one of their members, who does not physically or vocally match Santo in any way, don a fake Santo mask and pose as him for much of the duration of the film.

Santo being a foul mouth.

        Of course, while this bonehead's back is turned, Santo comes to, and knocks him out, then switches clothes with him. Santo watches with vague satisfaction as this criminal scum is...thrown into a furnace? Wait, what? How does that jive with Santo's code of honor and justice? He basically murdered this man. 

Santo watching a man put to death.

       There's a few other puzzling subplots that, while inane, give the movie an odd charm. One involves Santo's partner from Interpol, a guy who is so nondescript and vague, that I don't even remember his name. His whole purpose in the movie is to not help Santo ever, instead choosing to romance the go go dancer's go go dancer friend. He even takes her home to meet his mother, a cantankerous widower who relates her husbands death by criminals and fears her son will befall the same fate. Then he gets shot in the face during the climax's shootout. Awesome. 

Santo being a pervert.

        I almost forgot to mention that there is a love interest for Santo. A fellow Interpol agent working deep cover in the cartel as the second in command's MILFy girlfriend. During a night time reconnaissance mission, Santo, still pretending to be the cartel's phony Santo, is forced to hide in her bedroom, behind her dressing screen. She's aware of Santo's presence the whole time, and puts on a bit of a show for him. It's a weird, pervy side of El Santo that we haven't seen before. 


Three Silver Masks out of a possible Five

Fun Fact: This film is also known as Mission Sabotage

Friday, October 7, 2011

Week 28: Santo en la venganza de las mujeres vampiro (Santo in the Revenge of the Vampire Women, 1970)

        Santo fights vampires...Aaaaaagain. Actually its not that bad a deal this time out. Angry vampire women once again menace the good citizens of Mexico and it's up to Santo and friends to stop them. It's unclear if this is suppose to be a direct sequel to the original Vampire Women film from the 60s. It loosely could be, although it seems unlikely. I think its suppose to be taken more as a remake/rehash. 


        An evil scientist resurrects Mayra, the high priestess of vampires, who was staked in the heart once upon a time. Through a long exposition, we're informed that Mayra's vampire soul watched on helplessly, as her followers brought her to Mexico, only to be slaughtered by a previous Santo mantle holder. Mayra swears vengeance on the descendants of that Santo, meaning she wants to kill our current Santo. This isn't a problem for El Santo, as he and his Interpol cronies are bored to tears with their current run of the mill cases and are itching for a fight with something more outlandish and supernatural. 

Santo's name written in gory blood credits...

         There's not a lot to the plot beyond Santo fighting vampires and evading assassination attempts by Mayra and her growing vampire horde. In a way, I'm glad that's all there is to this particular movie. Sometimes, that all one really needs. There's a vague subplot involving the evil scientist's pet creation, a Frankenstein rip-off, needing vampire blood to make it immortal. It turns out that evil scientist's whole motivation for resurrecting Mayra is to obtain genuine vampire blood for his monster. It's only really referenced twice, and even then, mostly to foreshadow the fight between Santo and said monster during the climax. 

Mayra, the evil Vampire Priestess.

"Bet you didn't know I had a barbed penis, did ya Santo?"

        One of the things that made the movie more interesting for me, was its funky early 70s vibe. The music and camera angles, even the film stock, give it a strange sorta Tobe Hooper vibe. It has the essence of a 70s exploitation film, more so than a luchador film. The two wrestling matches are actually executed quite well and are as compelling as any of the fight sequences in the rest of the film. 

Traditional Mexican Vampire living room decor.

     Venganza de las Mujere Vampiro manages to be one of the better of the Santo series, and certainly his best outing involving vampires. There's some slow moments in the second act of the film where Santo spends some time spinning his wheels, but things pick back up when all parties involved come together for a three way brawl. 


Four Silver Masks out of a possible Five

Fun Fact: This Santo film was directed by Federico Curiel, known as Mexico's most prolific director of vampire films.