Friday, November 25, 2011

Week 35: Santo contra los asesinos de otros mundos (Santo vs. the Killers from Other Worlds, 1971)

          So its Black Friday here in the states. If you're home reading this, and not out shopping, than good for you for not being a lemming. In honor of your independence, here's a review of one of the better Santo movies I've seen in a while. 

  The Killer From Other Worlds is actually one of the funkier Santo movies in the wrestler's oeuvre.It's mostly a knock off of The Blob,  with the man in the silver mask clashing with a carnivorous mutant microbe from beyond the stars. Thrown in for good measure is a mad scientist, unleashing the monster on various political and scientific heads of Mexican state, in an attempt at blackmail. 

Santo's first encounter with his titular enemy.

      Before addressing anything else, I have to talk about the actual blob monster in the movie. The "special effects" utilized to bring the other worldly man eater to life are awesome, in the worst cheapy monster movie sorta way. It's simply a bunch of people crawling and stumbling around under some large sheets of rubber that are sewn and painted together. There's no real attempt to even conceal that sewing seams, until the third act of the movie, and at that point, the effect is totally ruined. It's cheap, and awesome, and yet this thing manages to still look unsettling when on camera. 

"self Portrait"

       Another thing that really stood out to me with this particular movie is its score. I usually don't talk much about the music in these films, mostly because if I even notice it, its because its the same repetitive, cheap sounding score over and over. It's usually not even worth mentioning. This entry has musical cues that are so...strange. In particular, there is a scene at the start of the third act, where Santo is infiltrating the Mad Scientist's hideout. The music for this scene is really out there. It sounds like a purposeful attempt to have an orchestra play all its instruments at once, as a sort of symphony of chaos. There are similar scenes throughout the movie, where its funky score gives it a disquieting vibe.

Santo fights a Gladiator.

        There's also no genuine, in the ring, wrestling match this time out. It's the first one I can recall that doesn't have some sort of sanctioned match in a ring of some sort. These are wrestling pictures after all. Hell, the one that was a western from a few weeks back had a wrestling match in it. In its place, Santo is forced to meet three different, and strange, opponents in mortal combat. He's captured by the bad guys, and pitted against what appear to be two gladiators from ancient Rome. How did they get there? I don't know. Has the mad scientist baddy time traveled them here? I don't know. It's never explained. When he defeats both, Santo is forced to fight a guy wielding a flame thrower, and wearing a fire retardant suit. What's sort of ironic about the lack of a real match in this film, is that Santo spends the entire run time in his wrestling attire. Gone are the tacky sweaters and turtlenecks, and back is the sparkly cape and wrestling tights. 

Santo fights a flame thrower.

       After defeating these opponents, Santo comes face to face with the titular other worldly killer. It's a breathless scene, as Santo, visibly panic stricken by the onslaught of this rubbery space amoeba, tries to flee. I've never seen him move faster in the previous 34 movies. This is a guy who jumps head long into combat with zombies, vampires, and werewolves. I guess the invincibility powers of his magic mask crap out against blob monsters. It's not long after this that the movie sort of falters, and my main gripe with it happens. Santo escapes the monsters, and advises the government to send the air force in to deal with it, and then its promptly forgotten about until the third act. No real mention of it is made again. It would've been interesting to see Santo help the military combat the monster. Instead the movie grinds to a halt while Santo searches for a missing scientist who might know how to deal with it. 

Look at those seams.

      Santo vs. the Killers from Other Worlds is a nice return to the monster movie form that made these movies famous in the 50s and 60s. It tries to be a marriage of the monster movie Santo films and the secret agent, political intrigue films that make up a lot of the lesser Santo flicks, and its not really successful. Still, it attempts something different, if not all that original, making it one of the better latter Santo movies thus far. 


Three Silver Masks out of a possible Five

Fun Fact: This is also known as Santo vs. The Living Atom.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Week 34: Santo en Misión suicida (Santo in Suicide Mission, 1971)

       So another week, another unremarkable Santo movie. Sorry to reveal that so early in the review, but its true. This one, while not terrible, just isn't all that great, or even memorable. It's a damned shame too, as this time out, Santo clashes with escaped Nazi war criminals. It's an interesting subject for something as outlandish as the Santo movies to tackle. Unfortunately, there's no real attempt to do it with any finesse or style.

Santo trying to get the Spice channel.

     One of the more infamous Nazis to escape to South America was Josef Menegal, and one of the Nazi bad guys in this movie is obviously modeled after him. He's a scientist who was tasked with developing mind control program by the fuhrer. What sucks is that this guy is captured by another group of Nazis, who've become third rate bond villains. They want his mind control programs for their sleeper agents, but first they need to get him radical plastic surgery, to conceal him from Interpol. 

30 years BEFORE Inglourious Basterds!

     This is where Santo gets involved. Apparently these guys need the best plastic surgeon in the whole world to do this face job for them, so they kidnap him and his daughter. Santo agrees, reluctantly, to help Interpol retrieve this surgeon, and thwart this group's plans. It's interesting to see Santo, now older, vocalize a weariness in his dealings with Interpol. Too bad its never really explored beyond that. Santo being tired of doing the dirty work for these guys would be something interesting to see at this point in the Santo saga. 

Gun totin' bikini babes.

The whole movie just also feels A lot of action sequences are doing with quick cuts, to mask a scene being shot on a set and on location, with the actors never actually interacting. My guess is that the budget must've gone to pay for Santo's new ride, a sweet black Stingray corvette! Driving his busted old white convertible is his co-star, Agent Pisces, played by Lorena Velazquez. She also starred in two previous Santo films, Santo vs. the Vampire Women and Witches Attack, as Santo's main antagonist in each respective film. 

The phoniest movie shark, probably ever...

   Suicide Mission ends up being a movie filled with missed opportunities. Interesting ideas are put forth, but never really explored.  There are scantily clad assassins, super fake looking sharks, Nazi scumbags, and secret agent intrigue, but none of it ever really comes together to make something really entertaining. 


Two silver masks out of a possible five.

Fun Fact: There's actually a large immigrant population from Germany in South America, hence why a lot of Nazi war criminals felt safe in seeking asylum in various South American countries. 

Friday, November 11, 2011

Week 33: Santo contra la hija de Frankenstein (Santo vs. Frankenstein's Daughter, 1971)

       So we're back to color for the 33rd movie, and in honor veterans day, Santo is battling Frankenstein's daughter. Yeah, it's not for veterans day. Santo finds himself, and his girlfriend, menaced by Dr. Frankenstein's Daughter, Freda, that's right, her name is Freda Frankenstein. The man made abominations against all moral and ethical sense of decency, so why would he give his daughter a proper first name? 

Santo's new girl, watching him on TV.

       Freda's managed to keep herself alive and relatively youthful via a de-aging serum she's developed. The only problem is that over time, the serum's users develop a resistance to it, and its effects are shorter and shorter lived. At the point we meet Freda, the serum is only working for her two weeks at a time, and she fears that window may shrink rapidly with each next dose. Her solution is to kidnap El Santo, of course. Freda has discovered, via stealing a blood sample off of one of Santo's soiled ringside towels (gross...), that Santo's blood actually has a mutation in it that keeps Santo from aging rapidly. Her wish is to capture Santo for a larger sample and isolate whatever gene it is that gives him this ageless power, and use it for her serum. 

Freda Frankenstein, rapidly aged.

        For some reason, Freda also needs Santo's eyes for one of her creations as well. Its never really explained why Santo's eyes are essential to that experiment, other than Freda is a goddamned loon. This eventually leads to her kidnapping Santo's new girlfriend, forcing Santo to hunt her down, with his girlfriend's sister in tow. The girlfriend gets free, and then the sister is captured. The sister gets free, and then the girlfriend and Santo get captured. Santo and the girlfriend get free, and then the girlfriend and her sister get captured. If you think I'm being a smartass, trust me, I'm not. That's more or less how the events in the second half of the movie play out. 

Santo's eyes, in peril.

      The first half, on the other hand, is a snore. Nothing really happens for the first 45 odd minutes of the movie. Sure, there's lots of exposition and machinations and such from Freda and her de-aged goons, but who cares? We want to see Santo clobber a Frankenstein monster! 

Santo battling one of Freda's monsters.

      One of the most common images of Santo you'll find, should you do a google image search for him, is of the poster to this movie, which features Santo with his arms in shackles. This image features prominently here, during the scene in which Santo is held captive by Freda. She hits on Santo quite overtly, even de-masking him (the back of his head to us) in order to ram her tongue down his throat. She then forces him to fight one of her monsters, which santo beat senseless with his own shackles. It's all very overt and S&M and weird. Who knew Santo was so into kink?

S&M Santo

       Not as atmospheric as something like Santo vs. the Vampire Women, and not as fun and silly as Santo & Blue Demon vs. The Monsters, this one falls into that middle category, where there's some interesting elements to keep a viewer going, but not enough to make it one of the higher end Santo films. 


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

Fun Fact: This film's director, Miguel M. Delgado, would also direct two other Santo features, Santo & Blue Demon vs. Dracula & The Wolf Man, and Santo & Blue Demon vs. Dr. Frankenstein.  

Friday, November 4, 2011

Week 32: Santo en el misterio de la perla negra (Santo in the Mystery of the Black Pearl, 1971)

    So we're back to glorious black & white, in the 70s...Yeah, I don't know why this movie is in black & white, considering that the previous dozen or so movies are in color. My guess is that since the copy I watched was recorded off Mexican TV, that this is some TV print from whenever. I've read that this happened with these movies from time to time. Needless to say, all my screen caps are in black & white. If this is a problem for you, then you probably also can't read, or breath oxygen for that matter. 

A Lady Luchador melee.

       This time out, Santo is called in to deal with jewel smugglers from Spain. They've got their hands on pearls, or something. It's all sorted vague what they're dealing in. For some reason they need to smuggle their load of jewels to Vera Cruz. This somehow involves murdering and hitting people over the head with billy clubs. Santo is brought in by Interpol, I guess, to track the smugglers movements and put a stop to them.

Santo's always got time for a match!

       Santo's mostly on his own throughout this one. I wish I could get more excited about that, since a lot of times he's saddled with some know nothing sidekick cop or agent or scientist, idiot person. Nope, he flies solo through most of this movie, and he's pretty inept at it. He's clubbed over the head, almost drowned, imprisoned in castles, and even has a knife thrown at him while eating dinner. It's okay though, because while his quarry, the smugglers, seem as dapper as they are arrogant, they're pretty inept too. They have plenty of chances to kill Santo, hell, they have plenty of chances to unmask him, after incapacitating him, and they totally blow it, leaving Santo free to meddle in their smuggling plans some more. 

       I actually found myself paying more attention to Santo's mask throughout this film than actually paying attention to its threadbare plot. Santo switches between three different masks throughout the movie. This isn't some gimmick like Thousand Masks had in last week's movie either. They don't just change out from scene to scene. They will literally change from shot to shot. Look at these examples below...

The "Sparkle" mask

The "Water" mask

The "Saggy" mask

           As you can see, I'm nicknamed all of them. There's the sparkle mask, which only appears once or twice in the movie, and then it seems to mostly be a "hero" mask of sorts, that Santo wears when around a female character. You don't see it during a fight sequence. The water mask appears almost always during Santo's scenes involving water. This is not limited to him swimming either. There's a shot of Santo being awakened with a bucket of cold water. He's wearing it then too. The most perplexing one is the saggy mask. This thing appears throughout the movie, seemingly at random. It's so shoddy and craptastic, that it wouldn't surprise me if this was Santo's back up mask, for when he needs to go do some good deeds on laundry day. 

        I don't really have much else to say about this one, other than I question the reasons for even bothering to make it in the first place. The only thing I care to guess is that Santo and company saw some of the superior crime films coming out of the States, like The French Connection, and tried to achieve something in the vein, without having a really well thought out plot. 


One silver mask out of a possible five.

Fun Fact: Also known in some territories as The Caribbean Connection, this film was released in Spain in 1971, but didn't see release in Mexico in 1975.