Friday, January 27, 2012

Week 44: Santo contra el doctor Muerte (Santo Vs Dr. Death, 1973)

     And so, we've reached the 44th movie. I think we're pretty much beyond all the crazy monsters, and wild make up. While there's still a few crazy titles left to see, I think a lot of the plots are going to be spy stories or crime capers. So let's get on with it, shall we? This week, Santo finds himself at the center of an art forgery case. Actually, that's not quite accurate. He finds himself investigating the purposeful vandalizing of an important piece of Spanish art, and by "center of" and "investigating", I mean Santo drifts in and out of the movie without any real bearing on the plot until the climax. This one is more reminiscent of the early Santo efforts, where he was sort of a sidekick to the investigators who would figure everything out for him and then send him into the villain's lair to whoop some ass.

Tom Cruise, he ain't.

      We're treated to an interesting stunt sequence in the opening, with an unnamed gentlemen infiltrating an art museum via elaborate Mission Impossible style pulley system, in order to damage a piece of valuable art with acid. It turns out this is one of the titular Dr. Death's henchman. Dr. Death is actually a well respected restoration expert on older European art. What the art community doesn't know is Dr. Death's plan to steal all the valuable paintings of the world by forging exact replicas while holding onto the originals under the pretense of repairing them. 

Heeeeere's Santo!

    An Interpol case of art sabotage is obviously a job for El Santo, and so the masked man is dispatched to Spain right away! It's always amusing to me, especially in these crime caper Santo films, how Santo, and even Blue Demon, travel freely, with their luchador masks on, and no one really seems to notice or care. Even in the heightened realities of the Batman movies, bystanders are perplexed and bewildered at the sight of a grown man roaming about in a bat costume. I know I'd feel pretty damned weirded out if I was boarding a flight to Spain and behind me was a guy in a turtleneck and luchador mask. I don't care if he's a champion of justice. 

The Santo movies has a strange casting process...

     Santo arrives in Spain, where he's saddled with a sidekick, an Interpol agent who calls himself "90047" or some such nonsense. Not exactly as catchy as something like "007", is it? With long greasy hair, and a huge Wyatt Earp mustache, 90047 looks like a reject from Deep Throat. The two of them basically do nothing for most of the run time while "Sara" the eye candy of the movie discovers Dr. Death's nefarious scheme. It turns out the doctor has an entire den of models brought to his estate, under the pretense of posing for him. He takes them captive and injects them with poisons that induce radical tumor growth. It's rather nebulously explained, but there's something in the tumors that grow which Dr. Death uses to manufacture his perfect forgeries. Once a particular girl is used up, he sends her down a sliding board that leads to a vat of acid, how fun! 


    The movie's main saving grace is the wild and wacky stunts performed throughout it. As if realizing that the plot was weak and didn't make a heck of a lot of sense, the stunt team involved (if these things even had stunt teams...) threw as much crazy shit they could think of into the mix. There are speed boat chases, one in which Santo eventually gives chase via a ladder hanging from a helicopter. Beautiful women are menaced with jars full of venomous scorpions, and Santo not only gets to enter a scene via an exploding door, but also does a 100 foot cliff dive. 


Two and a Half Silver Masks out of a possible Five.

Fun Fact: This movie is also known as Santo Strikes Again and The Masked Man Strikes Again, and is one of only four Santo films to have been dubbed in English.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Week 43: Santo y Blue Demon contra el doctor Frankenstein (Santo and Blue Demon Vs Dr. Frankenstein, 1973)

         So Blue Demon is back again. This is his penultimate team up with dear old Santo. I wish it were a better team up. It seems that when it came to these final team ups with these two guys, less money was spent to give them a proper film to team up in. Maybe their star status was waning, or maybe most of the budget was eaten up by both men's salaries. Who knows such things. 

"Why aren't you wearing a shirt?"

      The movie is more or less a toothless rehash of Santo  vs. Frankenstein's Daughter. Instead of our boy dealing with a wayward offspring, they're supposedly tangling with the family Patriarch now. With the addition of Blue Demon, you'd think they'd want to go big and have all sorts of guys in crazy monster make up, but no. It's all pretty standard, hum drum fare. This is also from the same director as the previous Frankenstein film, so you'd think some of the weird, kinky, creepy shit might carry over, but none of it does. 

Blue Demon visits the set of the Andromeda Strain

    Somehow, Dr, Frankenstein has wound up in Mexico, doing deranged brain transplantation experiments on people. It's never explained how or why he came to Mexico, nor is it explained how he created such a massive underground laboratory that looks like an interior set from 2001: A Space Odyssey. Like his daughter in the previous movie, Frankenstein has developed a blood serum to keep himself from aging. While his daughter's serum had the fatal flaw of causing its users to develop a resistance to it over time, Dad Frankenstein's serum will cause him to age rapidly if he suffers any sort of physical trauma. He's also assembled a number of hulking, mindless henchman, and his plan for world domination is to put the brains of great athletes like Santo into them. He brags that an army of twenty such "super soldiers" could help him conquer the world. Huh? Even if these guys each have the strength of twenty men, (another fact Frankenstein brags about) will that make them impervious to being run over by a tank? What about napalm, or Atomic weapons? It doesn't strike one as the most well thought out world domination plan. Some brain surgeon he is...

The girl in the foreground never wears pants, ever.

        One of the things that's always amusing about the team up movies between Santo and Blue Demon is knowing that these two disliked each other off set, and in the ring. In most of the movies, they're portrayed as equals who respect each other, and are of late, a tag team in the ring. They even go out to fancy dinners with their respective new squeezes. One watches and wonders what exactly their facial expressions are under those luchador masks. What's also interesting is that neither wrestler is involved with the plot in any significant way until about 30 minutes into the movie. The first half of the movie is mostly padded out with Frankenstein explaining...his plans...and achievements....veeery.... slooowly. I'm pretty sure I folded some laundry while he was babbling on. 

Santo & Blue, smashing through a window.

        I had somewhat high hopes for this latter day entry in the Santo franchise. I thought the addition of Blue Demon meant it would be promising, but alas, its just another low budget entry in a franchise that was seeing diminishing returns at the point this film was made. It's not as terrible as some other entries of late, but its not so great either. 


Two Silver Masks out of a possible Five

Fun Fact: In the ring, Blue Demon's signature finishing movie was the "octopus hold", in which he'd use his own weight to pin an opponent in a bent over while standing position.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Week 42: Santo en Anónimo mortal (Santo in Anonymous Death Threat, 1972)

      So here we are at movie, and week, 42. Only ten more weeks after this. Can you feel us getting down to the end together? I can. It feels like I'm 3/4s of the way through a barbacoa burrito from Chipotle. Only a couple more bites, and I'll be able to sit back, with my belt open, and enjoy the Mexican food induced itis. There might be some surprises after we're finished up with the regular 52 movies, so don't think that's the cut and dried end in march.

Check out this sweet title card Santo gets! 

      This week, Santo clashes with Nazis. These aren't Neo-Nazis either. They're good old fashioned, escaped from Europe, Nazis. I feel like we've covered Nazis before. Maybe not in this scale, but there has to have been one or two of these Jew hatin' assholes in here at some point. 

A relaxing evening with El Santo.

      Anyway, a number of fairly well-to-do immigrants are being picked off, not long after each respectively receives an anonymous death threat in the mail. One man, named Gaos (just like the gamera villain!) decides to lobby Santo for help. Santo takes the case, and has his new...interns I guess, Pablo and Yvette, keep track of Gaos during his daily routine. Unfortunately Yvette blows it and Gaos is picked off. Not long after, Santo makes the correlation between all the victims, which is that they all immigrated from Germany in the 50s, and were all members of the German resistance to Hitler during WWII. Apparently old enemies have caught up with them and are out for revenge. 

Those are some coke bottles Hermano...

      The subject matter might seem silly, but keep in mind, this was only about 25 years after the war ended. It's fairly well documented that several South American countries offered fleeing Nazis asylum at the end of the European theater. Several of these same countries also had a large German immigrant population, going back to the 1800s, which in part led to some of them protecting said fleeing Nazis. 

You know they're Nazis if they carry Lugers.

      There's actually surprisingly little fighting in this for a wrestling picture. There's the mandatory wrestling matches early on for Santo, but then he doesn't really have to defend himself or clash with any adversaries until the 48 minute mark. Yvette and Pablo clash with Nazi assassins a couple of times, albeit briefly. Santo also makes enough trouble for the bad guys to get his very own anonymous death threat, but there's not enough sense of risk there, since you know Santo is just too righteous an hombre to get killed by these clowns before he's able to smash their Nazi survivor network to pieces. 


Two and a Half Silver Masks out of a possible Five

Fun Fact: During the 1960s, Israeli Mossad executed a number of operations in South America, in an attempt to bring as many escaped Nazis to justice as possible. One of their most famous captures was Adolf Eichmann. 

Friday, January 6, 2012

Week 41: Santo contra las lobas (Santo vs. The She-Wolves, 1972)

     So its a new year, a new Santo movie, and I'm pleased to say, a decent one at that. Las Lobas is a bit of a departure for the Santo series. While it sticks with a tried and true antagonist, the werewolf, it shakes things up and goes for a different vibe with it this time out. These werewolves don't behave like the classic monster movie werewolves so much as they do the mutants in The Hills Have Eyes. This came out around the same time that Wes Craven's cult hit originally showed up on the horror scene, so its hard to calculate how much of this was intentional. Whatever the case may be, its a refreshing change of pace from the rut we've been stuck in lately readers. 

The White Wolf

    The film starts out with one of the most effectively moody and downright scary horror movie sequences any of these movies have attempted. The werewolf clan of, the entirety of Mexico I guess, are choosing a new "White Wolf". A "White Wolf" is essentially their queen. They choose a hot blond number, and its never made clear if she was previously a werewolf or not. As I think on it now, I'm going to assume she was, and that she was just a regular old female member of their clan. Anyway, once made boss wolf lady, she goes about hunting down the clan's human enemies.

A She Wolf

Another She Wolf. Luba luba indeed...

     Santo is enlisted by one such enemy. A man named Harker, who is the current patriarch of his family. Apparently the Harker family tree is the only human bloodline on earth immune to lycanthropy. While you or I, or Santo might be turned into wolf men, the Harkers won't succumb to it. This makes them the natural born enemies of the werewolves, and they've apparently all been hunting each other across the globe for centuries. Unfortunately, the werewolves obviously figured out if they can't turn them, they can maul them to death, and the white wolf does just that to poor Mr. Harker, not long after he's recruited Santo's aid. The White Wolf is then summarily hunted down by Harker's hunting posse. 

Santo & Harker

    At this point we're only 30 minutes or so into the movie, and things seemed to have wrapped themselves up already, and yet the movie keeps going. It's alright though, I'm willing to roll with it and see where it takes us. A new bad guy named "Licar" is introduced. His name is pronounced, in a scream, "LIE CAR!". Seriously, That's how all the characters, including Santo and Licar himself do it. LICAR! turns out to be the absolute boss werewolf for the entire planet. He's come direct from Transylvania to help these derelict Mexican werewolves living in the hills like mutant cavemen. LICAR! is actually a strange bird, even for a werewolf. Stranger even than that disco shirted werewolf king from a few weeks ago. He shows up in a coffin shipped from Transylvania, and parades around in a massive cloak, like he's Dracula. 

German Shepard POV shot

      One of my biggest problems with the movie is that it finally gives Santo a sense of risk, but without any real pay off with that risk. Not long after meeting with Harker, Santo is beset by a pack of German Shepherds, which we're suppose to accept as wolves. Santo manages to evade and even repel these "wolves", only to find out that the bite he suffered has cursed him with lycanthropy, which he can only cure by slaying the other werewolves. It works in the sense that it gives Santo a reason to give a shit about the plot, beyond him being a do-gooder. There's never any sequence where Santo must struggle with the slow changing effects of lycanthropy. A number of characters around him in the same situation deal with it, but never Santo. He never morphs into a werewolf. He never even so much as gets a craving for medium rare steak. 


Three Silver Masks out of a possible Five

Fun Fact: Mexican folklore actually refers to werewolves as "Nahual" or warlocks who can shapeshift into wolves and coyotes almost at will.