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.

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