Friday, March 30, 2012

Epilogue: El Santo, en retrospectiva


       So here's something special I've planned for the end of the year of El Santo. Seeing all of these, there's a temptation to rank all of them in order of best to worst. Instead of doing a top ten, I've decided to pick the five best, as I see them, and the five worst, as I see them. 

Top Five:

Here's my five favorite Santo movies out of 52. These are the ones that I'd recommend to anyone who wants to see a couple of these films. If you see one of these on Telemundo, you should stop and watch it. These aren't just good for Santo, they're decent movies in general. 

5. Santo contra los villanos del ring (a.k.a. Santo vs. The Villains of the Ring, 1966)

This is one of my personal favorites out of all 52 movies. It's not the craziest or even most exciting film in the series by far, with Santo battling a group of grifters who employ wrestlers to do their dirty work. No ghosts, no zombies, no wolfmen or vampires. The villians are entirely earthly in nature, and that's part of the movie's charm. These are wrestling pictures after all, and seeing Santo clash with people involved in his chosen profession makes for dynamic storytelling, coupled with some of the best shot fight scenes found in the Santo anthology. 


4. Santo en el museo de cera (Santo In The Wax Museum, 1963)

Another personal favorite, and one of the more well known ones here in the states, due to it being dubbed and released in English during Santo's heyday, and then later being lampooned on Mystery Science Theater 3000. The film takes a Hitchcockian route in story telling by having most of the story told from the villain's point of view, an unscrupulous wax museum curator, using real people in his exhibits. How Vincent Price of him! 


3. Santo en Las momias de Guanajuato (Santo in The Mummies of Guanajuato, 1970)

Widely considered the greatest luchador movie to come out of Mexico, I'm not sure I'd call it the greatest Santo movie, however, it's plenty entertaining. Santo gets little screen time, with it mostly in favor of Blue Demon and newcomer Mil Mascaras. The three eventually have a marvel team up of sorts to deal with some demonic reanimated wrestlers. Silliness abounds.


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

Purportedly Santo's personal favorite of all his own films, this one is a text book example of silly luchador movies. A mad scientist takes control of a gaggle of goofy monsters and unleashes them on Santo and Blue Demon. There's not much more to it, and I guess there doesn't need to be. 


1. Santo en Operación 67 (a.k.a. Santo in Operation 67, 1966)

For my money, this is the best Santo movie, period. A sort of riff/knock off of James Bond and Euro spy thrillers from the 60s. Santo is teamed with an up and coming Mexican heart throb, and the two do battle with a clandestine criminal organization who could possibly be the World Crime League mentioned at the end of Buckaroo Banzai. Santo gets to be a bit of a sex symbol, as he macks on all the ladies without ever being the weird, sorta rapey Santo of the later movies. 


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

In the entirety of the Santo oeuvre, there's about a half dozen involving vampires of some sort. This is the best of that lot. Santo battles a classical horror monster, viewed through the lens of 70s exploitation horror. It's worth a look. 

Bottom Five:

...and here, are my five least favorites, out of 52. There's obviously more bad than good Santo movies. There's a lot of them that were bad, that I honestly don't recall, so they don't make the list. These are the ones so bad, that I remembered them in a negative light. I'd advise avoiding these five movies at all cost. 

5. Santo y Blue Demon en las bestias del terror (Santo and Blue Demon in the Beasts of Terror, 1972)

The best example of false advertising in a movie title that I've personally seen! There are no beasts, and very little terror. It's just Santo and Blue Demon looking bored.


4. Santo contra el estrangulador (Santo vs. The Strangler, 1963)
An annoying rip off of Phantom Of The Opera, featuring some crazed asshat who likes to murder sub par Mexican entertainers who sing at a crappy music hall. 


3. Santo contra hombres infernales (Santo vs. The Infernal Men, 1958)

An early, rough effort from Santo and his filmmaking buddies that's so tedious and dull, it almost derailed all of my enthusiasm for this blog, and it was only the second movie in the Santo oeuvre. The villains are boring, and Santo is relegated to being a super powered sidekick. It's snore inducing.

2. Santo en los profanadores de tumbas (a.k.a. Santo in The Grave Robbers, 1965)

One of the rarer Santo movies, if you should choose not to heed my warnings and see it anyway, you'll find out why its just so uncommon. Santo clashes with a group of ineffective ghouls who like to steal cadavers. The lead grave robber spends a great amount of time telling his subordinates about all his evil machinations, which never work, not even slightly. Santo is always one step ahead. The only time he feels under threat is when he's forced to fight an evil lamp shade. Yup, Santo wrestles a lamp shade.


1. Santo en el hotel de la muerte (Santo In The Hotel of Death, 1961)

Truly the worst El Santo movie out of all 52. It's true that there are some that were made even more poorly, or that were even most tedious and cornier. But the plot of this one is so obnoxiously stupid and nonsensical, (which is saying something for movies who's hero is a masked pro wrestler) that I found myself actively hating it, and chances are you will too, should you suffer the displeasure of seeing it. The most unfortunate aspect of it all is that it has one of the best movie posters for it. 


Dishonorable Mention: El espectro del estrangulador (a.k.a. The Ghost of the Strangler, 1963)

A direct sequel to Santo vs. The Strangler, a sidekick for the Strangler is introduced, and its quickly revealed that he's basically the brains of the operations. Stupid. 



Coming Soon: Santo teams up with Captain America to fight...Spider-man? In Turkish? What the hell?

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