Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Santo en El tesoro de Drácula (1969) versus Santo el enmascarado de plata vs los villanos del ring (1968)

First up is René Cardona's Santo en El tesoro de Drácula (1969) in which cinema's greatest superhero, El Santo, is a scientist. Entering second is Alfredo B. Crevenna's Santo el enmascarado de plata vs los villanos del ring (1968) in which cinema's greatest superhero, El Santo, is mediator, organizer, investigator, and above all, wrestler. Santo's opponents are the gangster, Black Hood, and the legendary Count Dracula and Francisco Iglesias (Francisco Jambrina), conman and swindler, and his crew of criminals and evil wrestlers, respectively. Let us see how these flicks fare in Santo fashion, two out of three falls, both possessing wonderfully complex and contrived plots.
In Santo en El tesoro de Drácula, Santo debuts his latest invention to the scientific community. His invention is a contraption which allows a human subject to travel into the past and enter into a previous life. Thus, the belief in reincarnation is a strong presumption in its genesis and a serious limitation to the time travel. Once the human subject has successfully entered into his/her past life, then it may assume that life for a preset duration. When the human subject returns to his/her own present life, all observations and knowledge gained from the previous life will remain with the host. Santo believes the opportunity and the quest for knowledge outweighs any inherent dangers in the contraption. It has not yet been tested. The scientific community meets Santo's invention with ridicule. Santo is not deterred and is prompted to test the device. However, any human subject runs the extreme risk of irreparable psychological damage upon re-entry, and male subjects are particularly susceptible. Female subjects possess a four-times greater chance of resisting damage during re-entry. Santo must operate the machine from present day to ensure its success, so he is not a suitable candidate. So his girlfriend, Luisa (Noelia Noel) volunteers. Love it.
In Santo el enmascarado de plata vs los villanos del ring, Santo has a goddaughter, María Elena Ramos (Silvia Fournier) who is engaged to Rodolfo (Wolf Ruvinskis). Santo has raised this wonderful young woman and has given the couple his blessing. However, Santo has promised María's paternal grandmother, Doña Teresa Ramos (Consuelo Frank), on her deathbed, the opportunity to speak with María (from whom she is estranged) and make her peace. María and her grandmother meet. Doña Teresa Ramos apologizes to Maria for not giving approval to her parents' marriage. Shortly after she gave her disapproval, the couple died in an automobile accident. Would she forgive her grandmother? Yes. María's grandmother dies within minutes after her confession. In her will, she leaves María millions of pesos. Enter Francisco Iglesias and here's his grift: Iglesias runs a "spiritual center" where he hosts seances for the spiritually inclined. Doña Teresa Ramos was a member of the center, and during the last seance, she appeared from beyond the grave and requested to speak to her granddaughter. María and Rudolfo attend the latest seance and María's grandmother appears, requesting that María give half of her inheritance, approximately three million pesos, to the spiritual center, so she may find peace in the afterlife.
Both films become more wonderfully complex, incredulous, and intriguing. Back to Luisa in Santo en El tesoro de Drácula, who has made the successful leap back into time (about a hundred years) with Santo's invention. Luisa is in a distinguished manor where her father is a nobleman. In this new past life, Luisa's friend has recently died from mysterious recurring bouts of blood loss, despite receiving regular transfusions to increase her health. Enter Professor Van Roth (Fernando Mendoza), a physician and family friend, who is now treating Luisa for the same symptoms. Enter, also, nobleman Count Alucard (Aldo Monti) who intends on frequenting the villa to ensure that Luisa's treatment is going well. Professor Van Roth thinks the Count is suspicious. Two guesses as to whom the Count really is and one of them is probably right. The Count makes a nocturnal visit to Luisa and intends to make her one of his brides. Back at his crypt, with the las muerjes vampiro, the Count shares a secret to Luisa: the Count holds an opulent treasure. The secret is inscribed upon his medallion and his ring. The holder of both, and only with both, knows the location of the treasure. Before Luisa is inducted into las muerjes vampiro, Professor Van Roth enters with mallet and wooden stake. Santo transports Luisa back to present day, and she recovers.
How is Francisco Iglesias in Santo el enmascarado de plata vs los villanos del ring able to perform his con? A diabolical yet seemingly cost-ineffective scheme. First, he has his beautiful assistant pose as a nurse in a hospice environment where she gains the confidence of the patient. The nurse's mission is to surreptitiously place a tape recorder within the room and record the voice of the soon-to-be-deceased. That's it, her whole mission. The voice recording is needed for Iglesias's other assistant, a master impersonator, who is able to hear any one's voice and duplicate it. After the death of the patient, the corpse is removed after burial. Another of Iglesias's crew makes a mold of the corpse's face and a latex facsimile of the deceased's face is made. With the reproduction of both the voice and the face of the deceased, a seance is performed with the mark in attendance. The duplication of the deceased requests peace in the afterlife for a nominal sum donated to the spiritual center. Awesome.
Now for reviewer confession: unless you possess the joie de vivre which is El Santo cinema, then beyond their conceptions, both films move into the utterly familiar in subsequent execution. However, Santo el enmascarado de plata vs los villanos del ring boasts a very high quantity of action. Unfortunately, for the overwhelming majority of El Santo cinema, regardless of who is at the helm, fight sequences are shot static, as if the viewer is a ringside viewer at a wresting match. This reviewer could watch El Santo, El Enmascarado de Plata, the multitude's hero, do laundry, however. The wonderful flourishes often carry the films. For example in los villanos del ring, Santo calms everyone by telling them that he will consult his criminal files to uncover the identity of the perpetrators. Santo holds a small stack of files approximately three inches in height. Is cinema's greatest superhero only keeping tabs on supervillians? Has Santo rid the city of the majority of crime, and his files represent what is left? Is Santo only now creating files for criminals as a signal for a new direction in crime-fighting? I live for these questions. For more discerning viewers, I hope reading these descriptions were as fun as I had writing them.

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