Wednesday, July 7, 2010

El tesoro de Moctezuma (1968) versus Santo contra los asesinos de otros mundos (1973)

El Santo, El Enmascarado de Plata, is back in El tesoro de Moctezuma (1968), directed by René Cardona and René Cardona Jr., and Santo contra los asesinos de otros mundos (1973), directed by Rubén Galindo. One narrative is disjointed while the other is fractured, and both narratives see the multitude's hero, El Santo, as a secret agent out to stop the supervilllains. In El tesoro de Moctezuma, there is an international underworld organization out to steal the film's title; and in Los asesinos de otros mundos, a blob is roaming the streets and killing folks, having its scientific origin in the criminal underworld.
During the first act of Los asesinos de otros mundos, the machine-gun-toting criminals attempt to lift some contraband from a parked plane on a runway. Both well-armed and well-numbered the criminals begin to remove their booty, while Santo hides in the cargo area of the plane. The cargo hold is tight and cramped, and Santo is able to funnel most of the criminals into the small space for a beating. Santo eventually takes the fight from the plane to the runway, giving everyone a beating until the boss decides to flee in his vehicle. Santo stands in the way of the criminal boss's oncoming car and waves his arms but is subdued. Having hit our hero with a large vehicle, rendering him unconscious on the runway, the boss points a gun at his head. With one bullet, the world could topple with the death of Santo.However, in supervillain fashion, one bullet is cinematically boring, so a contrived and cinematically sublime death scenario is envisioned. Los asesinos de otros mundos moves to another setting, another planet, where Santo is greeted by the supervillain at his throne. Santo, unarmed, is forced into gladiatorial combat with two really big dudes with medieval armory and weaponry. Santo has no fear and dispatches one, and another one appears. After Santo thwarts both opponents, the supervillain summons Santo's final opponent: a large man in a hazmat outfit armed with a flamethrower. As opposed to the previous two opponents, this one is state of the art and this character is where director Galindo impresses. While nearly everything during this sequence is theatrical, (the painted walls of starry space, the dirt ground arena mimicking the surface of another planet, the gladiator apparel and weaponry, and the supervillain throne) the final opponent looks both alien and familiar. While I assume safety guidelines were strictly adhered on the set and camera tricks employed to create tension, when the final opponent fires real streams of fuel and fire at Santo, it is quite scary. Santo, in rare fashion, displays a modicum of fear: I would not be surprised with every tumble he took, Santo hoped if an accident did occur, then his wrestling gear was flame-retardant. El tesoro de Moctezuma is late-60s spy cinema. Santo has a partner, the extremely handsome Jorge Rivero. Santo and Jorge perform the duties of one secret agent, but each character has to be present to perform the respective secret agent duties: Santo is both the muscle and the brains, while Jorge seduces the women. That's not an entirely fair description as Jorge does help with strategy, and Santo, I'm certain, was grateful for his help. That description of the two's duties is more or less apt. In a standout sequence, Jorge brings his lady to a bullfight, and the two are notable guests, as the matador greets them. The bullfight ensues, and during his date, Jorge notes the gentlemen with sunglasses and suits around the bullpen look suspicious. Jorge leaves his date to investigate. The gentlemen in suits and sunglasses pull their pistols and are going to kill Jorge. Jorge runs around the arena, firing the occasional shot at the bad guys, but he is outnumbered and takes a bullet in the shoulder. Santo appears, unarmed (and in a very stylish turtleneck sweater), and gives a beatdown to the bad guys. Above the bullpen, Santo lifts one of the gentlemen in a suit and sunglasses and raises him in the air. Santo tosses him into the bullpen, and the man is trampled and gored by a bull. Santo saves Jorge, and with a bullet in his arm, Jorge returns to his date. This scene is representative.When Santo finishes his gladiatorial combat in Los asesinos de otros mundos, despite the drama, the film more or less ends midway. A new supervillain appears, who dominates his subjects with neckbands and can explode them on command, and Santo still has to save the word but has a more immediate task: helping gorgeous Karen (Sasha Montenegro) and her scientist father, Dr. Bernstein (Carlos Suárez). The one constant in the narrative, besides Santo, is the blob. The blob is menacing, and in the film's opening sequence, it looks unstoppable. With accompanying throbbing audio, the blob absorbs its victims. On the street or in the comfort of the bedroom, no one is safe. One could say it looks like a cover of latex rubber with five or six people underneath, decorated to look like a chocolate malt, but I'm not. Interestingly, Santo cannot dispatch the blob with his hands and must use his cunning to subdue it. El tesoro de Moctezuma has a beautiful sequence, shot very well by both Cardonas, at an Aztec pyramid. The authentic location provided quite the background for Santo to give the villains an ass whipping. Structurally, the Aztec pyramid has several levels, creating steps to its top; and it provides an excellent opportunity for Santo to pick up an opponent and throw him to his death. I seriously cheer whenever Santo performs this move in combat. Rivero is a nice addition to the film: he's good-looking and brings a youthful energy. All the sexy sequences with the actresses are welcome. In a humorous and clever flourish, the Cardonas have Santo and Jorge meet two beautiful twins in very different scenarios. Both Santo and Jorge hold one of the twins in his arms, simultaneously, yet events leading up to this act are radically different for both. El tesoro de Moctezuma has some wonderful compositions and is well-paced and exciting. Both films in El Santo fashion, two out of three falls, end in a draw. Too much infectious fun. And a blob.

1 comment:

Aaron said...

Digging these Santo joints as usual. Keep 'em coming, Hans! For some reason the 4th screen shot makes me laugh every time I see it. For shits and giggles, I should try writing me own Santo movie. There really should be a lucha/horror revival and I'm surprised there aren't film-makers out there taking a stab at it. I'm not talking about WRESTLEMANIAC either, but rather taking a new star on the lucha libre scene in Mexico and building a mythology around him.