Thursday, April 21, 2011

Santo High Spots

The last time that I had written upon cinema's greatest superhero, El Santo, I was suffering. I either had an intestinal virus or food poisoning or something like that. I was only capable of writhing in my bed. gripping my stomach in the fetal position, and while in between bouts of writhing, I'd run to the bathroom. For two days or so, this shit went on. I have a stack of Mexican wresting films on DVD and I watched a bunch during this period. During the last night of my illness or so, I wrote an entry on Santo en el hotel de la muerte (1961) and Santo en el museo de cera (1963). I never published it, and it is still saved as draft on my account. It is an absolutely terrible post. This was from July of last year. Since then, I have not revisited the cinema but a few days ago, I developed what I can only describe as a "crick" in my back. Every time that I would move my back, I would feel a sharp pain and then yell the F-word multiple times. I sought solace in the cinema of El Santo, again, and I watched a lot of them. I am better, now, and I am certain that I have Santo to thank. By the time the 1970s came around, Santo was in his fifties and was still wrestling and making films. In his fifties, Santo possessed an agility and athletic prowess equal to someone half his age, but intuitively, I knew that this man had a lifetime of wrestling bumps and bruises under his skin. Undeniably, he woke up everyday feeling the aches and pains of a real working wrestler. It took little to convince me that Santo was cinema's greatest superhero, but perhaps he was a real-life superhero, too. In any case, it was inspirational and a key to my recovery. Since I watched so many over the last few days, I'm not going to post any traditional reviews. Instead what follows are "high spots," to borrow a wrestling term, of many films: beautiful touches of sublimity in a cinema of grandeur of El Enmascardo de Plata, the multitude's hero, El Santo.

Santo vs. las lobas (Santo vs. The She-Wolves) (1972)

A personal favorite. Santo vs. las lobas can stand on its own as a traditional horror film. Its atmosphere is more Euro than American. It appears that no sets were used, and the authentic locations really enhanced a sense of small-village dread. Here is the set-up for the scene which always makes me audibly cheer when I witness it. This is the ending of the film, by the way; and if you have any intention of seeing this film, then it's best to stop reading. Licar, the Transylvanian head of las lobas, has come to the village to fulfill destiny. The pack needs a new queen, and she is down in the village, so they decide to raid the village during the Red Moon. They also plan to kill El Santo, The Man in the Silver Mask. Werewolves have this thing against silver, apparently. Santo intends to protect the women and children and defend the village from the attack (along with the men of the village). The wolves attack, and the village succeeds in repelling them. In the final minutes of Las Lobas, Santo must chase down Licar and destroy him to end the wolves' curse. In a day-for-night sequence at sunset, El Santo chases Licar to the top of a mountain. At the mountain's summit, with the Red Moon shining brightly in the background, the two fight in shadow. A few brutal punches ensue from each, until Santo picks up Licar onto his shoulders. In a rare power move, not normally seen from Santo in the ring, Santo tosses Licar off the side of the mountain. Santo stands with the Red Moon shining brightly behind him at the apex: victorious again, and silently, the word, "Fin" appears. If there is one frame from El Santo's cinema I could keep forever, then it is this one:
Santo vs. la hija de Frankestein (1971)

Gina Romand is la hija de Frankestein. She is continuing her ancestor's work by making monsters and the like. Her primary scientific triumph is, however, the creation of a serum that completely retards the aging process. She shares this serum with her henchman and because each covets his eternal youthfulness, she has earned their devoted loyalty. Each henchman must receive doses every three months to sustain his youth. Freda Frankenstein, however, has been using the serum longer (she is well over a hundred-years-old). As a result of the serum's long use, it has lost its potency. She must take the serum more frequently and she fears that eventually the serum will cease to work completely. Freda saw Santo wrestle years ago and noticed recently that Santo is still as virile and athletic as ever. She surreptitiously stole a sample of Santo's blood and with testing has concluded that it is the key to a new youth serum. In the film's most provocative and rich scene, Freda has successfully caught El Santo. She has chained him in a chamber in her underground lab. Shirtless, sweating, and bound, Santo is confronted by Freda. At first she teases. Look at me, she says, a fragile woman standing in front of El Santo. "You are not fragile nor are you a woman," says Santo. This is a bluff on Santo's part, as the latter is clearly not true. Gina Romand is mad crazy sexy. She has a head full of beautiful blonde hair: it is reminiscent of Rapunzel, as if she is vulnerable like the maiden of the German fairy tale. However, Freda Frankenstein is quite powerful: intelligent, adept, and sensuous. El Santo must resort to bluffing to counter her power. Although Santo's words pierce her heart, Freda does not waver. She offers to share her power in exchange for Santo's blood. To this offer, Santo refuses. In a brilliant sequence, she removes Santo's mask and gazes upon him. Santo is obviously amazingly handsome, according to Romand's reaction (she gives an excellent performance), and she laments that she cannot have him. She steals a long kiss from Santo. These two acts, the mask removal and the passionate kiss, earn Romand's Freda Frankenstein serious notoriety as one of Santo's greatest villains. Despite however Santo vs. la hija de Frankestein plays out, Santo has clearly lost this battle.Santo y Blue Demon contra el doctor Frankenstein (1973)

No one scene truly stands out in this one. Several fragments tell the tale. Blue Demon is relegated to sidekick status, which is a shame. Santo has a gorgeous girlfriend, played by Sasha Montenegro, and she has been kidnapped by Doctor Frankenstein. Doctor Frankenstein's intention by kidnapping Santo's girlfriend is to lure Santo into his compound. After Doctor Frankenstein captures Santo, he will remove his superior brain to implant into his own hulking monster, making a super creature. Montenegro's character gets kidnapped very early into the film. She is missing well over twenty-four hours before her boss at work reports her disappearance to the police. The police are the ones who inform Santo that his girlfriend is missing. By the time Santo figures out what is going on, at least thirty-six hours have past. El Santo is appearing at this point as kind of a shitty boyfriend. More evidence appears to support this theory. Two very attractive female police officers head the investigation of the disappearance of Santo's girlfriend and other missing female victims. Blue Demon and Santo accompany the two on the investigation, and in an odd directorial touch, these scenes match previous ones of Santo and Blue Demon on a double date with their girlfriends. The two police officers later attend Santo and Blue Demon's tag team match during the investigation. They sit at ringside. One gives a cute smile and a wave to Santo while he stands at the ropes. Santo waves back. Well, Santo's girlfriend is out of sight and out of his mind. He is going to have some serious explaining to do when he rescues her, one would intuitively think. Perhaps also, she is going to whip his ass after he explains. Check this out, though: after Montenegro's character is rescued, she is seen at ringside with both female police officers. Each is giving a cute smile and waving. El Santo, a man of the people, and probably a very happy man later that night after his bout. I could probably ramble on more about cinema's greatest superhero, El Enmascardo de Plata, El Santo, but I will not. I will certainly revisit this cinema, again, and hopefully, I will not be in such poor shape to begin with. Viva El Santo!


Aaron said...

I was wondering when you were gonna do one of these Santo posts again. I think I watched a couple of them since you're last group of Santo posts, and no matter how much I want to get into them, I just can't. Maybe I'm just not acquiring the right Santo movies. Your reviews always make them sound interesting, though, which is the case with all of your reviews in general. Santo vs. She-Wolves in particular sounds pretty enticing. Have a good weekend, bro, and I hope your back gets better!

Mr.LargePackage said...

Saintly review, Hans. I can relate to Blue Demon. He has been relegated to a sidekick, which is a shame. But I'll always be large and in charge.

Ninja Dixon said...

I'm waiting for Santo vs. The She-Wolves, can't wait to see it after your little review!