I've been very remiss in not reviewing a Santo movie in these pages. Finally I will try to make amends, and if the entertainment value of this little gem is any indication, I will be reviewing many more in the years to come. Mexico was, and maybe still is, a wonderful producer of horror and science fiction of a particularly oddball bent. The idea with El Santo is that he's a hero who is also a wrestler in a silver mask. The mask never comes off, even in his casual, 'civilian' life. He even kisses his girlfriends through it! Santo, and occasionally his similarly blue-masked wrestling friend 'Blue Demon' fight against injustice as well as matches in the rasslin' ring, often fighting mad doctors, vampires, aliens, and various evil monsters. This particular film has them squaring off against a veritable army of famous Monsters.
If you have any love of the classic Monsters of yesteryear, like Frankenstein, Dracula, the Wolf-man and the Mummy, you owe it to yourself to experience this film. For an old wrestling fan such as myself, Santo and the Blue Demon appearing with the classic creatures offers a near-perfect film-viewing experience. I suppose many viewers would laugh at the whole exercise, and there are undeniably silly bits, but I was just in awe at the surreal, wonderful parade of horror images unfolding before me. I'll tell you a bit of plot and maybe you'll share my enthusiasm. The credits themselves are a treat, with wonderful sixties music accompanying Santo, Blue Demon, 'La Momia' (The Mummy), 'Franquestain' (Frankenstein), 'El Vampiro' (The Vampire), 'El Hombre Lobo' (The Wolf Man) and 'Il Cyclope' (The Cyclops) as they stand in front of the camera for a few seconds of screen time each, and introduce themselves to you. We also get to meet the sexy "Vampire Woman" and heroine Hedy Blue, who obviously relishes her intoduction with a sassy pose.
It's late sixties Mexico, and we witness a tag-team wrestling match with four masked female wrestlers. Santo watches the proceedings with approval, then watches his friend Blue Demon and Garzia take on El Ebano (a black wrestler) and El Arabe (I think he's meant to be a villainous Arab). The heros win, then we cut to a funeral. Evil Scientist Bruno Halder (Carlos Ancira) has just been entombed, but a hunchbacked midget and his motley group of green-skinned zombie servants steal Halder's corpse and take it back to a castle laboratory. As the dwarf, Waldo (Santanón), the zombies and a strange, short creature with a giant exposed brain (who does absolutely nothing throughout this scene, then vanishes for the rest of the film) look on, Halder is brought back to life by Waldo in a sort of upright capsule-thing. He vows revenge on El Santo, Santo's paramour Gloria Halder (Bruno's niece, played by Hedy Blue) and his brother Otto (Jorge Rado) Gloria's scientist father, for ruining his life. Luckily for the re-animated Bruno, Blue Demon turns up to investigate and is captured by the evil genius. He is placed in a duplicating chamber and a robotic evil version of Blue Demon is created, while the good version lies in a coma in his capsule.
Halder unleashes this evil Blue Demon, along with the green goons, onto Santo and Gloria, and the stage is set for a big fight between Santo and Old Blue. Blue Demon thinks he's won and throws Santo off a cliff, but Santo recovers and gives chase in his snazzy silver convertible. He manages to snatch Gloria away from their car and the villains' vehicle crashes and blows up. Blue Demon, on fire, staggers away. Bruno takes a new tack, instructing Blue Demon and the zombies to find an army of monsters to seek revenge with. First, Blue Demon finds and subdues a Vampire - complete with bat ears and top-hat - with his electronic ring. The strange group then retrieves a mummy from a crypt crawling with skeletons and corpses. Halder himself uses a blowtorch to free a Cylops-creature from an ice prison. Suddenly, we see a line of monsters all being reanimated in the same capsules that brought Halder back to life. Now add Frankenstein and a Wolfman to the mix! Who knows where they got those two from, I'm just glad they turned up.
All under Halder's mind control, he release them to wreak havoc on the countryside, and some quite gory murders. The Wolf Man slaughters a man, woman and their young son, off-screen. Frankenstein kills a young couple, bloodily squashing the man's head with his giant boot. Nasty! The vampire claims a couple of sexy bikini-clad vampire brides when he attacks two women. The Cyclops kills a fisherman. They then attack Santo, Otto and Gloria in earnest, but the rising sun drives them away. You have to see this fight - the Wolfman and the skinny Mummy get in some solid punches, as Frankenstein roughs up Otto and the Vampire attacks Gloria, but is driven away by a cross in a cemetary. Halder is not to be defeated though, and bluffs Santo into fighting, in the wrestling ring, a wrestler called "The Vampire", who is the real vampire made up as a masked wrestler. The match takes place, but Gloria's cross around her neck drives the disguised vampire away mid-fight, the audience panics and runs, and 'Evil' Blue Demon and the other monsters storm the ring and attack! This is my favorite scene in the film, folks.
The monsters are again driven off, but attack again when Santo, Otto and Glori watch a cabaret show at a restaurant. This piece of musical theatre is amazing, obviously taken from a different film, but is amazing to the eyes with it's colour and movement. This time the Monsters storm in, destroying the restaurant and capturing Otto and Gloria, as Santo tries to hold off the creatures. He throws The Mummy off a building, and manages to put a tracing device on Frankenstein's neck, who drives the getaway car. I'm not kidding! Meanwhile, as Bruno Halder threatens his brother and niece with disintegration in the ray chambers, Santo fights the evil Blue Demon and throws him off a cliff this time. He then frees the dormant (and good) Blue Demon, who helps him fight off the Monsters, rescue Gloria and Otto while Bruno and Waldo cowers as the newly-started flames rise. The Monsters are trapped in the fire and seemingly perish along with Bruno and Waldo. Santo and Blue Demon then graphically stake the Vampire and his Vampire brides - quite a bit of blood here, folks - and they, Gloria and Otto watch the castle go up in flames.
Phew! I'll start with saying yes, by modern standards the Monsters all look silly, the makeup, monster-masks and costumes are cheap, and the Cyclops costume looks like it's falling to pieces. Still, there's such an overflowing imagination here, I'm totally prepared to overlook all that. Who cares if it makes not a jot of sense that all these creatures of legend have been gathered in Mexico? It's a fairy-tale, pure and simple. The film has a wonderful sixties look, the colours are all bright, the music is stylish but simple, the cars and costumes are to die for, the actors are all seemingly having a wonderful time. Bruno Halder in particular seems to relish his villainousness. Well, I guess I can't speak for Santo and Blue Demon, who knows what they're thinking behind the ever-present masks. I'd like to think it was a fun set behind the scenes, though. I guess if you're not sentimental about these classic Monsters, the film would need you to love wrestling - I happen to adore both, so it works for this old reviewer.
For a totally unique view, you can't go past the adventures of Santo and Blue Demon. I'd certainly love to review more of their adventures for these pages, and more Mexican cult cinema in general. This film is one-two-three - very highly recommended!
© Boris "El Hombre Loco de la Escritura de la Película" Lugosi 2005.
Review written: 07/25/2005 22:37:55