Monday, December 3, 2007

7th December 2007: Santo vs the Vampire Women/Santo vs the Zombies

Friday 7th December 2007: VIVA EL SANTO double!
Santo vs The Vampire Women (1962)

Another Santo adventure dubbed into English by K. Gordon Murray, our favourite Florida importer of Mexican madness, whose film factory was turning out these preposterous South of the Border grapplefests every two weeks. As with our previous episode Santo In The Wax Museum, Murray changes Santo to “Samson”, making our caped crusaderdore less Hispanic and more… biblical. As a superhero he cuts a strange figure, but then so do most Mexican masked wrestling superheroes: rather than a batmobile he drives a sportscar, operates from a batcave full of gadgets and gizmos, and still finds the time between righting wrongs for a full-time wrestling career. As they say: only in Mexico.

Santo vs The Vampire Women is from 1962, a period in which Mexican horror was hitting every mark. Schooled in the Universal horror movies of twenty to thirty years before, the film literally drips with imported gothic atmosphere onto a thick streak of Latino melodrama. It’s an absurdly entertaining, not to mention cost-effective chiller in glorious black and white, reminiscent of the European and Filipino vampire films we’ve been playing on Schlock Treatment.

The film opens in what looks like a Transylvanian castle: a crypt lined with coffins containing the crusty corpses of 200 year-old crones who magically transform into the beautiful yet deadly Vampire Women with looooong teeth (take THAT, Universal horror films!). Seeking out “young blood”, they resurrect Serena in the gorgeous figure of Mexican starlet Lorena Velasquez. She’s Queen of the Vampires and, so it would appear, the Bride of Satan, who makes a cameo from time to time as a horned shadow on the wall. Impatient to return to the depths of Hell, she charges her handmaiden Tundra to bring her replacement to the vampire’s altar on her 21st birthday, whether she wants to or not.

The reluctant would-be Queen is Diana: happy, young, pure – a good Catholic girl. Her 21st birthday is looming, and fiancĂ©e George is just itching for her to be Mrs George. And yet Diana senses something’s wrong and it may be connected with a vampire bat-shaped mole on her otherwise flawless physique. Her father Professor Orlof fears the family prophecies are coming to pass, and calls Santo (or “Samson”) at his underground lair, but has to leave a message, as Santo’s at the wrestling! Another of the family prophecies is that a Saviour figure would appear but will hide his features under a mask.

And so begins the Vampire Women’s mission to kidnap Diana from her fancy dress ball, they gatecrash the party dressed as vampires (what else? Nuns?) with their vampiric henchmen in tow. We’re treated to some iconic horror moments – such as the muscleman Marcos stumbling into the shadow of a cross and bursting into flames – as well as some regulation wrestling bouts, including one with a vampire (or is it a werewolf?). It’s a case of Santo literally wrestling with his demons in the salsa-drenched frightfest of Santo vs The Vampire Women.

Santo vs The Zombies (1962)

One of the earliest Santo adventures, and the first of four to be dubbed into English (without, regrettably, the usual K. Gordon Murray flair). In the US it was called “Invasion Of The Dead” and given the anglicized mantle of “The Saint”, as well as a slightly less manly voice, but make no mistake, “The Saint” is no less of the bat-winged ubermentsch of his other adventures. Santo, it seems, has a camera everywhere and can spy at will – he can beam directly into the police station during private interrogations, and even into the criminal’s lair!

Lorena Velsaquez (again) plays Gloria Rutherford, reporting her father missing after he was researching a book on zombies in Haiti. She returns home her kindly Uncle Herbert, now feeble and blinded in a mine accident, who by sheer coincidence has a new Haitian butler. Meanwhile a hooded criminal mastermind sends out a small army of goons to rob a jewelry store. A security guard tries to shoot them in the head – but bullets have no effect on them. The Brain, it seems, is using electrical energy to resurrect the dead: radio-controlled zombies, the pale reanimated bodies of executed criminals in their underwear. No wonder the cops are scratching their heads: “Didn’t I kill you eight years ago?” That must be one hell of a walk in freezer.

The un-Saintly Brain sends his zombie army to raid the local orphanage, presumably looking for smaller corpses, and Gloria is kidnapped – naturally – and held to ransom. It’s up to Santo to unmask the criminal brain – or be unmasked himself, the greatest shame to befall a luchadore.

“I’m a SUPERman!” the Great Brain cries. Like I always say: Nietzsche? Wouldn’t want to meetcha. It’s a no-brainer who’s under the hood, but it’s a fun ride anyway. Like its other Mexican horror contemporaries it’s filled with fantastic interiors – an underground laboratory with built-in grotto shrouded in mist, with a long spiral staircase – as well as an intense lack of awareness of the absurdity of it all. In the coming months we will see Santo wrestle Dracula, the Wolfman, the Mummy, the Martian Women and even Frankenstein’s daughter, but tonight he takes on the army of the undead in Santo vs The Zombies.

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