Monday, July 14, 2008

18th July 2008: Santo Attacks!

Santo And Blue Demon vs Dracula And The Wolf Man

Mexico 1972 colour

aka Santo y Blue Demon vs. Drácula y El Hombre Lobo

Director Miguel M. Delgado Writer Alfredo Salazar

Cast Santo (himself), Blue Demon (himself), Aldo Monti (Count Dracula), Agustín Martínez Solares [hijo] (Rufus Rex, the Wolf Man), María Eugenia San Martín (Laura Cristaldi), Wally Barron (Eric), Jorge Mondragón (Prof. Luis Cristaldi)

Greetings everyone, and welcome to yet another trip down Mexico way. We've seen a great many Santo adventures here on Schlock Treatment so I won't reiterate the Lucha Libre story. Those familiar with Santo's movies will no doubt recognize a certain element of recycling going on - familiar themes, characters, and so forth. Then there's what Bollywood calls "masala" filmmaking: throw everything you have into the curry and see what sticks. Santo teamed up with fellow wrestler has worked before? Drag him back. THEN pit them up with brand-name horror characters - not one, but TWO of them. ¡Muy bien! And so, luchadores and luchadoras, we are in for what could be the greatest wrestling tag match in film history: Santo and Blue Demon versus Dracula and The Wolf Man!

In Santo And Blue Demon…, Santo is dragged into a supernatural mystery by his (much younger) girlfriend Lina, whose uncle Professor Castaldi has received some ominous news. His wizard ancestor had dispatched Dracula and the Wolf Man to oblivion some 400 years before, but according to a letter he's received, the time is nigh for their resurrection. A slovenly hunchback named Eric, it seems, has been perched on the two coffins for years waiting for them to hatch. Kidnapping the Professor, he slits his throat - Hammer's Dracula Prince Of Darkness style - and brings the two ghouls back to life to start up their plans for world domination once more. Step one: create an army of vampires. Step two: create a werewolf army. Step three: Revenge time on the three remaining Castaldi girls. The FIENDS! Both are working for their infernal master Satan who sadly never makes an appearance, but in whose name the planned mating of vampires and werewolves will take place. Sounds like Underworld, I realize, but without Kate Beckinsdale, and this certainly works in their favour.

Dracula, played by Italian actor Aldo Monti who also played the same role in the 1967 Santo In The Treasure Of Dracula, tries every trick to bring the girls via hypnosis, but is either thwarted by the Professor's lucky dagger, or by the freakish intuition of Santo himself. Time for the Wolf Man, now going by the less-conspicuous name Rufus Rex, to shave the nose and eyelids and seduce the Professor's widowed daughter Laura. She thinks he's handsome; with Rufus' skinned sheep expression, obviously standards have changed, or hers were in the doghouse all along. For someone who's four hundred years old he took to Seventies fashion (and specifically a bile-inducing lemon silk shirt) really quickly. ""I never thought I could be happy again," she moans, running her fingers through Rufus' greasy locks. Cue howling sounds - howls of derision from the Trash couch!

Santo feels he's somehow outnumbered and turns to his old wrestling buddy Blue Demon for assistance. True to formula, our heroes get one wrestling match each: Santo squares off against the eye-popping Angel Blanco - "he's a nazi in the ring!" - while in a separate match Blue Demon takes on the ingeniously-dubbed Renato the Hippie (of course he's a bad guy - look at the shaggy hair and fur pants! HE'S A HIPPIE!"). Both bad guys have their own bags of dirty tricks, prompting the announcer to scream "Rudos! Barbarians!" and you too will be screaming at the screen protesting against the injustice of it all. All of which sets up the final tag team match in the basement full of spikes, with Santo and Blue Demon working like a well-oiled machine against a veritable army of werewolves, vampires and zombies. Again, just like Underworld. Which begs me to ask the age-old question: what is the difference between Kate Beckinsdale and the American flag? It would be wrong to urinate on the American flag.

Being a Seventies Santo film it's in colour, and yet surprisingly isn't as ghastly-looking as many coloured Santos - the Seventies scheme of browns and blues actually work together rather than set your teeth on edge. It could be one of the most entertaining of all Santo adventures, and not only for its outrageous conceit: Santo And Blue Demon vs Dracula And The Wolf Man zips along at a ripping if a tad predictable pace, oiled with sheer balls and genre juice. Masala filmmaking - or whatever the Mexican equivalent - it may be, but no doubt you'll be cheering for Santo AND Blue Demon like a hopped-up frijito as they take on Dracula and the Wolfman. Viva!

Santo Attacks The Witches

Mexico 1964 b&w

aka Atacan Las Brujas

Director José Díaz Morales Writers Rafael García Travesí, Fernando Osés

Cast Santo (himself), Lorena Velázquez (Elisa/Mayra), María Eugenia San Martín (Ofelia), Ramón Bugarini (Arturo), Edaena Ruiz (Medusa)

Cut to 1964 and a much earlier chapter in the Santo saga, brought to you by Corona and Bacardi Rum - or so it appears from the banners in the wrestling ring! Santo Attacks The Witches opens with an elaborate pre-credits dream sequence, in which a young woman Ofelia is suffering from nightmares, deliriously believing her family's hacienda is somehow evil and overrrun by black masked figures surrounding a figure resembling Satan named the Lord of Shadows. She also dreams of being rescued by a man in a silver mask and cape. Oh no, she's told, that man actually exists. And, true to her vision, her still-youthful aunt Elisa (Lorena Velazquez) is actually the centuries-old witch Mayra, who along with her stunning, diaphanous Handmaidens of Darkness, plans to sacrifice both Ofelia and Santo to the Great Horned One.

Atacan… was originally shown in three half-hour chapters, which explains its choppy, episodic nature and cliffhanger structure: fight, capture, escape, fight, capture... At first Santo is set upon by the three anonymous black clad henchmen (who are in fact three wrestling identities: Fernando Osés, Crox Alvarado and El Lobo Negro) doing acrobatics through the flimsily effective sets before being defeated by Santo forming a crucifix with his outstretched arms. In a word: GENIUS. Next phase is to kidnap Ofelia's fiancee Arturo, and for Mayra's seductive sidekick Medusa to tempt Santo by wandering around in her stripper underwear in front of him waving her talon-like fingernails. "All of this is absurd," mutters Santo. "And you too." Never have truer words been spoken by a masked wrestling superhero in a cape.

Ubiquitous actress Lorena Velasquez was comfortable playing all roles, as her tenure as one of the Wrestling Women or Luchadoras will attest, but I prefer her in villainous roles, such as the bloodsucker queen in the earlier Santo vs The Vampire Women, which this film is clearly a reworking. Aside from the plundering of Velazquez, the rest of the "witches" - those who avoid the sun and crucufixes and turn into rubber bats - are merely Vampire Women in disguise, and aren't fooling anyone. Filmed back-to-back with The Diabolical Axe in 1964 for a smaller company, it's clear these second-rate scheisters are exploiting the success of earlier Santo adventures, wringing every drop of donkey juice out of this well-squeezed burro. While it's certainly not the greatest Santo we've screened, there's a lot to recommend: startling visuals, a fantastic theremin-laced soundtrack and gorgeous b&w photography, partly paid for by Bacardi and Corona. Remember this, consumers: the power of advertising compels you, even forty four years after the event, when Santo Atacan Las Brujas, or Santo Attacks The Witches.

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