January 12th, 2011

Got monsters in your little Mexican town?

I feel like I should love the Santo movies, but their erratic pacing, slack dubbing and home movie-level budgets have always kept me from enjoying them. It doesn't help that every Santofest I've seen looks like a second-generation copy of something taped off late-night cable ten years ago. Maybe I need to watch a whole stack of them while drunk, but more likely they're like the shoddy kung flicks of the mid 1970s... either you like 'em or you just don't get it.

El Santo is a man with a secret identity but no double identity(go figure). Always seen wearing his silver mask, usually bare chested and with a flashy glitter cloak on his shoulders (getting in the way), he's first and most importantly, Mexio's champion masked wrestler (every movie has numerous scenes in the ring, which are fun to watch and contain both acrobatics and pathos). But El Santo is also a genuine superhero, complete with a secret scientific laboratory where the police can summon him when needed. For a normal human being with no superpowers or weapons, the beefy brawler does pretty good against a long series of vampire women, werewolves, alien invaders, axe murderers, Aztec mummies, you name it.

The last epic I watched, SANTO VS THE ZOMBIES, shows our hero out to stop a crew of literal zombies who have been roused by a mysterious masked fiend and sent to rob banks. Bullets plow harmlessly through these undead thugs, somehow but dropkicks and forearm smashes seem to have some effect. The movie looks a little bit like a low budget horror flick from the 1940s or a Columbia cheapo serial, but it has its own odd touches. And El Santo himself does have genuine charisma, with his jazzy little convertible being a nice touch (he can just vault right out of it and start fighting monsters with no delay).