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Viva El Santo!
on September 6, 2003
Ladies and gents - it?s time to grab the Tequila, mix up some margaritas and have a good old time with some south of the border cinema action. El Santo is in the house!
You see, there there are some types of foreign films that are instantly associated with their country of origin. For example, when one speaks of Hong Kong and instantly Kung Fu fighting and John Woo bullet extravaganzas spring to mind. Japan of course is the master of the Samurai film by Kurasawa and men in large rubber suits smashing toy tanks and model cities. While America, of course has the western and the Big Dumb Action Movie.
But what does one think of when the topic of global cinema turns to Mexico?
Mexico has Luchadores Enmascarados - the Mexican Wrestling movie. Wrestling in Mexico is huge, unbelievably huge - think Star Wars at the height of its power in the 1970's and you begin to get an idea of the scale we?re talking here. Dozens of wrestlers have made their mark over the last 50 or so years: Neutron, Blue Demon, Mil Mascaras, Superzan and so on. However one name stands out as the superstar of Mexican wrestling - El Santo, the man in the silver mask.
Santo was king. He wrestled for more than 40 years (capturing over ten titles, including the NWA World Welterweight and Middleweight belts) and starred in over 50 Enmascarados movies. In that time he battled mummies, zombies, aliens, werewolves, vampires, mobsters, mad scientists, and international spy rings. Oh - and occasionally he'd wrestle.
You see, the Mexican wrestling movie is a very odd thing. The plots usually revolve around some Nefarious Evil Force (tm) plotting to take over the world. And much like how every alien invasion force in Doctor Who targeted England for their spearhead, our Nefarious Evil would inevitably start his plans in starting with Mexico! This of course would allow our masked hero to beat the living snot out of the bad guys, have the occasional Mariachi musical number, pad out the plot by 10 minutes with footage from a wrestling match and generally save the day. Not that all plots are like that, mind you - my favorite Santo movie involves our hero building a time machine to travel to the 18th century and wrestle Dracula and steal his gold treasure.
But as you can see, Luchadores Enmascarados is an acquired taste.
Our film in question today is a more modern film. After Santo's death in 1984 (where, much like Bella Lagosi, he was buried in his mask) the Enmascarado genre slowly petered out. There's been an occasional new Enmascarados film here and there - not that any of them made it north of the border aside from the occasional MST3K appearance - but for the most part, the genre was dead.
Enter El Hijo Del Santo - Son of Santo. Taking up his father's mantel and wearing the trademark silver mask, Santo Jr has been wrestling for years and has resurrected the Luchadores Enmascarados genre. This brings us to our topic of discussion for today: INFRATERRESTRE, or Infraterrestrial.
Our story begins millions and millions of years ago in a series of effects shots that surely must have blown the budget for the rest of the movie. Not that there was all that much in the coffers to begin with, mind you. A race of aliens have colonized Earth (or more specifically, Mexico), but were forced to move underground when a gigantic asteroid made the surface uninhabitable.
Fast forward, millions of years to present day Mexico City. A string of kidnappings from a gang of terminator knock-offs has the city in a grip of fear. Meanwhile Santo, deep in his Santo-Cave analyzes the video footage of his last match with Blue Panther. While discussing Panther's superhuman strength and skill (and the 4 Terminator goons that broke up the match) with his Super Computer, he receives a call for help from the police over his personal satellite called Silver-1. Heeding the call, Santo leaps into the Santo-Mobile (A sporty silver roadster that flies) and races to their aid.
Like I said, Santo is Batman but with flying scissors-kicks. The only thing missing was the red Hot-Line under a cake glass on Santo's desk and a bust of Shakespeare that hid the switch to the Santo-poles. He even gets a giant metallic "S" that zooms across the screen like out of the Adam West TV show. How cool is that?
Santo is summoned because of a young boy who saw his parents vaporized by a flying saucer of some kind. The police, having no luck reaching the catatonic youngster, call in the most qualified help available: A professional wrestler. Oh - and a child psychologist who is really there to provide a bit of leg inbetween the action scenes and a tentative love interest for our hero.
Santo arrives, dressed in his best mid-1980's Miami Vice wear (while wearing his mask, of course. Santo never takes off his mask, even in the privacy of his own home. You haven't lived until you see the surreal quality of a man, relaxing in his living room with the evening paper, wearing his wrestling mask and cape). Anyway, faster than you can say "Plot Point" the Blue Panther and his terminator hit squad show up and abduct the boy. A brief scuffle in the parking garage of the police station and the aliens get away in their flying saucer thing - Santo in hot pursuit in his flying roadster (Thus revealing the car's laser turrets - the Santomobile has everything!).
60 seconds of dogfight - boasting state of the art special effects . . . . from 1996 - and the aliens crash into the sewers. Seeing the need to action, Santo dons his regular tights and cape, assembles a team to accompany him, and heads out after the boy. So lets recap, shall we? We have a man in a mask, cape and knee high boots, a couple of plain clothes policemen, a child psychologist who looks like she's dressed for a night out on the town, the chief of police, and some sinister aliens wandering around what could be a upscale Doctor Who set doubling as a sewer.
My friends, life doesn?t get better than this.
Our team wanders the sewers for a bit, eventually getting split up per the rules laid down in the Genre Movie Bible. Santo gets to show off his laser proof cape, beats the crap out of some denizens of the sewer, discovers the alien base (not all that deep under Mexico City, it would seem) and gets to square off with . . . . bum BUM BAH - the chief of police.
Normally here's where the Villain's Exposition Scene would go, where Goldfinger lays out in loving detail his plans to knock over Fort Knox or something. However, much like the rest of the movie - the villain's master plan doesn?t make a bit of sense. At all - and believe me, I tried. It would seem that aside from a select splinter group, the aliens haven't figured out that the surface of the earth is not only habitable, but that the monkeys came down out of the trees and have spread over 9/10th of the planet. This splinter group has begun kidnapping some of these surface dwellers. Why? Some kind of experimentation, that is never really fully explained. The alien splinter group kidnapped the boy so to draw Santo off their scent - overlooking the little detail that they came straight back to the alien lair with the Man in the Silver Mask right behind them. The chief also tells them that the aliens have developed keen eyesight in the dark - fortunate for Santo, because he has the ability to summon a blinding light from the palm of his hand.
He does so, blinds the aliens and, he and his Psychologist/girlfriend make their getaway in a gondola looking device - Blue Panther in hot pursuit.
Blue Panther and Santo wrestle one more time. Despite the low budget flaws of the rest of the film, the movies does well the one thing that Mexican wrestling movies do: Wrestle. In this overblown WWF era of your Rocks and Hulk Hogans, it's a refreshing change to see two well honed athletes, with real wrestling skill in a real match. Well - if a real wrestling match involved throwing your opponent over a bottomless cliff that wasn?t there ten seconds ago, that is.
Santo applies a figure four leglock to the police chief, the kidnapped victims are freed, the police round up all the Evil Aliens, and Santo declares that "Earth is big enough for two species" and vows to leave the aliens in blissfully unaware peace. We cut to the police chief in jail, eyes glowing their sinister best, swearing revenge on Santo for his interference - and finally, as the tradition with all Santo movies, the Masked Hero speeds off into the distance in his silver roadster.
Now, to the casual reader, one might assume that I hated this movie. I mean I did just spend the last 1,515 words tearing it apart. Not so my friends. You see, the whole genre as a whole is an absurd endeavor - which is 9/10th of its charm. In fact one of the biggest flaws of the film was that it didn?t adhere to the formula, spending a large chunk of time showcasing a wrestling match, as the classic Santo movies of the 60's always did.
And given all it's flaws and the laughable special effects, for a low budget film it's pretty damn good. Believe me, I've seen much worse from seasoned veterans with more money to spend.