Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Ryan Watches a Motion Picture #23: Santo and the Treasure of Dracula (1968)

Santo! I will return again in El Santo y Blue Demon vs. Dracula and El Hombre Lobo!!

For those unfamiliar with the El Santo phenomenon, you can either read about it in depth here, or read my brief sum up here: The man who would become El Santo, the most famous masked luchadore of Mexican wrestling, began wrestling in the mid 1930s. In 1942 he answered the call of his famous Silver Mask, and his popularity grew until it became a genuine cult phenomenon. This was largely fuelled by a penchant for being presented as a peasant hero, fighting against other wrestlers embodying corrupt politicians, drug lords, and American imperialists. After a bout of successful comic books, he took to the Mexican B-movie screen in 1958 with Santo vs. The Evil Brain.

I've devoured all of the El Santo movies Gen X has in stock - which is a reasonable 6 or 7 out of an astonishing total of 52 film appearances - in chronological order. The first on my delirious journey into lucha libre was Santo and the Treasure of Dracula. As Campy as I could have hoped, but a little on the dull side.

It's the spiral what does it.

So basically, in addition to Santo being a star wrestler, he is also a brilliant scientist capable of building a time machine that lets people time travel into a past life of theirs. So he builds one. He tests it out on a woman who ends up being one of Dracula's victims in the distant past. This lasts for half the movie, and that would be fine if we got more of Santo than his worried looks at a monitor every 20 minutes, reminding us that he's watching through time, in the comfort of his lab. Once Dracula is dealt with by a helpful doctor Van Roth, Santo manages to pull the woman back to the present, and the rest of the movie can begin. A masked enemy who had been secretly watching Santo's progress in the lab decides to find a treasure revealed by Dracula before Santo does, but instead of finding a treasure, enemy thugs decide to awaken Dracula again.

You only fool yourself, young upstart.

While the first half is a bit boring, this film does introduce you to the Santo formula pretty well - Santo creeping around in tombs, beating up thugs, saving girls, and getting into wrestling matches to settle scores.

So: Not the best in Santo's saga, but seeing him as a prominent scientist is a hilarious wonder.

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