Santo vs. Las Lobas

a.k.a. Santos vs. the She-Wolves
directed by
 Rubén Galindo and Jaime Jiménez Pons

1976 / Producciones Jiménez Pons Hermanos / 86
written by Jaime Jiménez Pons and Ramón Obón
cinematography by Raul Dominguez and Victor Gaitán
starring El Santo, Rodolfo de Anda, Gloria Mayo, Jorge Russek, Bubia Martí, Carlos Suárez

This May the agents of M.O.S.S. throw their collective gaze (warning: may turn living matter to stone) toward everything hairy and beastly: King Kong, Feroz Khan’s chest and more. To stay up to date on our exploits regarding the matter, you can just follow this handy link.

Before you do that, though, it’s time for me to tell you about the awe-inspiring fight between (the decidedly waxed) El Santo and a band of lycanthropes (decidedly hairy).

Santo’s (El Santo!) sweet life of wrestling fools in the ring and getting kissed by the White Wolf Queen of the lycanthropes (something that will not be important later on) is rudely interrupted by a sleazy private eye who tells our hero some random stuff about lycanthropy and hands him an envelope containing a meeting place with a certain Cesar Harker (Rodolfo de Anda), werewolf hunter. Santo, after having fought every supernatural creature you’d care to name, and some others too, is still the great sceptic, poo-pooing the whole lycanthropy idea and shrugging that strange visit off. One imagines Santo gets visits like that so often he has learned to be choosy whom to believe.

His opinion changes when our sceptical hero is repeatedly attacked by a pack of dogs with the awesome abilities to a) make the great El Santo very very afraid, and b) to disappear into thin air. Clearly, something supernatural is going on here, so the luchador decides that meeting up with Cesar will be just the thing to do.

At their very leisurely meeting (it’s still the 70s) Cesar explains to Santo that the Harkers have a long tradition of werewolf hunting, helped by their freakish immunity to the curse of lycanthropy; quite unlike Santo, who will – thanks to his “dog” bites – have to do something against the lycanthropy problem or turn into a lycanthrope himself before the next Great Red Moon (whatever that is) rises. Fortunately, there’s an old prophecy foretelling either the end of the world through a lycanthropocalypse or the end to the hairy menace by the hand of a legend or symbol of silver. That latter symbol, Cesar is pretty sure, would be Santo.

 
 
 

Practically, Cesar knows the lycanthropes are based quite close to the small village (still with its own doctor and chief of police) he and his family are living in, so he invites Santo to his home. After dispatching of one of the incredibly ineffective lycanthrope assassins who seem to hound Cesar’s every step (a random flashback shows he can’t even play a relaxing round of golf without being attacked), Santo agrees. But being the responsible chap that he is, the luchador is first going to fulfil his contractual obligations and have a wrestling match; he’ll be with Cesar a bit later. After all, possibly turning into a wolf person in the near future is no reason for the idol of the masses to not show up to a fight. My protestant work ethic is ecstatic.

The situation will be quite changed once Santo arrives in Cesar’s home village, though. The werewolf hunter and the White Queen have killed each other off, leaving behind some very angry lycanthropes in need of a new queen, Cesar’s twin brother Eric (Rodolfo de Anda without glasses), and various women and children who will soon enough be in peril. I’m sure there’s nothing untoward in the crate that arrives from Transylvania the same night Santo does, like, for example, the King of Lycanthropes Licar.

The whole affair could become too much even for a hero like Santo, but Eric, a bare-chested (again a waxed one) vest-wearer named Gitano (Carlos Suárez looking like a man who has a lot of fun here), and various armed villagers (when they’re not trying to kill Santo for no reason I managed to discern) are there to pinch in.

One of the real joys of lucha cinema is the adaptability of the genre. As long as he stays a hero, a lucha movie doesn’t need to interpret its central character as a standard masked crimefighter alone, unlike – for example – US superhero films do, leaving the door wide open for genre hopping of a kind that makes lucha movies surprisingly adaptable.

As is so often the case in the genre, the movies of the great El Santo are a prime example of this. Santo starred in Universal-inspired classic horror films, 60s spy movies, adventure films, unfunny comedies, pulp-y crime films, rancheros and inexplicably weird stuff. Basically, Santo starred in everything except romantic comedies (unless you’re a fan of the Santo/Blue theory) and melodrama (though there are of course lucha melodramas without Santo), turning every other genre into sub-genres of the great equalizer that is lucha cinema.

 
 
 

By the time Santo shot Santo vs. Los Lobas, the lucha genre had lost much of its popularity, leaving the tenacious wrestler pretty much in the cinematic dregs, seeing him work for producers churning out very silly, often surprisingly boring movies, on budgets that could probably not always buy shoe-strings for everyone. So it comes as a bit of a surprise – even more of it when you add Santo’s generally family-oriented image – that Las Lobas is a lucha entry into the genre of somewhat bleak, very dream-like 70s horror that does actually set out to be a real movie instead of random reels of Santo, musical numbers, and travelogue footage. Las Lobas also turns out to be one of the weirdest entries in Santo’s filmography not produced by Vergara.

What’s probably even more surprising is how well this attempt works, with directors Rubén Galindo (last seen here letting Santo fight against garbage bags) and Jaime Jiménez Pons creating an often nightmarish, always illogical, mood out of cramped looking shots taking turns with strange, yet strangely compelling compositions, a gritty looking aesthetic that’s always rubbing against the weirdness of the plot and ideas, effectively dim lighting, and editing whose rawness emphasises the strangeness of it all by roughing up the film’s flow. I’m not sure Galindo and Pons were planning to make their film quite as strange as it feels, and that its technical peculiarities weren’t just based on a mix of budgetary troubles and ineptness on their side, but it’s the results that count, and the results are, as my American brethren like to say, awesome.

Among the things about Las Lobas that may be clever or may be just accidents is the film’s tendency to make Santo a bit more human and fallible than he often is: he’s fleeing from his early dog attackers in a very undignified way (what is it with Galindo and letting Santo high-tail it?), actually needs the help of others, and even loses fights without being tricked into losing them. One might think this time around our hero’s actually in danger, which is – of course – a pretty clever thing to find in a horror movie.

But really, it’s the mood of the film that makes it as special as it is. It’s one of those films where the strangeness of the pictures – lycanthropes who look like bearded ladies in fur bikinis carrying torches standing in a circle around their queen, the White Queen laughing a threatening laugh from the roof of a building, a party with circle dancing turning into a minor lycanthrope massacre – and the peculiarities of the script – a main character dying only to be replaced by a twin who is exactly like he was, the character who is built up as the Big Bad dying quite early leaving plot threads and an ancient prophecy dangling, the rules of lycanthropy changing with every second scene, connections between characters never really getting explained – really come together to form something like a fever dream through which the audience drifts; it’s just that this fever dream has a masked wrestler in it, too. And, as a wise man once said, everything’s better with a masked wrestler.


The Horror!? is a regular cult cinema column by Denis Klotz, aficionado of the obscure and operator of the film blog of the same name.

La Mansion de las 7 Momias

Year: 1977  Company: Producciones Filmicas Agrasanchez S.A /Cinematografica Tical  Runtime: 91′
Director: Rafael Lanua   Writers: Rafael Lanuza, Rogelio Agrasanchez, Rafael Lanuza
Cinematography: Armand Castillon   Music: Luis Hernandez Breton
Cast: Blue Demon, Maria Cardinal, Superzan, Manuel Palacios, Claudio Lanuza, Laura Fierro

Sophia de la Garza (Maria Cardinal) is having a bad week. Not only has her father just died, but she has inherited quite a bizarre problem. Sophia’s father, you see, was the reincarnation of an earlier de la Garza, who was governor of the town of Antigua Guatemala. 17th century de la Garza had made a pact with the devil that not only gave the horned one possession of his own soul but also those of the people he governed (which does not sound like non-heretic Catholic theology to me). Fortunately for them, the governor later repented, and managed to find some sort of loophole in his contract with Satan that leads to him being reincarnated in his male descendents and somehow being able to protect the souls in his care from his former master.

Continue reading

Mision Suicida

company: Puerto Mexico Films
year: 1973
runtime: 78′
director: Federico Curiel
cast: El Santo, Lorena Velazquez,
Elsa Cardenas, Dagoberto Rodriguez,
Roxana Bellini
writer: Fernando Oses
cinematography: Augustin Jimenez
music: Guustavo C. Carrion
Order this film from Amazon.com

Mexico City, during the Cold War. A Soviet spy ring – as we later learn under the leadership of Nazis with fitting names like Otto and Elke – kidnaps the Nazi war criminal and expert in brainwashing techniques Doctor Müller (Juan Gallardo). They need him to prepare the unsuspecting women populating their secret spy training camp in Santo Domingo for their real work. These women, you see, think they are just training (for who knows what?) at a very special gym that just happens to have a lot of swastikas in some of its rooms. In truth, they are meant to be the Soviet Union’s new elite spies who are supposed to start an awesome series of sabotage missions in the USA in the near future. They just need to be convinced, and that’s where Müller will fit in.

Continue reading

Las Momias de Guanajuato

Peliculas Latinoamericanas S.A. [1972] 79′
country: Mexico
director: Federico Curiel
cast: Blue Demon, Mil Mascaras,
El Santo, Elsa Cardenas, Manuel Leal
Order this title from Amazon.com

Of course, everybody knows about the famous mummies of Guanajuato. What fewer people know is that a small room next to said world-famous mummies houses a bunch of different mummies whose hands and faces seem to be the only mummified parts of their bodies. The rest of their bodies looks rather wrestler-like. That’s no wonder, as the diminutive tourist guide Pinguino (Jorge Pinguino) explains. You see, the largest of these mummies is a certain Satan (Manuel Leal) who once made a pact with the other Satan to become invincible in the ring. It didn’t turn out too well for him, as the Santo of 1871 (El Santo, obviously) did win his title from him. It is said that after a hundred years have passed, Satan (the wrestler, not the pitchfork guy) will return to take his vengeance on Santo (and every other masked wrestler available). Who the other semi-mummified guys are, we never learn.

Poor Pinguino witnesses the revival of Satan, and does the obvious and best thing – he tries to get a hold of his wrestler friends Blue Demon and Mil Mascaras and convince them to get rid of the mummy threat. However Pinguino is, even with the help of Lina (Elsa Cardenas), nightclub singer and fianceé of Mil Mascaras, unable to convince the increasingly skeptical luchadores of a single word he says.

That is something that will come and bite our wrestling heroes in the muscular asses when Satan, sometimes assisted by his henchmummies, starts a nightly killing spree. The evil one even goes so far as to ambush the exceedingly ambushable Blue and steal his mask and his pants to make the hapless man the police’s main suspect in the killings.

Since the mummies also turn out to be unwrestleable, it does not look good for our heroes. Until a Santo ex machina arrives, that is. Afterwards, they’re just not looking good and Santo finds his place next to Superman in the annals of dickishness.

Las Momias De Guanajuato1 Las Momias De Guanajuato2 Las Momias De Guanajuato3
Las Momias De Guanajuato4 Las Momias De Guanajuato5 Las Momias De Guanajuato6

Las Momias De Guanajuato is the first in a short, increasingly cheap series of films which put luchadores who aren’t El Santo against their natural enemy – the mummy. The first one in this case is really the best, thanks to the fact that while Santo might just be doing an extended cameo, good old Blue and fab and fashionable Mil Mascaras are much too lovable to be second choice (and further mummy films would steep as low as to feature Superzan).

It’s just too bad that nobody seems to have told this to the script writers, and so Mil and Blue are mostly stumbling through their own adventure with a nearly comical ineptness (they don’t even win a single fight outside the ring), while heroically keeping their game faces on. The masks were probably a godsend in this case.

Still, if one can ignore the indignity of Blue Demon losing his pants (and really, if you want to watch lucha films from this era, “indignity” shouldn’t even be in your dictionary), Guanajuato has a lot of fun things to recommend it. Blue and Mil are in good form and are losing their fights in fun enough ways – well, ignoring the various times when Blue gets knocked out from behind.

There’s just about a quarter of an hour of actual filler, consisting of some light touristy bits and two musical numbers and so little comical relief that blinking really means missing this time around. That’s next to nothing in lucha time and should be absolutely no problem for anyone seeking out a film like this. Even better, the rest of the film is surprisingly fast-paced with nary a scene that does not contain some interesting view into the private life of our masked hero friends or some mummeriffic dastardly deed.

Las Momias De Guanajuato7 Las Momias De Guanajuato8 Las Momias De Guanajuato9
Las Momias De Guanajuato10 Las Momias De Guanajuato11 Las Momias De Guanajuato12

The two ringside fighting sequences (the second of the two a quasi dream sequence in which Satan relives his traumatic defeat at the hands of the old Santo) are some of the more dynamic you’ll get to see in lucha films, with an audience that seems to be honestly enthusiastic and directed with exciting and fresh ideas like different camera angles and honest to god fast editing.

Even the organ heavy easy listening music has a strange and uncommon whiff of having been chosen with a discerning ear, that is to say, it does from time to time show an actual connection with the things happening on screen, something like a minor triumph if you ask me.

It’s perfectly reasonable to praise the film’s director Federico Curiel for the high entertainment value of the proceedings. Curiel directed more lucha and Mexican pulpy horror films in his life than most people have seen, among them personal favorites of mine like the Nostradamus series, La Venganza de las mujeres vampiro or Los campeones justicieros. Of course, he’s also responsible for Ssuperzam el invencible, one of the more terrible crimes against humanity committed by cinema. Still, what I wanted to say before I started to list film titles and gaze into the abyss that is Ssuperzam is that Curiel was perfectly able to make an exciting piece of pop/pulp cinema as long as he got at least a little money and something that could be called a film script in the broader sense.

With luck, Curiel would even remember some of the things about the use of shadow in horror sequences he must have learned while making black and white films and apply them to his colour work to give some scenes an actual sense of mood and style. More often, there is an uncontrolled, dynamic feel to Curiel’s work that is of course a product of the need to shoot his films fast and on the cheap for producers who couldn’t care less about quality.

But this friction between actual talent (that does not need to be high-minded or even consciously interested in producing anything of quality, mind you) and pure greed is often where the fun happens in pop & pulp cinema.

And Las Momias De Guanajuato is a lot of fun.

For more bizarre movie goodness, be sure
to visit Denis’ excellent review blog The Horror!?