Friday, October 22, 2010
31 Days of Halloween - Day 22 - Movie 1
I discovered masked wrestler Santo when I was kid. His movies frequently showed up on UHF channels on weekend afternoons. I ended up being pretty fascinated by him. No one knew what he really looked like. He never took off his mask, so he seemed like a real life superhero to me. His movies only enhanced that notion. He fought all manner of criminal and monster, either in the wrestling ring, or in a less confined and formal arena. He was like Mexico's Elvis with a seemingly endless stream of movies that saw him in various predicaments. Only these movies were stranger and more fascinating.
Santo en el tesoro de Drácula (1969) has scientist and masked crimefighter Santo testing a machine that will dematerialize a human and project them backwards in time into a past life allowing them to study history before returning to the present with their memories intact. He does this to his companion Luisa (Noelia Noel) who inhabits her same named ancestor who happens to be the Lucy character in a condensed version of the Dracula story with some modifications, including a coffin filled with treasure, a bevy of vampire beauties who are all marked with Dracula's hand stamp embedded in his ring. Inexplicably, Santo and his friends are able to watch all of this on a television. They bring Luisa back to the present before Van Roth (Fernando Mendoza) can stake her through the heart, but not before he stakes Dracula (Aldo Monti).
Santo wants the treasure, not for it's monetary value, but as evidence that his time travel device works to quiet the mocking dismissal that the scientific community has directed at him. The masked criminal, The Black hood, who had been spying on Santo, also wants the treasure so he can finance his criminal empire. The only way to find it is by translating Serbian writing on Dracula's medallion and ring. the two groups compete for the relics, a wrestling match is fought, and the bad guys resurrect Dracula so that he'll kill Santo. The plan fails, the bad guys are rounded up, and Santo and his friends go to rescue Luisa from Dracula. In the end, they decide that it's best that man doesn't meddle in the unexplained, and they leave Dracula's treasure be.
In some ways this movie feels like it was made up as they went along. That is not a complaint. There's a delirious energy that this lends the movie and keeps it engaging. Early on we see two women chained down so that Dracula can turn them into vampires. When he's done the other vampire women remove the chains simply by lifting them up. They were merely draped over the girls and affixed to nothing. Later Santo provides his wrestling friends with signal watches so that he can call them to his aid when he needs them -- sort of like Superman giving Jimmy Olsen a signal watch so that Jimmy can get Superman out of trouble. There's also simply something delightful about a hero who is only ever seen with his mask on, whether he's wearing a business suit or pyjamas. The only real disappointment is that at the end, Santo and Dracula never battle one another. Dracula drops a net over Santo and his companions, and this is where the signal watch comes in.