The 12 Best Moments from Mexico's Least Subtle Monster Movie
Lucha libre is for people bored of the WWE's plodding realism. American wrestling is to lucha libre as American football is to real football: It has far bigger but wimpier men who need to stop every 30 seconds for a bit of a rest. North America split the superheroic fantasy into two wrestling federations: The U.S. got inhuman musculature and the ability to monologue mid-combat, while Mexico took the masks, capes and nonstop ass-kicking. A good lucha fight looks like two men who were swallowed by a giant invisible break-dancing washing machine are blaming each other to death. When you play a lucha DVD, the fighters go through more revolutions than the disc.
And I'm Cracked's official luchador.
Cracked doesn't actually know yet, but I'm fairly sure they won't challenge anyone who looks like this.
Lucha movies feature battles against Spanish-speaking moon Nazis, Atlanteans and evil wrestlers, and that was all in one movie. One movie that wasn't as crazy as the one we're about to tackle. Lucha movies handle threats to the world with all the wonder of a child's imagination and a slightly smaller budget. And one of the craziest and cheapest movies was Santo el Enmascarado de Plata y Blue Demon Contra Los Monstruos.
The title is that long because it's also the entire script.
You'll notice it's Santo y Blue Demon Contra LOS Monstruos. Not UNO Monstruo, or DOS Monstruos, but LOS Monstruos, and they're not kidding. This movie is nothing but an evil scientist trawling up new monsters for Santo to punch and Santo punching them. And neither side disappoints.
The greatest luchador (and therefore person) in history was El Santo, the silver-masked saint, who makes the Rock and John Cena look like one-hit wonders. He wrestled for four decades and kicked ass for all of them, and in accordance with lucha honor, he never took off his mask.
... ever ...
The only real thing in any of his 52 movies is hordes of screaming fans mobbing him. He has more footage of people deeply loving him than Ron Jeremy. In over 40 years of public appearances, Santo only appeared without his mask once, a year after retirement, to say goodbye to his fans a week before dying of a heart attack while performing in mask. They buried him in that mask so that St. Peter would know who was coming and get the hell out of the way.
In lucha, evil scientists aren't so much characters as vital production equipment, like cameramen and mask polish. About half of all non-wrestlers are scientists. The only reason they don't have Mexican moon colonies, the only place where luchadores could leap even higher, is the law of conservation of lucha science, which states that every good scientist must be canceled out by an evil one.
They use burning torches in the middle of the day because tradition, and because filming at night is hard.
A torch-wielding hunchbacked midget steals an evil scientist's corpse and reanimates it with electricity. That's how much ass lucha kicks -- they've stolen and inverted-body-slammed the plot of Frankenstein, and the main villain isn't even alive yet. He seems to have set up shop in a '60s Batcave built inside an even '60s-er Star Trek cave to save money. That may explain why there's a giant-brained alien stumbling around, because the movie never does.
If you saw an open-skulled Easter Island head stumbling around, you'd think it was important. In lucha libre, it's Martes.
The evil scientist spends the first half of the movie assembling a team of monsters and the second half bouncing them back and forth against Santo like the world's most extreme Ping-Pong balls.
Evil Blue Demon
The Blue Demon is Santo's best friend, despite their trying to kill each other in a sinking Atlantis in a previous movie. Because when you do something that cool, you need an excuse to keep bringing it up. He's another real-life superstar luchador and cinematic crime-fighter, a sentence that kicks the shit out of every other CV up to and including "I am the Lord your God." The Blue Demon spends his first few minutes of screen time casually beating people up before retiring in the world's most badass turtleneck to agree that an evil scientist corpse going missing sounds like trouble.
Some fashions are eternal. I am not being sarcastic.
Now in Tecnico-color!
Blue Demon uses his sports car to trail the midget, and I'm going to stop typing for a minute to laugh at that sentence, before infiltrating the evil scientist's castle/cave single-handedly. But because it's the start of the movie, that doesn't work (Santo will have much better luck in exactly 70 minutes). The recently reanimated scientist uses an incredible machine to create a perfect evil duplicate of Blue Demon and then promptly forgets about it. Because once you've cloned the second most powerful hero in the world, who can possibly stop you?
The mummy is stolen from a museum by Evil Blue Demon and the scientist's reanimated murderer squad. Which raises the question of why you need a mummy if you can already resurrect corpses -- surely it's just a weaker body with most of its guts removed? And this is the one moment where the wrestler-vs.-monster movie makes a stand for realism.
And like anyone bringing "realism" into action movies, he's pathetic and weak.
The mummy stumbles into each fight like he's just been woken up after four thousand years, which is in fact the case, and strikes with the fury of a dessicated corpse. His only combat advantage is that he's already covered in bandages for the fearsome ass-kicking he takes in every scene. He's only in the movie because toilet paper is the world's cheapest special effect. For a movie so determined to bring in Los Monstruos, it's even more determined to show why they'd objectively suck. If the writers were still around, we'd offer them jobs at Cracked.
El Vampiro is so cheap that they don't even call him Dracula, despite Dracula being in the public domain and actually free. This may be because El Ballerina would have been more effective and physically intimidating. El Vampiro pre-empts Twilight by 40 years by being even more conflicted about his need for female blood, because it's screamingly clear that's the only biological reason he goes anywhere near women.
JAZZ HANDS OF THE UNDEAD!
He's so excited to be in a movie that he leaps to his death every single time the camera turns to him. This is not an exaggeration. Roofs, cliffs, low hills ... as soon as he's in the shot, he slow-motions right over the lens with nothing cushioning his fall but his dreams of fame and fortune. Which are about as well-developed as his aerodynamism. He's the sort of vampire who will try the "hide behind his cloak" move in broad daylight in the middle of an open square. He's actually beaten up by Santo's girlfriend the one time he gets her alone.
Seen here losing a fight to an unconscious damsel and the foreground.
So obviously this is the guy they send to take on Santo in a wrestling match. Because after failing to take a wrestler by surprise as a team, twice, your next strategy is to attack him in his strongest arena by sending a vampire under stage lights. It's the Jungian ideal of a doomed match-up: lucha beats everything, and everything beats jazz hands.
La Mujer de Vampiro
A couple of women bitten by the vampire become lady vampires, and in possibly the most fabulous example of sexism ever filmed, the male vampire goes with the full mid-European cloak, top hat and string tie, while the women skip straight to underwear. And he's still not interested.
The female vampires are lingerie models with false teeth, and the company spent way more on the lingerie than the teeth. And, honestly, I think the women brought their own lingerie. They look less like undead temptresses than drunk women too old to be trick-or-treating. Since El Vampiro has less interest in women than a volunteer prostate doctor at a lumberjack camp, las mujeres are free to do whatever they want. And like all women in '60s Mexico, what they want to do is Santo.
The first vampirette's first action on waking into a new life of bloodthirsty horror is appearing in Santo's car, in lingerie. Santo's first and only thought on seeing a semi-naked woman waiting for him is "This must be for me!" and he was so famous that even in real life he would have been right. Unfortunately, her plan is to seduce Santo into a secluded grove for a fight against Los Monstruos, which works out exactly how it did the last three times they tried ramming his feet with their faces. One of those times was in this exact same grove, as Cinematografica Sotomayor clearly couldn't afford the gas to drive the silver Santomobile to another location.
But when you're doing flying slams off a car like that, anywhere is a good spot.
"Franque Stain" sounds like a French-Canadian porn star but offers several advantages over the original Frankenstein's monster. First, he sounds like a French-Canadian porn star, which is way scarier. Second, he actually is called Franquestain, so he saves you from pedantic idiots with nothing better to do than point out that ACTUALLY they don't understand modern usage. Third: mustache.
But since people with powerful mustaches don't die, this was the best they could find.
Franquestain isn't even "recovered" like the other monsters, he's just there when they're reanimated, as any competent mad scientist is assumed to have at least one Franquestain lying around.
The only thing the filmmakers knew about Cyclopes was that they had one eye, which is why they spent 10 minutes papier-macheing one, then justified the huge investment by spending even longer focusing on their masterwork. No matter how much ass Santo is kicking, if El Ciclope is within 20 yards of the camera, it'll just stare at his moving, lighting eye as if Hypnotoad had arrived 50 years early.
You've now seen 5 percent of the movie.
He spends the whole movie looking like he's waiting for Captain Kirk to show up and fights at about the same speed. To say he has no chance against luchadores is to say that William Shatner would be a bad rapper.
I can't spend too long or any effort on the Wolfman or I won't be true to the movie. He's less a lycanthropic horror than a particularly unshaven hobo. He staggers like the dog half is constantly raising his leg to mark his territory while the man half remembers not to do that while wearing pants. He also just turns up in the cave, but instead of being built by the evil scientist, it's more likely he was just trying to find somewhere warm to sleep. It's the ultimate battle of men wearing masks, and honestly, the luchadores' look more realistic.
Los Monstruos Attack!
Cinematografica Sotomayor decided that plot was for people who didn't have Los Monstruos, or did have more than a weekend to finish filming. It's a nonstop series of Los Monstruos attack! followed by Los Monstruos run away! By the third battle, they don't even show the end of the fights -- it cuts straight from El Santo punching someone to them stumbling home. Which is exactly what your memory would do if Santo punched you.
This is the "eject" button for the human memory.
At no point does Santo bother to track them -- being attacked by lunatics in costume is his actual job, and El Santo's righteous vengeance is such an established Mexican fact that the police never turn up. There's not even a scene of him telling them he'll deal with it, they just got the call, heard someone had a silver mask and took the day off. Los Monstruos realize that they just aren't monstrous enough, so they wait until Santo has been weakened by something even worse.
The greatest horror in the movie has nothing to do with the evil scientist, or anyone else legally involved in the movie in any way. The musical number is the most blatantly stolen movie thing since the Ark of the Covenant, and it releases more mind-melting horror.
The musical objectively fills five minutes, but subjectively feels approximately one thousand hours long. And even the owners couldn't complain about the theft, because that would be admitting that it's their fault in the first place. Santo was clearly told to stare at a blank wall and act interested, which is a better deal than those of us who can actually see the thing got.
There is so much hate in good scientist's eyes, you'd swear that he'd actually seen it.
Santo gives a couple of desultory claps and is immediately beaten down by the Blue Demon. Never mind the plot of the movie, or how this proves that poor musical numbers are actual tough-guy kryptonite -- this is a service we need in the real world. Clapping at people who don't deserve it only encourages them to come back and inflict it again. Just be warned: The mental freeze-thaw of going from that appalling musical number to mid-restaurant lucha might shatter your mind.
There's another fight, and in the confusion of El Santo kicking everyone's asses and throwing the mummy both off a multistory building and into a car, the rest of Los Monstruos make off with the good scientist and his daughter.
Los Monstruos have finally gotten Santo's attention, and it's the last mistake they'll ever make. He tracks them to the castle-cave by planting a tracking device on Franquestain's neckbolt and immediately starts kicking ass. He destroys Evil Blue Demon and frees regular Blue Demon, making the bad guys impossibly doomed, as they suddenly have a three-luchadores deficit in a movie with only two luchadores. From here, the ass-kicking goes from one-sided to being whipped with a Mobius strip.
Santo suddenly has a giant morning star and knocks a guy's head clean off, while Blue Demon is on full "burn the evil science lab" duty. It's hard to make a guy with a spiked ball and chain versus the unarmed people look good, but in lucha, the luchadores could turn up to the final scene in a tank and it wouldn't be any more one-sided.
El Santo is a masked hero beating up crime in all its forms. His movies are one part lunacy with two parts Batman, and Bruce Wayne is only one part Batman. Because his secret identity doesn't also wear a mask and kick ass for a living.
For more movie mayhem, check out Ireland's Only Kung Fu Movie (Is The Worst Film Ever Made) and Umbrella: The Most Wasteful Movie Corporation Ever.