Santo and the Blue Demon Vs The Monsters (1970)
Mad scientist Bruno Halder holds a grudge against famous luchadores Santo and Blue Demon. Realising that he needs more muscle to beat the masked duo, Halder recruits a rogue’s gallery of monsters including a wolf man, a cyclops, a vampire and Frankenstein’s monster to help him with his plan.
It was difficult to make sense of the plot for that synopsis, so I hope I’ve done it justice because I literally hadn’t a clue what was really going on in this bizarre Mexican romp, presumably a sequel/follow-up to a previous Santo film. Or maybe just some random cobbled together plot by a writer who had his fill of peyote.
To contextualise: Mexican wrestling is known as lucha libre, something which is such an integral part of Mexican culture and heritage (far more so than the sillier American wrestling) and mask-wearing luchadores (Mexican wrestlers) have become symbols of Mexico around the world. El Santo was one of lucha libre’s greatest ever stars, with a career stretching all the way in back from his debut in 1934 to his final retirement in 1982, and in the process became a folk hero, popularising the sport and with his infamous silver mask, he added the mystique and mystery to the characters. Luchadores treat their masks with the utmost respect, a sign of honour and nobility and it is a grave thing to be unmasked or lose your mask in a match. El Santo famously stayed in mask everywhere he went so that no one would ever see who was behind the mask – he would take separate flights than his film crew so that they wouldn’t see his face when he had to remove it at customs. Such was the mystique and mystery being Santo, he only briefly lifted his mask up on a chat show in his twilight years one week before he died, almost as if he knew this was his last chance to show everyone who he was.
Being such a popular wrestler nowadays leads to cinematic success – you only need to see Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson or Dave ‘Batista’ to see how it can be used as a platform to break into mainstream movies. This was not a new thing. From 1958, Santo starred or co-starred in over fifty movies, many of which cast him as some sort of superhero, going up against criminals, mad scientists, and supernatural creatures and most which would be identified as B-movies. They were very popular in Mexico and made him not only a household name but eventually a Mexican cultural icon up there on the level of an Elvis Presley or Michael Jackson. With Santo’s big screen success, Mexican movie producers turned to other well-known luchadores to star in their own motion pictures, with Blue Demon and Mil Mascaras being the two most famous to step up. Only four of the Santo movies were ever dubbed into English and they’re virtually impossible to track down in the UK so Youtube has become my go-to for them, finding slightly dodgy copies that people have uploaded and watching with the closed captions on. Santo and Blue Demon Vs The Monsters is my first foray into this wild and wacky world of lucha libre films (Santo was already around twenty films into his career and he was box office by the time this was one released) and sees Santo and Blue Demon team up for the first time – in some circles in Mexico, this would have been as big as Batman and Superman pairing up against a common foe!
The best way I could describe Santo and Blue Demon Vs The Monsters is a weird cross between the old Universal horror films of the 30s and 40s and the Batman TV series of the 60s with Adam West. It’s got an ambitious premise which was never going to pan out the way the writers thought it would. The story has far too much going on, too many enemies crammed in and becomes an exercise in gratuitous excess for no apparent reason other than they could do it. The first signs of this come in the title credits, with each of the main characters receiving a “walk over the hill and then freeze frame” moment to introduce them to the audience. Plus, you quickly get used to seeing Santo and Blue Demon, masks always on, wearing three-piece suits or turtle-neck tops and everyone else just acting like it’s a normal occurrence – Santo even makes out with Gloria with it on.
There’s not a whole lot of story to the proceedings; its one of those ‘leave your brain behind’ films where the bulk of the film is taken up with one punch-up after another. I’d say that nine of ten scenes in this film involve Santo and the monsters beating each other up. Santo and Gloria are making out in a car when the zombie goons show up to ruin his day; there’s an attack on Otto’s house where evil Blue Demon organises the troops in a mass brawl with Santo and Otto; Santo, Otto and Gloria go to a cabaret (which allows for some stock footage of musical performances to beef out the running time) which is then rudely interrupted by the monsters; and then we have our main set pieces inside the mad scientist’s lab. Like the cheesy fights in the Batman TV show, this series of punch-ups pans out the same with the heroes rarely receiving any damage and the bad guys clumsily getting tossed around the sets. Rinse and repeat every few minutes and it soon becomes tiresome. Three gratuitously lengthy luchador matches are included, though the latter of which contains a hilarious run-in from the monsters who proceed to turn the match into an anything goes battle royal where they work over each and every luchador who gets into the ring to aid Santo.
Most of the monsters look terrible – moth-bitten remnants cast out from other Mexican horror films no doubt, with the cyclops looking like some kids’ papier mâché school project. They all get a small scene of them each attacking and killing some locals, to prove that they’re a big threat. The wolf man sequence is fairly serious and grim, totally out of the place with the ludicrous nature of the rest of the film. I kind of figure the cyclops was meant to be the 'Creature from the Black Lagoon', due to the underwater element to his scene, but obviously they couldn’t find/make a decent Gill Man replica costume. None of this really matters in the grand scheme of things because the monsters have zero characterisation, and the fights would have been better served with a bigger bunch of green-skinned nondescript goons to the four on show already.
Whilst it’s not a very good film, Santo and Blue Demon Vs The Monsters is anything but dull and boring. It’s got a frenetic pace and coke-fuelled energy which is virtually non-stop and no one seems to care. Santo and the good guys just go from one fight to the next without really questioning what the hell is going on. Neither should you. Just sit back and try and make some sense of the madness.
Santo and The Blue Demon Vs The Monsters
Director(s): Gilberto Martínez Solares
Writer(s): Rafael García Travesi (story and screenplay), Jesús Sotomayor Martínez
Actor(s): Santo, Alejandro Moreno, Jorge Rado, Carlos Ancira, Hedi Blue, Carlos Suárez, Adalberto Martínez, Santanón
Duration: 85 mins