Friday, July 18, 2008

From The Lucha Diaries Vaults: La Mujer Murcielago (Mexico, 1968)

With this edition of "From The Lucha Diaries Vaults", I decided to use the occasion of the opening of the new Batman movie to draw attention to the long and proud tradition of movies featuring bat-persons that it continues. As I'm sure you'll agree, it has a lot to live up to.


Exhibiting a brazenness comparable to 3 Dev Adam's in it's attitude toward international copyrights, La Mujer Murcielago has Maura Monti -- in her role as secret agent and masked wrestler Bat Woman -- costumed almost identically to TV's Batgirl. I say "almost" because -- while the mask, cape and boots she wears are indistinguishable from her American inspiration -- where Batgirl would wear a skintight bodysuit, Bat Woman just wears skin. Now, I don't need a whole lot more than that, and the makers of La Mujer Murcielago have shown an eerie prescience by providing me with just that: very little more than Maura Monti padding around in a miniscule bikini for 85 minutes. And, while I am grateful, it pains me to say that, despite the very forgiving attitude I brought to the film, I did find La Mujer Murcielago slow going in some parts.

This is not to say that there aren't some nods toward plot and the corresponding elements of same. To justify long sequences of Bat Woman scuba diving and -- as already mentioned -- padding around, we have a mad scientist (quelle surprise!), his assistant Igor (Parents, please! Don't you realize that naming your child Igor dooms him to an adulthood spent in servitude to a mad scientist?), and their killer goldfish man. Now this may be something that was lost to me in the non-translation, but the mad scientist here appears to have the most un-secret hideout in film history. Said hideout is a large ship -- named, I'm delighted to report, Reptilicus -- that's anchored conveniently just offshore from the seaside resort where our heroine is stationed. Whenever Bat Woman and her male cohorts want to spy on the doctor, or tussle with his henchmen, or throw acid in his face, they just take the short boat ride out to the Reptilicus and tuck in. However, despite all of the doctor's obvious criminal activity, they never take any of these opportunities to just haul him in. Of course, these are 1960s movie secret agents we're dealing with, so they'd be remiss in their duties if they didn't hold off on closing the case until the opportunity arose to have the villains and their hideout consumed by an enormous explosion. (Is that a spoiler?) La Mujer Murcielago also has wrestling matches, but, since Maura Monti is not a professional wrestler, a considerably more chunky double is used for these scenes (and, since the substitution is glaringly obvious, the scenes are very brief).

If you have read any of my other reviews on The Lucha Diaries, there may have been times when you regarded my description of something that happened in a film with skepticism. And you should do. In many cases here I am describing, without the aid of a re-viewing, films that I watched many weeks previous. And the condition in which I originally watched them was often one of either somnolence or compromised sobriety. As a result, there are "reviews" here in which I freely admit to remembering very few of the subject film's details, or in which I unwittingly invent those details because I confused that film with another one that I watched in an equally inattentive state. I say this because, in his entry regarding La Mujer Murcielago in his fine book The Mexican Masked Wrestler and Monster Filmography, Robert Michael "Bobb" Cotter describes the process by which the mad scientist creates the goldfish man as involving putting a fish and a G.I. Joe doll in an aquarium together and boiling the water. I thought that this sounded just too good to be true. However, I should not have doubted the generosity of a film that would give us a seagoing vessel named Reptilicus, for, when I watched the film, what Cotter described is precisely what I saw.

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