Thursday, February 5, 2009

Santo's Best 10 Part II

Okay, let’s be honest here. For all my enthusiastic touting of Santo’s movies, the truth is that quite a large number of them suck balls. Here is the second part of my list of ten of them that totally don’t.

6. Operacion 67/El Tesoro de Moctezuma (1966)
(aka Operation 67/The Treasure Montezuma)
I am listing these two together because, seeing as they were shot back-to-back with the same cast of characters, they are essentially like two halves of one movie. The first attempts to tie Santo in with the James Bond craze, these two spy adventures are the most handsomely mounted of Santo’s films, and also the first shot in glorious Eastman Color. While there are no monsters on hand, the thrill of seeing Santo surrounded by such comparatively lush production values, plus the abundance of fast-paced action and typical, sixties-style sub-Bondian goofiness, makes up for the absence. As a bonus, these films give us the debut of the formerly saintly Santo as a globe-hopping ladies man, necking with adoring bikini babes in a swinging bachelor pad equipped with its own simulated beach.

7. Santo vs. Las Lobas (1972)
(aka Santo vs. the She-Wolves)
One of only two Santo films produced by Jaime Jimenez Pons (who also co-wrote and directed), this one gives us the last thing we’d expect from a Santo movie at this point: actual surprises. While most of Santo’s monster mashes played like throwbacks to the Universal horror films of the forties, Las Lobas has a gritty, nihilistic tone that’s very much in keeping with the horror films of its era. There’s an obvious attempt to make a serious horror movie being made here, and in the process Santo at times gets presented in a light we’re very unaccustomed to seeing him in. For one thing, he is not above showing fear and fleeing for his life, and at times is regarded with far from the customary reverence by those he is trying to protect. Las Lobas stumbles at a few key points, but overall it succeeds in being one of the most creepy, atmospheric and memorable of Santo’s movies, which is especially impressive coming at this late stage in the game.

8. Santo y Blue Demon contra Dr. Frankenstein (1973)
(aka Santo and Blue Demon vs. Dr. Frankenstein)
The last of the great Santo and Blue Demon team-ups, this one, while not quite as sublime as the earlier Contra Dracula y el Hombre Lobo, still possesses many of the same charms. For me, this one is especially notable for the extent to which it gives Blue equal play, with our two heroes fighting alongside one another throughout, and Blue never once being cloned, hypnotized, demonically possessed, or otherwise being turned into an evil version of himself. He’s even allowed to save Santo’s hash on occasion, most memorably disguised in a surgeon’s scrubs and mask with his wrestling mask clearly visible underneath.

9. El Baron Brakola (1965)
(aka Baron Brakola)
This is the best of the poverty row productions that Santo fronted for producer Luis Enrique Vergara during the mid sixties, mainly due to the efforts of frequent Santo co-star and screenwriter Fernando Oses. Here Oses portrays a thuggish, muscle-necked vampire with an overbite who is just as likely to down his victim with a piledriver than bite them on the neck. Oses was always one of Santo’s best screen opponents, and here the fights are especially frenetic and brutal. Plus we’re given the hilarious spectacle of Baron Brakola repeatedly and effortlessly thrashing Santo’s fruity ancestor the Caballero Enmascarado de Plata (here played, for some reason, by someone other than Santo). For some reason, this is the only entry on this list that has yet to be released on DVD.

10. La Venganza de las Mujeres Vampiro (1970)
(aka Vengeance of the Vampire Women)
Though not actually a sequel to Santo contra las Mujeres Vampiro, this is still one of the most effective of Santo’s seventies films in terms of old fashioned monster movie atmosphere, with great, over-the-top villain performances by Gina Romand and Victor Junco. It also has one of my very favorite scenes that involves Santo sleeping in bed with his mask on.

Next up, some Santo films that you’ll definitely want to avoid. In fact, just to be safe, I would recommend avoiding any Santo film not on the above list until I find time to post. You’ll thank me later.

Santo's Best 10 Part I

1 comment:

Lawrence said...

Santo vs. Frankenstein is in a four box set. I got a few months before you made this post. I bought the set for research on my own Santo movie I made.