Since reaching a stopping point in my whole Lucha Diaries project, I haven’t been keeping much of a watch on new DVD releases in the Mexican wrestling genre, and now I turn around to find that some lucha classics that were previously tough to find even on the gray market are now available as legit DVD releases. All of these are “no frills” releases, with adequate but unremarkable transfers, no extras to speak of and, worst of all, no English subtitles, but they are still an improvement over what’s been available so far. While I’m not in the business of providing consumer guidance, I’m eager to have you spend your hard earned money on crap just like I do, especially in these desperate financial times. So, come on! Be me!
The most exciting of these new discs is Zima Entertainment’s release of Santo’s 1963 horror-musical hybrid Santo vs. El Estrangulador, aka Santo vs. The Strangler, which before now you’d be lucky to find on a spectral nth generation VHS dub if you could find it at all. Coming on the heels of Santo’s classic gothic horrors Santo contra las Mujeres Vampiro and Santo en el Museo de Cera, El Estrangulador is not near those two’s level of awesomeness, but, with its tale of a Phantom of the Opera-like killer terrorizing a cast of variety show performers, it’s still a lot of fun, especially if you’re not averse to having your cheesy B movie thrills mixed in with an awful lot of musical numbers – which here include such chestnuts as “Fever” and “16 Tons” sung en espanol. Again, this is not a pristine transfer, but compared to what was available before, it’s Criterion quality.
Televisa has recently released a whole slew of 1960s lucha films as part of their “Coleccion Mexico en Pantalla” series, the most interesting of these being Blue Demon Destructor de Espias and Pasaporte a la Muerte, two Bond-influenced spy films in which Blue Demon co-starred with Carlos East and Maura Monte. These 1968 films have been elusive for collectors searching for them on DVD, and, while the gray market copies I eventually tracked down were of decent quality, the colors on the Televisa discs have a lot more pop to them – though, again, be forewarned that we’re not talking about any kind of loving restoration here. These are films that definitely could have benefited from subtitles, but seeing as they share the same colorful, pop art look as Blue’s earlier Blue Demon contra Cerebros Infernales, they make for diverting eye candy nonetheless. Probably the best feature of these particular releases is their packaging, which features the films’ original poster artwork on both the slipcases and the cases themselves.
Other releases in Televisa’s “Coleccion Mexico en Pantalla” series that I haven’t yet had a chance to check out include a couple of discs featuring our old pal Neutron. One of these spotlights the third Neutron film Neutron contra el Doctor Caronte, while another triple feature disc includes the first two films of the series (including the wonderful Neutron contra los Automatas de la Muerte, aka Neutron vs. The Death Robots) along with Neutron’s disappointing 1964 swan song Neutron contra los Asesinos del Karate. Yet another multi-film disc pairs Blue Demon’s previously available Blue Demon contra las Invasoras with El Enmascarado de Plata, a 1952 serial that was intended to be Santo’s film debut but instead became a one-shot vehicle for El Medico Asesino -- and that, most importantly, is one of the earliest examples of lucha cinema.
So far, I have only been able to find these discs on eBay, but I imagine that the eBay-averse could find them elsewhere with a little dedicated digging. Of course, all of these films mentioned are titles that will appeal more to collectors and completists – i.e. woefully misguided and desperately sad people like myself – than they will to the lucha cinema novice, for whom I’ve created a special series of posts all their own right over here.
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