Wednesday, February 20, 2013

From the Lucha Diaries Vault: Profanadores de Tumbas (Mexico, 1965)

A small room. A woman in a black leotard and fishnet tights go-go dances suggestively as two men play a classical piece on violin and piano. No audience is present. The woman smiles serenely toward us as she dances, the camera zooming in to focus on her hips as they undulate sensually, if incongruously, to the rather staid music. Suddenly the violin, under its own power, leaps out of the violinist’s arms, one of its strings dislodging and suddenly wrapping itself tightly around the violinist’s neck. As the man strangles, the violin dances of its own accord across the floor, then explodes. The woman screams. End of scene.

Now, if not for the go-go dancing, you might think that what I was describing above was a scene from some early surrealist film. And, in fact, with that and other scenes like it, the Santo film Profanadores de Tumbas could easily hold its own against the anarchic absurdity of classics like Bunuel and Dali’s Un Chien Andalou and L’Age D’or, to name just a couple. In addition to the killer violin, we’re presented with a scene in which a wig tries to strangle its owner and then continues to hop across the floor once it has been cast off. In another, a table lamp bleeds and drives its new owner, Santo, mad by flashing rapidly on and off and emitting weird sounds.

All of this lunacy is accompanied and complimented by the jagged editing, disjointed narrative flow and weird, minimalist sets that are typical of the four micro-budget features Santo did for producer Luis Enrique Vergara during the mid-sixties. Profanadores is the third of the these films, all of which were shot back-to-back within a period of roughly one year with mostly the same cast and crew (see also my reviews of Atacan las Brujas and El Hacha Diabolica and Baron Bracola.)

Profanadores de Tumbas is overall a bit slow and repetitive, but, like even the most mediocre of David Lynch’s movies, leaves you with some weird and unsettling images that stick with you long after the finer details of its plot have been forgotten. And to put an exclamation point on the proceedings, it boasts a climax that is absurdly violent, featuring bodies torn apart by machinery, thrown into boiling pits of acid and shoved face first into blast furnaces. Over the years I’ve catalogued Santo films both good and bad, but it’s very difficult to think of another that’s any weirder than this.

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