Monday, October 1, 2012

From the Lucha Diaries Vaults: La Sombra del Murcielago (Mexico, 1966)

The below is just a small sampling of what can be found over at The Lucha Diaries, a grievously time wasting vortex of Mexican wrestling movie reviews and info, all coming to you courtesy of yours truly. Enjoy!


The Blue Demon vehicle La Sombra del Murcielago is, like many great monster films, a tragic love story. On one side of its star-crossed equation is The Bat, a hideously disfigured wrestler who lives in a torch lit cave with a trio of slow-witted minions. Like his namesake, he's a strange animal. For one, the mask he wears is almost uglier than the horribly scarred face it's meant to conceal. It looks like a bat's face with scabs on it. At the same time, he's not without vanity, as can be seen from the bejeweled cape he wears, which calls to mind no one so much as Liberace -- especially in those scene where he rapturously hammers away at a large pipe organ (just in case the Phantom of the Opera references weren't already clear enough for you).

Ubiquitous lucha film go-to guy and all around good sport Fernando Oses essays the role of The Bat, and it's quite a broad performance, constantly careening the short distance back and forth between tortured contortions, hallucinatory rants and megalomaniacal tantrums. I just got finished raving about Oses in Baron Brakola, but in my mind right now I'm handing him an imaginary lucha movie Oscar for this one.

At the receiving end of The Bat's affections is Marta Romano in the role of night club chanteuse "Marta". We get to see Marta perform several numbers, and you could be forgiven for thinking you were watching Lypsinka. There's just something about her appearance (enormous wig, eye lashes) and mannerisms (histrionic, femme without being feminine) that scream tranny. Sadly, Marta doesn't return The Bat's affections, which is a shame, because they're both the campest things within miles. You'd think they'd want to support each other through the coming career dry spell, since Pedro Almodovar wouldn't be making films for another 20 years.

As it is, The Bat has no choice but to kidnap Marta and throw her in his dungeon so he can force her to watch him in rigged wrestling matches with the captive luchadores that his minions have wrangled for him. It's kind of like going to Phil Spector's house, except instead of the wrestling, he'd just make you listen to "To Know Him is to Love Him" over and over again. Fortunately, Blue Demon just happens to drive by at a key moment -- in a car with a broken tail light, no less (oh, Vergara Productions! Couldn't you have just cut corners with some more stock footage and at least given Blue a decent car?) -- and joins with Marta's creepy boyfriend to effect her rescue.

All considered, this is an amusing entry, with some odd hocus-pocus -- an old witch, a Mandrake root with boobs whose significance I couldn't quite divine -- thrown in to provide some color. It's another one where Blue doesn't show up until pretty late in the proceedings, but with Oses and Romano ravenously inhaling the scenery as they are, his absence isn't felt too acutely.


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Todd said...

This changes everything.

Anonymous said...

dThis is a Lucha movie I often revisit. I love the mad organist segments, especially. As an organist myself, there's something goofy about his Hammond B-3 that has been decorated with a set of pipes on the top. The wrestling sequence toward the beginning (where the mad organist kicks his much larger henchman's butt) is a winner, too. Good times.

Todd said...

I didn't notice that about the organ. That's hilarious! Now I'll have to watch it again.