Nov 5, 2013

Santo: Luchador, Vampire Hunter, and Domestic Partner

In Mexico,  lucha libre, or free-style wrestling,  is the national pastime, with roots going all the way back to Aztec rituals.  The wrestlers wear masks to hide their identities and give them cosmic significance.

The most famous of the luchadores, El Santo (Rodolpho Guzman Huerta, 1917-1984), became a movie icon.  He always wore a mask and a bulgeworthy wrestling singlet.  Wrestling exploits were interspliced with superheroic fights against evil, usually supernatural powers.

Between 1958 and 1982, Santo made over 80 films, fighting Dracula, Frankenstein, Zombies, lady vampires, Satanists, Baron Brakola, La Llorona (the famous "crying woman" of Mexican folklore), mad scientists, ghosts, aliens, Nazis, a killer who uses television, and resurrected Aztec demigods.

Sometimes he had the help of his ring opponents, El Blue Demonio (shouldn't that be El Demonio Azul?) and Mil Mascaras, or other sidekicks (here the comedian Capulina).

He sometimes had a girlfriend, Virginia, or rescued a scientist's daughter, or fought a sexy female adversary, but there were often gay subtexts as well.

Most of the movies are available with English subtitles. I recommend:

1. Santo v. The Martian Invasion (1967). Santo wrestles with Martian invaders who threaten to destroy the Earth unless everyone starts speaking the same language.

2. Operation 67 (1967). Santo becomes a James Bond-style secret agent out to thwart counterfeiters, paired up with bodybuilder Jorge Rivero (right).

3. The Treasure of Montezuma (1968). Secret agents Santo and Jorge Rivero battle thieves who want to steal the treasure of Montezuma, but only Santo has the magic ring that can translate ancient Aztec writing.

4. Santo and Blue Demon vs. Dracula and the Wolfman (1970): Not only the two wrestlers domestic partners, they have to fight a whole army of werewolves.

5. Santo and Blue Demon in Atlantis (1970).  Lost Atlantis, Nazis, a nuclear bomb, a drug that makes you evil.  Plus Santo keeps saving Blue Demon's life, and they walk off into the sunset together.

6. Santo and the Blue Demon in the Land of the Dead (1970). The Dynamic Duo square off against a witch with a grudge against Santo's ancestor.