Monday, December 28, 2009

Santo vs The Mummies Of Guanajuato (1972)

Santo vs The Mummies Of Guanajuato

1972 Mexico colour

Fullscreen, in Spanish with English subtitles

aka Las Momias De Guanajuato

Director Federico Curiel Producer/Writer Rogelio Agrasánchez Sr

Cast Santo, Blue Demon, Mil Mascaras, Elsa Cárdenas, Juan Gallardo, Carlos Suárez, Federico Curiel (cameo)

By the early Seventies the masked wrestler or Luchador movie was already more than a decade old. The undisputed king, as he has been and will always be, was Santo the Man in the Silver Mask. But there were other masked wrestlers who had proved successful at the box office, particularly Santo's main rival Blue Demon, a thick-set gentleman in a blue mask who since 1964 had notched up an impressive filmography, either paired with the top-billed Santo or in solo outings such as Santo And The Infernal Spiders. Then there was the more gimmicky Mil Mascaras, the Man of a Thousand Masks, a relative newcomer to the business (ring debut in '65, first starring role in '66) whose schtick was to change masks between scenes. Between these three and other wrestling superstars - Neutron, Huracan Ramirez, the list is seemingly endless - the luchador genre ruled supreme on Mexican cinema screens throughout the Sixties.

Like any formula, however, it was destined to grow stale, and ticket sales were on the downhill slide. Pairing Santo and Blue Demon was a winning combination, so enterprising producers such as Rogelio Agrasanchez Sr paired up marquee wrestlers with lesser known names into powerhouse luchadore tag-teams: the Champeons of Justice trilogy featured a revolving stable of Blue Demon, Mil Mascaras, Tinieblas, Medico Asesino, Fantasma Blanca, Superzan and La Sombra Vengadora. Many of the Champions were already stars of their own series, or would invent their own franchise, sparking the Seventies' luchadore free-for-all: a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad rush across Mexico to an ever-dwindling pot of gold. And with the goofy factor cranked up to ten, the Champions of Justice series also highlights the rapid descent into the kind of ludicrous camp the films' predecessors only skirted with.

Which brings us to 1972's Santo vs The Mummies Of Guanajuato, signalling the start of Santo's final decade of films, his umpteenth pairing with Blue Demon, and his first as part of a triumvirate of wrestlers also starring Mil Mascaras. It begins with a busload of tourists ogling the remains of Gunarajuato's famous mummies, actual dried-out corpses propped up against the museum's walls for the world to see; their dwarf guide named Penguin (of course!) notices one of the shriveled, desiccated mummies move and, considering he's a tad fond of the bottle, no-one believes him. Even if it IS the start of the Guanajuato's wrestling season, which means the town is crawling with famous luchadores, and it IS the hundredth anniversary of the lead corpse's defeat in the wrestling ring (he is, or was, a seven foot two wrestler in red mask and togs called Satan) at the hands of Santo's descendent. Time for a quick wrestling flashback - cue one of Santo's two cameo appearances - and then it's on to business for Blue Demon and Mil Mascaras, who discover Satan has resurrected a veritable Army of Darkness to help avenge him. Santo just happens to be driving through Guanajuato to make a last-minute appearance, but Blue Demon and Mil Mascaras carry the film quite competently, even if there's a constant sense of one-upmanship. Feeling that the film's annoying kiddie element was somehow lacking, Blue Demon produces an adopted son Julio out of thin air; not top be outdone, Mil Mascaras trumps him with a suitcase full of masks AND a fiancee. Take that, you child-wielding FIEND!

The wrestling mummies of Guanajuato proved so popular that producer Agrasanchez gave them their own series - the non-Santo Robbery Of The Mummies... (Robo de las Momias de Guanajuato, 1972) and Castle Of The Mummies... (Castillo de las Momias de Guanajuato, 1973) followed in quick succession, along with several unofficial spinoffs. They're a sight to behold: rubber masks and a single coat of body paint, and in stark contrast to the peacock plumage of Santo and co. In the words of Satan, it's all about Revenge.... Revenge.... Revenge!" in the ultimate showdown between Good and Evil: The Saint versus Satan in Santo vs The Mummies Of Gunauarto. (Andrew Leavold)

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