Octubre-ween especial! Desayuno Segundo presenta un otro dobla funcion de Santo

I do not speak Spanish, so… not sure if the title of this post actually means anything. My apologies.

Octoberween is a time for monsters, and where there are monsters, there really ought to be monster-fighters. Though I have repeatedly said—and maintain—that Peter Cushing’s Van Helsing is the greater monster-fighter ever put to screen, I’d like to qualify that statement slightly. He’s the greatest fictional monster-fighter. The greatest real-life one? None other than luchador/philanthropist/folk hero/scientist/symbol-of-justice-for-the-common-man El Santo.

It’s been many years since I was first introduced to El Santo and his films, in which he plays himself and uses his wrestling prowess, mental fortitude, and general altruism to defeat an endless drove of evildoers. Today’s double feature pits our hero against two of the most dastardly ghouls ever to sully this good Earth: horror phenomenon Count Dracula and Mexican folk terror La Llorona! Danger abounds, spookiness awaits, good triumphs, synthesizers strain, and we celebrate another Octoberween in the best of ways.

Santo en El Tesoro de Drácula (1969)

The Plot: Mexican wrestler El Santo invents a time machine. When the time machine’s first test subject unintentionally incurs the wrath of Count Dracula, Santo leaps into action to take down the dreaded vampire and locate his secret treasure, so that he may redistribute it amongst Mexico’s needy.

Cinematográfica Calderón S.A. | They could basically be talking about any subject right now, but in this case she’s referencing the fact that El Santo is an expert on time travel.

It’s been nearly a decade since my first fortuitous encounter with masked legend El Santo, but it was just a few weeks ago that I first happened upon a plot synopsis for a movie that included the following phrases in the following order: “Mexican wrestler,” “time machine,” “Dracula’s treasure.” Oh boy. If ever you wanted to grab my attention, that’s probably the most foolproof of ways.

El Santo starred in well over 50 movies and I’ve seen a good handful of them. This is the first one that, honestly, I felt a little underwhelmed by. Maybe I set my sights too high with “Mexican wrestler”, “time machine”, and “Dracula’s treasure”. While the screenplay itself has a lot of unintentional gems—about as many as you’d expect from a movie where a vampire-fighting luchador is widely regarded as the world’s preeminent authority on time travel—it also made a few head-scratching blunders. The biggest of these, of course, and the most unforgivable, is the fact that El Santo himself never actually travels back through time. The first half an hour or so unfolds as a by-the-numbers Dracula fest as Santo twiddles his thumbs in the present day. Once his time traveler returns to the present, they set out to locate the vampire’s tomb and treasure, both of which are conveniently nearby. We’re a good 45 minutes into the movie before our first wrestling occurs. Call me old fashioned, but that’s too long to wait.

And then there’s El Santo’s sidekick. Santo typically has allies in these movies, often other pro wrestlers or boxers, etc. This time he’s got this dude:

Cinematográfica Calderón S.A. | Santo, maybe you should send this dude back in time. Just to see what happens.

The comic relief nerd who spends the whole movie wearing just the choicest necklace is such a weird direction to go in, but no one asked me. He is exactly as grating as you would expect.

There’s an alternate cut of this movie released for European audiences that I’ve seen billed as El Santo vs. Dracula: The Sexy Vampire. I’ll let you put two and two together. One can only speculate that the additional scenes are not tasteful. Santo was not involved with the additional scenes and was, as you might understand, disgusted that the studio would inject smut into an otherwise clean piece of family fun. He buried the film and destroyed all known copies. Naturally, some prints resurfaced about a decade ago. Those damn insatiable Europeans. I only bring this up now on the off chance that you, dear reader, are inspired to track down Dracula’s Treasure and happen upon this alternate print instead. Know that El Santo did not, and would never, endorse such content.

Santo en La venganza de la Llorona (1974)

The Plot: A wealthy man contacts esteemed archaeologist El Santo to face off against La Llorona—a vengeful phantom who’s plagued his family for generations. After a little cajoling, a little wrestling, and some quality time with young adoring fans, the masked crusader joins up with his buddy Mantequilla (the real-life Cuban-Mexican boxer playing himself) and gets to work.

This movie is some premium content. Dracula’s Treasure makes promises it can’t fulfill. La Llorona takes us back to the basics. We plug a new monster into an old formula in an almost Scooby-Doo way, and, well, as they say, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. There’s plenty of wrestling, Santo’s day clothes are tres groovy, musical director Gustavo C. Carrion holds nothing back—I have no criticisms.

Cinematográfica Calderón S.A. | This is some of the greatest costuming in cinematic history.

Everything about this movie just works from start to finish. I love the setup with Santo initially refusing to plunder treasure from a tomb for fear of dishonoring the dead. He’s a little conflicted when he’s told the treasure would be used exclusively to save impoverished children—do the philanthropic ends justify the disrespectful means? He isn’t totally convinced, though, until he’s told that doing so would also lift a satanic curse, thus freeing the spirit of the deceased whose tomb he’s desecrating (La Llorona murdered her own children, as the legend goes, so by using her treasure to save children, the heroes hope to free her). Basically, Santo’s efforts help literally everyone, including the dead. It’s really just so well built to ensure that El Santo is as righteous as he possibly can be, and I admire the hell out of that. This man would never make an alternate cut for European audiences.

I will also contend that pairing Santo up with another world-class sports personality is a better idea than pairing him with a whiny nerd wearing an enormous dollar sign on a green chain.

Cinematográfica Calderón S.A. | Also just some of the best subtitles.

The monster design on La Llorona is surprisingly effective and genuinely creepy. If I were a Mexican child in the mid-1970s, I’d be terrified of this specter, and heavily comforted by men like El Santo and Mantequilla vanquishing ne’er-do-wells. Not to put to much on these low-budget ’70s luchador films, but it got me thinking a bit about celebrity role models. Who today would set such a positive example for audiences young and old? From everything I’ve ever read about the man, “El Santo” is the most apt of monikers. Whether in the ring, on the screen, or just going about his daily business, El Santo always strived to do the right thing and inspire others to follow suit.

There are plenty of monsters about this Halloween. As fun as it is to dress up as a monster for the holiday, I think we need more real-life monster-fighters in the world.

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