Ever since Erik invited me to write for this blog, he has been bugging me to write about El Santo, the most famous Mexican lucha libre star. Now that I am, prepare to be underwhelmed. Maybe that is the point though, as El Santo made more than 50 movies from the late 50s to the early 80s that anyone would be hard pressed to actually consider "good."His acting skills were fairly atrocious, the plots of many of the movies are unintelligible, and nearly all of the movies feature long random dancing and music scenes just to fill time. Its not even clear that Santo used his own voice in any of his own movies (and sometimes even his own body!). Nevertheless, I love these movies for a number of maybe hard to explain reasons and I'm fairly close to having collected all of them. We also share the same birthday (September 23), so maybe there is some kind of special link between the two of us.
The reason for this particular post is that I finally got my hands on his first two movies from 1958, and watched them in the last couple days. In 1952, Santo, "el enmascarado de plata" (the Man in the Silver Mask) was asked to participate in a movie called El Enmascarado de Plata but refused, leading another wrestler, El Medico Asesino, to play his role. El Santo finally agreed to star in a pair of movies in 1958, "Santo contra Cerebro del Mal" (Santo Against the Evil Brain) and "Santo Contra Hombres Infernales" (Santo Against Infernal Men). (To read more complete synopses, go here).
Despite the alluring titles, these two movies are terrible and lack coherent plots. There is hardly any wrestling in these movies, and Santo is really a minor and unimpressive character who says maybe a combined total of 5 sentences in both movies. The only real reason to watch these movies is that they were filmed in Havana, Cuba in 1958. You get at least a glimpse of part of pre-Castro Cuba, and lots of shots of bars, casinos, yacht clubs, and night clubs. Cerebro del Mal is the better of the two movies, with at least one other wrestler named "el incógnito." Hombres Infernales recycles a number of scenes from the first movie, including one with an actor who plays a completely different character in each movie. Santo spends most of the time in Hombres Infernales jumping in and out of water, inexplicably, as if he lived in the sea, and its really unclear what he is even doing throughout the entire film.
Neither of these films are available with English subtitles, but if you are Spanish-challenged, you can read the synopses before watching them. Actually, don't read them, it doesn't really matter. There is so little relevant dialogue, and the stories so weak, you won't miss anything.
Hopefully, I'll feel motivated to continue writing about El Santo. I plan on expanding upon this initial post with a review of Heather Levi's new book, The World of Lucha Libre (which I haven't read yet), more movie reviews, and a discussion of the music of lucha libre movies.
For anyone interested in a quick biography of the man, go here.