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Santo: El Enmascarado De Plata - Santo: El Enmascarado De Plata( Blu Ray set) [VCI Entertainment - 2022]

From the folks at VCI Entertainment here's Santo: El Enmascarado De Plata- a four Blu Ray boxset, bringing together eight films from Mexican wrestler, superhero, and cultural icon Santo. The films featured date from between the early 1960s and the early 1970s- and they find the masked hero facing all manner of supernatural and horror characters/entities. All of the films being high with action, thrills, fighting, campiness, and 60’s-to-70 kitsch vibes.


This set features great scans of all eight films, with each of them having an English dub- which is good, if at points unintentional amusing with some of the smaller part dubbing. Each film features a short few minutes introduction by film historian/Mexican cinema expert Dr David Witt - with some great facts, info, and observations in each.

Over the set we have two featurettes- on disc one we have an on-screen interview with Rene Cardona III (18.31)- the Cardona family had a few connections with Santo, including directing nine of his films. On disc two we have The History of Santo(35.31)- and this finds Dr David Witt talking about the masked wrestler- he starts off explaining how/ why he became popular/ gives a good bio. Moving on he talks about the popularity of Santo films outside of Mexico. After this, he discusses the connection between Santo and the Cardona family, and lastly, he talks about the connection between Santo & Blue Demon- as the pair did seven films together. The set features an eight-page inlay booklet, with writing by Dr David Witt. With the release topped off with a card slip.
On disc number one we have the following two films Santo in The Wax Museum and Santo in the Treasure of Dracula. So first up we have 1963’s Santo In The Wax Museum (aka Santo en el museo de cera, Samson in the Wax Museum)- this was filmed in black & white, and was co-directed Alfonso Corona Blake & Manuel San Fernando. 
The film kicks off with a tour of the wax Museum- where its owner the gangly, undertaker like, though seemingly charming Dr. Karol (Claudio Brook) first shows the guests wax figures of Stewart Granger & Gandhi. Moving down the stairs into the main cave catacomb-like interior of the museum- here we find figures like Frankenstein’s monster, The Phantom of the Opera, The Wolf Man, and Dr Hyde. With the guests is Susana (Roxana Bellini) who wants to take pictures of the figures for the newspaper she works for- she pays a few more visits to the museum, at night-time with the assistance of Dr Karlor- she suddenly disappears, along with a few more women been snatched off the street. This is when the police get involved, bringing in of course wrestler and part-time crime fighter Santo, or as he’s known in the English language dub Samson.

As things unfold we find out Dr Karlo had been a prisoner of the Nazis during the war, and this has rather unhinged him- so now with his henchman he plans to build an army of half-human/ half-beast creatures, covering those he snatches in wax- then somehow converting them into monsters, who during the day stand as wax statutes, then at night under the Dr control to do his diabolical requests.

What we have here is really mad Doc horror, blended in with crime flighting wrestling action- it’s an entertaining romp of a film, but maybe not as campy and ridiculous as some of the Santo cycle. The film clocks in at the hour and a half mark, and largely flows in an even/eventful way- though, of course, we do get sudden breaks in the plot/story for Santo to step into the ring and fight.
The second film on disc one is Santo in the Treasure of Dracula (aka Santo en El Tesoro de Dracula), and it was filmed in both black and white, colour, and a colour adult version- we are presented here with the second of these. It was directed by Havana born René Cardona.

For this film Santo has invented a time machine, and he decides to send back one of his female friends to the past. It’s not the greatest of time machines, as they don’t know where/ when in time it sends its traveller- but lucky they have a TV screen that lets those in the present watch what’s going on. They find out soon enough they’ve sent her back to the 1800s, and it turns out that the Count is stalking ‘n’ sucking- as well as building an army of women. Blended in we have a hidden treasure, quirky and bumbling sidekicks, and black hooded villains
The film is a highly camp mix of Sci-fi & gothic horror, with of course masked wrestling-come- bulky superhero action mixed in. For those interested in seeing the adult version of this film, it got released on VCI last year- and adds in a fair bit of leering female nudity to the campy mix.
Moving onto disc two- and first, up we have Santo vs. the Riders of Terror( aka Santo contra los jinetes del terror). This is from the year 1970, and was once again directed by René Cardona.

The film is a wholly period set western- and is set in/and around a small Mexican town. It kicks off with a group of six leppers escaping from a colony on the outskirts of town. They start breaking into houses around the town, with initially the lepers, who have stuck on pizza like face make-up, and bulbous boil covered hands, being presented somewhat like the classic lumbering Zombie. 
The town starts panicking, with some of the folk threatening to overthrow the sheriff. Santo doesn’t appear until twenty minutes into the film, which to this point feels very much like a cheapy western, with vague horror tropes. When we first see Santo- in a thick blue shirt, tight silver leggings, and sprayed silver boots- he’s wrestling in what looks like a then present-day ring, and when he wins, he gives his sack of cash reward to a group of holy sisters. Next, he of course sets off to the been attacked by lepper town- he’s gladly welcomed, and he gets about saving the day.

Along the way, a gang of nasty robbers start using the leppers, for stealing from the town. We get a fairly tense near unmasking of Santo, some bursting squib gunplay, and of course a few fights with Santo later on. In time the lepers are painted in a better/ more understanding manner – and we even get a doomed romance subplot weaved in. On the whole Santo vs. the Riders of Terror is an entertaining enough blend of western, Santo saves the day action, and light horror tropes.

The second film on disc two is Santo in the Vengeance of the Mummy(aka Santo en la venganza de la momia)- this is from the year 1971, and once again finds René Cardona is in the director's seat. This film is best described as a light horror touched jungle adventure- with Santo and a group of scientists/archaeologists searching for the tomb of a mummified Aztec warrior.

It kicks off with a ten-minute tag team wrestling match, with Santo & red masked buddy going against an Italian two-piece. The match itself is dynamically filmed, with the fighter's costumes colours really popping- though sadly we do cut back & forth between jarringly grainy stock footage of the crowd. 

After the match we head to a lab, where the adventuring team is introduced- the main strand out figure, aside from our mask friend, is a bearded and playful kookie doctor who adds some bumbling & silly humour to the film. Next, the group make their into the jungle, with Santo fighting with a jaguar- fairly soon they come across a village where they chat to a glum and moustache Mexican old man who is a guide( oddly he’s dubbed by Texan)- sat next to him is a small boy, which we found out from Dr. David Wilt introduction is the youngest of Santo’s children- who went onto wrestling himself when he grew up.
Next, the group set out to look for the tomb, and fairly soon they find it, uncovering the mummified body of the warrior- and we get a flashback to how & why his life ended. As the group are in awe of their discovery, up pops the old man from the village saying that everyone is cursed, and that he’ll be the first to die- and guess what he is, as while slumbering at night he’s strangled by the mummy. In time the group are being killed off one by one- largely shot by the bow and arrow carrying mummified warrior. The whole thing roles by entertaining enough, with of course along the way stopping off for a few Santo fights- I won’t spoil what is really going on, but I guess it’s fairly predictable. The film is finished off with another ten minutes of an in-ring wrestling match- which sees Santo’s young son cheering on his father from the audience. In finishing another worthy Santo film, blending jungle adventure, light horror, and of course Santo saving the day.
Over on disc three, we have another two films- the first of these is Santo vs. Frankenstein's Daughter. This is from 1972, and is a blend of mad doctor horror and lumbering man-made monster mayhem. It was directed by Mexico City-born Miguel M. Delgado- who in total had an impressive one hundred and forty feature credits to his name- these went from crime comedy The Unknown Policeman(1941), Newspaper boy in the afterlife fantasy comedy One Day With The Devil(1945), bumbling thriller Mr Photographer (1953), stage magician horror Mysteries of Black Magic(1958), Western The Cat(1961), and few other Santo films.

The film kicks off in the under graveyard lab of blond-haired Dr. Freda Frankenstein(Gina Romand) who is the daughter of the original Victor Frankenstein. We find out she's invented an anti-ageing injection- she gives this to herself and her collection of henchmen- she seems in her 30s, though apparently is over a hundred. Each time she uses the drug, it seems to last less and she ages faster….so she hatches a plan to get hold of Santo and drain his blood.
Next, we have a ring fight between Santo and another fighter, and there’s a great crude handheld look to the filming, added to this the fighting is a bit nastier- as at one-point other wrestler puts on knuckle dusters, and starts at the silver masked man’s face. Watching the fight on TV, at home on her bed is red-haired Norma( Anel)- who is Santo's girlfriend, and in time she gets kidnapped by Freda’s henchmen- taken back to her lair, where she has also created two (wo)man made monsters- there’s an ape-man blend( who looks very like the monster from Night Of the Blood Apes), and a bulky / stitched head man-monster, who looks rather like her father’s original monster.
As things unfold Santo and Norma’s sister Elsa( Sonia Fuentes) head out in the foggy night to find the hidden lab- and what unfolds is a great blend of campy mad doctor fare, lightly brooding gothic horror action, and of course, more than a few wrestling fights- and some of these get quite nasty again, at one point Sanato grabs a chain and starts punching & blooding his prey, and later on, someone gets impaled on a metal cross in the graveyard above the lab. Also worth a mention is the soundtrack, which has quite a bit of electronic elements to it- going between a blend of cascading pluses and more brooding undercarriage, and more urgent bleeping & plopping soundtracking. On the whole Santo vs. Frankenstein's Daughter is another very worthy/ entertaining Santo film, and I really enjoy the nastier edges here.

The second film on disc three is Santo and Blue Demon vs. Dracula and the Wolf Man(aka Santo y Blue Demon vs Dracula y el Hombre Lobo). This is from the year 1973, and I guess is best described as monster horror meets Santo action, with some neat gothic edges appearing later. It was directed by Mexico City-born Miguel M. Delgado, who helmed the previous film in the set Santo vs. Frankenstein's Daughter.
The film kicks off with a wrestling match, and going from the intro we find out all of the matches were studio filmed- with recorded crowd sound, and a set blue backdrop. We get into the story fairly soon- as we see Santo going to visit a local prof, who is scared for his safety after reading an ancient text that details his ancestors killing count Dracula and his wolfman buddy. Santo agrees to help, bringing in to help fellow masked wrestler Blue Demon (Alejandro Moreno). Sadly, soon after this agreement the prof is snatched, and taken to the underground cavern where the stone tombs of the Dracula and the wolfman are- he’s strung above the tomb, his throat slit- and left to drip into each tomb. Fairly soon Dracula( Aldo Monti) and the wolfman Rufus Rex( Agustín Martínez Solares)- the count is fairly typical in his presentation, with slick back hair, sideburns and a cap. Rufus is a twenty-something man with piercing eyes- he spends most of the film in human form, either dressed in a series of 70’s polo necks or bright yellow shiny shirts- so very 70’s attire.
After the wrestling match, the film takes off at a good enough and interesting pace, though it does start to lull around the midpoint- with not a lot going on- with rather predictable/ tiresome retreads of the count and his people trying to hypnotise folk in the prof house, and Santo and the Blue Devil playing a rather dull game of chess. Thankfully in its last quarter, things do pick-up, as we head for the counts house and underground cave- here we find eerier dressed in red net fabric female vampires with their faces covered, a band of wolfmen henchmen, and a stake pit in the middle of the cave. In the house, we get a nice blend of creepy gothic horror atmosphere, monsters vs Santo & the Blue Demon fights, and some quite tense will the good guys win or not action. 

I certainly enjoy the mix of monster, gothic and wrestling action in Santo and Blue Demon vs. Dracula and the Wolf Man- and when it’s on point, it is most entertaining- it’s just a pity about the lull midway. 
The first film on the fourth and final disc is Santo and Blue Demon vs. Dr. Frankenstein( aka Santo y Blue Demon contra el doctor Frankenstein). This appeared in the year 1974, and was once more directed by Mexico City-born Miguel M. Delgado- who had helmed the previous two films on the boxset.

This film is a blend of mad doctor horror, rather noir-like villain caper, and of course wrestling action. The film focuses on Dr Ivinig Frankenstein (Jorge Russek) the bearded, fairly balky, and cigar-chewing grandson of the original Dr Frankenstein. Ivinig is one hundred and fifty years old, but managers to stay looking in his mid-forties due to a serum.
His wife died some eighty years ago- and he’s keeping her persevered on ice. Recently he’s been kidnapping two women at a time from the nearby city, taking them back to his large silver corridor lab complex- so he can test out brain transplanting, which he hopes to do with his wife. So far he’s not had any success- with each of the women dying, though (somehow) they are brought back to life, with the doc controlling them. And in a wonderfully eerier early scene, we two blood head bandaged women, making the way through the fog-bound nighttime city to kill their relatives.
Unlike the other films, Santo doesn’t appear until about fourteen minutes into the film- and when we first see him he’s doing a tag wrestling match with Blue Demon- which is seemingly sped up slightly, like all of the fights in this film. The Dr decides he needs Santo's brain- so he kidnaps bacteriologist Alicia (Sasha Montenegro)- who is the daughter of the man who trained both Santo and the Blue Demon, and is also (possible) Santo’s girlfriend.

The Doctors one and only success with brain transplant is Golem- a giant, muscular, and mean-looking African man- who is radio-controlled by the Dr- he is joined by a selection of noir-like henchmen.

Tonally the film is rather uneven- shifting between the camp, fairly eerier, bumbling and unintentionally comic, and hammily dramatic- this is enhanced by the score, which often suddenly swings between creepy, jazzy mellow-ness, and busily zany. On the whole, I like elements of the film, but as a complete package it feels rather frustrating- and Santo seems to lack the presence he had in the early films on the set- some of this is down to of course the Blue Demon, but you do feel that the fighter/ actor is not put his all in here.
Lastly on the set, we have Santo & Mantequilla in the Vengeance of La Llorona( aka The Revenge of the Crying Woman, The Vengeance of the Crying Woman) is from 1974. And this is an entertaining and campily ghoulish end to the set- it’s a blend of Scooby-Doo like horror, buddy movie and chasing treasure camper. The film was directed by Mexico City-born Miguel M. Delgado, who helmed the last three films in the box.

As the lengthy/ full title of the film suggests Santo teams up with José Mantequilla Nápoles- a Cuban-born Mexican professional boxer and world welterweight champion. He and the silver masked man make for an entertaining, at points amusing duo- Nápoles is keen to see ghosts, and Santo is not, and there’s nice playful banter between the two. 
Plot-wise Santo is asked by a local prof to help him get into the cave grave of a three-hundred-year-old mum- who wears a medallion, which has a map on its back showing where a huge treasure of gold doubloons is located. Initially, the masked man refuses to help, but the prof says he can give all the treasure to a local children’s home. So, he calls in the help of his boxing buddy José to help him, but unfortunately, there’s a gang of shady criminals wanting the treasure too. The horror twist here is that the mummy is no other than La Llorona- aka the crying woman, and she starts tracking down/ trying to snuff out folks.
The films a great romp- nicely shifting between campy horror, bumbling criminal action, and of course both wrestling and boxing matches. We get a few neat out of the ring fights- one play one between Santo and José, the pair battling bad guys in an urban location and a cobwebbed house. 
When the mummy/ La Llorona appears it’s in mist, her arms outreached, and moaning- she has a simple but effective messy grey wig & badly wrinkled face, with one eyeball subtly hanging- and is a great camp horror character, that could easily have appeared in a Scooby-Doo episode. All in all a great end to the set, and one of the great Santo films.
In finishing Santo: El Enmascarado De Plata is a wonderful collection- with great bright and buoyant prints for each of the films, and a good enough selection of interesting/ worthy extras. I’d say this set will appeal to anyone who enjoys campy/ cheesy action/ superhero films and/ or 60’s/ 70’s kitsch horror or sci-fi fare. In all Santo made over fifty films, so let us hope there are more Santo releases in the pipelines from VCI Entertainment.

Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5

Roger Batty
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