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Enter Santo: The First Adventures of The - Enter Santo( Blu Ray Boxset) [Powerhouse - 2023]

Enter Santo: The First Adventures of The Silver Masked Man is a Blu-Ray boxset bringing together the first two big screen 1960s appearances from the infamous bad guy ‘n’ monster fighting Mexican masked wrestler Santo- who landed up appearing in fifty-two features between the early ’60s and early ’80s. The two-disc set appears on Powerhouse Films and features new 4K scans of both films, some neat extras, and an eighty-page book.

The first disc features Santo vs. the Evil Brain- this is from the year 1961 and was filmed in and around Havana Cuba. It was directed by Mexico City-born Joselito Rodríguez- who between the early 1940s and late 1970s had thirty-three feature-length credits to his name. These went confessional catholic drama El secreto del sacerdote (1941), Veteran wrestler focused crime action drama Huracán Ramírez (1953), El regreso del monstruo (1959) which apparently mixes horror, sci-fi and singing Mexican cowboys. And racial romantic drama Angelitos negros (1970).

The film opens with rather lengthy credits featuring shots of Havana, then suddenly after these- bang we’re into the action with little or no explanation- as we see silver masked wrestler/ Santo( El Enmascarado) walking down a city back alley to be attacked by a group goons who jump out of a car- they knock him out, and whizz him to their secret hideout-come big barrelled warehouse. Here in his secret lab we find the organization's kingpin Dr. Campos ( Joaquín Cordero) who is all sleek haired & bushy goateed. They tie down Santo, put a wheeled-in box above him & flick the switch, and from here on the wrestler is in control of the Dr & the goons- as they kidnap more folks, do a bank robbery, etc 

Added into the mix we have the moustached and glisten brill creamed haired Lt. Zambrano(Enrique Zambrano) who is trying to solve the crimes of the gang. And A black masked wrestler- who keeps dropping into the secret lab via a rope from above.

If you’ve seen the later/ more known Santo films- the masked wrestler 
personality is way more subdued here- and really he only has a few lines throughout the film. On the whole, the film felt more of the 1940s/ early 50's- as at points it almost comes off as a silent film, as the action/scenes are often played out with no dialogue, and very overloaded with a overtly dramatic and darting score.

On the whole Santo vs. the Evil Brain can be a little difficult to follow in places-with characters dropping in and out with little explanation of who they are. But as a lightly noir-edged crime action film, with lengthy wrestling fights and low-key evil Doctor tropes it’s entertaining enough. The film plays at the one hour and twelve-minute mark, and for the most part, it passes by entertaining enough- though bizarrely Santo is never named- and is just called the masked man.

 

On this first disc extras wise we get the following- Looking For El Santo(30.33) an archive doc from the 2000s which finds the granddaughter of Joselito Rodríguez going to visit Havan, and track down shooting locations- and quite surprisingly she finds a few, even sitting in the same seat her father did in a restaurant. Next, we get two (I’m presuming) new extras- first is Joaquín Cordero-League Of Gentlemen(11.39) which is a subtitled interview with actor Cordero who played the baddie Dr. Campos- he talks about his first meeting El Santo, his general impression of the masked man, and when they fraught in one of the film's scenes. Lastly, we have Mascára vs. mascara ( 32.42) which finds the Killer Film, el critico enmascarado (the Masked Critict) talking about the history of Mexican wrestling, El Santo & the made behind the mask, and the film to hand.

 

 

On disc number two we have Santo vs. Infernal Men( aka Santo contra hombres infernales)- this is also from 1961, helmed by Joselito Rodríguez, and shot in/around the same time as the first film Havana Cuba. The film opens with a man stumbling along through dusty and derelict buildings- he’s been chased by a gang of men who are popping shots at him, fairly soon after being shot he collapses on the nearby road. Then just as the men are trying to escape up rolls a convertible & outjumps the silver masked figure/ Santo, and we get a fight out between the gang & the masked one. In the meantime paramedic roll up, with the gunned down man still alive- as he’s been put in the back of an ambulance he starts a flashback which takes up most of the film. After the lengthy travelling through the city in an-ambulance-credits, we see our gunned-down man getting off a plane & taking a taxi to his hotel. Next, we get a five/six-minute snippet from the first film, with another man driving out to the countryside, meeting other men before having a fight- this is all sort of tied into the rest of the film, as are the other snippets from the first film that appear. The reason for this use of footage is basically down to the Mexican crew having to flee Havana, due to the country being invaded by Cuban exiles.

Anyway, the rest of the film largely focuses on the unnamed gunned-down man(Jorge Marx) as he tries to infiltrate a gang who spend a big part of their time hanging out on a sea-washed decking. When not sitting around the decking they pick up smuggled goods at sea, get in on-beach fights, and other shady things.

Santo is once again just called the silver mask man, and while he gets a few lines of dialogue- he’s largely silent. He briefly appears ever so often, and once again he pop-ups at the gangs decking hideout. We also have a love interest for the unnamed man- though it’s not really very clear how they met, and who exactly the blonde woman is.

Santo vs. Infernal Men is much more of a low-grade & cheap crime/ noir film, than a Santo film. Yes, it can be more than a little trying with the dropped-in chunks of the first film, overlong driving shots, and the uncertainty of who is who. But if you go with it, the films entertaining enough- in a cheap ‘n’ rough around the edges crime/ noir film, with fleeting appearance/ fighting from Santo.

Extra wise on the second disc we just get archive extras. And the main of this comes in the form of Perdida-this is a ninety-six-minute Spanish documentary from 2011. The subtitled film is directed by Viviana García Besné, granddaughter of Jorge García Besné and Mate Calderón. It finds here looking back at her family history and how it relates to both wider Mexican cinema and of course the Santo films. There’s an image gallery- featuring a great collection of rare photographs and promotional materials from the Calderón family vaults.

The finished release comes presented with an eighty-page booklet. This
features a new essay by Luciano Castillo, an archival newspaper article on Mexican wrestling, Christian Cymet on the history of the mask in Mexican wrestling, extracts from Carlos Monsiváis’ The Rituals of Chaos and Jimmy Pantera’s Los tigres del ring, an archival interview with Griselda Cruz, daughter of comic-book writer José G Cruz, Michael Donnelly on Perdida, an archival interview with Viviana García Besné and Alistair Tremps, and film credits.

 

Really how much you enjoy this set is down to what you are after- if you want a true Santo experience in all its OTT cheesiness, with loads of frighting & dialogue from the Silver-masked one- you won’t find that here. But if you looking to find out about the humble first steps of the character into film, and also have a generally interested in Mexican film this will be for you.

Rating: 3 out of 5Rating: 3 out of 5Rating: 3 out of 5Rating: 3 out of 5Rating: 3 out of 5

Roger Batty
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