Santo & Blue Demon
Mexico / 1973, 1974
Directed by Miguel M. Delgado
Starring
El Santo, Blue Demon
Carlos Suárez, Aldo Monti
Agustín Martínez Solares, Wally Baron
Color / Not Rated
VS. DRACULA & THE WOLF MAN: 90 Min.
VS. DR. FRANKENSTEIN: 96 Min.
Format: DVD / R0 - NTSC
Rise Above Entertainment
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Review by
B. Lindsey
Vs. Dracula & the Wolf Man
   
6
    6  
Vs. Dr. Frankenstein
   
6
    5  
10 = Highest
Rating
 
Mexico's wrestling superhero El Santo returns to do battle with the forces of evil in two new DVD releases from Rise Above Entertainment, this time teamed with fellow grappler Blue Demon. Santo y Blue Demon Contra Dracula y el Hombre Lobo ("Santo & Blue Demon vs. Dracula & the Wolf Man") and Santo y Blue Demon Contra Dr. Frankenstein ("Santo & Blue Demon vs. Dr. Frankenstein") certainly represent a step up in quality from the Santo discs issued by the now defunct Beverly Wilshire Filmworks label a few years back, though they can't match VCI's terrific edition of Santo Contra la Invasion de los Marcianos ("Santo vs. the Martian Invasion") from 2002. While Rise Above's DVDs may not contain pristine transfers and extensive extras any self-respecting Santo fan will want to snap 'em up pronto. The BWF/VCI discs were of black and white Santo flicks from the '60s; it's a real treat to finally see The Man In The Silver Mask swing into action in living color garish '70s fashions and all. And this time Blue Demon's got his back.
    In 1973's Santo & Blue Demon vs. Dracula & the Wolf Man Santo is asked by his buxom girlfriend Lina — he's actually got a love life now — to meet with her uncle, the elderly Prof. Cristaldi. The old man is deeply worried about the safety of his widowed daughter Laura, his grandchild, and Lina. He believes that a dark force threatens their lives, none other than the Lord of the Undead, Count Dracula. 400 years earlier the professor's ancestor, a powerful wizard, slew both Dracula and the vampire's servant, the Wolf Man, using a holy weapon called the Dagger of Boidros. Before turning to dust the Count swore vengeance against the Cristaldi family, vowing to someday return and destroy the wizard's descendants. The professor fears that the time of Dracula's revenge is at hand. Eschewing his own safety, Cristaldi secures Santo's promise that the masked hero will protect his loved ones. Aiding El Santo is his good friend and occasional wrestling partner Blue Demon, a powerful, highly skilled luchadore in his own right. But almost immediately after they accept the mission Prof. Cristaldi disappears without a trace. Has Dracula already struck? The two wrestlers move in to the Cristaldi mansion to keep watch on the remaining family members.
    Count Dracula (Aldo Monti) has indeed risen from the grave, along with his chief henchman the Wolf Man (Agustín Martínez Solares). Cribbing the resurrection scene from Dracula: Prince of Darkness, an evil hunchback named Eric (Wally Barron, sporting a ludicrous fake beard) kidnaps Prof. Cristaldi and suspends the old geezer upside down over the two monsters' coffins, cutting his throat. Once restored by the dripping blood Drac wastes no time getting into the revenge groove. He plans to wipe out the remaining Cristaldi descendants before conquering the world with an army of vampires and werewolves. Our tag-team of masked crimefighters will have something to say about the matter, however.
    As Santo & Blue Demon vs. Dr. Frankenstein opens, Mexico City is in a panic over a series of bizarre murders. Women are being kidnapped and given brain transplants, only to be later found dead... after having strangled their loved ones! The evil genius behind it all is the cigar smoking, 113-year old Dr. Irving Frankenstein, grandson of the original monster maker. Keeping himself youthful by means of a secret formula, he labors to perfect a brain transplant technique to revive his long-dead wife, kept frozen for the past 80 years. The kidnap victims serve as guinea pigs for these nefarious experiments. (Instead of simply disposing of the victims afterwards, he turns them into short-lived zombies in order to terrorize the populace and baffle the authorities — just for kicks!) Not content with merely restoring his deceased spouse, Dr. Frankenstein also plans to create a race of super-powerful zombies with which to take over the world. Thus he covets the body of El Santo, renowned for his athletic prowess and agility. To get Santo on the operating table he'll first have to lure him to his secret lab. Frankenstein orders his thugs to kidnap Alicia (Sasha Montenegro), the wrestling idol's gal pal, as bait. And the evil doc has a trump card to play should Santo attempt to foil his scheme: an electronically-controlled zombie named Golem, made from the body of a South African giant, who possesses the strength of 20 men. Not even the formidable duo of Santo and Blue Demon can hope to prevail against such a monster...
    Both films are incredibly ridiculous and a great deal of fun. As to be expected with Santo movies, it's the straight-faced earnestness with which the inherently silly material is treated that generates the biggest laughs. Production values seem cheaper in these color productions than in the black and white Santo flicks but this only accentuates the cheesy charm. (Dracula's cave is more brightly lit than some supermarkets I've been in.) Everything one could want in a Santo adventure is here: the goofy dialog, scenery chewing villains with ludicrous plots for world domination, winsome señoritas in need of rescuing, wrestling matches that have nothing to do with the plot. Both Dracula and Dr. Frankenstein naturally need a gang of criminals to do their bidding (in addition to the monsters at their command), so you can expect some major fight scenes when Santo and Blue Demon have to open up a can of whoop-ass on 'em. During these big brawls, usually lasting 3 or 4 minutes, director Miguel Delgado is mostly content to simply plant the camera and let the boys go at it in this age of the MTV-style quick cut and Matrix-influenced, CGI-enhanced action scene it's rather refreshing to see a bunch of stuntmen knocking each other about with nothing more than a lot of enthusiasm. Santo and Blue Demon perform their own fight scenes, of course, relying on their patented wrestling moves when not delivering a lightning flurry of old fashioned knuckles to the face. While not exactly young men anymore these guys are still in terrific shape; Blue Demon is a great teammate for Santo and it's nice that he isn't relegated to mere sidekick status. And Santo is definitely more energetic in these two adventures than he was in Santo vs. the Martian Invasion, made nearly a decade earlier.
    One of the most entertaining aspects of these films is that Santo, along with his compadre Blue Demon, never takes off his mask — EVER. Their wrestling personas aren't alter-egos... These hombres wear their masks outside of the ring, even on double dates with their girlfriends! Unlike Batman, Daredevil, etc., no screen time is taken up with the hero's conflicted personality or dual identity. Why let something like characterization get in the way of a rollicking good time?

Thanks to Rise Above Entertainment we Americanos get to enjoy more of El Santo's adventures. The fullframe prints used for the DVDs aren't exactly in sterling condition, displaying numerous scratches, nicks and the occasional missing frame, but they're serviceable enough — definitely superior to Beverly Wilshire's now OOP editions of Samson vs. the Vampire Women and Samson in the Wax Museum. (Vs. Dr. Frankenstein looks to be in the worst shape of the two, with more noticeable print damage and color fluctuation.) The same goes for audio quality — not great but it gets the job done okay. The films are presented in the original Spanish with easy-to-read, removable English subtitles; the occasional grammatical errors and misspellings aren't too annoying. Both discs contain the same set of extras. A 2-minute compilation clip called The Best of Santo is culled from a variety of the masked hero's many films. Two trailers are included: Santo & Blue Demon vs. Dr. Frankenstein, a promo created by Rise Above expressly for these DVDs, and Santo: Infraterrestre, a recent film actually starring El Hijo de Santo (Son of Santo), which brings the character into the CGI age. You also get an image gallery and informative liner notes by Mexi-film scholar David Wilt. 6/24/03
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