Santo & Blue Demon
vs. the Monsters
Mexico / 1969
Directed by Gilberto Martinez Solares
Starring
El Santo
Blue Demon
Carlos Ancira
Color / 82 Minutes / Not Rated
Format: DVD / R0 - NTSC
Alter Films-Hannover House
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Review by
Brian Lindsey
   
7
    6   10 = Highest Rating  
Santo & Blue Demon vs. the Monsters (Santo Y Blue Demon Contra Los Monstruos) is an astonishingly absurd motion picture. I know, I know... Not exactly a revelatory statement when it comes to these lucha libre flicks, now is it? If you're even a semi-regular visitor to Eccentric Cinema then you're well aware that absurdity is de rigueur for the cinematic adventures of El Santo, the Mexican wrestling superhero who never takes off his mask. ALL of the Santo films are silly to begin with, but this one my tenth easily takes the whole enchilada! I would've spent nearly the entire running time in stupefied, slack-jawed amazement had I not been laughing my ass off. Personally, I can't ask anything more from a film this inherently bad I was thoroughly entertained throughout. So while it may not be House of Frankenstein, y'all, to me this particular monster rally is actually a lot more fun. My leg is still sore from all that kneeslapping.
Santo really has his hands full in this one. When controversial scientist Dr. Bruno Halder dies and is interred, his devoted disciple Waldo (Rafael Muñoz) a bald, hunchbacked dwarf with bad teeth has the body stolen from the family crypt and carried to Halder's secret laboratory in a cave beneath a castle. Using his master's patented corpse-reviving machinery, Waldo brings him back to sentient life. Halder (Carlos Ancira, a dead ringer for Lenin) is evil, of course, bent on conquering the world with an army of the living dead he plans to create. But first he wants revenge against his brother Otto and niece Gloria (Hedy Blue), who publicly denounced his unethical experiments. To destroy them he'll have to get past crimefighting wrestler El Santo who just happens to be Gloria's boyfriend and Santo's best buddy, the equally formidable luchadore Blue Demon.
Halder knows his small cadre of green-faced, zombified henchmen (dead, reanimated criminals) are no match for Santo and Blue. So he finds and revives five deadly (i.e., super-cheesy) monsters to do his bidding: a werewolf, a vampire, a mummy, the Frankenstein Monster, and an amphibious one-eyed creature appropriately dubbed the Cyclops. These cats are some groovy ghoulies indeed! The Wolf Man is just an old bearded guy with fake furry ears, dimestore fangs and putty globbed on his nose. (A fairly energetic old guy, though, considering all the roughhousing he does.) El Vampiro is your basic Lugosi-inspired tux and cape-wearing bloodsucker, only he sports ridiculously goofy pointed rubber ears and attacks like a complete spaz. The rather pathetic mummy why not the Aztec Mummy, dammit! makes John Carradine look like Bruce Jenner... except when being noticeably doubled by a beefier stunt man in the fight scenes. The Frankenstein Monster is clearly modeled on the classic Universal creature, but is stylin' with his distinctive Fu Manchu 'stache and goatee. (So that's how you avoid copyright infringement...) The Cyclops costume is visibly falling apart and the animatronic head used for close-ups of the shrieking, tubercular-sounding beast is a laugh riot. There's also a weird little space alien-like creature with an exposed brain (or bleached perm, take your pick) which is never explained and just stands on the sidelines, doing nothing. (???) Adding to Halder's growing bestiary, Poor Man's Dracula bites two women and turns them into scantily-clad vampiresses. And as if he still didn't have enough aces up his sleeve (or perhaps because the monsters are really lame), our mad doctor creates an evil robotic clone of Blue Demon after the wrestler gets careless and is captured. Not knowing that the real Blue is held prisoner, Santo thinks his compadre has gone over to the dark side and is trying to kill him!
Basically, the film is nothing but a series of long, wild, fist-flailing melees between Santo, Blue Demon, the monsters and the evil Blue Demon clone, only occasionally interrupted by brief plot-advancing scenes. (And the occasional wrestling match. And a musical number lifted from another Mexican film made in the '50s.) The action is naturally more ridiculous than exciting but man, it's a total gas. Even now and then Santo squares off against individual monsters (the Cyclops, El Vampiro) or the clone, but most of the time our hero manfully battles the whole lot of them at once! Where else are you going to see a professional wrestler head-butting the Wolf Man, raining a flurry of karate blows on the Frankenstein Monster or flipping the Mummy over his shoulder with a judo throw all at the same time? (The mano a monstruo duel with the Cyclops is hysterical... Seeing that his Kirk-chops and roundhouses are coming to naught, Santo just says to hell with it, picks up a stick and starts pummeling the bejeezus out of the varmint.) It's noteworthy, however, that the film does include two Hollywood-style action stunts I haven't seen in a Santo adventure before: when Gloria leaps from her kidnappers' vehicle
* to that of her grappler boyfriend, who's managed to pull alongside during a car chase; and when El Santo, to escape the monsters, jumps off the roof of a tall building.
Santo & Blue Demon vs. the Monsters draws again and again from a virtually bottomless fondue pot of steaming, gooey cheese. Of course, this almost goes without saying when the flick in question is Mexican and pits a medico loco and assorted monstruos opposite masked wrestlers. But beyond that, the film has no real sense of space, time or continuity, either the pathetic day-for-night photography and chaotic editing are amusingly inept. Happily the script and actors treat every bit of this hooey with stone-faced seriousness, resulting in a film that is deliriously nay, gloriously INSANE. Any self-respecting Santo or Blue Demon fan (the kind who watches their films for the unintentional humor, that is) simply cannot afford to miss seeing this movie.
* The Frankenstein Monster is driving the getaway car. (Really!)

Produced for the Spanish-speaking Region 1 market, the Alter Films/Hannover House DVD is a fabulously colorful presentation the best I've ever seen for a Santo film. The comic book style artwork of the packaging and menu screens is really pretty cool. (They obviously "get" it.) The transfer used boasts the best A/V quality of any color Santo movie to yet make its way onto DVD. Despite some print damage (particularly during the opening credits) it's definitely superior to all the offerings so far from Rise Above Entertainment. It's important to note here that all the packaging text, menus and bonus features are in Spanish ONLY. Monolingual yanquis need not fret about the movie, however; optional English subtitles are provided which, a few syntax errors aside, get the job done nicely.
Even though I don't speak or read Spanish I was quite prepared to award this disc a solid "7" for a DVD rating. Nonetheless I had to knock a point off the score due to one extremely irritating aspect, one that to my mind is simply inexcusable. Rather than make the trailers for three other Mexican films available from a menu selection, the disc automatically plays them at startup. The viewer is unable to skip these promos or even fast-forward through them. Were they trailers for other lucha libre/horror flicks I wouldn't mind so much; unfortunately they're for mainstream films (a drama, comedy and noir). My advice is to start the DVD, then go do something else for awhile. 3/22/04
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