Monday, December 12, 2011

Santo Contra la Hija de Frankenstein (1972)

Santo and the Monsters Box Set, Vol. 1 (DVD)
It is not an easy task to explain to the average North-American raised on over-priced Hollywood cheese how great these movies are. Don't get me wrong I love Hollywood cheese (I just can't stand waiting in line to get processed food of any kind). That said, Santo, Blue Demon, Mil Mascaras are the three powerhouse icons of this misunderstood genre. It's misunderstood partly because it really isn't a genre, but a clever blending of genres. Only the likes of Quentin Tarantino would be bold enough to explore the novelty of combining genres several years later. It's had a huge payoff.

Mexican Masked Wrestler movies were influenced by Hollywood B-movies of the shlock sci-fi variety of the 1950's. Production values were low because many of these features were independent ventures. There were no Corporate Studios willing to fund such a strange mix. I am not a fan of Wrestling, especially the "WWF smackdown" stuff, but Mexican Lucha Libre (freestyle fighting) was fun to watch. It did not pretend to be real. The masks were clues that these were staged events. It was only a matter of course that fantastic movies would be the next step.
There is a bit of nostalgia tied to many of us who remember growing up with these films. They were made in the language of our Fathers. We could be Superheroes too. Superman was the first. And while I loved Superman for his universal appeal I once read that the Nazis reputedly said he was Jewish. Now don't get me wrong, but I also read that the creators of Superman were Jewish. I still love Superman, but he was supposed to be from Krypton, which rhymes with cryptic, which implies a hidden message. So much for universal appeal. Oddly enough we have come to identify ourselves with Men in masks fighting against impossible odds. That's a whole other sociological issue.
Above all these films are funny. Whether they are intentionally funny or not is a moot point. The reality is that making a movie about a Mexican masked wrestler battling Hollywood monsters is FUNNY. It's not high drama, it is "kitsch". For example: In "Santo & Blue Demon Vs the Monsters" (not in this collection) there is a carchase where the heroes are being pursued by the Monsters. What's so funny about that? The Frankenstein monster is driving! I immediately thought of the late comedian Phil Hartman doing his "Fire baad!" routine in Frankenstein makeup on Saturday Night Live.
These films are not only funny and exciting but pertinent to our sense of being in the world. Larga Vida a Santo, Blue Demon, Mil Mascaras y Huracan Ramirez Tambien!!

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