Rodolfo Guzman Huerta (1917-1984), better known as El Santo, is probably the most famous Mexican wrestler of all time. He's been called one of the greatest legends in Mexican sport and the man who popularised wrestling in that country, just like Rikidozan did in Japan and Hulk Hogan in America. His wrestling career spanned nearly five decades, he became a comic book hero and he also did a bunch of movies, which is where we come in. To give you an idea of the kind of thing we're talking about here, the villains he fought on-screen include the Diabolical Brain, the Vampire Women, the Ghost of the Strangler and Satanic Power.
I don't speak Spanish, but today I watched a Mexican wrestling movie. Its title translates as "Santo in The Bermuda Mystery" and it also stars Blue Demon & Mil Mascaras, which means you've got three Mexican wrestling legends for the price of one. There were no subtitles, so I've had to look up the plot on the internet. Here's what happens in this film:
1. A mirrored projector pops up out of the sea and makes an aeroplane disappear, then calls down a violent storm of lightning and torrential rain. After that a fisherman catches a silver wrestler's mask, which I realised later belonged to Santos and might perhaps be an indication that he's dead and that the rest of the film is one big flashback. Or maybe not. I'm speculating there.
2. There's some Mexican wrestling. This has nothing to do with the plot, of course. It's as if they changed the channel to a sport broadcast, complete with a ring, an audience and a referee. This lasts quite a long time and it might be easier to enjoy this bit if you're a fan of wrestling. You've got Santos, Blue Demon and Mil Mascaras wearing masks and fighting simultaneous opponents. Apparently they always wear masks, even when off-duty. That's their thing.
3. Girls in bikinis.
4. The mirrored projector makes more bad weather and our heroes have to save the fisherman we saw finding Santos's silver mask, which might be ironic. The fisherman appears to have "ALWAYS ANT STAND" written on the side of his boat, but I think some letters had been rubbed out and I probably wasn't reading it correctly. This is a good scene because the fisherman has fallen in the water and you don't know who'll reach him first, the wrestlers or a shark. I was surprised when the shark turned up because I hadn't been expecting something this cool, but probably not as much as the shark was when it got torn to bits by three Mexican wrestlers with their bare hands. You don't see this because it would require a budget and special effects, but you do see a spreading pool of blood next to the fisherman as the wrestlers swim up and help him away.
5. Men in hotel rooms are exchanging money, two of whom are foreigners because they're wearing Mongol hats. In a clever twist, though, they're not evil. Apparently they're here to recruit the wrestlers to protect their princess, who's travelling incognito but has assassins on her trail. I got most of that from the internet, but I did wonder at the time if I'd heard someone say "Princess Oveda" or whether I'd imagined it.
6. NO NUDITY. This is a matter of sufficiently grave concern that I should be mentioning it in every other sentence. No, really. This film needed nudity.
7. Three men try to beat up a wrestler, who throws them all in the sea and yet manages to lose anyway. They're in league with an evil girl who pretends to rescue our hero in order to drug him and learn his secrets, but unfortunately it all gets said in Spanish. Then she kisses him.
8. Two men in silver suits briefly teleport into the hotel room. That's literal "beam me up, Scotty" teleportation, by the way. Imagine my surprise.
9. The wrestlers go to the gym, where some men start a fight and are getting the shit kicked out of them when the aliens kidnap one of the girls. Mysteriously they don't escape by teleportation but instead by car and boat, which allows the wrestlers to follow in a relaxed (i.e. cheap) chase sequence until the aliens use their mirrored projector and teleport away after all. Judging by her acting, the kidnapped girl wants to go to the toilet. There's an assassination attempt on the princess and it becomes even less clear who the girls are working for, but there's a scene where kidnapped bikini girl stands in a fountain and calls an alien "papa". Girls get murdered with knives, incomprehensible shit happens and then men run into a hotel room and shoot the four men who aren't Mexican wrestlers before grabbing the girls and running out again. The wrestlers foil this attempted kidnapping. An old man with a moustache attacks the princess with a cut-throat razor, but she defends herself with martial arts and there's a nuclear explosion.
As you can see, this is a masterpiece of cinema.
Apparently this makes more sense if you understand Spanish, but not by very much. The wrestlers supposedly get taken as prisoners to Atlantis and the apocalypse arrives.
To be serious for a moment, the surprising thing about this film is how drab it is. You'd think anything matching the above synopsis would be madder than anything else in the world, but apparently it's comparatively sane compared with other Mexican wrestler movies and it's further handicapped by a shooting style that makes Roger Corman look like Stanley Kubrick. It didn't seem particularly crazed at the time. Okay, the teleporting aliens are a bonkers idea, but the film seems unaware of its own ridiculousness. It's never trying to be funny. Instead it feels like an amateur movie in which no one has any talent but they're still honestly trying to tell this story and they either haven't realised or don't care that it makes no sense.
The masked wrestlers are less entertaining than you'd expect, too. They don't really have much personality. The masks probably don't help with that, but even there you could do more.. Put them in capes or something. Am I misremembering, or did the original Superman costume come from the fact that it was basically a 1930s wrestler's outfit? That's when El Santo started his career, you know. These are basically Mexican superheroes, but there's nothing flamboyant about them when they're not having fist fights with people who've just run on-screen for exactly that purpose. They're just guys, really. They wear masks, but that's about it. They sit around by the pool, chat with girls and take on missions to protect karate-kicking princesses.
I did get a couple of unintended laughs out of them, though. There's one shot where they're climbing out of the boat and I really hope Mil Mascaras was sucking in his belly and puffing out his chest. He looks deformed. Then there's the bit where one of them gets jumped by three thugs while walking along the pier with some groceries. The way he walks, you'd swear he was one of the Village People. However we shouldn't get too carried away with homosexual innuendo, because El Santo's many achievements included having ten children with his wife Maria de los Angeles Rodriguez Montano.
To be honest, I found this film less entertaining than I thought it should have been. It's utter nonsense, but that's not my problem with it. There's nothing like good trash, but unfortunately this is is only mediocre trash. (Warning: it's possible that the aliens weren't meant to be aliens, but merely Von Daniken-esque Atlanteans.) However I have high hopes for the other Mexican wrestler film on my list
, which I seem to remember stars Dracula, the Wolfman, Frankenstein and She-Monster. I don't think that's her real name, but I took a quick look at the disc and she's definitely a she-monster. That should be worth 85 minutes of anybody's time!