Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Champions of Justice (Los Campeones Justicieros)

                                                  Director: Federico Curiel   
  Starring: Blue Demon, Mil Mascaras, La Sombra Vengadora, El Medico Aesino,  Tinieblas

Mexico's Lucha Libre film series truly lives in it's own enclosed little universe. Film after film portrays real life wrestlers as out of ring crime fighters going against assorted vampires, werewolves, zombies, mad scientists, aliens, you name it. If there was an otherworldly menace, you can bet that at some point, a masked Mexican wrestler has combated it. There has never been a film genre quite like these no budget wonders. Try to imagine Ric Flair and/or Hulk Hogan stepping out of the ring (always in character) to lay the smackdown against an army of werewolves bent on destroying us all and using mostly wrestling holds to get the job done (hey, that sounds like a great idea actually!) and you have a vague idea of just how outre these films are.

I have seen dozens of these films and of all of them, this one "Champions of Justice", made in 1970 at the peak of these films' popularity is probably my favorite. It is the Luca Libre version of "The Superfriends" as it teams five of the most popular Masked Mexican Wrestlers as a superhero team. They are led by Blue Demon, Mil Mascaras (the Man of a Thousand Masks), La Sombra Vengadora, El Medico Aesino and Tinieblas. Cocpicuous by his absence is the most famous of all masked wrestlers, El Santo (The Man in the Silver Mask). Unfortunately, Santo was tied up in other projects and couldn't appear in this one. One man who wasn't shedding any tears over this was Blue Demon. Though he and Santo often appeared together on film as a team, offscreen they were fairly bitter rivals with Blue always relegated to second banana status. With Santo out of the way (so to speak), this finally gave Blue leadership status.

The story of this one concerns a mad scientist and his plot to kidnap our heroes' women (who are all in a beauty contest, of course). His way of accomplishing this is by taking his midget wrestler assisstants and atomically enhancing them into Super Midgets, each decked in a red outfit and cape and with a giant "M" on their chests... no, really! The rest of the film consists of a series of kidnappings, chases, battles, more chases, more battles, etc. All this set to a blaring (and wildly inappropriate) jazz soundtrack that only adds to the otherworldly cheeze of the whole spectacle. If you're a fan of this stuff (and honestly, who isn't?) this epic is all you can ask for.

Incredibly, this was followed by a pair of sequels ("Return of the Champions of Justice" and "Triumph of the Champions of Justice") that while not quite as entertaining, actually trump this film in sheer weirdness.

Here's a mid film fight sequence. If this clip doesn't convert you, then nothing will.

                                                     **** / ****

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