Sunday, March 27, 2011

Las Vampiras

                                                Director: Federico Curiel
                            Starring: Mil Mascaras, John Carradine, Maura Monti


I remember growing up as a kid in the 70s watching WWF wrestling on Saturdays. We're talking pre Hulkamania times when the champ was Bob Backlund and other characters included Superstar Billy Graham, Bruno Sammartino, Ken Petera, The Wild Samoans etc. One of the occasional stars that caught my eye was a Mexican Wrestler named Mil Mascaras, The Man of a Thousand Masks. True to his name, he wore a different mask with each ring appearance. At the time (being a mere youngin') I knew nothing about  Lucha Libre wrestlers so Mil (both in appearance and wrestling style) was both exotic and entertaining. I also  remember being told by a friend that Mil was a movie star in his home country...

Fast forward many years later and I finally got to see Mil Mascaras; movie star. And WHAT movies! As I mentioned in a previous blog, he along with his predecessors El Santo and Blue Demon have appeared in some of the wackiest, most bizarre flicks ever made. Las Vampiras, Mil's third film made in 1967 is considered his er, best and is certainly one of the most beloved of all Lucha adventures. And this one has a ringer of sorts in the form of John Carradine, playing 'The King of the Vampires" (I guess they weren't allowed to use the name Dracula). And oh boy, does he ever ham it up in the part.

In the film, Drac... I mean the King of Vampires finds himself caged by one of his lovely vampire brides. She is attempting to unseat him as... Queen, I suppose. However, one of her "sisters" objects, wanting to free her jailed king. This leads to a challenge and much of the film (indeed the entire middle section) features the shapely vamps (all wearing matching tight green outfits and small capes) prancing around in a mucho bizarre ritual before squaring off, using torches as weapons. Enter our thousand mask wearing hero to get to the bottom of things...

The word "camp" doesn't begin to describe the bewildering madness that ensues. This, like most Lucha Libre epics really needs to be seen to be disbelieved. And the very sight of the aged Carradine (voice dubbed in Spanish) bellowing and faking madness (it's all part of his plot, you see) while confronting the ever stoic masked Mexican wrestler is a sight you will not soon forget.

Las Vampiras emerges as a heavy duty slice of South of the Border cheeze that makes for perfect 3:00 am viewing. Appropriately, that is the time I found myself writing this review...

                                                       *** / ****

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