Thursday, July 21, 2011

Santo and Blue Demon in the World of the Dead (El Mundo de los Muertos)

                                               Director: Gillberto Martinez
                                            Starring: El Santo, Blue Demon

This 1969 Lucha Libre feature is an early team up of Santo and Blue Demon, though it could hardly be considered as such as Blue is relegated to little more than cameo status. It wasn't until the 70s where these two would truly obtain Dynamic Duo status. At this stage, Santo was the star and Blue Demon was second banana and in some cases barely that. This angered Blue to no end as he was the superior ring wrestler and openly resented being the under card. To make matters worse, he was often cast as the villain in these earlier pictures. Essentially in films like this one, Blue was the Lucha equivalent of Rodney Dangerfield. In reality, this had more to do with El Santo's status as a living legend among fans so Blue had to grin (or rather grimace) and bare it.

This was another Santo pic that portrays his masked ancestor in Colonial times (something previously shown in Santo vs the Diabolical Axe and Santo vs Baron Brakola). The story centers on Damiana, a 17th Century Devil worshiping witch who has created an army of undead warriors in order to defeat the ancestor of El Santo - the Silver Masked Hero (dressed in Colonial gear yet still with the mask on!). Damiana fails and is burned at the stake along with her warrior creations. Fast forward to present time and Damiana's spirit has taken over the body of a young woman. She revives her undead warrior servants (as wrestlers, of course) and gains possession of a cabalistic dagger and sets off to destroy the descendant of the Silver Masked Hero. Ultimately in order to destroy Damiana, Santo must travel to Hell itself.

Story wise, this is one of the strongest Santo adventures. The early colonial scenes are very well done and quite gripping. The Silver Masked Hero's running battle with Damiana's undead servants in modern times are both excitingly choreographed and unintentionally comical (the pipe organ theme starts and stops as if someone lifted the needle on a phonograph, which is likely how it went down). The final scenes in the Netherworld are eerily effective with constant wailing voices and color tinted film. Alas, there was one giant goof up. At the very climax, the film effectively splices in scenes of flying spirit creatures from the Mario Bava directed Hercules in the Haunted World. We cut back to the new footage and how are the spirit creepies portrayed? By a trio of wrestlers with  shmatas on their heads! Ugh!

You know even with this embarrassing gaffe, El Mundo de los Muertos may still be one of my favorite films featuring the Man in the Silver Mask. The rest of the film is just too good for it to be ruined so easily. Blue Demon fans will be disappointed, but otherwise this is a highly recommended adventure that sadly has yet to be English subtitled for us Spanish language impaired fans.

                                                             *** / ****

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