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Friday, July 3, 2015

Santo and the Vengeance of the Mummy



Santo and the Vengeance of the Mummy (aka El Santo en la Venganza de la Momia)
1971
René Cardona

After beating some Italian wrestlers senseless, world famous luchador, Santo hooks himself up with some security work. His job is to escort a research team into the jungles of Guatemala. They are looking for the lost Opalche tribe and the tomb of a prince called, Nonoc. With some help from the reluctant locals they find Nonoc’s tomb. The expedition stupidly steals Nonoc’s treasures, despite several warnings about a curse. The next night, a mummy wielding a bow stalks the camp looking for revenge.

"Umm... you know... for research..."
If there are two things I like, it’s mummy movies and Mexican wrestler movies. So, it was all but impossible to pass-up these two things together at last. Santo has always been fascinating to me for the unique place he occupies in pop culture. He was a figure that was a hero to the public both in the ring and real life, and still managed to straddle a line between popular figure and weirdo cult icon. I’m sure his outre’ status is much more prominent here in the U.S., since many Americans are not part of the cultural context and history that luchadores have in Mexico.

Santo and the Vengeance of the Mummy suffers most from its threadbare production. There is some location shooting, but a large portion of the film takes place on obvious sets. They make no attempt to hide just how rubbery the mummy’s corpse actually is. Santo movies also feel the need to shoehorn in some wrestling at the beginning and end, and Vengeance of the Mummy is no different. At least this time its brief and reasonably well edited.

"You know what? I'm happy."
 Many Santo movies have the masked man grappling with monsters who look suspiciously like wrestlers (sometimes even getting into the ring with him). So, it came as some surprise when Vengeance of the Mummy was something more like a luchador take on Predator (1987). A stray puma aside, Santo is powerless to stop a mummy that picks off members of his camp one by one. There are a few unexpected deaths too. It’s also odd to watch Santo spend more time using a rifle than actually wrestling anyone. It’s these little touches that keep Vengeance of the Mummy from being a total slog.

Santo and the Vengeance of the Mummy is a pretty middle of the road Santo film. It lacks the atmosphere of some of the early black and white films, and never reaches the silly heights of some of the later ones. What remains is a standard jungle action movie, with rote superstitious natives and angry wildlife. There are a few sparks of life here and there that almost salvage the film. If you are already versed in Santo films you can find things to enjoy here. If you’re just coming into them I would take a look at Santo vs. the Vampire Women (1962), or Santo vs. the Martian Invasion (1966) as more suitable introductions to El enmascarado de plata.

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