Friday, November 16, 2018

The Batwoman

The Batwoman (aka La Mujer Murcielago)
René Cardona

Professional wrestlers are going missing and then washing up on shore quite dead. A medical exam shows that they all have tiny puncture wounds where their spinal fluid has been extracted. Lady luchador and part-time superhero, Batwoman (Mauri Monti) is called in to solve the case. Meanwhile, the villainous Dr. Williams (Roberto Cañedo) is the one behind the deaths, all in
the hope of making a killer fish-human hybrid he names Pieces. Will Batwoman solve the mystery or is she next in line to be transformed?

From a surface look, this film is obviously looking to cash-in on the popularity of Adan West’s Batman series from the same era. Batwoman is a wealthy socialite, who fights crime, is highly skilled, and has a few gadgets. She's also a luchador. Her mask and wrestling suit are well within copyright violation territory. Unlike Batman (I assume), she dons a skimpy bikini and cape ensemble when she is out fighting bad guys. The plot  makes even less sense than your average 1960s Batman TV episode but it is the kind of thing that is right at home in a luchador movie.

Batwoman reviews her last date.
What The Batwoman doesn’t have is the camp energy of the 1960s Batman. It plays out with a pretty straightforward narrative that barely shows a hint of humor or self-awareness. Many times Santo and other luchador movies are saved by the fact that their outlandish narratives are delivered with a straight face, but in trying to emulate material that is decidedly not serious it feels like a detriment in this case. Mauri Monti is beautiful but she doesn’t have the on-screen charisma that makes a character like The Batwoman engaging to watch.

The Batwoman isn’t a complete failure, there are some fun moments to seek out. Batwoman acts in a very non-Batman fashion when she wields a gun or throws acid in the face of the evil Dr. Williams. Pieces, the killer fishman, is a nice bit of costuming that functions as a wet-suit from some underwater action, and also looks just fine lurching round on land. He looks kind of like an aquatic Sleestak. I love how Dr. Williams makes a tiny Pieces that he places into the ocean to make it grow to human-sized, like those grow toys you leave in a dish of water overnight. The film could have used more fun details like these. Because this is nominally a luchador movie, there is a little bit of wrestling, but thankfully it is kept to a minimum so as not to destroy what little momentum the story can summon.

The safeword is Igor.
The Batwoman had potential but it never really manages to generate much in the way of excitement and laughs (intentional or otherwise). I would say if you are hardcore luchador fan or interested in Mexican genre cinema, it might be worth checking out once, but for everyone else there are much better (or delightfully worse) examples out there.

Sidenote: It is still a million times more watchable that Jerry Warren’s Wild Wild World of Batwoman (1966)

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