Santo vs. the Vampire Women [Santo vs. las Mujeres Vampiro] (1962)
Starring Santo, Lorena Velázquez, Jaime Fernández, Augusto Benedico, María Duval, Javier Loya, Ofelia Montesco
Directed By Alfonso Corona Blake
Santo vs. the Vampire Women holds the distinction of being the Santo film that you may have actually heard of… maybe. This is the one that somehow managed to earn itself theatrical runs outside of Mexico and christened Santo with the much less cooler moniker of Samson here in the states. The film lays fine groundwork for the rest of the series, establishing Santo’s mythos and superhero status rather nicely, but in order to build up anticipation, The Man in the Silver Mask isn’t introduced until halfway through the film! I have to imagine this worked to great effect for Mexican audiences dying to see their hero up on the silver screen, but it probably had the exact opposite effect on foreign audiences unfamiliar with the finer points of lucha libre. They must have asked themselves, Why are there dudes wrestling in the middle of my vampire movie?
The film is shot with such style and is brimming with a creepy atmosphere that harkens back to the glory days when Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff were creeping around the back lots of Universal, defining the horror film as we know it. Lighting and sets are amazing, rivaling the best work of those aforementioned classics. The black and white cinematography is beautiful, casting lots of deep shadows and setting the mood for some truly spooky imagery. To put it plainly, this is a straight-up great B horror film until Santo shows up on the scene and takes it to that next level of greatness.