Uncle Jasper reviews: Mil Mascaras vs. the Aztec Mummy (2007)

Mil Mascaras vs. the Aztec Mummy (2007)

Starring  Mil Máscaras, Jeffrey Uhlmann, Willard E. Pugh, Richard Lynch, Gary Ambrosia, Kurt Rennin Mirtsching, Melissa Osborn, Marco Lanzagorta, El Hijo del Santo, Blue Demon Jr.

Directed By Jeff Burr, Chip Gubera


 

Wait… what?!?!

That was my initial reaction after hearing that Mil Mascaras vs. the Aztec Mummy was a film that even existed. This is the 21st century. What crazy-ass, pagan-tinged astronomical event caused a Lucha Libre film to sneak out of the collective cinematic well in the year 2007? That alone would have been enough to set my head spinning, but Mil Mascaras vs. the Aztec Mummy is an English language film!… made not in the crowded alleys of Mexico City, but by a bunch of stuffy engineering students from Columbia University… in Missouri! That sounds about as Mexican as a stiff Earl Grey with a stack of crumpets.

With that much working against it, I had virtually no hope for this film. None whatsoever. But preconceived notions are a bitch, and can really rob you of some of life’s best moments if you let them get in the way. Not only is Mil Mascaras vs. the Aztec Mummy one of the best lucha films I have ever seen, but it is one of the greatest examples of cinematic homage ever produced. Directors Jeff Burr and Chip Gubera have forged one of the most passionate love letters to a cinematic sub genre I have ever seen. Their knowledge and familiarity with the genre shines through in virtually every frame. These guys are true fans who have picked up on every subtle nuance and convention in lucha cinema and simply ran with them… often times to insanely amusing extremes.

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Uncle Jasper reviews: The Mummies of Guanajuato (1972)

The Mummies of Guanajuato [Las Momias de Guanajuato] (1972)

Starring Blue Demon, Mil Máscaras, Santo, Elsa Cárdenas, Julio Cesar, Patricia Ferrer, Manuel Leal, Jorge Pinguino, Juan Gallardo

Directed By Federico Curiel


 

This is it. The Mummies of Gunajuato is famous in lucha circles for not only being the highest grossing Mexican wrestling film of all time, but it also holds the honored distinction of being the first, and only film to ever feature the Big Three together at last, duking it out on the silver screen. Blue Demon, Mil Máscaras and the legendary Santo team up to bring down a city full of invincible mummies in what is one of the most entertaining films of the genre, despite its somewhat misleading nature.

You see, this was essentially a vehicle for Blue Demon and relative newcomer Mil Máscaras. The lucha film industry was in a funk, and in a last minute decision, Santo was brought aboard to catapult this awesome little lucha film into guaranteed blockbuster status. The great thing about this movie is that all of those last-minute backdoor business decisions actually carry over to the film itself. While Blue Demon and Mil Máscaras have been struggling for the entire movie with the mummy horde, Santo casually shows up in the last fifteen minutes or so and dispatches them all with relative ease. The film even toys with Santo’s esteemed reputation in a hilarious, self-referencing manner when halfway through the film Mil Máscaras casually suggests that the two bring Santo into the fold for help, to which Blue Demon instantly brushes aside.

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Uncle Jasper reviews: Las Vampiras (1969)

Las Vampiras (1969)

Starring Mil Máscaras, John Carradine, María Duval, Maura Monti, Marta Romero, Pedro Armendáriz Jr.

Directed By Federico Curiel


 

Boy, oh boy. If there’s anything I’ve always thought my lucha films were sorely lacking in, it’s impotent vampires and John Carradine. Thankfully Las Vampiras came just in the nick of time to remedy that situation. A famous character actor, hand picked out of John Ford’s legendary stock company and plopped right into the middle of the wacky world of Lucha Libre is enough to raise quite a few eyebrows. Unfortunately, the result is by far one of the worst genre offerings I have ever had the misfortune to sit through.

Sorry folks, I really was hoping for a better introduction to the films of Mil Máscaras, the final piece of the lucha holy trinity, than Las Vampiras provided me with. This movie is so careless and jumbled in terms of narrative and atmosphere that it insults the intelligence of even the most devoted follower of lucha cinema. I literally felt my brain cells popping off one by one like a bubbling vat of simmering frijoles.

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Uncle Jasper reviews: Santo and Blue Demon vs. Dracula and the Wolf Man (1973)

Santo and Blue Demon vs. Dracula and the Wolf Man [Santo y Blue Demon Contra Dracula y el Hombre Lobo] (1973)

Starring Santo, Blue Demon, Aldo Monti, Augustín Martínez Solares, Nubia Martí, María Eugenia San Martín, Wally Barron

Directed By Miguel M. Delgado


From the lofty, almost socially conscious heights of Santo in the Wax Museum, we dive headfirst back into familiar Santo lunacy with Santo and Blue Demon vs. Dracula and the Wolf Man. This is latter-day Santo we’re dealing with again, and if vs. the Monsters taught us anything it’s that el enmascarado de plata was finally allowed some of the finer things in life after saving the world from monsters and aliens countless times. This is an older, leisurely minded Santo who has nicely settled into his role as superhero, ladies man, and cultural ambassador.  He has a full-fledged girlfriend now named Lina, who really represents massive progress in the area of women as portrayed in Santo films. Lina can sport a sexy miniskirt like the best of them, but is also skilled in operating heavy machinery, which proves to be a major asset for an aging luchador with a penchant for supernatural combat.

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Uncle Jasper reviews: Santo in the Wax Museum (1963)

Santo in the Wax Museum [Santo en el Museo de Cera] (1963)santo_in_wax_museum_poster_01

Starring Santo, Claudio Brook, Norma Mora, Rubén Rojo, Roxana Bellini, José Luis Jiménez, Víctor Velázquez

Directed by Alfonso Corona Blake


There are certain expectations I have when viewing a Santo film. I expect to see Santo locking horns with famous Hollywood monsters, I expect to see voluptuous heinas desperately trying to seduce our hero, and I expect kitschy special effects that look like they were thrown together by some goofy employees in the stock room of Spencer’s Gifts. To my surprise, not only do we get very little of that in this film, but the film reaches stellar heights never before achieved in the Santoverse despite lacking these expected quirks. I never thought it was possible, but Santo in the Wax Museum is the cerebral, thinking man’s Santo film. Don’t worry… You’ll still get your action, bizarre monsters, and silly props. But there is a layer of unexpected subtext here that delves a little deeper than the usual cold-war era “Man’s evil in developing nuclear weapons will cause his eventual downfall” stuff typically rattled off in-between wrestling matches with vampires in these films.

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Uncle Jasper reviews: Santo vs. the Vampire Women (1962)

santo_vs_vampire_women_poster_01Santo 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.

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Uncle Jasper reviews: Santo vs. the Martian Invasion (1967)

Santo vs. the Martian Invasion [Santo vs. La Invasión de los Marcianos] (1967)

Starring Santo, Wolf Ruvinskis, El Nazi, Beny Galán, Ham Lee, Eduardo Bonada, Antonio Montoro, Maura Monti, Eva Norvind, Belinda Corel, Manuel Zozaya

Directed By Alfredo B. Crevenna


It’s been a few months since we last followed our pal Santo, The Man in the Silver Mask on another lucha libre fightin’, convertible cruisin’ adventure down those mean streets of Mexico. While Santo vs. the Martian Invasion doesn’t reach the bizarre, hair-raising spectacle of Santo and Blue Demon vs. the Monsters, it comes pretty damn close. It is fairly faithful to the traditional formula as far as these films go, with its steady stream of ambushes and ridiculous scenarios to coax the bad guys into the ring. But this is Santo we’re dealing with here, and you probably wouldn’t be interested if things were any different.

The Martian invasion of the film’s title isn’t so much an invasion as it is a loose get-together. The Invaders are a paltry group of four shirtless guys decked out in silver capes and screaming-blonde Fabio wigs and four curvy Latina sex-bombs in matching silver corsages. Driven by their extraterrestrial Marxist agenda and out of fear of mankind’s tinkering with the atomic bomb they sabotage prime-time television and broadcast their commands for human beings to make peace with one another, or face a sudden, mass disintegration by the Astral Eye.

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