Thursday, November 4, 2010

In short: Santo Contra Los Cazadores De Cabezas (1971)

An enemy of heroic Santo (El Santo) talks the chief of a large tribe of Amazon Indians into declaring a war of vengeance on the White Man (the heads of certain people will probably explode when they realize that the film's white men are all from Mexico). But before the chief can begin his war, he'll first have to sacrifice a very special victim to his gods. The chosen one is Mariana de Grijalva (Nadia Milton), a descendant of the conquistadores who nearly extinguished the Incans a few centuries ago. She's easily kidnapped by an Indian sleeper agent who has been working for her father for a decade now, and slowly, very slowly transported to the place of her sacrifice.

Fortunately for Mariana, her dad's best friend knows the glorious El Santo's secret radio frequency, and so the wrestler, Mariana's dad, her boyfriend and various redshirts and traitors are soon on their own way traipsing through the jungle (technically, it's probably supposed to be the Rain Forest - or not, but obviously, it isn't) to rescue her. Various dangers are to be conquered and a lot of walking ensues.

This is probably the most walking-oriented of all Santo films, keeping very much in the tradition of jungle "adventure" movies throughout the history of insomnia cures by being terminally boring. Director veteran Rene Cardona (senior!) really puts out all the stops when it comes to the walking. It makes up about sixty percent of the movie (boy, do I wish I were exaggerating). Even the traditional scenes of people pointing at library footage of animals are mostly replaced by it.

And because that's not enough walking, Cardona has additionally developed a very clever plan to get even more mileage out of it: the unlucky viewer is treated with scenes of both parties - the bad guys and the good guys - walking separately through the same patches of jungle. So the film goes something like this: first, the bad guys walk and walk and walk, then they exposit about the dangers that will threaten their pursuers. Then there's the walking, walking and walking of Santo's band through the same area, followed by about thirty seconds of Santo conquering the respective danger, and Santo and friends talking for three minutes about said danger. Then it's back to the walking bad guys again and so on, and so forth.

It would all be a bit easier to take if the film would at least spend a little time on the actual action, but Cardona films the scenes of Santo fighting a drugged caiman, a helpless leopard, invisible piranhas, invisible vampire bats, invisible electric eels and Indian ambushes in such a short and blandly perfunctory manner that it's impossible to derive any fun from them. It's as if the director is absolutely convinced that all this walking and talking about action that isn't happening is much more entertaining than anything else he could show us. I can't even excuse it with the usual lack of funds, because really - would Santo punching a group of mooks for five minutes instead of five seconds be that more expensive than Santo walking?

After fifty minutes, the film became so painful I even began to wish for some of the musical numbers and stage fight repeats most lucha movies use to fill up their running time. Hell, even Blue Demon reading from his books about UFOs would have been a delightful diversion from THAT DAMNABLE WALKING.



Todd said...

I almost didn't read this review because I didn't want to relive the horror of this film in any way. But I did, and I have to say you captured it perfectly.

houseinrlyeh aka Denis said...

Thanks, Todd. I guess.