Sunday, July 20, 2014

Santo: Infraterrestre (2001)

Santo (Hijo del Santo) is unofficially beaten in the ring by the mysterious Blue Panther (Blue Panther) when a bunch of muscled guys wearing black sunglasses jump into the ring to kick the crap out of the idol of the masses.

When Santo reviews the fight on his supercomputer, he realizes his opponent can’t have been a normal human being for somehow, he just shakes off hits that could have killed a normal opponent (making Santo a likely killer in the ring!?) and seems to be able to change his centre of gravity at will. Before he comes to any further conclusions, Santo is called in for his part-time job as police special agent.

There has been a series of mysterious disappearances and kidnappings in Mexico. The only witnesses to the misdeeds are a traumatized boy who just happens to idolize Santo, and a woman the film doesn’t make any use of, so I don’t know why she’s even in the script. What’s a mystery to our hero and the police is common knowledge to the audience for we have long since been informed the kidnappings are the work of the race of alien reptilians living underground who once ruled the Earth.

Consequently, Santo, police child psychologist Dr Alma Monreal (Diana Golden), and a handful of cops are soon crawling through the sewers - and what lies below the sewers – punching bad guys in the face. And would you believe it, Blue Panther is one of these bad guys!

On one hand, it’s difficult for me not to love Héctor Molinar’s attempt at reviving the beloved character of lucha hero El Santo for the movies, with good old Son of Santo playing his dad’s part; on the other, it’s not difficult to admit the resulting film isn’t really as good as one would hope. Of course, I’m still going to recommend it.

However, this is quite a few levels above the worst outings in the original Santo’s film career by sheer virtue of the film actually seeming to try to entertain its audience, with comparatively little foot-dragging, and a script that has some excellent silly ideas. The main problem is Molinar’s direction, the sort of effort that isn’t clever enough to film around the problems of the obviously ultra low budget of the production, using blocking that makes the cramped sets and boring grey walls of dubious origin that represent everything from a police station to sewers to an alien underground dwelling look even more cramped, with seemingly little thought put into the visuals at all. Molinar’s also not very good at filming the – surprisingly numerous, at least – action sequences. The latter is a particular shame because Hijo del Santo (or his stuntman – I don’t want to make the distinction) is actually a fine screen fighter, and the brawl choreography is pretty fun too, so it would have been nice to see the punching and wrestling presented in an appropriate way instead of Molinar’s often badly angled and underlit shots.

Still, as a lucha movie fan, I’ve gotten used to quite worse direction from the late Santo films, generally made worse by an air of apathy Molinar’s film never shows, and while it’s a shoddy little film by any interpretation, it does provide us cursed by the lucha gods with a decent enough bit of fun, good film or not.

Santo: Infraterrestre also includes some excellent additions to the all-around silliness of lucha cinema, providing Santo with a flying car (cue bored looking policemen who don’t react to Santo’s car suddenly flying away as a horrible – yet awesome – CGI effect at all, because clearly, on planet lucha you see this sort of thing every day), his own satellite in space (called PLATA-1, of course), as well as said supercomputer. Furthermore, the film posits the presence of an underground civilization of reptiles that is then basically shrugged off by our hero because he beat the big bad (and his main assistant), and surely, it’s better not to tell anyone we have alien neighbours right under our feet. In further Santo news, the film also teaches us that Santo is the kind of guy who dresses up for a visit to the sewers in his best shirtless cape ensemble, and looks rather freshly oiled too, which really makes Infraterrestre a part of the Santo canon no sane person should miss.

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