Through the transformation of the glorious WTF-Films into the even more glorious Exploder Button and the ensuing server changes, some of my old columns for the site have gone the way of all things internet. I’m going to repost them here in irregular intervals in addition to my usual ramblings.
Please keep in mind these are the old posts without any re-writes or
improvements. Furthermore, many of these pieces were written years ago, so if
you feel offended or need to violently disagree with me in the comments, you can
be pretty sure I won’t know why I wrote what I wrote anymore anyhow.
Mexico City, during the Cold War. A Soviet spy ring - as we later learn under
the leadership of Nazis with fitting names like Otto and Elke - kidnaps the Nazi
war criminal and expert in brainwashing techniques Doctor Müller (Juan
Gallardo). They need him to prepare the unsuspecting women populating their
secret spy training camp in Santo Domingo for their real work. These women, you
see, think they are just training (for who knows what?) at a very special gym
that just happens to have a lot of swastikas in some of its rooms. In truth,
they are meant to be the Soviet Unions new elite spies who are supposed to start
an awesome series of sabotage missions in the USA in the near future. They just
need to be convinced, and that's where Müller will fit in.
Alas, he really shouldn't be seen in public with his face, so the
Nazi Soviets first need to kidnap the daughter (Elsa Cardenas) of famous
cosmetic surgeon Dr. Thomas. This act will in turn provide them with the
opportunity to press the good doctor into their services. Surely, there are no
cosmetic surgeons in need of money anywhere to be found.
The bad guys' kidnapping spree doesn't escape the attention of that most
spyhunting of all international police organizations, Interpol. Interpol's big
shot Topaz (Cesar Del Campo) decides that this difficult Nazi Soviet/Soviet Nazi
problem can only be solved by the premiere example of manliness we worship as El
Santo (El Santo!).
Together with Interpol agent/nightclub singer Ana Silva (Lorena Velazquez),
Santo puts his incredible physique and utterly brilliant intellect to work
against the fiendish plan of destroying the Free World through a lot of girls in
bikinis. But where to start? Oh, right, probably with one of the masses of
henchmen piling onto Ana and Santo wherever they go.
Mision Suicida is one of the finer movies that the idol of the
masses did during the 70s. It's not always a good sign in a Santo movie when our
hero has no supernatural threat to wrestle with, but a combination effort of
Soviets and Nazis (which seem to be just about the same in the confused mind of
scriptwriter Fernando Oses)is nearly as effective an attack on all the is good
and decent (or a night club) as a team-up of Dracula and the Wolfman. That the
the weirdly stylish Santo of the early 70s is an excellent hero for a
cheap-skate spy movie in the Eurospy vein is self-evident.
At this point in his career, Santo's films had already begun to sprout
carcinogenic growths of filler as if they were characters in a body horror film,
and were therefore always at risk of being buried by nightclub sequences,
painful comic relief and random archival footage - at times even all three
things at the same time - so it comes as something of a surprise that I can
report Mision Suicida contains only two nightclub sequences, no comic
relief and barely a hint of archival footage. The nightclub sequences themselves
are also some of the less painful found in Santo films. Although the music in
them certainly isn't great shakes, the pain is somewhat alleviated by ye olde
"shake some (clothed) tits into the camera" gambit; it's not high-brow, but it
is a lot less painful than a horde of moustached guys wearing large sombreros,
or whatever that thing during the Mummies of Guanajuato was.
There's just no time for filler here, because what Mision Suicida
lacks in budget it tries to make up for with lots and lots of action scenes,
especially brawls in a classic serial style, two or three car chases (mildly
paced), an explosion, and Santo kinda-sorta wrestling a shark in one of the
lesser shark wrestling scenes of the sort of cinema which features shark
wrestling scenes. The film's break with the often stately tempo of lucha cinema
in this period at times reminds of Turkish pop and pulp cinema. Mision
Suicida and something like Deathless Devil are obvious brethren in
spirit, both films going for a not necessarily artful yet breathless style of
narrative that replaces actual plot through one damn, hopefully exciting, thing
after the other and tries to drive the audience into a state of excitement by
their sheer determination to entertain with the little they have in their
Lucha director veteran Federico Curiel (director of some of my best loved and
of my worst loved Mexican genre movies) seems to put a lot of energy into the
brawls, ramping up the excitement level through use of (often quite shaky)
handheld camera work to replace the more typical static shots used for fights in
a lucha film. Curiel's gamble of risking something slightly new pays off quite
well and the fights are some of the more exciting ones to be found in the
It's also nice to have a Santo movie in which the female lead is shown to be
vaguely competent too, and though Velaquez (who every right-minded person loves
for her part in the Wrestling Women/Las Luchadoras films) isn't allowed
to get all Emma Peel on Santo, she is doing a bit more than just filling out her
clothes. Which, by the way, are often of that matter-of-course 70s bizarreness
that alone can make films of the time worth visiting.
The whole string of minor nightclubbing, major fighting and evil
moustache-twirling of the moustacheless is held together by a soundtrack that is
the tackier little brother of spy movie funk. For once, a lucha movie of this
era and its soundtrack have something to do with each other. Well, if you ignore
the women judoing to a bit of easy listening, that is.
Apart from all this, Mision Suicida is of course also full of the
little bits and pieces of weirdness every lucha film needs to contain. And yeah,
a masked wrestler working for Interpol just isn't enough of the "weird" for a
film like this. Honestly, if Santo can build a time machine, he can also work
for Interpol, so scenes like the utterly puzzling (that is, filmed so that you
don't have the slightest clue what's going on) shark wrestling sequence between
Santo and something that might be rubber or a dead shark in a swimming pool or
the over-complicated plans of our bad guys (who seem to have quite enough ready
agents without needing the brain-washing at all) are absolutely needed to truly
put the movie into lucha land, where it will forevermore proudly cavort among
the other adventures of sharply dressed wearers of masks.