Friday, September 29, 2017

Past Misdeeds: Santo contra los asesinos de otros mundos (1971? 1973?)

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.

A horrible monstrosity that looks a lot like a bunch of people crawling around under a tarp or inside of garbage bags kills important leaders of Mexico's industry. It's so very very sad. The tarpster serves a certain Malkosh (Carlos Agosti) who uses his awesome ability to appear on a television in police chief O'Connor's (Marco Antonio Campos) meeting room to try and blackmail Mexico into paying him a lot of money, or else, more "important" people will die.

Fortunately, the police has a not-so-secret weapon: El Santo (El Santo!), the idol of the masses, greatest man on Earth, Blue Demon's secret nemesis (etc.) is on the case before you can even cry out in excitement. One might doubt the great man's technique - getting himself overrun by Malkosh's car after he has already gotten rid of the bad guy's henchmen, and then caught - but his results are great.

So, after winning a little gladiatorial bout against a Roman-style guy with small shield and short sword, then another Roman-style guy with trident and net, and then a not terribly Roman-style guy with a flame thrower, our hero guns down Malkosh and his men with a machine gun. Malkosh's a good loser and informs Santo, while dying very politely, of the origin of the monster. Basically, moon cooties. Malkosh also tells Santo that his former henchman Licur (Juan Gallardo) is planning to use the moon cootie monster to rule the world. I imagine Licur's plan looking something like "1. Control moon cootie monster 2. ???? 3. RULER OF THE WORLD!!!".

Licur seems to need the help of "space scientist" Dr. Bernstein (as played in one of his regular guest appearances by Santo's real-life manager Carlos Suarez) for some parts of that plan, and has already kidnapped him. For some reason, Licur has forgotten to kidnap Bernstein's daughter Karen (Sasha Montenegro) too, but Santo is sure that his new enemy will try to sooner or later, so it's a simple job of protecting the girl, saving the scientist, wrestling Licur and his henchmen into submission and somehow getting rid of the moon cootie monster for our hero.

A meagre plot description like this can hardly do justice to Rubén Galindo's Asesinos De Otros Mundos. Sure, the whole thing might sound goofy, even for a film in a genre about the heroic exploits of masked, evil-smiting wrestlers, but the special beauty of this one lies in its love for loopy details. Galindo has no time for filler scenes (in fact, there isn't even a single one of the obligatory ring fights to bring the film up to length in it), because he has to include not one, but two evil masterminds, one or more (the script doesn't seem to be able to decide how many monsters there actually are - the characters usually speak in singular about it, but if it's only one, it's better at teleporting than a killer in a slasher movie; also, stealth) tarp monsters, and quite a few scenes of Santo heroically running away from said tarp monster(s).

The loopy details Galindo seems to love so well are often of the kind that can only lead to awesome or uncomfortable questions. I mean, why exactly does O'Connor have a replica of Santo's head in a cupboard in his office? Is it like the Bat Signal, but really, really weird? How does Malkosh's TV telephone work? How many monsters are there, exactly? And while I'm asking questions, two gladiators and then a guy with a flame thrower, Malkosh? There's also a lovely moment when Santo realizes that Karen hasn't been kidnapped yet and automatically assumes that Licur will try any moment now; because that's what the daughter of a scientist is for, right?

I have to admit that I'm in love with the randomness of Asesinos's script. Its wild and illogical leaps of imagination may not work as "good writing", but delight my inner child with their sheer comic book/pulp recklessness, and their willingness to just go for badly prepared ideas like the two masterminds business the second of whom is never even hinted at until half of the film is over, or the surprising - to say the least - "Santo turns into the Spider (Master of Men) and shoots everyone" scene. (And yes, I know this is not the only case of Santo using lethal force against an enemy, but he doesn't usually leave behind this many corpses). The only thing that's missing for complete lucha nirvana is a scene with our hero in mask and pyjamas, but he's wearing a very red cape throughout the whole of the film to make up for that lack.

Equally random as the script is Galindo's direction: it's an improbable mixture of the usual point and shoot style of early 70s lucha cinema  and sudden bursts of arty scene framing and camera angles. "Why not pretend it's a film noir for a minute" seems to be Galindo's motto here, and certainly, why not?

I'll probably hardly need to mention it, but the film's already pretty fantastic weirdness is further strengthened by the random jazz soundtrack (supposedly by the excellently named Chucho Zarzosa, but probably a random assemblage of records that were lying around during editing) that jumps from jazz funk, to easy listening, to some awesome atonal stuff, without a single moment where music and action on screen have anything to do with one another.

And then there's the monster. Moon cootie monster is one of those horrible creatures that move so slowly they can only devour their victims when these victims crash their cars, or don't know how to run, or never look around, or dislocate their ankles, but it's also as adorable as three to ten people crawling around under what might be a bunch of garbage bags stitched together can be. I posit that someone who doesn't at least smile when the thing starts crawling around, "threatening" people must be dead inside.

Basically, Asesinos De Otros Mundos is the dream of every twelve year old lucha fan (there are still twelve year old lucha fans, right?), scripted by someone who is writing like a twelve year old himself. In other words, it's lucha perfection, and exactly the sort of film that makes questions of "good" or "bad" absolutely irrelevant. Asesinos De Otros Mundos just is.

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