El Enmascarado de Plata

[The Silver-Masked One]

 

(Filmex, 1952) Prod: Antonio del Castillo; Dir: René Cardona [Sr.]; Adapt: Ramón Obón; Story: José G. Cruz, René Cardona; Photo: Raúl Martínez Solares; Music: Rafael Carrión; Prod Mgr: Said Slim K.; Prod Chief: Luis Busto; Asst Dir: Julio Cahero; Film Ed: Rafael Ceballos; Art Dir: Jorge Fernández; Camera Op: Cirilo Rodríguez; Lighting: Carlos Nájera; Makeup: Concepción Zamora; Music Rec/Re-rec/ Dialog Rec: Enrique Rodríguez; Sound Ed: Abraham Cruz

 

Cast: Víctor Junco (Alfredo), Crox Alvarado (Julio), Luis Aldás (Kroger), Aurora Segura (Elena), René Cardona Jr. (Pecas), El Médico Asesino [Cesáreo Manríquez González] (El Médico), Carlos Múzquiz (Ruisueño), Enrique Llanes (headwaiter; El Enmascarado de Plata), Jack O'Brien (Jack, henchman), Guillermo Hernández "Lobo Negro" (Lobo, henchman), henchmen: Sergio Llanes, José Pulido, Mario Llanes, Julio Ahuet, Pedro Ortega, Roberto G. Rivera; Hermanitas Julian (singing group), Elena Julián (Mireya), Francisco Llopis (Elena's uncle), Felipe Montoya (police inspector), José Luis Moreno (Pepe), Cuco Sánchez (radio operator), Ignacio Peón (old man in bed)

 

Notes: This is arguably the first "masked wrestling hero" film, although it is a bit weak in one crucial area--the identification of the hero on film as a professional wrestler. El Médico Asesino was a professional wrestler, and he does wrestle in an arena setting in the film, but he does not really alternate between acting as a professional wrestler and masked crime-fighter during the course of the film.  Nonetheless, this film is much closer to the later lucha libre films than, for example, early examples such as Huracan Ramírez (which has almost no "crime-fighter" content) or La Sombra Vengadora (which has no "professional wrestler" aspect).

 

          El Enmascarado de Plata began shooting in October 1952, not long after the Santo fotocomic “El Enmascarado de Plata” began publishing.  El Santo himself turned down the opportunity to star in the movie, telling a sports magazine that it didn’t suit his “economic interests.”  Instead, fellow professional wrestler El Médico Asesino took the hero’s role.  This required a bit of script revision--in order to keep the marketable “Enmascarado de Plata” title without having El Médico adopt this identity, a villain called “El Enmascarado de Plata” was added: he dies in Episode 8 after revealing that he was only a henchman of El Tigre, another evil masked man.

 

One of the great mysteries about this film is its format. While only one true multi-chapter sound serial was made in Mexico (Las calaveras de terror), El Enmascarado de Plata was apparently conceived as a 12- chapter serial and was exhibited in that manner in the United States; in Mexico, however, it was shown as either one feature or (according to Emilio Garcia Riera's Historia documental del cine mexicano) as two short features. The two-hour feature version contains only one chapter title (for episode one), and at one point an off-screen narrator gives what is obviously the opening of another episode; also, there are definite continuity problems which seem to have been caused by editing the serial down (or maybe it was just sloppy writing and editing).

 

Episode 1: "El poder satanico" [The Satanic Power] A hurricane has developed off the coast of Mexico, but does not seem to be threatening any populated areas. However, a mysterious villain (only his tiger-striped gloves are shown) uses some strange electrical equipment to make the storm change direction and strike the coast. Later, a man wearing a silver mask with black lightning bolts on it appears on a large TV screen and instructs his gang to carry out a robbery. When he disappears, the image of El Médico replaces him. The white­ masked hero--who wears baggy medical garb during the entire film--warns the crooks not to follow their chief's orders, but they ignore him. Meanwhile, newspaper reporters Julio and Alfredo call their friend Elena on the telephone (they are romantic rivals for her). Elena discovers that crooks have tied up her uncle and are ransacking the house.  El Médico appears and a fight breaks out. The heroic wrestler is briefly knocked out, and henchman Risueño points a machine gun at him!

 

Episode 2: "La silla de la muerte" [The Chair of Death] El Médico recovers and chases the gang away. He then verbally castigates Elena's uncle for hoarding money rather than investing it for the good of society. Elena notices that El Médico has suffered a minor wound to one hand. El Médico leaves. A short time later, Alfredo and Julio show up, and they both have bandaged hands! The Enmascarado de Plata (most of the time he is just referred to as "El Jefe") tells his men to kidnap Elena and use her for bait to trap El Médico. They send her a   forged note, and take her to a  warehouse.  El Médico shows up to rescue her (how did he know where she was?), but is subdued and tied to a chair. The chair is wired, and when the door to the room is opened, El Médico will be electrocuted! The gang leaves. In the other room, Elena frees herself and goes to open the door to help El Médico!

 

Episode 3: "Dinamitado" [Dynamited] El Médico frees himself just as the door opens. A fire breaks out and Elena faints. They cannot escape through the front door because Ruisueño is waiting outside with a machinegun, so El Médico carries the unconscious young woman to the roof and lowers her to the ground on a painter's scaffold.  He then leaves.  Alfredo and Julio make their  appearance and take Elena home. The Enmascarado de Plata plans another trap for El Médico--a note is sent to the newspaper ("El Noticiero") where Alfredo and Julio work, informing them that a payroll truck will be robbed that night.  The crooks plant dynamite in the roadway and blow up the armored truck when it passes, but the vehicle had been operated by remote control by El Médico.  He rides his motorcycle to catch the gang; Risueno escapes, but the police arrive and arrest the others. El Médico rides off on his motorcycle.

 

Episode 4: "Trampa mortífera" [Deadly trap] Elena spots the newsboy who had delivered the false letter to her in Episode 2.  The teenager (Pecas) says he got the note from a man who came out of the Cabaret Paraiso.  Elena calls Alfredo and Julio; they go to the nightclub with Kroger, their editor (who walks using crutches). After several extended musical numbers, the three newspapermen get into a fight with Ruisueño and several henchmen.  Alfredo and Julio are tossed into the street, and Kroger also leaves the club. Meanwhile, Pecas and Elena are being held prisoner in a back room of the cabaret. El Médico comes in and is captured. A fight breaks out, and Ruisueño leaves with. Ele na. They drive off, with El Médico and Pecas in pursuit (in a stolen earl). El Médico transfers from his car to Ruisueño's vehicle in mid­ chase.  He tosses the crook out of the speeding car, then pushes Elena out as the car goes over a cliff!

 

Episode 5: "Mascara de plata" [Mask of Silver] El Médico manages to jump free before the car crashes.  Elena takes the orphaned Pecas back to her house. Pecas says he thinks perhaps he recognized El Médico's voice, but he's not sure. That night, El Médico comes and spirits Pecas away. The masked hero and the boy go to El Médico's secret laboratory.  El Médico gives Pecas a   belt with a  homing device on it, so he can contact him at any time.  El Médico says that his father, a great scientist and doctor, was murdered when El Médico was only 13, the same age that Pecas is now.  El Médico has dedicated his life to helping people and combating evil (in a reference to El Médico's "real" name, he says "some people call me Asesino because I am ruthless when I fight evil").  Pecas agrees to become El Médico's assistant, El Médico leaves Pecas in the lab and goes out, Listening in on the various radios, Pecas hears a (fake) message broadcast by the Enmascarado de Plata--a poor family is being robbed! He passes this message to El Médico, who goes to the address given him, and is promptly jumped by the gangsters and the Enmascarado de Plata himself. El Médico gets the upper hand and prepares to unmask the villain...

 

Episode 6: "Desenmascaradas" [Unmasked] The police and Pecas arrive at the house, and the Enmascarado de Plata recovers and leaps out through a window, escaping into the woods. The police catch Alfredo outside, carrying a mask he says he found in in the woods; Julio also shows up. Back at the newspaper, the reporters tell Kroger what happened. The editor takes Pecas across the street for some ice cream, and while they are in the cafe, the gang appears once more and kidnaps Pecas. The boy uses his signal belt to contact El Médico. The Enmascarado de Plata takes Pecas to a rural area, and El Médico arrives. The two masked men fight on the edge of a cliff! The Enmascarado de Plata unmasks El Médico (he is only shown from behind), and Pecas learns his secret identity.  Then the two men fight and one throws the other over the side!

 

Episode 7: "El peligro invisible" [The Invisible Danger]  The man who fell off the cliff was the Enmascarado de Plata.  El Médico and Pecas see that he is still alive, but barely.  Unmasked, he turns out to be the headwaiter at the Cabaret Paraiso. "I am the Enmascarado de Plata," the dying man confesses, "but I'm not the real leader of the gang." Before he can reveal the identity of his boss, El Tigre--using a rifle from a distance away--shoots and kills his henchman, then flees.  Later, Elena's uncle throws a party to celebrate a new gym that he is opening. Pecas comes in and stares fixedly at Alfredo and Julio, who get nervous and leave. Meanwhile, El Tigre (who is the villain with the tiger­ striped gloves seen only once before, at the beginning of Episode 1) contacts "his" gang (the same as the Enmascarado de Plata's gang). They have 2 more jobs to pull before they can retire.  One of these is a robbery at an auto-repair shop, but El Médico shows up again! During the ensuing fight, El Médico is briefly knocked out, and Ruisueño approaches with a flaming welder's torch!

 

Episode 8: "La emboscada del Tigre" [The Tiger's Ambush)  Pecas turns off the gas to the torch at the last second, and El Médico recovers, chasing the crooks away. El Tigre has another brilliant plan. He sends another note to "El Noticiero"--it says El Médico will commit a crime that night.  Elena's uncle is kidnaped: he calls her and says she has to get in touch with El Médico and ask him to rescue him that night. Meanwhile, El Tigre's gang is robbing a bank; one of the crooks is wearing a mask like El Médico. Before they leave, the fake  Médico shoots one of the guards, "so you'll remember the  Médico Asesino." The gang goes to the building where the real El Médico and Pecas have gone in search of Elena's uncle (who isn't there).  The police, in hot pursuit, start a gun battle with the crooks inside.  El Tigre hopes that the police will break in and arrest El Médico, but the masked hero and Pecas hide on a window ledge and elude capture. They try to cross the street by hanging onto the telephone wires, but Ruisueño cuts them, one by one.  El Médico and Pecas plunge toward the street below!

 

Episode 9: "Salta Mortal" [Mortal Leap] El Médico (with Pecas hanging on) swings on the wire and crashes into a room in the building across the street, awakening two old people who were sleeping.  The police later reveal that they have not been fooled by El Tigre's attempt to frame El Médico, since the fingerprints on the getaway truck and on El Médico's motorcycle (which he had to abandon) do not match.  El Tigre calls Elena and say they will kill her uncle unless El Médico shows up at her house that night at 11 pm. El Médico crosses the roofs of the house to enter unseen (Julio is mistaken for him and is nearly shot by crooks as he walks up to the house), but El Tigre is waiting there for him.  They fight and El Tigre escapes.  El Médico says he'll save Elena's uncle (where?), but he is beaten to the punch by Mireya, one of the singers at the cabaret, who frees the older man, telling him that the gang has been blackmailing her because her father owes a large sum of money.  El Médico watches them leave.

 

Episode 10: "Atrapado" [Trapped) El Médico is scheduled to wrestle in a charity match to publicize the new gym that Elena's uncle is sponsoring. But El Tigre has other plans: "Many things could happen, from the defeat of El Médico to the death of many children."  The match is a surprise--the real El Médico is confronted by the impostor.  During the fight, El Tigre manages to locate El Médico's lab. Knocking out Pecas, the villain wrecks the hero's equipment. El Médico unmasks his opponent ("It's an impostor!" the announcer shouts. How would he know? Nobody knows who El Médico is!) and then rushes away, warned by Peca:,;; signal on his radio-belt. He arrives at the lab and finds it in flames with Pecas trapped inside!

 

Episode 11: "A merced del enemigo" [At the Mercy of the Enemy)  Pecas manages to get out of the flaming lab without the assistance of El Médico. They go back to Elena's house. El Médico leaves Pecas a note--"I'm going to disappear for a time"--but Elena's uncle steals it before the boy can read it.  El Tigre blows up a building by remote control and says this is just a warning. Mireya sends Elena's uncle a telegram, and he asks Pecas to take his reply to her at the cabaret. But once he is there, the boy and Mireya are spotted by Ruisueño and the gang.  El Médico shows up and a fight breaks out; Ruisueño forces Mireya into a car, and when Pecas tries to stop him, knocks out the boy and sets a steamroller in motion to squash him!

 

Episode 12: "Quién es quién?" [Who is Who?) An off-screen narrator says: "Who is who?  Who is El Tigre? How far will his ability as a detective take him? [huh?) In this episode you could find out the truth about everything and we'll see if you were right or not.  Meanwhile, El Médico is fighting the crooks in their lair, Pecas is on the ground, unaware of the danger that is advancing on him." But Pecas comes to his senses and rolls out of the way.  El Tigre drives up and goes into the cabaret; Pecas hides in the trunk of his car.  El Tigre and his men rush out to avoid the police (sirens can be heard); Ruisueño calls El Tigre on the radio and they arrange to meet at their hideout in the country. At El Tigre's hideout, Pecas sneaks in and starts to wreck the villain's lab, but he is caught and locked up with Mireya.  El Médico frees them, and tells them to call the police. Pecas calls Elena and asks her to send the police (why didn't he call the police himself?).  The police arrive just as El Médico unmasks El Tigre--it is editor Kroger!  Alfredo and Julio, who also show up (so neither one is El Médico) are stunned: "No wonder he wouldn't give me a raise."  As the film ends, El Médico appears in Elena's house, but it's only Pecas wearing a mask. He refuses to reveal the identity of El Médico. El Médico and Pecas leave on his motorcycle, as the narrator says: "What does it matter who he is?  Respect his secret and imitate him.  We need more men like him in this world ..."

 

As can be seen, El Enmascarado de Plata is a fairly close imitation of Hollywood serials.  However, fans of the action-packed Republic chapterplays would have been quite disappointed in the lackluster stunts, fights, and special effects which appear in the Mexican film.  Two of the cliffhangers are particularly awkward (although this might be a result of editing the chapters into a feature film): the conclusions of Episodes 1 and 7 have Ruisueño pointing a weapon (a gun and a welder's torch) at the unconscious Médico, but in both cases he just stands there for a long time, doing nothing, until El Médico recovers!  I mean, pull the damn trigger!  The idea of having various cast members act as red herrings for the hero dates back at least to the original 1938 “Lone Ranger” serial from Republic, and was re-used for Neutrón, el Enmascarado Negro in 1960.

 

El Médico doesn't have much to do except show up, unexplained, and have inconclusive, brief fistfights with three or four gangsters. His baggy medical-doctor costume (which he routinely removed when wrestling in the ring) not only seems to hamper him in the action scenes, but actually makes him look slow and overweight. The fact that there are two masked villains actually confuses matters, and neither of them really gets to chew the scenery and do really evil things (and anyone who couldn't figure out that the disabled Kroger is really El Tigre hasn't seen enough movies).  The by-play between Alfredo and Julio is not very amusing, and the fact that they both constantly show up just after El Médico has disappeared becomes ridiculous.  Aurora Segura, in one of her few substantial, sympathetic roles, is quite attractive, but René Cardona Jr.'s acting runs the gamut from adequate to terrible (as he grew older, he got better but was generally cast as sullen young men; unlike his father, he almost completely stopped acting when he started directing films).

 

El Enmascarado de Plata is not a great film, but it is historically important and it does hold one's interest.

Back to the Santo Filmography.