La Sombra Blanca

[The White Shadow]

 

(Prods. Geminis, 1961*) Dir-Scr: Fernando Fernández; Collab: Antonio Orellana, Fernando Osés, José Delfos  [no other credits on film]

 

*many sources cite this as a 1963 production, but an article in the newspaper Excelsior in October 1961 clearly states Fernando Fernández was shooting La Sombra Blanca at that time (in six days!).

 

     Cast: Jaime Fernández (Jaime Rodríguez), Félix González (Sombra Blanca), Rosa Carmina (Carmina), Lola Casanova (Rita), Arturo Martínez (wrestling promoter), Marina Herrera "Marilú" (Lucía), Crox Alvarado (chief of detectives), Ramón Bugarini (Ramón), Consuelo Frank (Consuelo), Miguel Arenas (don Cosme), Yolanda Ciani (Arlette), Mario García "Harapos" (Harapos), Arturo Soto Rangel (old jeweler), Bruno Rey (Bruno), Julián de Meriche (Manos de Seda), Eulalio González "Piporro" (himself), Pepe Hernández (El Linternas), Tito Henríquez (pianist), Jorge Zamora "Zamorita" (drummer-gangster), Regino Herrera (wrestling spectator), Jesús Gómez (police guard in hospital); gangsters: Armando Acosta, Agustín Fernández, Carlos León, Guillermo Hernández "Lobo Negro," N. León "Frankestein," José Loza, Vicente Lara "Cacama," Marco Antonio Arzate

 

    Notes:  La Sombra Blanca clearly seems to have been "inspired" by the adventures of El Santo, particularly Santo vs. los zombies (made in March 1961, 7 months earlier).  Both movies were written by Antonio Orellana and Fernando Osés, both feature a silver-masked wrestler-superhero, and both include Jaime Fernández, Ramón Bugarini, and Julién de Meriche in the cast (and in both movies de Meriche portrays an ex-criminal now running a nightclub!).  There is even a direct Santo reference: a poster for a match (“El Santo vs. [obscured] Muñiz”) is very prominent on one wall of the wrestling arena set in Episode One. One U.S.-release poster misleads a potential audience by claiming the movie stars El Santo, Azteca (U.S. release) lobby cards even featured a photo of Santo on the artwork, and one Mexican re-release used art and photos from El Enmascarado de Plata on its lobby cards! (Possibly because no stills were available from La Sombra Blanca, but I suspect marketing this as a sort-of Santo movie was also helpful.)

 

      In one scene at the beginning of Episode Two (I think, the actual episode title card is missing), the Sombra Blanca turns to the camera and speaks directly to the audience:  "I am Sombra Blanca.  My mission is to always remain anonymous, coexist with gangland, learn their secrets, and serve society.  Helping the agents of the police, defenders of the law and justice.  To combat the forces of evil that today, as [they do] almost every night, attack.  That's it.  And now, with your permission…"  At the end of Episode Two, he turns to the camera (audience) once again and says "And that's all for now, friends.  See the next episode, where I'll show you another adventure against crime."

 

      Of course, La Sombra Blanca is a mere "shadow" of a Santo movie--it's cheap (with some bad sound and one scene badly out-of-focus), the three "episodes" are only loosely related and full of inconsistencies (Miguel Arenas is mostly called "don Cosme," but Bruno Rey slips twice and calls him "don Miguel"; Rey himself has no beard in episode one, a beard in episode two, and no beard in episode three, and so on; some henchmen appear almost randomly, popping up in widely-separated scenes even after being arrested earlier!). 

 

        Episode 1 "La Sombra Blanca con la justicia" [The White Shadow with Justice]--an unnamed young man (Félix González, but he's never given a character name in the movie so we'll call him "Félix") and his pal Harapos work as stevedores in the market, loading boxes and sacks.  "Félix" also wrestles professionally at night.  His sister Rita [sometimes called Lolita] is the girlfriend of police Lt. Jaime.  "Félix" reports to the arena before his scheduled bout, and is told he must throw the match (because people have been betting on him; presumably if he wins, the "syndicate" will have to pay off and thus lose money).  "Félix" has a moral dilemma, but decides to win at all costs.  Since the crooks suspect he might do this, they kidnap Rita and take her to house in the suburbs.  Rita attempts to escape--cornered on a balcony, she leaps to her death (this is later called "an accident," but she clearly commits suicide, possibly to avoid a "fate worse than death," although there is no hint of this in the gangsters' actions).  The two gangsters report to their chief, don Cosme.

 

       Meanwhile, Félix wins his match and beats up the crooked promoter.  Jaime goes to Rita's apartment and is waylaid by one of the gangsters (waiting for "Félix"); he compels the criminal to take him to the spot where Rita is being held, but finds her corpse instead.  Jaime vows vengeance.  "Félix" does the same--he tells Jaime he's going undercover, and asks Jaime to secure a spot on the police force for Harapos.  "You'll be hearing from me," he says.  The two gangsters who actually abducted Rita are found in a park, dead.  Jaime reads a note from the Sombra Blanca, saying "Unfortunately I didn't kill them" (don Cosme ordered their deaths). 

 

       Episode 2 "Joyas sangrientas" [Bloody Jewels]--criminals rob a mansion of a fortune in jewels, killing the night watchman when he tries to raise an alarm.  Meanwhile, the Sombra Blanca is working with the police to fight crime.  Through a rather circuitous method, the Sombra directs Lt. Jaime and Harapos to the "Gato" bar, where they also run into their reporter pal Ramón.  Former jewel thief "Manos de Seda" (Silk Hands) manages the club for owner don Cosme; Manos swears he has gone straight.  Cosme's men hire an alcoholic old jeweler to remove the gems from their settings.  At the nightclub, cigarette girl Lucía tells Jaime her father--a retired jeweler--has disappeared, but she is kidnaped before she can give any more details.  Lucía's father is later found, dead.  Jaime arrests don Cosme and Arlette (a dancer at the club) as they try to leave the country with the stolen jewels wrapped inside Cuban cigars.  The Sombra rescues Manos de Seda (who really had gone straight) and Lucía from the rest of the gang.

 

      Episode 3 "La venganza" [The Vengeance]--although don Cosme is in prison, his gang continues to operate under the direction of Bruno (who was Cosme's clean-shaven sidekick in Episode 1, then became a bearded bartender at the Gato bar in Episode 2; he's clean-shaven again in this part) and Cosme's daughter, Carmina.  Carmina, wearing a blonde wig, pretends to be a stranded motorist.  When Jaime stops to help, he is knocked unconscious.  The murdered niece of the chief of detectives is found in his car's trunk, and Jaime is placed under arrest in the hospital.  Bruno and Carmina bicker about gang matters; Bruno visits don Cosme in prison and stabs him to  death in his cell!  He then decides to bump off Carmina, but she is saved by Consuelo, one of the gang's couriers. [It turns out Consuelo is don Cosme's former wife and Carmina's mother.]  Bruno shoots Consuelo but is killed by Carmina; Carmina and the rest of the gang are captured by the Sombra Blanca, Jaime, Harapos, and Ramón.

 

      La Sombra Blanca is a rather slipshod affair as far as the plot is concerned.   But another one of the main problems is the relatively minor role the Sombra Blanca plays in the film.  Most of the footage is of the criminals (making their plans, arguing, etc.), and runner-up goes to Jaime, Ramón, and Harapos, with the Sombra making only brief appearances.  This is somewhat consistent with the tack Orellana and Osés were taking with El Santo around this same time. 

 

       Still, La Sombra Blanca is reasonably entertaining, packed as it is with familiar faces. Eulalio González "Piporro" makes a comedy cameo appearance: he's sitting in the nightclub having a drink when Harapos and Ramón come in; Harapos slaps him on the back, shows his badge, and tells him to "move along" (so Harapos can have his seat!). Even given the rapid shooting schedule and (one assumes) low budget, the film doesn't look that bad and while there are some rough spots, Fernando Fernández manages to keep things going at a decent pace (except for one song by Lolita Casanova and a dance by Rosa Carmina, both of which slow things down a bit).

 

      One oddity is the lack of love interest for any of the protagonists--Jaime's girlfriend gets bumped off in episode 1, and from then on there is virtually no hint of romance, if you exclude Bruno's unrequited love for Carmina and the split-second suggestion from Manos de Seda that he'll "take care of" cigarette girl Lucía, now that her father is dead (she's not exactly a teen-ager but Manos de Seda does have quite a few years on her).

 

      A curiosity piece, but still moderately entertaining.

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