Anónimo mortal [Anonymous Death Threat]

(Prods. Jiménez Pons Hermanos, 1972) Exec Prod: Jaime Jiménez Pons; Dir: Aldo Monti; Scr: Carlos Enrique Taboada; Photo: Ricardo Carretero; Asst Dir: Jorge Santoyo; Film Ed: Marcelino Aupart; Lighting: Alfonso López; Makeup: Irene Bustos

CAST: Santo (himself), Armando Silvestre (Insp. Ponce), Tere Velázquez (Yvette), Gregorio Casals (Pablo), Jorge Radó ("Henkel" aka Paul von Struber*), Sasha Montenegro (Ester), Raymundo Capetillo (Rocha), Xavier Massé (Mario Gaos), Fernando Wagner (old Nazi), Jorge Mondragón (Landeros), Joaquín Bauche (Fournier), Antonio Raxel (window-cleaner Nazi), Manolo Calvo (Fisher), Armando Arreola (Campos), Margarita Herman (wife of jeweler), José Mora (jeweler?), Carlos Suárez (man who plants bomb in Santo's car), El Polaco and El Nazi (Santo's ring opponents) *[García Riera spells this "Von Struegel" but it sure sounds like "Von Struber" everytime somebody says it]

Mexico City release: April 1975; 2 week run; Authorization: A

NOTES: This is an interesting and well-made Santo film, although it has no fantasy elements. There is some question about the date of production of Anónimo mortal: Moisés Viñas lists it as a 1970 film, while García Riera says it was made in 1972. I lean towards the latter date, since it was shot on 16mm (probably intended for TV), just like Santo vs. las lobas, which was made for the same company in 1972; furthermore, Armando Silvestre and Tere Velázquez play the same characters in two Blue Demon vehicles shot in 1972 ( Polo Ortín replaced Raymundo Capetillo as "Rocha," Silvestre's assistant, in these two movies); finally, Sasha Montenegro's career was just getting underway in 1972, and it is unlikely she would have had such a significant role in a film shot in 1970. Aldo Monti did direct Acapulco 12-22 in 1971 for the Jiménez Pons brothers--this film was made by the same crew as Anónimo mortal and included Raymundo Capetillo in a supporting role, but it was made late in 1971, not 1970.

In a pre-credits sequence, an older man convinces an elderly jewelry shop owner to let him in after hours so he can buy a birthday present for his wife. Once inside, the client pulls a silenced pistol. "Is this a robbery?" the shopkeeper asks. "No, a murder," is the reply, as the intruder fires.

Insp. Ponce and Det. Rocha of the police investigate. It wasn't a robbery, since nothing was taken. The jeweler's widow says she can't think of anyone who would want to kill her husband.

Real estate agent Campos takes Fisher, a client, to the top of a tall building he is hoping to sell. "Up here you are safe from the smog," Campos says, just before Fisher pushes him off the rooftop to his death. Campos' partner cannot provide a clue; however, Rocha shows his supervisor an anonymous note Campos had received: "Your turn to die is next. You condemned yourself." When this story gets into the papers, businessman Mario Gaos is upset: he also received a similar note, with a date fixed for his murder. His wife Ester wants to call the police, but Mario says "the only person who can save me [is] El Santo."

After Santo's match with El Polaco, Mario visits the silver-masked hero in his dressing room. Santo is accompanied by Yvette and Pablo, his crime-fighting associates. They go back to Mario's house to discuss the case, and Santo says they will guard him day and night. As Santo departs, he is nearly the victim of a drive-by shooting. Meanwhile, Ponce and Rocha learn that the jeweler also received a death threat in the mail.

Yvette is stationed in Mario's office to protect him. However, a window-cleaner enters through another room. Mario orders him to leave. Yvette and the man fight, but she is distracted when a bomb the man planted under Mario's desk explodes. Mario is killed. The assassin knocks out Yvette and escapes. Later, discussing the case, Yvette asks if the killings could be political. No, Pablo replies, since the victims were all working in occupations far removed from politics. "Now," Santo says, "but before?" Yvette researches the victims: the jeweler and Campos both emigrated to Mexico in 1945; Gaos came later, from Argentina, and Ester was his second wife.

Ponce and Rocha arrive and criticize Santo for not coming to them when Gaos asked for help. They agree to share their clues. Ponce gets a phone call: a man named Henkel says he got a death threat and barely missed being shot to death. Santo goes along with the police to the scene. Henkel says he is a machinery salesman and has no enemies. When Santo asks if he was in World War Two, Henkel stumbles around and finally (unconvincingly) says no. Later, Santo comes back and Henkel admits that he did oppose Hitler during WWII, even though he's German. (Later, they learn that Max Henkel, a German who testified in a war crimes trial, supposedly died in 1947) As Santo leaves, he meets Ester, who says she found some important documents in her husband's papers. Santo agrees to visit her the next day, since he has a wrestling match that night.

Santo's match against El Nazi (who is just an ordinary wrestler, with no mask or costume to tie in with his name) is interrupted when a sniper (who is sitting in the audience--apparently no one thinks it is odd that he is wearing a swastika armband and carrying a rifle, but who knows about those Mexican wrestling crowds) shoots, missing Santo but killing his opponent (I wonder if that goes down in the record books as a victory for Santo?). At her home, Ester gets a phone call: since the sniper failed, she is ordered to kill Santo the next day.

Santo is not impressed with the documents Ester shows him, and asks why she really wanted him to come to her house. She stalls, preparing the silver-masked man a (poisoned) drink. Fortunately, the phone rings: it is Ponce, who tells Santo that an autopsy proves Gaos was being slowly poisoned (so why did they bother to blow him up?). Santo hangs up, and tells Ester he has to leave. "Did the Inspector discover something important?" she asks. "And at a very opportune moment," Santo replies. "You haven't had your drink," Ester says. Santo: "Fortunately." "Why?" Ester asks. "Oh...because I have to drive," Santo says as he makes his exit.

Santo gets a call from Henkel, asking for a meeting in a warehouse. Naturally, it's a trap and three Nazis attack. Santo bests them, but two escape (the third is accidentally shot by one of his partners) as the police arrive. Insp. Ponce doesn't understand why Nazis are suddenly showing up in Mexico, 25 years after the war. "In Europe, the United States, and some South American countries, Nazism has begun to flourish again," Pablo suggests. They speculate that the victims may have done some special damage to Hitler and his followers during WWII. Henkel, when questioned, denies calling Santo. He admits that he gave testimony against a concentration camp commandant, Von Struber, who was sentenced to be hung (Pablo's research later reveals that all of the victims were witnesses against Von Struber, who was not executed, but escaped). Another witness, coincidentally, is living in Mexico (apparently all the Nazis fled to Argentina and all of their enemies emigrated to Mexico, after the war).

Dr. Fournier, the last witness, says he remembers the case. Von Struber "sent many people to the ovens." He thinks Henkel died many years before. The same Nazi who blew up Gaos is sent to kill Fournier, but Pablo intervenes and shoots him. Meanwhile, Yvette has followed Henkel to a remote factory site in the countryside, and is contacted by radio. Santo decides to join her, but catches a Nazi planting a bomb in his car (the wrestler rips out the wires as the bomber whines in fear). However, the Nazi won't talk and--to make sure--his confederates shoot him to death in a hallway of police headquarters!

Yvette is captured by Ester and taken to the Nazi hideout. She is forced to tell Santo over the radio that she's OK, but she manages to tip him off to her plight and location. Santo discovers a secret entrance to the Nazi's hideout in a rural cemetary, but is also captured. Pablo and Fournier, who were coming to warn Santo, are also imprisoned. Henkel is exposed as Von Struber, who wants revenge on those who testified against him at the war crimes trial. Ester is his daughter, who married Gaos only to further the Nazis' revenge.

Santo and his friends are put in a cell, only "this isn't a cell, it's a gas chamber," Santo tells them. However, they escape when two guards rather foolishly open the door and come in. Meanwhile, the police are closing in, and one of Von Struber's associates wants to surrender. Von Struber would rather fight it out and then commit suicide, like Hitler did, so he shoots his cowardly underling. He tries to gun down Yvette, but only succeeds in killing Ester, his daughter. Eventually, he picks the worst possible hiding spot: his own gas chamber, which fills up with gas and kills him. Santo and the others escape and meet Insp. Ponce outside.

Anónimo mortal, written by Carlos Enrique Taboada (who gets billing on the main title card!), has a few holes in its plot (such as: why did Henkel-Von Struber make a false report about an attempt on his life, since all this did was call attention to himself?!) but is generally pretty well-written. There is a bit more characterization that one might expect: Ponce and his assistant Rocha have a mock-hostile relationship, as do Yvette and Pablo, which comes off as reasonably naturalistic between people who work together closely. (There is one odd bit, when Ponce and Rocha first come to Santo's house: Pablo, with a strange, almost predatory expression on his face, goes up to Rocha and asks him if he wants a drink. Rocha says no, not while he's on duty. What's going on here?) The interplay between Santo and Ponce is also unusual, for a Santo film. Most of the time, Santo is either workly closely with the police and authorities, or even giving them orders. But in this film, Ponce criticizes Santo for holding back and indirectly causing Gaos' death. Santo apologizes and the two men agree to cooperate, but they are constantly withholding information from each other for the rest of the picture! There are also some neat dialogue exchanges, such as the one quoted about between Santo and Ester, which--while not great--is significantly better than those in most Santo movies.

The film was shot mostly (if not entirely) on location, but doesn't look especially cheap (except that there are apparently only 6 or 7 Nazis in the whole gang, based on those we see). The Nazi HQ includes a large meeting room with a lot of (empty) chairs and some BIG swastikas on the walls and floor. Since the film was shot with a small crew using 16mm equipment, there is a lot of mobile, hand-held camerawork which adds some excitement to the action scenes but is a little shaky at other times. The film's visual quality isn't as slick as studio-made 35mm productions, but it isn't bad.

Except for the two arena matches, there isn't much physical action in Anónimo mortal--Santo has a couple of clashes with some of the younger, beefy Nazis, but the film concentrates on detection rather than action.

The cast is good--some of the faces aren't too familiar (Fernando Wagner was a stage actor and director who only made a few films), and some of the familiar ones (Carlos Suárez, Antonio Raxel, Jorge Mondragón) are relegated to bit parts.

Overall, a satisfactory change of pace for Santo.


dw45@umail.umd.edu