El Barón Brákola

(Filmica Vergara-Cinecomisiones, 1965)

Prod: Luis Enrique Vergara C.; Dir/Scr: José Díaz Morales; Story: Rafael García Travesí , Fernando Osés; Photo: Eduardo Valdez; Music: Jorge Pérez Herrera; Prod Mgr: Roy Fletcher; Prod Chief: José Rodríguez R.; Asst Dir: Angel Rodríguez; Film Ed: José Juan Munguía; Camera Op: Dagobied Rodríguez; Makeup: Armando Islas; Dialog Rec: Jesús Sánchez; Music/Re-rec: Salvador Topete; Fencing: Jorge Mateos, Julio Porter; Union: STIC

CAST: Santo (himself), Fernando Osés (Barón Brákola), Mercedes Carreño (Silvia), Antonio de Hud (Eduardo), Andrea Palma (Rebeca's mother), Ada Carrasco (Aurora), Susana Robles (Rebeca), Miguel Macía (don Fernando), Manuel Arvide (don Luis); Rosa Vinay (barmaid?), Jorge Fegan (servant), César Gay, Enrique Ramírez, Jorge Mateos, Roberto Porter; WRESTLERS: Quasimodo, Benny Galán, Juan Garza; Margarito Luna (spectator), "Picoro" (ring announcer)

Mexico City release: January 1967; 1 week run; Authorization: A

Spanish release data: Authorization date: 5 June 1967; Total spectators: 231, 474

NOTES: An interesting entry in the Santo filmography. With Fernando Osés as the chief villain (instead of just a henchman, as usual), this film contains some of the most boneshaking, brutal fights of any Santo picture--Santo and Osés mix it up numerous times, and both men go at it with a vengeance. Otherwise, the picture isn't too bad, the cheesy production values actually serving to enhance the bizarre atmosphere.

There are a couple of points worth noting. First, a significant portion of the film is set in 1765, with Santo's "ancestor," the "Caballero Enmascarado de Plata" as the hero. Dressed in a frilly colonial costume, this character wears two different masks: one a fairly plain, 3/4 face mask tied with a string (exposing only his mouth and chin), the other a glittery silver domino mask, exposing a large portion of the performer's face. Neither mask is the typical, full-head Santo mask. It's doubtful this is actually Santo (Rodolfo Guzmán Huerta), except perhaps in the action scenes, since the hair and face that can be seen do not seem to belong to a man of more than 50 years of age. Furthermore, this character engages in several sword fights, so it is possible the man behind this particular silver mask was one of the credited fencing masters. As usual, Santo--and the Caballero--has his dialogue dubbed, so it would not have been necessary to hire an experienced actor for the role.

Another role which seems to have undergone a casting change was that of "Silvia." Emilio García Riera reports that Ana Martín quit the film and filed a grievance with ANDA (the actors' union), complaining that the producer was using Meche Carreño as a nude "body double" for her. Apparently, Carreño was then assigned the acting scenes as well (she had appeared in bit roles in a few pictures prior to this but was not a well-known actress). No nude scenes appear in the Mexican version of this picture.

Baron Brákola emerges from his coffin, in a hidden chamber in the musty dungeon (filled with mummies, stuffed animals, masks, rats, and cobwebs) of an old house. He goes into another chamber where a coffin contains a pile of rags and a wooden stake: these are the remains of his long-lost love, Rebeca, who was killed in 1765 by an ancestor of Santo. Brákola swears vengeance on all who participated in this.

Meanwhile, Santo is participating in a match. Eduardo and Silvia are among his fans. Afterwards, in the deserted arena, middle-aged don Luis is attacked by the Baron. Santo comes to his assistance. "Stick a stake in his heart!" don Luis shouts, "The stake! The stake!" When Santo finally gets the hint and picks up a nearby stake, Brákola screams and disappears. Back at don Luis's house, the older man tells Santo that he moved to Mexico from Europe, where he and his daughter Silvia lived " in a region famous for its legends of monsters and vampires." Santo says "I've had experience with that class of beings." Don Luis says he doesn't live with his daughter Silvia because he is a descendant of the long-dead Rebeca, and thus a target for Brákola's vengeance. He tells Santo the story (in flashback):

In colonial Mexico in 1765, the rich Baron Brákola asks don Fernando and his wife for permission to marry their daughter, Rebeca. Don Fernando says it's up to her, and Rebeca definitively refuses. The Baron says they'll pay for treating him like this. Worried about the threat, don Fernando contacts the Caballero Enmascarado de Plata, who promises to help protect them. The Baron sends two hired swordsmen to kill the Caballero, but they fail; the Baron himself (after attacking a barmaid), joins the fray, and is fatally wounded. He retreats to his crypt (which already bears a sign "Baron Brákola, 1661-1765"). He is resurrected as an ugly (very bushy eyebrows, beetling brow, and a generally moronic look, sort of like Humphrey Bogart with acromegaly) vampire. He begins a series of nocturnal visits to Rebeca, drinking her blood. During his final visit (Rebeca dies), the Caballero bursts in and a long fight ensues. The Baron is ready to finish off his opponent when Rebeca's spirit appears; they walk off together. Later, Brákola digs up Rebeca's coffin and carries her corpse back to his house.

Rebeca, now a vampire herself, even tries to attack the Caballero (like Santo, he sleeps in his mask), but is scared off when he tells her to "believe in God." Campesinos start to turn up dead. Finally, the Caballero locates Rebeca's coffin and stakes her, but can't penetrate the Baron's burial chamber. And so the flashback ends, with don Luis telling Santo that the Baron, after being dormant for years, is now back for revenge. Santo leaves. Brákola appears and hypnotizes don Luis into writing down Silvia's address. When don Luis wakes up, he sees the piece of paper and calls Santo. They arrive too late, Silvia has already been bitten. However, Santo supervises a blood transfusion from Eduardo to Silvia. Don Luis gives him a map that allegedly shows the location of Brákola's hideout.

Brákola takes the place of one of Santo's opponents. A rough match ensues (the referee is tossed out of the ring!), but Brákola screams and flees when don Luis shows up and flashes a cross at him. Santo uses the first map to find a second map (hidden under a mantle beneath a painting of the Virgin of Guadalupe, where vampires couldn't get it). He locates Brákola's house. Oddly enough, after more than 200 years it still looks the same, nobody lives there, and even the furniture is still intact. Locating Brákola's crypt, Santo engages in yet another long and brutal fight with the vampire, finally ramming a wooden stake into his supernatural opponent. Brákola manages to climb back into his coffin before expiring, this time for good.

José Díaz Morales directs El Barón Brákola competently, although he does have one little odd habit--cutting to extreme long shots during action scenes. For instance, during the Baron's attack on don Luis and Santo in the arena, there are several very long, high angle shots of the ring, as if taken from the highest seat in the building, so that the actors are tiny little dots! Similarly, when the Caballero and the Baron are fighting on a second-floor veranda, there are shots of the building from around 100 feet away!

The cast is generally good. Osés is dubbed and his monster makeup makes him look stupid, but he's quite bestial and probably the best opponent Santo ever had, action-wise. Of the others, Antonio de Hud shows up in only two scenes, a nothing role; Meche Carreño has a little more footage but doesn't have to do much, the same for Andrea Palma and Ada Carrasco. Manuel Arvide comes off best of the supporting players, with a substantial amount of footage.

Production values on the Vergara films--both the Santo and Blue Demon vehicles in this era--were not high. The black and white photography is rather harsh and day-for-night shooting is especially bad, giving the appearance of continuity errors as the image shifts from bright to dark in alternate scenes. The sets are sparse, and seem to have been furnished with odds and ends that looked "weird" (a stuffed possum or weasel is particularly prominent). As in Atacan las brujas, important plot points are cleared up by being tossed in, after the fact, in dialogue: here, the Caballero remarks that he "heard" that killing a vampire's mate would cause a vampire to lie dormant for "some time," the only explanation given for Brákola's absence from the scene from 1765 to 1965 (it doesn't explain how, when he wakes up in 1965, he automatically knows who to go after for revenge). The canned music is only occasionally appropriate.

However, there is something about the Vergara pictures that is endearing: their very cheesiness makes them fun to watch, and they aren't dull.

Review by D. Wilt (dw45@umail.umd.edu). 22 December 1997. UPDATED: 19 January 2000