Santo vs. la hija de Frankestein

(Santo vs. Frankenstein's Daughter)

(Cinematográfica Calderón, 1971) Prod: Guillermo Calderón Stell, Santo; Dir: Miguel M. Delgado; Scr: Fernando Osés; Photo: Raúl Martínez Solares; Music Dir: Gustavo César Carrión; Prod Mgr: Carlos Suárez; Prod Chief: Jorge Cardeña; Asst Dir: Felipe Palomino; Film Ed: Jorge Bustos; Art Dir: José Rodríguez Granada; Decor: Adalberto López; Makeup: Román Juárez; Sound Supv: James L. Fields; Sound Ed: José Li-Ho; Union: STPC; Eastmancolor

CAST: Santo (himself), Gina Roman (Dr. Freda Frankestein), Anel (Norma), Roberto Cañedo (Dr. Yanco), Sonia Fuentes (Elsa), Carlos Agosti (don Elías), Gerardo Zepeda (Ursus; Truxon), Carlos Suárez (Tuerto), Jorge Casanova (Escorpio), Carlos Bravo y Fernández "Carl-Hillos" (jailer), Domingo Bazán and David Ayala (henchmen), Goliat Ayala and Ismaél Ramírez (wrestlers), Vicente Lara (bearded old man), Enrique Llanes (TV announcer)

Mexico City release: August 1972 (4-week run). Authorization: "A" (all audiences)

NOTES: After years of unavailability (at least on video and U.S. television), Santo vs. la hija de Frankestein finally surfaced (on a Mexican satellite channel). It turns out to be a fairly decent film; although Santo is not on-screen as much as one would hope, there is plenty of action and two monsters (both apparently played by Gerardo Zepeda, which seems kind of cheap on the part of the producers, even though the creatures don't share any scenes).

As the film opens, Tuerto (this means "One-Eyed") and some other men exhume a body to be used by Dr. Freda Frankestein and her assistant, Dr. Yanco. She is constructing a creature out of different corpses, and hopes to bring it to life. Another of her creations, Truxon, is a half-man, half-"beast" (gorilla), who eats raw meat and is kept under control by Freda's hypnotic powers. [note: Gerardo Zepeda's makeup is very similar to that which he wore in El horripilante bestia humana, aka Night of the Bloody Apes] He will soon regress entirely to an animalistic state.

But Freda has problems of her own: she, Yanco, and their assistants are all very old, but retain youthful appearances and vigor due to a serum that the mad doctor has invented. However, not only is this serum painful to take, it has to be administered ever more frequently. Freda tells Yanco that Santo is the solution. She saw him perform in the ring 30 years ago, and then again recently: he was as strong and agile as ever. She believes Santo's blood contains a super-concentration of a certain factor that prevents aging (Santo had a bloody nose and she picked up a few drops on her hankerchief, after the match). With more blood from the silver-masked man, Freda and her assistants can perfect their youth serum.

Meanwhile, Santo is wrestling the red-masked El Toro, from Argentina, in a world middle-weight championship semi-final. At home, Santo's girlfriend Norma is watching the match on TV. Her sister Elsa asks how Norma could fall in love with a masked man. He takes off his mask when we are alone, Nora replies, and "if you could see him [without his mask], you'd be as crazy about him as I am." Despite El Toro's blatantly illegal use of brass knuckles (the TV announcer says Santo is bleeding profusely, but he must be watching a different match than we are, since no blood is visible at all!), Santo wins and will now wrestle for the title.

In order to lure Santo to her lab, Freda sends her men to kidnap Norma. They leave a note telling Santo what to do. He and Elsa, who insists upon coming along, travel to the little town of Santa Fe. The sheriff (comisario) is don Elías, who tries to discourage them from going further into the wilds at night, but they press onward. As Santo and Elsa trudge through the woods towards Freda's headquarters, they hear a howl, which Santo says is a hungry coyote. But he tells Elsa not to fear, "coyotes only attack deer, sometimes men, but never pretty girls."

Meanwhile, Freda has succeeded in bringing Ursus, her new monster, to life. His face and boxy head somewhat resemble the traditional Frankenstein's monster. Freda also hires six new employees. They are all elderly men, who will get access to the youth serum if they serve her faithfully. She warns them that the injections will be painful, "as if your blood is boiling," and we hear screams as the treatments begin. Also on the youth serum payroll is don Elías, the treacherous sheriff, who doesn't look old now, but needs his fix for later.

Freda also punishes one of her henchmen, Escorpio, for his carelessness which could have betrayed their operation. Despite his pleas, she allows him to get old, older, oldest, right in front of his pals. After he dies and his corpse turns into a sort of mummy, he's propped up in a coffin stored in an underground passageway.

Ursus breaks free of his restraining chains and roams through Freda's dungeons. He smashes down the door to Norma's cell, but Tuerto seizes a torch and chases the monster away. Norma takes advantage of the confusion to flee. She runs into the forest just as Santo and Elsa are approaching the house which hides the entrance to Freda's headquarters. Santo fights some of Freda's men; Elsa is caught by Freda (who temporarily turns old, then suddenly is young again). After another struggle, Elsa runs off but Norma and Santo are taken prisoner.

Elsa, unfortunately, decides that don Elías can help her. She arrives during one of his old spells, and is shocked by his aged features. She winds up in a jail cell, and Elías spills the beans about Freda and her plans.

Meanwhile, Freda is taunting a chained-up Santo. She asks him if he is ashamed to be the prisoner of a fragile woman, and he replies "I don't think you're fragile--or a woman." Freda replies, "Would you like to find out? We could be friends..." She takes off Santo's mask and kisses him, then slaps his face when he rejects her advances. She hands him the key to his chains, and says he'll fight Truxon.

Man-gorilla Truxon puts up a good fight, but Santo prevails, whipping his opponent savagely with some chains. Freda has her losing monster shot and orders Santo to be chained up again. She then hypnotizes Norma. Giving the young woman a knife and a pan, Freda instructs Norma to cut out Santo's eyes and bring them to her! In a nice scene, a helpless Santo tries to convince Norma not to de-eye him, she lunges at him (subjective camera), there is a cut to Tuerto waiting outside the cell, and Santo's agonized scream is heard.

However, Santo managed to snap Norma out of her trance, and he frees himself as well. A fight breaks out in Freda's lab between Santo and Ursus, with Norma and the others contributing to the confusion. After whacking Ursus with a metal chair, Santo grabs Norma and they run out, taking the secret tunnel Norma used earlier.

While resting in a nearby cemetary, Santo and Norma are surprised by Ursus and another man, who come out of a hidden entrance in a crypt. Ursus winds up impaled on a sharp grave marker. Elsa has escaped from jail, and she meets up with Santo and Norma in town. Their car is out of commission, so Santo gets them a ride to the city with a passing Santo fan in a Jeep. Santo himself goes back to the lab to prevent Freda from fleeing.

Before he gets there, Santo runs into the wounded Ursus. He uses his shirt to bandage the creature's horrible chest wound, and then enters the crypt that leads to Freda's lab. However, he runs into a trap in the corridor (gas comes out of a mummy's eye sockets) and collapses. Ursus has followed, and comes to Santo's aid.

Meanwhile, Norma and Elsa have been recaptured by Freda's men (the Jeep broke down). Freda threatens to throw acid on the young women's faces. Santo bursts in, followed by Ursus. Both Freda and Santo try to control the monster, ordering him to kill the other person (Santo says "She's the reason for your horrible life!"). Ursus chooses to work for Santo, and strangles Freda (who pours acid on his face as she dies). The automatic lab-destruct switch (which had been specifically pointed out earlier, so you know it's going to be used) is thrown, and Santo runs out with Norma and Elsa (he tells Ursus to follow them, but no such luck). Dr. Yanco kisses Freda's dead (and wrinkled hand) as the lab explodes.

The film concludes with Santo wrestling for the championship, as Norma and Elsa cheer him on. He defeats Japanese grappler Yamaguchi and holds up the championship belt. The End.

The monster and old-age makeups in Santo hija... are reasonably well-done. As noted above, the "Truxon" makeup is basically the same as in El horripilante bestia humana: sort of greasy, dark facial makeup but nothing below the neck. [A curious aside: around 1950, a Mexican circus had a famous gorilla attraction named "Truxon] "Ursus" differs from Truxon facially, with a scarred, boxy-head Frankenstein-monster look. He also wears clothes and lurches when he walks (the bare-chested Truxon is fairly agile). The old-age makeup isn't bad, although the various actors who wear it (Romand, Agosti, Jorge Casanova) look burned or scarred rather than aged. The makeup even extends to their hands and arms, a nice touch.

Gina Romand is good as Freda Frankestein, although she switches wigs several times in the course of the film, which is somewhat disconcerting. She's a pretty ruthless person, and when one of her henchmen says he respects her, another of the gang says "Don't confuse fear with respect." Robert Cañedo is under-utilized as her chief assistant; he's off-screen much of the time, and really doesn't contribute to the plot, although he gets to demonstrate some wicked karate chops at the finale when he's fighting Santo. Carlos Suárez, wearing a wig and eye-patch, plays henchman #1 and gets to display a little personality (in fact, there is a surprising amount of personality given to various characters). When Norma is sent to extract Santo's eyes, both Suárez and another squeamish henchman decide to wait outside the room (with predictable results). Suárez apologizes later to Freda, saying "it reminded me of when I lost my eye."

The script of Santo vs. la hija... doesn't contain too many blatantly illogic points, although the revolving-door escapes/recaptures/escapes of Santo, Norma, and Elsa (singly and in pairs) gets a little silly after a while, particularly since the whole plot unfolds in the space of about a day. The idea that elderly non-criminals would willingly become henchmen of a mad scientist in exchange for a youth serum might be hard to swallow, but then again, I'm not yet a senior citizen, so who's to say?

Not a classic, but certainly not a disappointment, either.

Back to the Santo Filmography.

This review posted 22 February 2000. Many thanks to Freddy Peralta for loaning his copy of this film to me!