Santo y Blue Demon contra el Dr. Frankenstein

(Cin. Calderón--Santo, 1973) Prod: Guillermo Calderón Stell, Santo; Dir: Miguel M. Delgado; Scr: Lic. Francisco Cavazos, Alfred Salazar; Story: Alfredo Salazar; Photo: Rosalío Solano; Music Dir: Gustavo C. Carrión; Prod Mgr: Carlos Suárez; Prod Chief: Jorge Cardeña; Asst Dir: Jaime L. Contreras, Américo Fernández; Film Ed: Jorge Bustos; Art Dir: Javier Torres Torija; Makeup: Román Juárez; Sound Supv: James L. Fields; Dialog Rec: Eduardo Arjona; Re-rec: Ramón Moreno; Sound Ed: José Liho; Union: STPC; Eastmancolor

CAST: Santo (Santo), Blue Demon (Blue Demon), Sasha Montenegro (Alicia Robles), Jorge Russek (Dr. Irving Frankenstein), Ivonne Govea (Marta), Jorge Mondragón (Prof. Ruiz), Carlos Suárez (henchman), Sonia Aguilar (Carmen), Rubén Aguirre (Dr. Genaro Molina), Jorge Casanova (Dr. Mora), Sebastián Verti, Carlos Nieto (Cmdte. Gutiérrez), Octavio Menduet (murdered husband), Sonia Fuentes, Angélica Chaín (Lilia), Agustín Meza de la Peña, Carlos Bravo y Fernández "Carl Hillos" (reporter), Lina Michel (first victim, Berta); wrestlers: Ray Mendoza, Enrique Vera, El Angel, César Valentino, El Gran Marcus; Enrique Llanes (announcer); referees: Roberto Rangel, José Rojas y Marhala

Mexico City release: October 1974; 2 week run; Authorization: A

NOTES: Santo and Blue Demon vs. Dr. Frankenstein is a slick and entertaining entry in the Santo series, although the titular mad scientist's monstrous creation is rather disappointing (basically, a muscular black guy with a faint scar around his skull), particularly when compared with the two monsters in Santo contra la hija de Frankestein [Santo vs. Frankenstein's Daughter, 1971]. Aficionados of Mexican fantasy films may experience deja vu as the conclusion of Santo and Blue Demon vs. Dr. Frankenstein unreels, since scripter Alfredo Salazar had already used an identical setup in Las luchadoras contra el médico asesino [The Wrestling Women vs. the Killer Doctor, aka Doctor of Doom, 1962] and Las luchadoras contra el robot asesino [The Wrestling Women vs. the Killer Robot, 1968]. Santo and Blue Demon vs. Dr. Frankenstein also borrows plot elements from Santo contra la hija de Frankestein--both movies feature an aged mad scientist and assistants who use a youth serum to appear young, want Santo for an experiment, kidnap a female acquaintance of Santo to make him cooperate, have a monstruous henchman, etc.

The history of "Frankenstein" in Mexican cinema dates back to the late 1950s, although a reasonable facsimile of the monster (in its Universal Pictures incarnation) can be glimpsed as early as Asesinato en los estudios [Murder in the Movie Studios, 1944], as part of a "film within a film." Frankenstein's monster clones show up in the comedies El castillo de los monstruos [The Castle of the Monsters, 1957] and Frankenstein, el Vampiro, y compañía [Frankenstein, the Vampire, and Company, 1961--an uncredited remake of Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein]. Other Mexican films which borrowed the Frankenstein name and/or concept include El monstruo resucitado [The Resurrected Monster, 1953--ugly scientist, handsome monster!], Orlak, el infierno de Frankenstein [Orlak: the Hell of Frankenstein, 1960--Dr. Frankenstein creates a robot that looks like Joaquín Cordero until its face melts!], and El arma secreta [The Secret Weapon, 1992--a murdered policeman's brain is placed in a reconstructed body by Víctor Frankenstein III].

In one of the more outrageous movie-ad deceptions, a Frankenstein's monster is prominently featured on the poster for Santo en el museo de cera [Santo in the Wax Museum, 1963], but in the film the creature only appears as an immobile wax figure! Santo finally confronted a real Frankenstein's monster in Santo y Blue Demon contra los monstruos [Santo and Blue Demon vs. the Monsters, 1969]. The creature-- billed as "Franquestein"--appears to be wearing a Don Post monster mask, accessorized with a little moustache and goatee! Coincidentally, the actor playing the monster was stuntman Manuel Leal, who later became the professional wrestler known as "Tinieblas," and appeared in this guise in El Santo's final two movies, El puño de la muerte [The Fist of Death], and La furia de las karatecas [Fury of the Karate Experts, both 1981]. As mentioned above, Santo's meeting with Frankenstein's daughter (or, as her name was spelled on the movie itself, the daughter of Frankestein), brought him into conflict with two monsters, an apeman and a Frankenstein's monster-like creature (in surprisingly good, pseudo-Universal makeup) assembled from corpses.

As an aside, Santo confronted "Frankenstein" (or "Frankestein") in quite a few of his movies--but this was actually just the nickname of wrestler-actor Nothanael León. León--instantly recognizable due to his shaved head--appeared in many Mexican movies from the 1950s through the 1980s, including numerous Santo pictures (he is one of the vampire men in Santo contra las mujeres vampiro, 1962, for instance).

In Santo and Blue Demon vs. Dr. Frankenstein, the two masked superheroes battle Dr. Irving (!) Frankenstein, a 113-year-old mad scientist practicing brain transplantation in hopes this will allow him to revive his late wife (whose corpse he keeps in a glass case). To obtain experimental subjects, Frankenstein orders his zombie Golem (controlled via an electronic device implanted in his skull) to abduct innocent people. This draws the attention of the police, Santo, and Blue Demon. Alicia, whose late father was a wrestler friend of Santo's, is kidnaped by Frankenstein to lure the silver- masked man into a trap (Frankenstein thinks Santo's brain might be worth transplanting). This works, up to a point--Santo is caught and prepped for an operation, but Blue Demon rescues him. The two superheroes wreck the lab and defeat Frankenstein's henchmen, but the mad doctor, an aide, and Golem escape. Frankenstein, wearing a mask, later introduces Golem ( also wearing a mask) as new wrestling sensation "Mortis," who is immediately signed up for a match with El Santo. Santo is nearly killed in the ring by the super-strong Golem, but Blue Demon spots Frankenstein's henchman (who for some reason wasn't issued a mask by his boss) in the audience and realizes what is happening. Frankenstein panics and summons Golem from the ring to protect him; after a struggle between Santo, Blue Demon, and the two villains, Frankenstein and "Mortis" plunge to their deaths from a catwalk high above the arena.

The role of Irving Frankenstein was taken by Jorge Russek, best-known for playing gangsters and norteños (people from northern Mexico, very roughly analogous to Texans in U.S. popular culture). Russek (1932-1998) was a good actor and seems to have had fun with the script, whether voicing his suspicions about women police officers or vowing to conquer death with his scientific knowledge. Rubén Aguirre, familiar to millions of TV viewers as "Profesor Girafales" on the long-running El Chavo del ocho comedy program, plays Frankenstein's assistant Molina, while Jorge Mondragón--the unfortunate Profesor Cristaldi in the previous year's Santo and Blue Demon vs. Dracula and the Wolfman--was cast as ditsy Professor Ruiz. Carlos Suárez, Santo's manager in real life, plays the mad doctor's chief henchman.

Santo and Blue Demon vs. Dr. Frankenstein features two actresses who would soon become major stars of Mexican cinema. Sasha Montenegro (whose real name was Alejandra Asimovic Popovic-- her stage name was chosen to honor her Balkan heritage) had already worked with El Santo three times: Asesinos de otros mundos [Killers from Other Worlds, 1971], Anónimo mortal [Anonymous Death Threat, 1972], and Santo contra la magia negra [Santo vs. Black Magic, 1972]. Montenegro had also appeared in a faithful but lackluster version of "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde," El hombre y la bestia [The Man and the Beast, 1972]; she became a top star after 1974's Bellas de noche [Night Beauties], the first of the fichera [bar-girl] genre. During the 1980s Montenegro made many movies --mostly so-called "sexy comedies"--and added to her fame when she wed José López Portillo, who had just completed his term as President of Mexico (1976-82). Montenegro gives little evidence of her impending superstardom in Santo and Blue Demon vs. Dr. Frankenstein: she's satisfactory as the requisite "woman in peril," but doesn't display the personality (or the bare flesh!) that later made her famous.

Concidentally, another actress in Santo and Blue Demon vs. Dr. Frankenstein would become one of Montenegro's chief rivals for the sex-symbol crown of the 1980s--Angélica Chaín, in one of her first screen appearances, plays Blue Demon's girlfriend. An extremely beautiful strawberry blonde, Chaín starred in several dozen pictures with titles such as Escuela de placer [School of Pleasure, 1981] and Diario íntimo de una cabaretera [Intimate Diary of a Bargirl, 1988].

Technically, Santo and Blue Demon vs. Dr. Frankenstein is satisfactory, although the lighting and set decor are a little too bright and colorful for the subject matter. Director Miguel M. Delgado doesn't try for much "horror" atmosphere after the opening sequences, which are at the same time creepy and unintentionally funny. The action scenes are undercut by some inappropriately jaunty xylophone music, while the rest of the movie is scored very sparingly. The production values are quite good--if not lavish--reflecting the facilities of the Churubusco studios and the skill of the technicians employed there.

DETAILED SYNOPSIS

A woman walking home from work is kidnaped by a muscular black man who walks in a stiff, robot-like manner. She is taken to the secret laboratory of Dr. Irving Frankenstein. Frankenstein and his assistant Molina try to transplant the brain of the woman into the skull of another woman, and vice versa. But the operation fails, and both die. But instead of disposing of the bodies secretly, Frankenstein reanimates them and sends them out into the street. The women, wearing hospital gowns, their heads wrapped in bloody bandages and with black circles around their eyes, go to their homes: one strangles her sister, the other kills her husband (who, after reporting his wife missing to the police, apparently just went home, put on his pajamas, and went to bed!).

Frankenstein, who is really 113 years old but looks young, is experimenting on brain transplants so he can revive his wife Sandra, who died of brain cancer 80 years before (he keeps her body in a glass case; apparently he doesn't think giving his wife a new brain will change her personality at all). Molina brings two aged scientists to help: Frankenstein gives them a dose of the serum that restores their youth, and they agree to help him.

Frankenstein's only success is the black zombie Golem, who is motivated by an electronic device planted in his brain. But Golem, although immensely strong, is clumsy and slow. Frankenstein wants Santo's brain for his next experiment. He decides to kidnap Alicia Robles, a young woman whose father was a professional wrestler and who is now close friends with Santo and Blue Demon. Alicia is snatched when she leaves work, and Golem kills several policemen who try to intervene.

Santo and Blue Demon are notified of the kidnaping. Cmdte. Gutiérrez of the police welcomes their assistance; he has also assigned two women detectives, Marta and Carmen, to the case. When Frankenstein reads about this, he's upset: "Police wearing pants don't worry me, but police wearing skirts make me nervous. I've never trusted feminine intuition." He sends his henchmen to kidnap the two women, but Santo and Blue Demon foil the attempt. However, Golem arrives and the two wrestlers realize (after watching the zombie bend a fireplace poker with his bare hands) that discretion is the better part of valor, and duck out the back way with the two female detectives.

Frankenstein sends a note to Santo: he'll release Alicia if Santo surrenders in her place. Santo gives Blue Demon a wristwatch that contains a receiver; he has the transmitter in his watch, in case things get dangerous. Santo goes along with Frankenstein's men willingly, but the mad doctor refuses to release Alicia. Santo is strapped to an operating table in preparation for the experiment. He activates the watch, and Blue Demon arrives to release him. They defeat Frankenstein's men and free Alicia. However, Frankenstein, his chief henchman, and Golem escape.

In order to get revenge, Frankenstein poses as a foreign (masked) wrestling promoter, with Golem as his (masked) wrestler named "Mortis." He wrestles Santo, and is strangling the silver-masked man when Blue Demon spots Frankenstein's aide in the audience. He forces the man to reveal the plot. Frankenstein summons Golem from the ring, and they flee to the catwalks high in the arena. Blue Demon and Santo pursue: Golem and Frankenstein fall to their deaths. Frankenstein's corpse rapidly ages after he dies.

Santo y Blue Demon contra el Dr. Frankenstein isn't a bad film, although it isn't as wild as it could have been. Even though the two heroes don't appear until more than 10 minutes into the picture, the early sequence where the two zombie-women leave Frankenstein's lab and go home (where they kill their relatives!) makes up for this omission by its outrageousness.

Jorge Mondragón, as Alicia's employer Professor Ruiz, serves chiefly as comic relief. He reports Alicia missing to the police, but really doesn't know much about her personal life, except that he thinks she's married to both Santo and Blue Demon! Later, he says, "she said her boyfriend was Santo," but then changes his mind and decides, "she said she didn't have a boyfriend." As they leave, Blue Demon asks Santo, "Which insane asylum did Professor Ruiz escape from?"

While Blue Demon is given short shrift as usual, he is given a girlfriend (Angélica Chaín in one of her first roles) who appears in a couple of scenes, and in a scene in the police station he gets to display some personality. "If this sadistic murderer falls into our hands--" he begins, but Santo breaks in and says "--we'll turn him over to the authorities." "If the circumstances permit," Blue adds, "if not--" (he makes a fist, suggestively).

Jorge Russek steals the film, with lines like "When battling death, sometimes you have to kill." The rest of the cast is adequate, although Jorge Casanova (as one of the elderly scientists who joins Frankenstein's team) is saddled with a very obvious wig in his "old" scenes (the other scientist is played by a different actor after he turns young, but Casanova just dumps the gray wig and beard). It's amusing to see Rubén Aguirre--later a stalwart on the "Chespirito" TV shows--as a junior mad scientist. Ivonne Govea and Sonia Aguilar are cute and perky as the two police detectives, but they don't really do anything.

The production values are satisfactory, although Gustavo Carrión's score is uninspired, and the fight scenes are accompanied by slightly silly xylophone music.

Mildly entertaining.


Revised 10 July 2018.

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Misterio en las Bermudas [Mystery in Bermuda]

(Prods. Agrasánchez, 1977) Exec Prod: David Agrasánchez L.; Prod: Rogelio Agrasánchez L.; Dir: Gilberto Martínez Solares; Scr: Gilberto and Adolfo Martínez Solares; Idea: Rogelio Agrasánchez; Photo: Adolfo Martínez Solares; Music: Ernesto Cortázar [Jr.]; Prod Crew: Jorge Moreno, Ernesto Fuentes, Luis Tovar; Film Ed: Jorge Bustos; Union: STIC

CAST: Santo (Santo), Blue Demon (Blue Demon), Mil Máscaras (Mil Máscaras), Silvia Manríquez (Rina), Sandra Duarte (spy), Carlos Suárez (head spy), Gaynor Kote (Princess Soreida), Ernesto Solis (Ramiro), Humberto Cabañas (spy), Julio César Agrasánchez (boy), Rebeca Sexton (spy?), Leticia Montemayor, José Luis Elizondo, Marco Antonio Marín

Mexico City release: 16 August 1979; 5 week run; Authorization: A

Spanish release data: Authorization date: 30 April 1980; Total spectators: 12,760 (not too good!)

NOTES: This film could be considered the "end" of the masked-wrestler genre, although Santo would go on to star in 4 additional pictures (and make a cameo appearance in one more), and Mil Máscaras would show up in a few more movies in the next two decades. But by 1977, the wrestling-hero films as a regular part of the Mexican film scene were passé. And in fact, the film seems designed to put an end to the genre, since the picture ends with the disappearance of the three masked heroes from the face of the earth, and then a nuclear explosion!

As the film begins, a mysterious beacon rises from the sea, and an airliner disappears. Then a strange storm suddenly comes up. The next day, Ramiro and a young friend go out on the dock to fish. The boy reels in a strange object: Santo's mask, covered with seaweed! Ramiro says, years before, he was present when some strange things happened, like planes and ships disappearing...

After a wrestling match, Santo, Blue Demon, and Mil Máscaras are greeted by their fans, including Ramiro, an old acquaintance of Santo. Several attractive young women in bikinis try to make the acquaintance of Santo and the others at poolside , but the wrestlers have to leave to prepare for an important meeting. Meanwhile, another mysterious storm appears, and Ramiro is stranded at sea in his little boat. He's nearly sharkbait when Santo, Blue Demon, and Mil Máscaras show up and save him.

At the meeting, the wrestlers are informed by a representative of the nation of Irania that his country is about to sign a treaty with theirs (unspecified, presumably Mexico). But agents of another country plan to kidnap the Princess Soreida, who is going to sign the treaty. Santo knows Soreida, whose mother is from the United States. A fake Princess will attempt to decoy the enemy agents, and Soreida will pose as a visiting karate expert.

Mil Máscaras is attacked by three men who knock him out and steal his watch. He's aided by one of the attractive young women they met at the pool, not knowing that she is one of the gang of foreign agents. She later introduces two friends to Santo and Blue Demon. Santo and Rina go back to his hotel room "to talk," but Rina slips him a mickey. She then quizzes him about his mission to protect Soreida, and--as an afterthought--asks him what he thought of the three young women he met. He says he thought two were "hypocritical and perverse," but Rina was sincere. She revives Santo and tells him that her father was a scientist who disappeared on a flight over the ocean nearby.

After a workout in a high school gym, Santo, Blue Demon and Mil Máscaras are attacked by the spy gang. Meanwhile, two men in shiny silver suits appear and kidnap Rina. They drive to the dock and escape on a cabin cruiser, with the wrestlers in pursuit. However, the boat suddenly disappears. Rina finds herself in a strange place inhabited by men in silver jumpsuits. The leader, who is reclining on a yellow chaise lounge, asks her why she was associating with the spies. She tells him that she infiltrated the gang to see if they knew anything about her missing father. The leader tells her she can never return to the "surface world," and says "take her to be purified!"

Back on the surface, a yacht arrives with the fake Princess, who is the target of an assassin's bullet, that instead kills one of her bodyguards. Soreida and two assistants are greeted at the airport by Santo and his friends. The head spy takes photos of Soreida at a karate demonstration, which he compares with a photo album of the "royal family of Irania," and realizes that the supposed Princess is a double. It's too late for the stand-in, however, as she is murdered by another spy in her hotel room. The head spy kills one of Soreida's associates, then escapes by helicopter.

Later, the spies attack and shoot Soreida's bodyguards (miraculously missing Santo, Blue Demon, Mil Máscaras and Soreida, who are standing right next to them). Soreida manages to hold the two remaining female spies at bay until she is rescued ; the prisoners reveal the location of the spies' headquarters, and the three wrestlers go there (Santo in his blue Cadillac convertible, Mil Máscaras in his gold Mercedes, and Blue Demon in his red Corvette). After a battle, they triumph. However , the head spy is still free, and he tries to kill Soreida, but she is saved at the last moment by Mil Máscaras (there is a very slight hint of a romance between Soreida and Mil Máscaras).

Meanwhile, Rina has been purified, by wearing a bikini and standing in a water fountain. She is overjoyed to see her father: he was brought to the secret city by the scientists who created it. They have been choosing select surface people and bringing them down, since they are convinced the Earth is doomed. Rina admits she misses Santo.

The treaty is signed, and Soreida boards her yacht to go home. Santo, Blue Demon, and Mil Máscaras go along for the ride. But as the boat sails, the strange beacon rises from the sea...

"And they were never seen again," Ramiro finishes. He adds: "The predictions of the apocalypse are coming true. The end of the world is near." The film ends with footage of an atomic explosion.

Despite some interesting ideas--although the spy and Bermuda Triangle plots aren't that well integrated--Misterio is rather disappointing. Santo is definitely the star, but even he doesn't have that much footage--more time is spent on the spies and their machinations than on the heroes' activities. Mil Máscaras, as noted above, has a few individualistic touches (he even takes his mask off twice, although as usual only the back of his head is shown), but Blue Demon is left completely out of things. There isn't much action, some of the photography is disappointingly dark, much of the dialogue seems to have been post-dubbed (not just the wrestlers), and the locations (the film was shot in Texas, including South Padre Island) somehow don't lend themselves to a fantasy film, being all too clearly "real" and contemporary (in contrast, El puño de la muerte and La furia de las karatecas, shot in Florida, make good use of their locations).

On the positive side, Silvia Manríquez looks great, particularly in her skimpy bikinis, and Gaynor Kote (actually Coté, and previously seen in El investigador Capulina) is an interesting performer and should have been used more frequently. She demonstrates some martial arts ability, and is also an attractive young woman. And, to be fair, some aspects of the film are technically adequate: for example, scenes of the metallic beacon rising from the sea and the storms it creates (assembled from stock footage) are smoothly put together.

Not boring or exceptionally bad, but definitely a lesser effort.

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Reviews by dwilt@umd.edu