CEREBRO DEL MAL

(Brain of Evil)

(Agrupación de Técnicos de la Industria Cinematográfica Cubana y Auxiliares, 1958*) Exec Prod: Enrique J. Zambrano; Co-Prod: Lic. Jorge García Besne, Dr. Carlos Garduño G., Jesús Alvariño; Dir: Joselito Rodríguez; Scr: Enrique J. Zambrano, Fernando Osés; Photo: Carlos Nájera; Music Adapt: Salvador Espinosa; Prod Mgr: Oscar G. Dulzaidez; Supv: Huberto Varela; Co-Dir: Enrique J. Zambrano; Film Ed: Jesús Echeverría; Camera Op: Minervino Rojas; Makeup: Israel Fernández; Sound: Modesto Corvisón

*[this film was released in Mexico in 1961; most sources credit it as having been produced in 1958, but a newspaper in the film appears to bear a July 1959 date.]

CAST: Joaquín Cordero (Dr. Campos), Norma Suárez (Elisa), Santo (El Enmascarado), Fernando Osés (El Incógnito; police sgt.), Enrique J. Zambrano (Lt. Zambrano), Alberto Insua (Gerardo), Juanito Tremble, Enrique Almirante, René Socarrás, Mario Texas, J. González Gaspar, Rafael de Aragón, Armando Quezada, Los Romero y Estelita (dance team), Trío Servando Díaz (musical group)

Mexico City release: July 1961; 1 week run; Authorization: A

NOTES: This film--which is also known as Santo contra Cerebro del Mal--was the first in a long series of screen appearances for Rodolfo Guzmán Huerta, "El Santo." Santo allegedly turned down the opportunity to star in El Enmascarado de Plata in 1952 because he did not feel the film had much chance of success; six years later, he traveled to Cuba for his screen debut in this picture and Hombres Infernales, both directed by Joselito Rodríguez and featuring Joaquín Cordero and Fernando Osés, but otherwise primarily Cuban productions. A number of films were produced in Cuba from the 1930s through the end of the '50s, but most were co-productions with Mexico, or at the very least featured Spanish-speaking performers who were best-known for their Mexican films (such as 1953's Más Fuerte Que el Amor, which starred Spaniard Jorge Mistral and Czech import Miroslava). A number of Hollywood films were also shot in pre-Castro Cuba, including The Big Boodle (1957), featuring Errol Flynn and Pedro Armendáriz (with music by Raúl Lavista). Cerebro del Mal, shot almost entirely in actual locations (scenes were filmed at the "Biltmore" studios in Havana, but these appear to be limited to the set for Campos' lab and perhaps the interior of his house), contains some interesting scenes of late-'50s Havana (probably some of those same cars are still on the streets today!), but is technically rather crude.

Cerebro del Mal is a very unusual Santo film in many ways: in the first place, Santo is never called "Santo" in the picture at all! He is ONLY referred to as "El Enmascarado," while the other masked wrestler (Fernando Osés--who has a brief dual role in the final scene) is called "El Incógnito" ONCE. Santo has practically no dialogue (in fact, the dialogue for all of the characters for the whole film would probably only take up about 3 typed pages), is given no "origin," is not depicted as a professional wrestler (there are no arena bouts included), and is relatively incidental to the plot. Santo himself, looking uncharacteristically slim (compared to later films), appears rather awkward and ill-at-ease.

As the film opens, three gangsters corner Santo (I shall refer to him in this way although as indicated earlier, he is never named as such) in an alley and knock him out. He is taken to the lab of Dr. Campos, where--by means of an injection and electrical brainwashing (delivered by what appears to be a sun lamp)--he is turned into a docile servant of the mad doctor. Campos is apparently a respected scientist, the friend of police Lt. Zambrano. Zambrano warns him to beware: other scientists have recently been kidnaped. Almost as they speak, the gangsters and Santo assault the police bodyguards of Dr. Lowel and carry off the scientist. He is later given the brainwashing treatment at Campos' lab (there seems to be a continuity problem here: several other scenes unfold--including one with Campos--before Lowel is delivered to the lab). The two police guards tell Lt. Zambrano that Santo, a police secret agent, was one of the kidnapers. Meanwhile, another masked secret agent, El Incógnito, locates Campos' lab by means of a electrical device which traces the radiation from the brainwashing machine. He manages to escape undetected.

Elisa, Campos' secretary, meets Gerardo (her boyfriend and Campos' assistant in his good scientific work) outside a bank. She is puzzled because she spoke to the bank manager, but he ignored her. The manager has actually been brainwashed by Campos, who observes via some sort of remote TV device as the man robs his own bank for Campos' benefit! Later, Campos has his men kidnap Elisa, whom he loves. Gerardo, who put up a battle but was subdued, reports the crime. Lt. Zambrano thinks Elisa was kidnaped because she unwittingly had a clue to the bank robbery. Dr. Campos turns over some secret papers to a foreign agent, and promises to sell him the formula for a "cell disintegrator" the next day.

El Incógnito returns to the lab and overcomes Santo after a long, fairly well-staged fight. The black-masked Incógnito injects Santo with the antidote to the brainwashing serum, but tells his associate to pretend that he is still in Campos' power.

Dr. Campos gives Gerardo a drugged drink and leaves for his lab via a secret passageway. He arrives at the hideout; the foreign agent arrives with another man to check the plans for the cell disintegrator. However, Lt. Zambrano, tipped off by El Incógnito, orders a raid on the lab. The police arrive, Santo and El Incógnito battle the gangsters and spies, but Campos escapes with Elisa. Returning to his house, Campos holds Elisa hostage. El Incógnito distracts him while Santo climbs up over the roof to sneak in the back way; Campos shoots El Incógnito, but Gerardo wakes up from his drugged stupor and struggles with him. Santo bursts in and fights with Campos, who seizes a knife and is ready to kill the masked man until Lt. Zambrano shoots him. Before he dies, Campos apologizes to Elisa.

The film ends as Lt. Zambrano and his assistant bid farewell to the newly-married Gerardo and Elisa. They are leaving for their honeymoon. "What about the masked men?" Zambrano's aide asks. They left on the same plane, Zambrano tells him (El Incógnito recovered from his wound). "They are citizens of the world--their duty has no frontiers...they hide their identities behind a mask to do good for humanity."




Santo contra Hombres Infernales

(Santo versus Infernal Men, 1958)

Same technical credits as Cerebro del mal

Mexico City release: December 1961; 1 week run; Authorization: A

NOTES: This film, made at the same time as Cerebro del mal in Cuba, is a much inferior film, with virtually no plot or action. Joaquín Cordero pretends to be a Mexican crook on the run in order to infiltrate a gang of Cuban (drug) smugglers. Santo (again never referred to by that name) is a secret agent of the police who shows up a few times to bail out Cordero. At the end, the gang is captured (off-screen) and Cordero is reunited with his girlfriend Irma (Gina Romand). The film ends with a repeat of the airport scene from Cerebro del mal, where Enrique Zambrano and Fernando Osés watch a plane take off for Mexico and talk about Santo's heroics, which is especially odd since Osés is a villain in this picture!

The primary reasons for watching this film are the views of pre-Castro Cuba (in fact, Castro arrived in Havana shortly after filming concluded). Otherwise, there isn't much of interest. Cordero is OK; Gina Romand is quite pretty (she's Cuban, but had actually made several Mexican films prior to this) but has no bearing on the plot and spends most of her time looking worried and tossing her head. Santo, as noted earlier, only shows up a couple of times. He does have some dialogue, and while it has been suggested that he does his own lines in this film (unlike his later, dubbed baritone, he speaks in a rather ordinary voice here), although much of the dialogue (for everyone) seems to have been post-dubbed, so it's hard to tell.

Joselito Rodríguez, used to working within the relatively luxurious confines of Mexico, doesn't do much here to make the film interesting. Only the climactic chase in an empty amusement park has some creative camera angles and cuts, but even this sequence isn't exciting (it's only exciting compared to the rest of the picture).

For completists only.

17 June 1997 by D. Wilt (dw45@umail.umd.edu)

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