SANTO EL ENMASCARADO DE PLATA VS. "LA INVASION DE LOS MARCIANOS"

[Santo the Silver-Masked Man vs. The Martian Invasion] (Producciones Cinematográficas, 1966)

Prod: Alfonso Rosas Priego; Director: Alfredo B. Crevenna; Scr: Rafael García Travesí ; Photo: Jorge Stahl Jr.; Music: Antonio Díaz Conde; Prod Mgr: Mario García Camberos; Prod Chief: José Alcalde Gámiz; Sub-Dir: Felipe Palomino; Film Ed: Alfredo Rosas Priego; Asst Ed: Ramón Aupart; Art Dir: Fco. Marco. Ch.; Decor: Alberto López; Makeup: Margarita Ortega; Dialog Rec: Jesús González Ganci; Sound Ed: Abraham Cruz; Re-rec: Roberto Camacho; Union: STPC; Studio: San Ángel

CAST: Santo (himself), Wolf Ruvinskis (Argos), El Nazi (Cronos), Ham Lee (Morfeo), Beni Galán (Hercules), Eduardo Bonada (wrestler), Antonio Montoro (wrestler), Maura Monti (Afrodita), Belinda Corell (Diana), Eva Norvind (Selene), Gilda Mirós (Artemisa), Manuel Zozaya (Prof. Odorica), Consuelo Frank (kidnaped mother 1), Alicia Montoya (kidnaped mother 2), Roy Fletcher (kidnaped father 2), Mario Sevilla (kidnaped father 1), Nicolás Rodríguez (Padre Lorenzo Fuentes), N. León "Frankestein" (wrestler), Rosa Furman (wife at party), Sergio Ramos (Odorica's colleague), Aaron Hernán (Fernández), Ramón Menéndez (nightclub mgr.), Ricardo Adalid (Dr. Adalid), Queta Carrasco (woman at party), Carlos Hennings (restaurant client), Miron Levine (guest at party), Antonio Padilla "Picoro" (ring announcer), Víctor Alcocer (? dubs Santo's dialogue), Demetrio González (singer on TV), José Loza (science fiction writer); abducted children: Pepito Velázquez (Luisito), Juan Antonio Edward[s], Yolanda Guzmán

Mexico City release: July 1967; 3 week run; Authorization: A

Spanish release data: Authorization date: 20 June 1967; Total spectators: 191,143.

Notes: Many Santo films have self-explanatory titles and Santo el enmascarado de plata vs. la invasión de los marcianos is one of those. Santo fights Martians, simple. On the other hand, the original poster--which is quite well done, although it is a direct swipe from the one for 1964’s Robinson Crusoe on Mars--is rather misleading, since it shows (a) Santo and a long-haired, green-skinned Martian (b) on another planet (the Moon?), and neither of these accurately reflects the movie itself.

Rafael García Travesí’s screenplay borrows from The Day the Earth Stood Still, as well as the recent El Planeta de las mujeres invasoras (and to a lesser extent, Gigantes planetarios). There are some inconsistencies: the Martians claim they’re on Earth to force the cessation of nuclear proliferation (they must have been following up on Klaatu's aborted mission from the 1950s), establish global peace and so forth. If they have to kill a bunch of people (including, shockingly, children) to make their point, so be it. However, later in the movie their leader Argos says they must take Santo back to Mars with them and discover the secret of his great strength and agility to improve the Martian army before it arrives to conquer Earth. Well which is it?

A Martian flying saucer approaches Earth. Their leader Argos (who only assumes this name later) breaks into television broadcasts (including Demetrio González singing a ranchera tune) and gives his ultimatum: Earth has to stop creating nuclear weapons, establish a global government and universal language, and agree to live in peace and harmony. Sounds good, but there’s a catch: if Earth doesn’t comply, Argo says Mars will destroy the planet so Earth won’t disrupt the rest of the solar system. Unfortunately, no one takes him seriously (it might be the wacky costumes and headgear the Martians are wearing); Argos lands in a wooded area of Mexico and sends one of his henchmen (later dubbed Cronos) to an outdoor sports complex. Hundreds of people are watching bicycle races and other sporting events, and El Santo is teaching wrestling to a group of young boys. Cronos, using his “astral eye” weapon, disintegrates numerous spectators, including 4 boys. [This is done by simply having them fade away, which is much less violent than it could have been, and thus probably was not as upsetting for juvenile audiences. It was also a lot cheaper than any sort of physical or optical effect.] Santo angrily attacks the Martian and they have a long and fairly exciting fight, until Cronos flips a switch on his belt and vanishes (returning to the ship).

Santo consults with Professor Odorica about the invaders. Argo goes on television again and says Mexico was chosen as their landing place because the country has renounced the use of nuclear weapons (which seems a little contradictory--hundreds of Mexicans were disintegrated as a lesson to other countries, even though Mexico is already nuclear-free?). He adds “All resistance is futile!” Argos then teleports into Odorica’s lab and reiterates his “noble” goals to Santo and the scientist: Earth must disarm, on pain of destruction. “You’re not the bosses of the universe!” Santo snaps. Argos tries to abduct Santo and Odorica, but--after a not very strenous scuffle--Argos starts to choke and vanishes. He drops some pills before he goes, and Odorica later correctly identifies them as necessary for Martians to safely breathe Earth air. [Aliens’ inability to breathe on Earth was a major point in El planeta de las mujeres invasoras as well.] It’s odd that their hostages breathe Martian air inside the spaceship without any difficulty, though.

Meanwhile, Martians have been abducting apparently random people, including two families with children. [Note: Mario Sevilla and Consuelo Frank play one couple, who frankly look too old to be the parents of an adolescent boy and girl. Frank was in her mid-fifties at the time.] Later, they try to capture Professor Odorica (for his brains) and Santo (for his brawn), but also kidnap a science-fiction writer, an “industrialist,” and a priest, among others. Why?

The Martian leader says their appearance frightens Earth people. “Why, when our bodies are more perfect and evolved than theirs?” one of his female assistants remarks. But nothing will satisfy their leader except that everyone troops into the transformation chamber, where they’re obscured by smoke and emerge without their helmets and space leotards (for men) and space bikinis (for women). Instead, they all have ancient Greek/Roman style costumes (briefly), and get appropriate names: Argos, Cronos, Morfeo, Afrodita, Selene, Artemisa, Diana, and Hercules. Some aren’t pleased with their “disagreeable human form,” although except for their headgear and hair they look the same as they did before.

Prof. Odorica tells Santo there are two ways to find the Martian spaceship: using a brain-wave detector (that looks suspiciously like a transistor radio) or stealing a Martian belt. Both of these will come into play later.

The rest of the film alternates scenes of Martians trying to kill/kidnap Santo (fails) and abducting various people (successes). Most of the heavy abducting is done by the 4 Martian women, who show up at a fancy party and a restaurant in evening gowns to kidnap middle-aged men, then crash a testimonial dinner and replace the scheduled floor show and grab Ordorica. Argos congratulates his aides on their success, but admits he doesn’t understand why Earth men are attracted to the sexy aliens. Selene agrees: “This appearance is repugnant.” [Again, you look the same as you did before!]

Santo, meanwhile, is set upon by two of his wrestler buddies who’ve been hypnotised by the Martian babes, and later approached in his bedroom by two Martian ladies (“For a moment I was a victim of your charms…”). He wrestles a Martian who’s impersonating a ring opponent--when the Martian’s trick is exposed, the bout continues, even though two other Martians disintegrate most of the spectators! [This sequence is over 10 minutes long.] (Curiously, the referee continues to supervise the death match for a while, before running away). Deciding this is the best way to trap the invaders, Santo arranges for another match in an empty arena. Argos and his henchmen appear and Santo has to fight them all. He tosses one Martian out of the ring, then steals his belt and teleports to the flying saucer. [Well, he lands in the woods nearby--it’s unclear why usually the belts take you right inside the ship, but this time they don’t.]

Inside the ship, the abductees have been treated fairly well, given concentrated food/drink pills, and so on. They stage a brief revolt but are overcome. The captive priest says “The Lord is the only one who can save us!” Or perhaps…El Santo?

Actually, the Martians more or less destroy themselves. Their determination to capture Santo caused them to remain on Earth too long--they run out of breathing pills, and all drop dead. Before he dies, Argos tries to pull the (dangerously accessible) self-destruct switch, but fails. Once the hostages are freed, Santo decides Earth isn’t ready for Martian science, and throws the switch, escaping from the saucer seconds before it blows up.

The voiceover narrator who’s been heard occasionally throughout the film wraps things up with a philosophical epilogue: “The human race has been saved for the moment. Will man learn the lesson? Or will he insist on his crazy nuclear experiments until peace disappears from the Earth?” Santo walks away, leaving the former prisoners standing in the middle of the forest.

There are a number of entertaining aspects to this picture, starting with the Martians themselves. Although at times they transform into normal-appearing Earthlings (remarking about how ugly this seems to Martian tastes), as Martians they apparently have big heads (they wear sort of oversized football helmets with a third "eye" in the forehead that disintegrates people; I'm not sure if this is supposed to be a real eye or just a weapon), and long blonde hair (perhaps screenwriter Rafael García Travesí had been reading some George Adamski). Since all of the male Martians are played by muscular wrestlers, and all of the female Martians are well-endowed women wearing skin-tight outfits, Mars is apparently some sort of giant health club planet.

The Martian leader Argos tells his crew “from now on we’ll speak Spanish. It’s the language of the country that’s our destination; the Earthlings call it Mexico.” Curiously, at least in his television broadcasts, Argos uses forms and conjugations not normally used in Mexico, including vosotros, tomarais, estarais, etc. Later on, not so much.

One somewhat clever running gag is the idea that the government of Mexico is suppressing news of the Martians to prevent panic. Characters discuss this, and at one point a television announcer falsely says “We’re certain the Martians have returned to their planet.” The voiceover narrator calls this “intensive propaganda,” and it’s effective, since people return to their “favourite diversions” (like attending wrestling matches). However, once the Martians go on their kidnap spree, the announcer returns to the air and warns people to stay home. A cantina empties out, and there are various shots of deserted city streets.

The film’s low budget stretched to a couple of shots of the Martian saucer in space, one rather obvious miniature of the saucer landing in a forest, and the final explosion (in which one shot is shown twice). A full-size mockup was made of part of the exterior of the saucer and the steps to go inside (if you can teleport in and out, why do you need steps?), in addition to the spacious but sterile interior (the main control room and the large but bare chamber where the abductees are kept). Other than the saucer and the disintegration and teleportation shots-- simple to do--there aren’t any special effects to speak of. One amusing aspect is the sound design: when the Martians "transport" themselves to various locations on Earth, their arrival is heralded by flashing lights, a train whistle, and a sort of "ka-boing!" So much for sneaking up on anybody.

General production values are adequate. The sets constructed at the San Ángel studios range from large-but-sterile to small-and-cramped (when Santo fights Argos in Odorica's lab, they can barely move for fear of crashing into a wall). The actual locations--the Arena México for the wrestling scenes, the sports complex--are a welcome change of pace from the otherwise mostly studio-bound film. [The sequence in which Santo trains in the "Club de Luchadores" and is then attacked by Eduardo Bonada and Frankestein is curious: the training room could be a set, but when Santo leaves he goes through a hallway where a case filled with sports trophies can be seen, suggesting this is a real location (if not actually a club for wrestlers).]

One of the flaws (or assets, depending on your point of view) of Santo…invasión de los marcianos is the amount of time devoted to fights between Santo and the Martians or their surrogates (plus the regular wrestling match to lure the Martians to the arena towards the end of the film). Some of these are quite violent and exciting, but they (a) go on much too long and (b) don’t really resolve anything (the Martians just vanish when they start to lose).

Trivia note: Santo loses his mask twice in this film. Once it is removed during a bout (however, he was definitely prepared for this eventuality, and is wearing another mask underneath!), and the other time it is taken off so Maura Monti and Eva Norvind can kiss him (this is only a hypnotically-induced fantasy, however). As in other films where similar things occur, Santo's face is never seen (he's shown from behind, and it probably isn't even Santo then).

Not a great film, but it has a certain camp entertainment value.

Back to the Santo Filmography.

Posted by D.Wilt (dwilt@umd.edu) on 4 Apr 97, updated 19 January 2000 and again on 9 October 2018.