La Furia de los Karatecas (1982)

Before we get into this movie — Santo’s last film — let’s discuss some lucha libre history.

His career was winding down, particularly after facing off with death itself.

In 1981, El Signo, Negro Navarro and El Texano began teaming as a young rudos trio named Los Misioneros de la Muerte (The Missionaries of Death) in the UWA promotion. During a main event at El Toreo de Quatro Caminos, they battled El Santo, Huracan Ramirez and Rayo de Jalisco.

At some point in the match, the man in the silver mask collapsed from a heart attack. His life was saved by Ramirez and the legend of Los Misioneroes del Muerte — that they tried to actually kill El Santo — was born. They became the biggest heels in Mexico, eventually losing in Santo’s last match on September 12, 1982, as he teamed with Ramirez, Gory Guerrero and El Solitario against Los Misioneros and Perro Aguayo.

That same year, Santo would appear in his final film, a sequel to El Puno de la Muerte (The Fist of Death), which was shot concurrently. Both movies concern the sisterly war between twins Kungyan, who dressed in black and is evil, and Queria, who — you guessed it, muchacho — dresses in white and is good. They’re both played by Grace Renat and fur and fabric can barely contain the pneumatic tendencies of her busoms. Russ Meyer must have been going insane halfway across the world and had no idea why.

Renat left home at 14 to become a showgirl in the company of her older lover. By 24, she was a single mother and dancing in Tijuana’s most infamous nightclubs as an exotic dancer. She was then awarded the title of Diosa de la Noche (Goddess of the Night) by Mexico’s Asociación Nacional de Actores. Now, she was a star, appearing in movies like Las Munecas del King KongPink Zone and El Hombre sin Miedo.

The two women are battling over a star crystal that looks like it came from Wicks ‘n Sticks. There’s also a Jungle Goddess who has come from the sky to marry a prince, assassins, zombies, Satanic rituals and no small amount of dance numbers.

Imagine, if you will, Mortal Kombat made with no budget and an aging lucha libre star, as well as the younger star Tieneblas as the evil assistant. This would be that movie and it’s perfect and wonderful and all things special.

There are some out there that will make light of this movie and scoff at it. It’s made on a shoestring, the fights are incredibly fake and the special effects could be done by a small child. I could care less what they think. This is a movie that begins with El Santo parachuting into the jungle while still wearing a cape. If that doesn’t make you start looking for this movie right now, there’s no hope for you.

Let me tell you one more thing: Kungyan dances so hard at one point that she conjures a monster, then still decides to send killer apes after Santo and a karate expert on the day of his wedding.

Ah hell, let me tell you another: Rene Cardona, who directed Santa Claus vs. the DevilWrestling Women vs. the Aztec MummyNight of the Bloody Apes and several Santo films, shows up as our hero’s pal Professor Williams.

Alright, alright. Last thing. This was shot at Vizcaya Museum, an Italian Renaissance home in Miami’s Coconut Grove that also appears in Airport ’77, and Coral Castle, an oolite limestone wonder created by Edward Leedskalnin via either magneticism, perptual motion or outright sorcery. It also shows up in the movies The Wild Women of Wongo and Nude on the Moon, as well as inspiring Billy Idol to write the song “Sweet Sixteen.”

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