La Venganza de las Mujeres Vampiro (1970)

After we watch the vampire Mayra get staked while in her coffin, the action movies to present Day Mexico and Dr. Brancov and his men take her coffin and bring it back to his lab. There, they use human blood to bring the queen of the vampires back to infernal life. You know whose blood they’re going to use? Go-go dancers.

This movie is already better than anything that will be release in our lifetimes.

One of Santo’s ancestors is the one who stopped Mayra last time, so she’s out to kill our hero before he can kill her, including slipping his opponent brass knuckles, trying to cloud his mind while he wrestles and even stabbing him while he sleeps.

This is the kind of movie that can have a disco be a hunting group for vampires, a Satanic sacrifice and a monster in the depths of a mad scientists lab one scene after the other. Trust me, lucha movies will ruin your ability to enjoy any other film drama, much less Merchant Ivory films.

Also: not even the first* or second ** or third time*** that Santo fought vampires!

*El Santo contra las Vampiras Mujeres

**El Barón Brakola

***Santo en El tesoro de Drácula

You can watch this on YouTube.

El Enmascarado de Plata (1954)

In 1952, José G. Cruz created a comic book that turned Santo into a Mexican hero. This series ran for 35 years and was the basis for the Santo films, yet before that, director Rene Cardona wanted to make this film. Santo decided to not be in this, as he thought it would fail.

Who can say if he was wrong or right? All we do know is that within a few years, Santo would be a movie star, so maybe he just knew how to pick the right scripts.

This film is filled with villains. There’s Lobo Negro and his street gang, there’s a Silver Mask that gives the orders and another villain in a hood named El Tigre that gives even more orders, but he’s the one to listen to because he’s figured out how to throw lightning and change the weather. You know, if you could do this, wouldn’t you want to do it all the time? Well, El Tigre is more into being a traditional gangster, so perhaps he feels like having all these mereological powers are kinda like cheating.

Our hero is El Médico Asesino and his sidekick Freckles. One wonders how is a man named Killer Doctor the good guy, but these questions are best left unasked.

This isn’t the first lucha movie. That would be Huracán Ramírez, a movie in which actor David Silva played the masked wrestler. Eduardo Bonada wrestled as Huracán Ramírez until he was replaced by Daniel García, who kept the character until he retired; he’s in the movies El misterio de Huracán Ramírez, El Hijo de Huracán RamírezLa Venganza de Huracán Ramírez*. If you ever hear of a wrestler doing a move called a huracánrana, it came from García as Huracán Ramírez. He also played Santo in La Leyenda. Huracán Ramírez regularly teamed with Santo in the ring — but not in the movies — often forming a trio with Rayo de Jalisco.

During a match between this tecnico team and El Signo, El Texano and Negro Navarro — who still wrestles to this day as a maestro-style luchador** — Santo had a heart attack and was saved by Huracán Ramírez. Lifelong friends, he would be a pallbearer for Santo when he was buried in his silver mask. As for El Signo, El Texano and Negro Navarro, the infamy they received from this match led to them becoming known as Los Misioneros de la Muerte (The Missionaries of Death) and their trios-style would make trios matches the most common match form in Mexico.

As for Médico, he would go on to appear in El Luchador Fenómeno and La Bestia Magnifica before becoming one of the most famous Mexican wrestlers of his era. He was the first luchador to have a female second — La Enfermera del Médico Asesino — and teamed with Santo and Enfermero as Ola Blanca (White Wave). He also feuded in Texas with Pepper Gomez, Duke Keomuka and Johnny Valentine as a babyface using the name El Medico. He even had four NWA title matches against Lou Thesz at this time, a major deal in that era.

Sadly, Médico would be dead from advanced cancer just a few years later. There’s an urban legend that his family kept the cancer a secret from him, but for a guy who weighed 275 pounds in his prime to die at around 110 pounds, he had to know something was wrong. Luckily, he had insurance and saved his money, so his family didn’t suffer monetarily. Ironically, his wife worked as a nurse after his death.

His death was enough to reduce his opponents — and partners, El Enfermero famously broke down during a match and just sat on the floor of Arena Coliseo — to tears. He may not be known in the U.S. like Santo or Mil Mascaras, but he was an incredibly important figure in lucha libre history.

Anyways — this film is a footnote in Mexican wrestling movie history, but an important one.

*He is not playing the character in the boxing movies Huracán Ramírez y la Monjita Negra and De Sangre Chicana.

**This ground wrestling escape style is closer to the British World of Sport style than modern lucha, as it has near dance-like motions. It’s the best thing ever. Another example of a star that does this style is El Solar. You can also catch Navarro’s son’s as Los Traumas.

Note: Sources used include Luchawiki and the November 16, 2020 issue of the Wrestling Observer, in which Médico Asesino was inducted into the Wrestling Observer Hall of Fame.

The Fortune Cookie (1966)

The first on-screen teaming of Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau*, this film won the latter the Best Supporting Oscar. That’s a great reward, as production on the film stopped after Matthau had a heart attack. He lost thirty pounds in the hospital, so if you see any scenes in this movie where he has on a heavy jacket, they were shot after the health crisis.

Lemmon plays cameraman Harry Hinkle and he’s knocked out during a play when Cleveland Browns player Luther “Boom Boom” Jackson (Ron Rich) runs him over. Harry’s fine, but his brother-in-law William H. “Whiplash Willie” Gingrich (Walter Matthau) comes up with a plan to get some insurance money. The only reason Harry plays along? The chance to get his ex-wife Sandy (Judi West) to love him again.

After this film, Lemmon and Matthau would team up for The Odd Couple, Kotch, The Front Page, Buddy Buddy, Grumpy Old Men, The Grass Harp, Grumpier Old Men, Out to Sea and The Odd Couple II. They bonded early in the production process and connected over their love of football. They would remain close for the rest of their lives.

This was directed by Billy Wilder and it sparkles.

You can buy the new blu ray release of this movie from Kino Lorber. It comes complete with the Trailers from Hell episode about the film; commentary from Joseph McBride, author of Billy Wilder: Dancing on the Edge and even a clip of Jack Lemmon asking for extras to show up to the crowd scenes that were filmed in Cleveland’s Municipal Stadium.

*Frank Sinatra and Jackie Gleason were also suggested for the role, but Lemmon insisted that Matthau be in the movie.

El Puño de la Muerte (1982)

I’ve gushed over La Furia de los Karatecas before and I have to tell you, the fact that there’s a first part only confirms the fact that — even years after his death — Santo is here to save every single one of us.

Grace “Goddess of the Night” Renat — a popular vedette (think burlesque) actress — plays the twin goddesses at the heart of this story. You can tell when she’s on the side of the tecnicos when she has on a white fur bikini and los rudos when she has on the black fur bikini. I like that they made it that simple for me.

They are battling over Niña de la Selva — Jungle Girl — a space princess who has come down to our planet to teach us something, but mainly this movie is about karate. Imagine if Mortal Kombat had lucha libre and you will understand the magic that is this movie. Also — the Jungle Girl was raised by wolves which look like the kind of dogs that you or I may own.

Tinieblas is in this too and he’s a bad guy. I mean, his name does mean Darkness. He and Santo have a fight that made me respect how hard that Tinieblas was working to not hurt the elder Santo and sad that Santo was so old. There are enough good things in this movie to make me forget that pain.

While set in the jungle, this was shot in Florida at the Vizcaya Museum and the Coral Castle, which itself is the kind of magical site that thousands of movies should be set in. We will settle for The Wild Women of WongoNude on the Moon and Jimmy, the Boy Wonder.

Any movie that has a bunch of non-Asian people who supposedly live in an Asian hidden country that worships a C3PO mask is going to be a film that I love. My needs are so simple, yet so few films live up to them.

This movie is on Shout! TV and it’s beyond badly dubbed which makes it even better. Make your life great. Watch this.

Santo en el Tesoro de Drácula (1968)

The brightest scientific minds in all of Mexico have gathered at the home of nuclear physicist Dr. César Sepúlveda to learn of an invention that is going to change everything that we know. Out of the shadows steps El Santo.

You may feel like the scientists in this movie who leave the room laughing when you think about Santo changing the world. After all, isn’t he just a wrestler?

No, Santo is everything: a millionaire playboy, a superhero, a spy, an enemy of the occult and, yes, the man who has just invented a time machine.

You read that right. A time machine.

Don’t they know that Santo already invented Facetime decades before it was on your phone?

Well, to test his machine, which only can send you back in time to watch the actions of your relatives or past lives or whatever magical nonsense that this movie chooses to baffle us with, Santo chooses his girlfriend Luisa, who was — of course — hunted by Dracula at som point when she was Luisa Soler. Somehow, Santo and everyone in our time is able to watch the past as if it were a TV show.

Luckily for those in the past, vampire hunter Professor Van Roth has fought off Count Alucard with mistletoe, which until now I had not realized could defeat vampires and was only an aid to sexual harassment. However, Dracula keeps up on trying to convert our heroine — by showing off all of his gold! — and finally does turn her, just in time for Santo to bring her back to our time where she’s struck by the vampire’s curse.

Meanwhile, an evil criminal known as the Black Hood and his gigantic son Atlas have been watching all of this and plan to steal Dracula’s treasure, which really seems like both the best idea for a movie and the worst idea for reality.

Somehow, this all ends up in a battle between Santo and Atlas in the ring for the ring and medallion of the king of the vampires. Even though the man in the silver mask wins, the Black Hood has found Dracula’s grave and plans to pull the stake out of his heart. If you think that Dracula isn’t going to get a harem of evil women and do a Satanic ritual to win Luisa over for good, then you haven’t watched Mexican lucha vs. the occult cinema.

And that’s where the story would end, one assumes, but director René Cardona had a trick up his sleeve.

While the original 1969 release of Santo en el Tesoro de Drácula was shot in black and white, there was another version of the film in color made for European markets called El Vampiro y el Sexo. Instead of just gowns for all of Dracula’s women, they now appear completely and totally nude in several scenes where Dracula paws at them.

There’s an urban legend that there are six different Santo films that feature alternate nude scenes, while another that Santo made a deal with Cardona to keep this film locked up.

For years, the only evidence that this alternate film existed was posters and photos.

Decades after filming, three original copies of El Vampiro y el Sexo were discovered in a vault in the film’s original production facility Cinematographic Calderón. The film was restored by the Guadalajara International Film Festival, which planned to show it to the public as part of a vampire film series curated by Guillermo del Toro.

Sadly the premiere was canceled due to protests from El Hijo del Santo and Santo’s estate, who claimed that showing the film would damage Santo’s reputation. After some debate, the film was shown twice in 2011 with no issue or stain on the memory of El Santo.

You can get the restored version of this film on blu ray from VCI.

La Mansion de las 7 Momias (1977)

Everyone knows Santo. Most people may know Blue Demon. But this one has Superzan in it.

Superzan* was created by Rogelio Agrasánchez to be a movie luchador, but don’t judge him. Aftet all, Huracán Ramírez, Neutrón and Sombra Vengador all got their start in the movies before they became real wrestlers.

Tinieblas was originally cast to play the character in Superzán El Invencible, yet delays led to wrestling becoming more important for him. He introduced the producers to Alfonso Mora, who took over he role for half of the first movie and then totally became Superzan. He was trained by Dick Medrano and El Gladiador, often teaming with Tinieblas and wrestling in Guatemala. After a short comeback to introduce El Hijo de Superzan, a wrestler who was not truly his son. Instead, it was Rafael Garcia Sanchez, whose father was the exotico Bello Greco and later Karis La Momia in AAA. He eventually got the gimmick that made him an international star as Super Calo (he also wrestled as El Greco Jr., El Diabólico Chucky, Love Warrior and Jordy Stone, as he is the brother of Chris and Alan Stone).

Anyway, Superzan and Blue Demon teamed up in this movie to battle Satan himself, who was quite ably assisted by a literal cadre of mummies. More than seven, let me tell you that much.

We start at the funeral of Sofia’s father, during which she is dismayed to hear her father begin narrating the story of his life. If you think it’s kinda crazy that obviously Laurie Strode can hear the music in Halloween 2, just imagine how absolutely extraña it is to hear a dead man give exposition and one of the characters be able to hear it!

The curse that cost his life has now been passed on to his daughter. And to make matters worse — or more interesting — she’s also inherited his mansion, which sits on top of a treasure chest full of cursed gold. Yes, anyone who claims that gold must give his or her soul to Satan, who totally wants people to come and get it.

So, one of Satan’s men makes a challenge to Sofia that she must conquer three challenges in order to obtain her father’s inheritance. And oh yeah, go into the Mansion of the 7 Mummies. If only her wrestling boyfriend Rodrigo just hadn’t been wacked about the head by a hunchback with a shovel! Luckily, his friends Superzan and Blue Demon show up to help.

The first challenge to Sofia is choosing one of seven doors. Only one has the jeweled scepter that will allow her into the mansion. The other six? Death. I mean, those are bad odds, yet our heroine and her friend Isabella go for it. Just when Sofia finds the right door, seven mummies appear out of nowhere and descend on her and her friend. And that’s when our masked men show up and save the day, bringing the joy to our hearts that can only come from luchadors beating the sand out of mummies before Sofia finally grabs the scepter.

I neglected to reveal that there is also a bad guy who is an old woman in a wheelchair and that there is a horrible comic relief character named Manolín whose death you will beg for.

So where did these mummies come from? Well, it turns out the Sofia’s ancestor — back in the days of the conquistadors — had made a pact with the devil to gain wealth at the cost of his people. He tried to stop the pact with an exorcism, but his seven most trusted servants all turned on him and they are the mummies we’re up against today. Oh yeah — in case you wonder why Sofia wants the treasure so badly, which seems against character, she hopes that by giving it back to the descendents of who the money was originally taken from, she can break the curse. Hey, get that. Reparations actually make sense. Hmm — what a concept.

Without any further exposition, our heroine must cross a swamp to grab the head of her long dead ancestor, while also battling her now possessed boyfriend. Yes, a flying zombie mummy head that wants to kill her!

As for the last challenge, well, it’s basically a battle royal against Satan and all the mummies. The odds are, as always, never on the side of good.

Director Rafael Lanuza also made Superzan y el niño del espacio and  El triunfo de los campeones justicieros. He’s working from a script by Rogelio Agrasánchez, who was behind plenty of lucha movies, but you should seek out his totally weird Macabre Legends of the Colony.

You can watch this on YouTube on the White Slaves of Chinatown channel, which always has something interesting.

If you wonder, haven’t I seen a movie where luchadors fight mummies, you may have been watching Los Momias de Guanaujuato, El Robo de los momias de GuanajuatoEl Castillo de los momias de GuanajuatoLas momias de San Ángel or even The Wrestling Women vs. the Aztec Mummy. Or perhaps Mil Mascaras vs. the Aztec Mummy.

*If you need lucha info, always go to Luchawiki.

Man Under Table (2021)

Movies about making movies are sometimes the best movies of all. This movie gets into the mindset of writing movies — specifically, the brains of Guy (Noel David Taylor, who also wrote and directed the film). who tells everyone that he’s writing a movie.

When he meets  Jill Custard and Ben he gets to work on several projects that he has no ownership of, which pushes him to work with Gerald to create what just could be the worst movie –or at least the stupidest — ever made.

You think wearing a face covering has been bad the last year? The Los Angeles of this movie requires a gas mask just to deal with the green air.

“This isn’t a movie, it’s just random scenes about some guy,” says someone at some point, but that could be this whole movie. You can take it as a metatextual commentary on the nature of making movies, if you want to go deep, or you just might not like it at all.

I don’t know how you make a movie about making a movie that gets weird after Adaptation, but hey, these guys were brave enough to try. And that has to mean something.

Man Under Table is available on the ARROW Player, which is available in the US, Canada, the UK and Ireland on the following Apps/devices: Roku (all Roku sticks, boxes, devices, etc), Apple TV & iOS devices, Android TV and mobile devices , Fire TV (all Amazon Fire TV Sticks, boxes, etc), and on all web browsers at https://www.arrow-player.com

You can learn more at the official site.

El robo de las momias de Guanajuato (1972)

You know, I can’t get enough of luchadors fighting mummies. I really can’t. They could have made hundreds of these movies and I’d watch every single one.

This time around, the evil Count Cagliostro (Tito Novaro, who also directed this movie) and a scientist have succeeded in bringing the mummies of Guanajuato — yes, the same ones from Las Momias de Guanajuato — back to life. Beyond wiring the undead with electronics that allow them to be controlled, they also have an army of karate-chopping little people.

Luckily, humanity has El Rayo de Jalisco (who didn’t appear all that often in movies), Mil Máscaras and Blue Angel* (who would team with Superzan and Tieneblas to fight a very similar set of bad guys in the following year’s El Castillo de las Momias de Guanajuato) are on our side.

Not only does Mil have a convertible, fight mummies in a cape and know tons of attractive women, he lives in the kind of space age seventies apartment that would not be out of place in a giallo. Well done, man of a thousand masks!

*According to Cool Ass Cinema, Blue Angel was bodybuilder Orlando Hernandez. The character was created by producer Rogelio Agrasánchez Sr. as a replacement for Blue Demon.

You can watch this on YouTube.

El tesoro de Moctezuma (1968)

The Cardona family has gifted us with some many wonderful films. The senior was a director and actor who made everything from the incredible Santa Claus to ZIndy the Swamp BoySurvive! and several Santo films while his son made so many movies that I’m obsessed with like Guyana: Cult of the DamnedThe Bermuda TriangleTintorera…Killer Shark and so many more. There’s also the grandson who made Vacaciones de Terror and Pesadilla Fatal.

Rene Sr. and Jr. worked together on this Santo film, which teams the man in the silver mask with Jorge Rivero — the star of Conquest! —  to protect Mexico from terrorists. It’s a sequel to Operation ’67 and lives up to my theory that Santo can be in any genre of film. Here, he’s in a globe-spanning — Paris, Hong Kong, Mexico and San Francisco — adventure battling the same Asian gangsters — dare we dream that they are Hanoi Xan’s World Crime League — as the first film.

Actually, there’s a lot that you need to see Operation ’67 to get, like why Jorge has that ring that has a map inside it. And that map? It leads to Montezuma’s treasure!

Every Eurospy movie needs a gorgeous female character and this film has Amadee Chabot, who was a former Miss California, Miss USA World and seventh runner-up to Miss Universe. After a role in the Matt Helm film Murderer’s Row, Chabot showed up in several great Mexican movies like Autopsy of a Ghost, Agent 00 Sexy, Danger …! Women in Action, Las Sicodélicas and Champions of the Ring. She’s a real estate agent today and still looks stunning.

Maura Monti also shows up a femme fatale, which is also welcome, as the Italian-born Monto has already warmed our hearts in films like Planet of the Female InvadersThe Batwoman and Santo vs. the Martian Invasion.

When I say, “This movie has an all-star cast,” this is the exact type of line-up that I am referring to.

On the Trail of UFOs: Dark Sky (2021)

Cryptid documentarian Seth Breedlove and paranormal researcher Shannon LeGro continue their search for the truth behind the enigma of unidentified flying objects in the latest Small Town Monsters release On the Trail of UFOs: Dark Sky.

Going through decades of reports of mysterious objects, creatures and enigmatic beings seemingly not of this earth, this film is based in West Virginia and goes back through several cases that have been seen in past Small Town Monsters productions.

This one has everything from the men in black to energy sources that are connected to UFOs and a being called Cold. Trust me — I’ve spent some late evenings driving through West Virginia and you see some pretty strange things.

The On the Trail of films are pretty well made and this episode is no different. If you have any interest in the paranormal, seek out their movies.

On the Trail of UFOs: Dark Sky is available on demand.