APRIL MOVIE THON DAY 15: The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965)

The Greatest Story Ever Told started as a radio series in 1947 written by Henry Denker and a 1949 novel by Fulton Oursler, a senior editor at Reader’s Digest. 20th Century Fox boss Darryl F. Zanuck acquired the film rights and Denker wrote a script, but when Zanuck left the studio in 1956, it was forgotten.

Fast forward two years and George Stevens, fresh off The Diary of Anne Frank, learned that Fox had the rights to the story — I mean, The Bible is public domain, so I have no idea what was different about the property other than the title and this was a decade after the radio show — and he got $10 million ($90 million in today’s cash) to make this movie.

Before the movie was even made, it was already busting its budget. Stevens spent two years writing the script along with Ivan Moffat, James Lee Barrett and even poet Carl Sandburg, as well as commissioning French artist André Girard to prepare 352 oil paintings of Biblical scenes to use as storyboards, which is quite the extravagance. Then, as no movie had been even started by 1959, Denker sued Fox to reclaim the rights and for $2.5 million of damages.

Two years after that, Fox withdrew from the project as $2.3 million had been spent without any footage being shot. Stevens was given two years to find another studio or 20th Century Fox would reclaim its rights, so he moved to United Artists.

Once filming finally started, Stevens shot each scene — often with hundreds of extras — dozens of times. Instead of going to the Holy Land, he also made sets throughout the U.S., being so full of art to say, “I wanted to get an effect of grandeur as a background to Christ, and none of the Holy Land areas shape up with the excitement of the American southwest. I know that Colorado is not the Jordan, nor is Southern Utah Palestine. But our intention is to romanticize the area, and it can be done better here.”

The major difference between Arizona and the Holy Land? It snows in the winter in Arizona.

By the time he was done, Stevens had shot 1,136 miles — miles! — worth of film. Before editing and promotion, he’d already spent $20 million or $180 million in 2022.

It made back $8 million dollars.

It ran for 4 hours and 20 minutes.

And man, it’s something else.

Balthazar (Mark Lenard, Spock’s dad), Melchior (Cyril Delevanti, a character actor and acting coach) and Gaspar (Frank Silvera, who was in another money loser, Ché!), the three wise men, are westward leading, still proceeding, seeking the King who will be born and meet King Herod (Claude Rains in his last role), who sneakily sends them to watch the Child emerge in Bethelem, but secretly he just wants to kill all the firstborn because whoever was born that night will take his throne. And he has Michael Ansara — who can be Native American or Arabic depending on the role — is ready to do the murdering.

They discover Mary (Dorothy McGuire) and Joseph (Robert Loggia!) in a manger, surrounded by animals, and they give the Son of God gold, frankincense and myrrh as an angel warns Joseph that they must escape to Egypt, where they stay until Herod dies. As they return to Nazareth, a pro-Israel rebellion rises against Herod’s son, Herod Antipas (José Ferrer), which is quickly stopped, but shows the Romans that the Messiah could be trouble.

Go read the Apocrypha and come back.

Pretty wild, huh? I mean, giants born of angel and man?

Start the movie back up again please.

John the Baptist (Charlton Heston, who knows something about Biblical films) is in the desert eating honey and locusts and preaching that someone even better than him will soon arrive. That would be Jesus (Max Von Sydow), who is baptized by John and then ascends a mountain where he’s tempted by the Devil (Donald Pleasence!).

Soon, Jesus promises Judas Iscariot (David McCallum), Andrew (Burt Brinckerhoff), Peter (Gary Raymond) and John (John Considine) that he will make them fishers of men. They soon meet James (well, there’s the younger played by Michael Anderson Jr. and the elder who is David Sheiner) and spend time with Martha (Ina Balin), Mary (Janet Margolin) and Lazarus (Michael Tolan).

After healing a crippled man, Matthew (Roddy McDowall!), Thaddeus (Jamie Farr!), Simon (Robert Blake!) and Thomas (Tom Reese) — the name means twin — all join the apostles as Pontius Pilate (Telly Savalas and there’s an urban legend that he shaved his head for this movie and liked it so much he never had hair again) and the church leaders debate the negative influence of John the Baptist, who is arrested and soon beheaded thanks to the influence of Salome (who of all people is not credited; some say that she was a dancer from Israel). In Capernaum, Jesus meets Mary Magdalene (Joanna Dunham, who got pregnant during the long shooting time and her belly needed to be hidden by clever filming tricks) and heals Shelley Winters, which made me stand up and beat my breast.

Jesus refuses to help a blind name called Aram (Ed Wynn) to see, he’s stoned yet returns to save the man’s sight, only to discover that Lazarus has died. The miracle of raising the dead happens as the leaders of the existing church worry about Jesus.

Intermission time. You know, old movies having a fanfare and an intermission are great, because they care so much about you that they provide moments for you to go to the bathroom. Thanks, old movies.

We come back to Jesus going wild in the temple, throwing tables over and causing mass chaos. We see Dr. Loomis following Judas, who is fated to turn heel on the Son of God and even Peter tries to babyface himself and Jesus shuts him down by saying, “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times” and Peter answers by crying. Game, serve, match, Savior.

Jesus is put on trial and even the man whose sight he saved testifies against him. Nicodemus (Joseph Schildkraut, who was in The Diary of Anne Frank and died before the movie finished) stays out of it and Peter denies Jesus, once as Blofeld watches, another time as Blythe the forger looks on and a third time while Professor John McGregor forces Peter to realize that Jesus was right.

The Pharisees bring Jesus to Pilate, who tells the crowd that he will free him if they want. They ask for Barabbas (Richard Conte) instead, so the Only Begotten Son goes to be crucified alongside Richard Bakalyan (the voice of Dinky in The Fox and the Hound) and Marc Cavell (Frankenstein in The Wild Angels). The only people on his side are Simon of Cyrene (Sidney Poitier)and Joseph of Arimathea (Abraham Sofaer) and then, in the cameo of all cameos, a Roman centurion stands as Jesus expires and says, “Truly, this man was the Son of God.” Supposedly, Stevens did tons of takes to get this right.

And it’s John Wayne.

The film ends with the angel (Pat Boone!?!) rolling back the stone and Jesus ascending to Heaven.

Man, who did I miss in this parade of stars? How could I miss Victor Buono as Solak? Carroll Baker as Veronica? That’s how many people are in this. I missed Carroll Baker. Oh! There was also Martin Landau as a pharisee leader, Angela Lansbury as Claudia, Sal Mineo as Uriah, Paul Stewart as Questor, John Crawford as Alexander, Frank DeKova as Tormentor, Russell Johnson — the professor! — as a scribe and so many more. There are thousands of people in this movie.

Is it holy luck that this movie has three Blofelds in it with Pleasence in You Only Live Twice, Savalas in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and von Sydow in Never Say Never Again? Isn’t it kind of cool that David Lean took a break between Lawrence of Arabia and Dr. Zhivago to direct some of this? That Stevens edited von Sydow so that Jesus never blinks?  And how sad is it that cinematographer William C. Mellor dropped dead on the set?

I waited a long time to see this movie, as I first read about it in the Medveds’ The Hollywood Hall of Shame. It’s something else and for once, they weren’t hating on a good movie. It’s bloated and just plain too much, but that makes me love it so much more.

JESS FRANCO MONTH: The Diabolical Dr. Z (1966)

This movie is also called Miss Muerte, which is a great title, and it’s about Dr. Irma Zimmer, the daughter of Dr. Orloff’s student Professor Zimmer, who has made a machine that can make people into zombies. Four of the old man’s colleagues led him to an early death, so Dr. Irma uses the machine to control the firecracker sexual force that is Miss Muerte (Estella Blain), whose chief weapon is her poison-tipped fingernails, cuticles which she’s using to kill anyone connected with the death of Irma’s father.

Let me go back for a second. The movie called The Diabolical Dr. Z starts with Dr. Z dying. Also, in the Franco Cinematic Universe, I have discovered that if you are a doctor with any degree of evil whatsoever, you must know, be friends with or be a pupil of Dr. Orloff.

All of this is set to the notes of jazz, with strange angles and billowing smoke and fog following the same logic as the music playing. Meanwhile, Inspector Tanner and Inspector Green are played by a quite youthful Franco and composer Daniel J. White. This can be seen as a meta exploration of the authority of the director upon the movie or probably more truthfully two guys getting in front of the camera because there isn’t enough money to hire anyone else.

Also the notion of domination, submission and control will soon become even more a part of Franco’s films. You can see many of the themes he’d explore take their first filthy little steps here.

You can watch this on KInoCult.

Mill Creek Through the Decades: 1960s Collection: Mickey One (1965)

I was not ready for this movie.

After angering the mob, a stand-up comic (Warren Beatty) runs away to Chicago, taking the name Mickey One, works in a diner and hides in a flop house. But the lure of the stage is too strong. As he becomes more successful, he worries that each move upward is one closer to his death, as he has no idea who owns him, what he did wrong or how to make it right, so he stays in the spotlight.

Mickey says at one point, “I’m the king of silent movies hiding out till the talkies blow over,” but he’s also standing firmly within the genre of French New Wave in the middle of America. It’s like jazz on film, a movie about a comedian who never seems to be funny, a man standing against the blazing and blinding spotlight unsure if he’s in the crosshairs.

Penn and Beatty fought throughout the making of this movie, with the actor saying, “We had a lot of trouble on that film, because I didn’t know what the hell Arthur was trying to do and I tried to find out. I’m not sure that he knew himself.”  Somehow they got along enough to make the movie that would be a breakthrough for both, Bonnie and Clyde.

A must-see and the most interesting film — next to Lilith — on Mill Creek’s Through the Decades: 1960s Collection.

Mill Creek’s new Through the Decades: 1960s Collection has twelve movies: How to Ruin a Marriage and Save Your Life, The Notorious Landlady, Under the Yum Yum Tree, The Chase, Good Neighbor Sam, Baby the Rain Must FallLilith, Genghis Khan, Luv, Who Was That Lady? and Hook, Line and Sinker. You can get it from Deep Discount.

Mill Creek Through the Decades: 1960s Collection: Genghis Khan (1965)

Henry Levin made the Eurospy films Kiss the Girls and Make Them DieThe Ambushers and Murderers’ Row, as well as Journey to the Center of the EarthThe Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm and Where the Boys Are.

It tells the story of how Temujin (Omar Sharif) — joined by Geen (Michael Hordern) and Sengal (Woody Strode) — goes from a prisoner to Genghis Khan, the Prince of Conquerors. He falls for Bortei (French actress Françoise Dorléac), but loses her to Jamunga (Stephen Boyd) — the man who had imprisoned Temujin before — who assaults her and captures her for his own.

Plus, you get appearances by Eli Wallach, Telly Savalas (and his brother George), James Mason and Yvonne Mitchell. Shot in Yugoslavia, it looks gorgeous, cost a ton and really plays loose with history — and whitewashing — which is how movies were made in 1965.

Mill Creek’s new Through the Decades: 1960s Collection has twelve movies: How to Ruin a Marriage and Save Your Life, The Notorious Landlady, Under the Yum Yum Tree, The Chase, Good Neighbor Sam, Baby the Rain Must Fall, Mickey One, Lilith, Luv, Who Was That Lady? and Hook, Line and Sinker. You can get it from Deep Discount.

Mill Creek Through the Decades: 1960s Collection: Baby the Rain Must Fall (1965)

While the first few films on the Mill Creek Through the Decades: 1960s Collection were light comedy, this one made me sit up and pay attention to its rough drama.

Based on the 1954 play The Traveling Lady, which was also written by this movie’s director and writer Horton Foote (To Kill a Mockingbird and Tender Mercies).

Georgette Thomas (Lee Remick) has brought her six-year-old daughter Margaret Rose to meet her husband Henry Thomas (Steve McQueen). He’s never met her and may not even have known that she exists, as all he cares about is being a singer. He’s spent. the last few years in jail after stabbing a man and has been working for Kate Dawson, the woman who raised him — and beat him repeatedly — after his parents died. Her abuse has broken him, as the night after her death, he steals her silver, wrecks his car into the cemetery gates and howls into the night as he stabs her grave, all while his wife watches from the shadows.

Obviously, Henry is no father. But it takes Georgette the entire film to realize that she has to get her daughter away from him if they ever want to live a peaceful life.

Shot on location in Columbus, Texas, this is a dusty and dark exploration of love not being enough.

Mill Creek’s new Through the Decades: 1960s Collection has twelve movies: How to Ruin a Marriage and Save Your Life, The Notorious Landlady, Under the Yum Yum Tree, The Chase, Good Neighbor Sam, Mickey One, Lilith, Genghis Khan, Luv, Who Was That Lady? and Hook, Line and Sinker. You can get it from Deep Discount.

CURTIS HARRINGTON WEEK: Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet (1965)

When Roger Corman bought the Russian movie Planet of Storms (Planeta Bur), he used that footage to make Peter Bogdanovich’s Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women and this film, which had to confuse filmgoers. Corman doubled down on that mind-altering sensation that audiences had seen this before by shooting new scenes at the same time that Harrington was making Queen of Blood, as Basil Rathbone and Faith Domergue shot their scenes in half a day using the same costumes from that movie.

While Harrington considered Queen of Blood good enough to keep his name on, he used the name John Sebastian, inspired by Johann Sebastian Bach, from this remix. He told Psychotronic Video that the movie “was not even a film.”

Rathbone plays Professor Hartman and Domergue is Dr. Marsha Evans. They’re the only English speaking actors that show up, as everything else is dubbed from the Russian movie. Even the soundtrack is recycled from Dinosaurus! Even crazier, most of the credits were fake so that no one would realize this was made in Russia as it was released during the Cold War.

You can learn more about Russian science fiction in Exploring (Before “Star Wars”): The Russian Antecedents of 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Orgy of the Dead (1965)

In addition to making 17 exploitation movies filled with sexual content, Stephen C. Apostolof was so religioys that he and several other Bulgarian immigrants founded St. George, the first Bulgarian Orthodox church in Los Angeles. The church had strong ties to Simeon II, the Bulgarian king in exile, and soon became a safe haven for Bulgarian anti-Communists and monarchists that came to settle in Los Angeles.

Yes, the same guy who made Suburbia Confidential

As for Orgy of the Dead, it’s not even a movie. I mean, it’s a movie, but by that I mean it’s just a series of scenes, like someone is throwing a bunch of reels on in the back of a smoke-filled Elk’s Club, but whatever collection of mid-60s sin films we’re watching have all been touched by the left hand path.

Then again, this movie could just stop after two men in loincloths open a coffin to reveal Criswell, who does what Criswell does best, saying “I am Criswell. For years, I have told the almost unbelievable, related the unreal and showed it to be more than a fact. Now I tell a tale of the threshold people, so astounding that some of you may faint. This is a story of those in the twilight time. Once human, now monsters, in a void between the living and the dead. Monsters to be pitied, monsters to be despised. A night with the ghouls, the ghouls reborn from the innermost depths of the world.”

This opening is similar to Ed Wood’s then-unreleased 1958 film Night of the Ghouls, which was the original name of this movie, as Wood didn’t think that movie would ever play anywhere. Criswell’s female companion, Ghoulita the Black Ghoul, was supposed to be Vampira, but ended up being played by Fawn Silver. Also, you may notice Criswell straining as he says his lines, as he needed glasses and was reading them from cue cards that he couldn’t see. At least he’s wearing the cape that Bela Lugosi wore in Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein.

Hey, why not some more Criswell facts? Like how his family owned he coffin that he emerges from and that he napped in it between takes? This would be his last role, after appearing in Plan 9 from Outer Space and Night of the Ghouls, so as always, he went for it.

Wood wrote this, as well as being the production manager, casting agent and the person holding the cue cards. He got paid $600 and by all accounts was continually passing out from being so drunk after stealing money and going to buy some cheap liquor.

What a story, I guess, as Bob and Shirley (Pat Barrington, who worked with Wood, Russ Meyer and Harry Novak, as well as dancing at several mob-owned gentlemen’s clubs and dating serial killer Melvin Rees) are looking for a cemetery, drive off a cliff and end up in some kind of netherworld where various women dance — not well, the dance coordinator was fired — with monsters.

First, we watch a street walker dance, played by Colleen O’Brien (Mondo Freudo). Stay tuned, because you have nine more dances to go, like a Native American woman (Bunny Glaser, Motel Confidential) who cuts a rug. A golden woman dances the night away (also Barrinton). Then, a cat woman (Lorali Hart AKA Texas Starr) puts on her dancing paws. A mummy discusses all the snakes in Egypt as he has a scene with a werewolf. A slave girl ( Bulgarian-born Nadejda Klein, who still acts to this day) is whipped to the delight of Criswell. A Day of the Dead dance by Stephanie Jones (Uncle Tomcat’s House of Kittens) follows. Then, a Polynesian dance from Mickey Jines (The Secret Sex Lives of Romeo and Juliet), followed by a woman (Barbara Nordin, The Girls on F Street) strutting her stuff with the skeleton of her husband. A zombie (Dene Starnes, Down and Dirty) has two left zombie feet. And then a woman (Rene de Beau, Mondo Keyhole) who died for fashion, fur and fluff.

What is this, a mondo movie?

Then, and only then, can the Black Ghoul take Shirley for her own before the sun comes up and the monsters are destroyed, leaving writer Bob probably as inspired as he wanted to be and Shirley very confused.

How amazing is it that we live in a world where you can get this movie in the cleanest and most perfect form ever? Vinegar Syndrome, you kill my wallet but as always win my heart.

MILL CREEK BLU RAY RELEASE: I Dream of Jeannie The Complete Series

I Dream of Jeannie was created and produced by Sidney Sheldon* and it seems like for a long time, he was the only person that believed in it. He originally wanted the first season to film in color — it was one of only two shows on NBC at the time not in color, but special photographic effects employed to achieve Jeannie’s magic weren’t technologically advanced enough to be in a full range of colors yet — but NBC did not want to pay it.

It was $400 an episode.

The network and Screen Gems didn’t think the show would make it to a second season. But Sheldon saw that ABC’s Bewitched was a success and bet on the show.

He was right. It was in the top 30 shows for almost every year that it was on before becoming a syndication powerhouse.

In the pilot episode, “The Lady in the Bottle”, astronaut USAF Captain Tony Nelson (Larry Hagman) lands his one-man capsule Stardust One on a deserted island in the South Pacific. While wandering the beach, Tony notices a strange bottle** that moves by itself. When he rubs it, smoke and a genie (Barbara Eden) pop out.

Tony’s first wish is to be able to understand her, then for a helicopter to rescue him. Jeannie, who has been trapped in the bottle for 2,000 years, falls in love with him and follows Tony back home where she soon breaks up his engagement with his commanding general’s daughter, Melissa. It seems like this was a storyline being set up for the long game, but Sheldon realized that this romantic triangle didn’t have much rope.

Tony keeps Jeannie in her bottle until he realizes she needs a life of her own, which is mostly her using her genie powers to try and make his life better. He worries that if anyone finds out that she exists that he won’t get to be part of NASA, but his worries lead him to being investigated by psychiatrist U.S. Air Force Colonel Dr. Alfred Bellows (Hayden Rorke) with the only person — at first — that knows his secret being Major Roger Healey (Bill Daly).

Unlike many of the sitcoms of the era, I Dream of Jeannie had multipart story arcs (which were created to serve as backgrounds for national contests). For example, nobody knew when Jeannie’s birthday was and the guessing game led to a contest, with the answer being April 1. There was also a four-episode event where Jeannie was locked in a safe on the moon and fans had to guess the combination to save her and another where Tony was replaced and had to be found. But there are also several long storylines, like Jeannie’s evil sister also named Jeannie, Jeannie’s ever-changing origin story which includes Eden’s first husband Michael Ansara as the Blue Djinn, Jeannie taking over the crown of her home country Basenji and so many more.

Supposedly, Hagman was so hard to work with that the producers seriously considered replacing him with Darren McGavin. They even wrote out a story with Tony losing Jeannie and McGavin finding her, but it never ended up happening. In her 2011 book Jeannie Out of the Bottle, Eden wrote, “Larry himself has made no secret about the fact he was taking drugs and drinking too much through many of the I Dream of Jeannie years and that he has regrets about how that impacted him.”

When there were two TV movies in the 80s, Hagman didn’t return. In I Dream of Jeannie… Fifteen Years Later his role was played by Wayne Rogers and as he’s on a space mission in I Still Dream of Jeannie, he’s simply written out and Hagman’s Dallas co-star Ken Kercheval took over as Jeannie’s master. There was also a cartoon called Jeannie that aired from 1973 to 1975 that had Julie McWhirter (who in addition to being the voice in so many cartoons is also the wife of Rick Dees) play Jeannie, “Curly” Joe Besser as Babu a genie in training and Mark Hamill as Corey Anders, a high school student.

Eden has also gone on the record as saying that she never connected with another actor in the same way as she did with Hagman. They’d reunite for the 1971 TV movie A Howling in the Woods.

Why did the show end? It was still near the top thirty after all. Well, Eden believes that there were enough episodes for syndication already and the ratings had gone down after Jeannie and Nelson got married in season 5. No one except for the network wanted that and it eliminated the romantic tension of the show.

I grew up watching this show multiple times a day, often paired with its one-time rival Bewitched. Just going back through these — the original 8 episodes with Paul Frees narration instead of the theme song are a revelation — has made the end of the year doldrums so much better.

You can get all 139 episodes on the Mill Creek  I Dream of Jeannie The Complete Series blu ray set. You’ll get hours and hours of fun for a really great price at Deep Discount.

*Sheldon was inspired by the movie The Brass Bottle, which has Tony Randall’s character get a genie played by Burl Ives. Randall’s girlfriend was played by Eden.

**The bottle is actually a special Christmas 1964 Jim Beam liquor decanter containing “Beam’s Choice” bourbon whiskey. How weird is that?

2021 Scarecrow Psychotronic Challenge Day 20: Nightmare Castle (1965)

20. CASTLEMANIA: Something that takes place in, where else, a castle.

A couple of months ago, I was doing my usual weekend of looking at used DVD stores when I noticed an older man staring at the stacks of used movies. He stopped and asked, “Do you mind if I ask you what movies I should get?” It turns out that his wife had recently died and he missed watching horror movies with her and wanted to bring back some memories. He had no idea how streaming worked and had just gotten a DVD player, so as we continued talking, it turned out that he really liked Barbara Steele in movies and was surprised that he could own this film. It made me feel really great that I could help someone out like this as well as realize that Ms. Steele has been bewitching men of all ages all around the world for decades.

Mario Caiano has made movies across nearly every genre that an Italian director can work in, from peplum like Ulysses Against the Son of Hercules to westerns such as A Coffin for the Sheriff, giallo like Eye in the Labyrinth and berserk freakouts like Love Camp 7, The Fighting Fists of Shanghai Joe and the kinda giallo Ombre Roventi.

This is the kind of gothic madness that I love so much, starting with Stephen Arrowsmith (Paul Muller, Malenka) discovering his wife Muriel (Steele) having the gardner plant some seeds inside her. He shoves a hot poker in the man’s face, burns her with acid and then electrocutes both of them before removing their hearts and gviing their blood to de-age his servant Solange (Helga Liné!). And then he finds out that he isn’t the heir to the castle — it turns out that Muriel has an identical sister named Jenny (also Steele) who is mentally deranged but will become his new bride.

I’m in. All in.

Stephen and Solange begin to gaslight Jenny but she has the ghosts of the dead lovers on her side, as well as Dr. Derek Joyce (Marino Masé, The Red Queen Kills Seven Times). This movie looks beyond beautiful and really allows Steele to showcase her acting skills (and her piercing eyes).

“If you’re gonna scream, scream with me,” sang Glenn Danzig in the Misfits’ “Hybrid Moments,” which was inspired by this movie. Nightamre Castle is everything great about black and white gothic melodrama and I just want to live within every frame of this film. It’s also the first horror score that Ennio Morricone would write.

You have so many choices to see this. For the easy way, just stream it on Tubi. Or you can do what I did and buy the Severin blu ray, which has commentary by Steele, an interview with Caiano and Castle of Blood and Terror Creatures from the Grave included.

2021 Scarecrow Psychotronic Challenge Day 2: Santo vs El Estrangulador (1965)

2. MASKS ARE STILL REQUIRED: You know it, at least one character has to wear a mask for the entire movie

Have I ever told you how much I love lucha movies? Oh, only a few thousand times? Well, let’s return to the world of Santo, a place that director René Cardona is an expert at depicting. And you may be surprised to learn that Santo doesn’t turn up for nearly half an hour, but what does happen are five musical numbers, because that’s exactly why we watch a movie about masked wrestlers.

Like a proto-giallo villain, The Strangler is, well, strangling beautiful women and leaving behind a calling card — a gardenia that Santo claims has two meanings, love and death. My research has shown that gardenias really symbolize purity, gentleness and joy, as well as the secret love between two people. It’s also connected to the world of the occult and is often tied into the arcane mystery behind why people are attracted to one another. I’m just a dude writing about movies and not a man brave enough to wear a silver mask and battle the supernatural, so maybe just listen to Santo and make him feel good about it.

For some reason, the Strangler continually forgets his gimmick and stabs people. I guess a title like Santo vs. El Estrangulador que a Veces usa un Cuchillo También was too wordy of a title. Also, spoiler warning, but The Strangler may be LGBTQ-leaning, as well as a former lothario who slept with enough women to get acid launched in his face. Now, he kills women.

The Strangler was popular enough to get a sequel battle against Santo, 1966’s El Espectro del Estrangulador. I’m all for Santo having a more regular rogue’s gallery. I am not for the goofball kid named Milton who keeps trying to get our hero to adopt him. Hey Milton, Santo doesn’t have time, he has multiple professors’ daughters to romance and battle against vampires and werewolf women and you’re just a target. Go to school and leave the Man in the Silver Mask alone!