IT'S ABOUT TIME!
As El Tesoro de Drácula
begins, some of the finest scientific minds in Mexico have been summoned to the home of a nuclear physicist, Dr. Pico N. Sepúlveda...
Pico and Sepúlveda;
Pico and Sepúlveda;
Pico and Sepúlveda;
Pico and --
(No, no, wait a minute: that's an infuriatingly catchy
Felix Figueroa tune from the 1940's. Let's start over)
As the movie begins, some of the finest scientific minds in Mexico have been summoned to the home of a nuclear physicist, Dr. César
Sepúlveda. One of the scientists stops to put on his sunglasses before
he goes into the house, so that ought to tell you how brilliant the company is (rim shot)
. However, they discover that their host isn't going to be Dr. Sepúlveda after all. Instead, the Doctor intends to turn the proceedings over to a distinguished colleague of his, one (he says) whom the scientists should already know for his scientific record.
Also in attendance are Dr. Sepúlveda's daughter, Luisa, and some sort of hideous creature that calls itself "Perico". Perico is gangly and wears enormous glasses; in other words, he looks for all the world like me
in Junior High School -- except that he also wears a gigantic dollar-sign pendant around his neck, like some weird proto-rapper...
(Appearances to the contrary, Perico is not the monster in this film -- merely the odious, odious
comic relief). We barely have time to regster their presence when suddenly, in comes the real sponsor of the meeting: El Santo, the famous Mexican wrestler -- still in his trademark silver mask, but with a slightly rumpled business suit in place of his usual tights. As the scientists go to pick their jaws up off the floor, Santo explains why he's brought them all together...
...he's invented a Time Machine. Well, "practically a time machine".
This announcement would have sounded incredible coming from Sepúlveda himself; coming from a masked professional wrestler, it sounds like some kind of joke. When the skeptical scientists press him for details, Santo is forced to admit that he hasn't actually tested his Time Machine yet. This has been his entire reason for approaching the scientific community: he needs their help testing and documenting his experiments, so that he will be taken seriously. But before he can finish his explanation, the scientists decide they've heard enough and stalk out. Giggling.
Santo is bitterly disappointed by this totally unexpected
reception. Perhaps these men were all too busy muttering over bubbling cone-shaped flasks to have seen any of Santo's previous movies, which had featured some of his other surprisingly advanced gadgets -- like his Video Communicator Screen, which also acts as a message-machine, and probably lets him answer his email
as well. But part of the scientists' incredulity comes from the method
Santo has chosen to achieve travel in time, about which I'll have more to say later.
First, though, I wanted to say a few things about El Santo and his films...
It's difficult to separate fact and fiction in the life of Rodolfo Guzman Huerta. Guzman was born in Mexico in 1917 (or perhaps 1915). When professional wrestling was introduced in Mexico, Guzman, like his three elder brothers, decided to try to make his career in the ring. He spent several years performing under a variety of names, including his own. Then, in 1943, "Rudy" Guzman essentially ceased to exist: that was the year he took on the rôle of El Santo -- "The Saint", the Man in the Silver Mask. For the next 40 years until his death, he was never known to appear in public outside of his masked "El Santo" persona. The only time he was known to have revealed his face to the public was in a single, unadvertised television appearance he made a few weeks before his death.
Midway through his career, Santo was given the opportunity to star in a number of films, in which he played a character with the same name and costume. This version of El Santo was not only a wrestler, but also a crime fighter, monster hunter and super-scientist. The heroic deeds of this celluloid Santo elevated the masked wrestler to folk-hero status, well beyond the popularity he'd achieved as a wrestler. The fact that his screen adventures were pure fantasy made little difference to Mexican audiences.
And really: when you think about it, why should it have made a difference? So what if the real
Santo never fought any vampires, or mummies, or Martians? What exactly do we mean by the "real" Santo, anyway? Bear in mind that he was a living, breathing, larger-than-life fictional character -- a man playing the part of a masked wrestler, playing the part of a man playing the part of a masked wrestler who is also a superhero. He was able to maintain the fiction for so long, and with such complete sincerity, that in my opinion he deserved his reputation as a folk hero. He was an unambiguous Good Guy, whose adventures took place in a world of moral absolutes; even his enemies lived and fought by a rigid code of ethics, though they always ended up getting the punishment they deserved. When Santo made his live appearances, his audience could imagine that he brought a little bit of that comforting world with him.
You may point out that the world-view offered in the Santo films is extremely naîve. You may also point out that the films are poorly plotted, badly scripted, repetitive and indifferently shot. You would be absolutely right... but again, so what? Even twenty years after his death, El Santo continues to defeat all criticism as easily as he defeated his opponents in the ring. Even his worst films could not tarnish his reputation, and one of the main reasons for this was... his dignity.
Yes, you heard me: his dignity
Oh, sure, it's easy to mock a man whose everyday clothes consisted of a silver mask, a pair of tights and a cape. It's even easier to point and scoff when that familiar goofy mask appears over a three-piece formal business suit. But once you've actually seen some of his movies, you start to realize that however ridiculous the films may have been, the solid, charismatic presence of El Santo was the least ridiculous thing about them. There is no reasonable explanation for his appeal, any more than there is for that animated slab of rubber called "Godzilla"; it's not as though Santo had been called on to do any actual acting in his movies (not that anybody else was, either), and his inexpressive silver mask revels little more than his lips and the tip of his nose. Nevertheless, he has that unshakeable gravitas: the confidence of a man who believes in himself completely, and inspires you to believe in him as well.
I am not a fan of wrestling. I don't like to see burly men throwing each other around, and I usually fast-forward through the staged matches in the movies. Toward the middle of the 70's, these mid-movie bouts became less and less relevant to the plots anyway, to the point where they substituted canned cheering sounds for actual crowds of extras; so in those films at least I feel justified in skipping the fights. If I seem like an unlikely Santo fan, I admit I am, and I will certainly understand if my readers disagree with me about the Man in the Silver Mask. But I want to make one thing very clear: if I make fun of a Santo movie, it is the film I want to ridicule, and pointedly not
With that said, I still have plenty to make fun of.
It's useless to think of the "Santo" movies as a series. Though the films often shared actors, characters, directors, and even plots, continuity was never a concern. Thus the actor playing Santo's evil arch-nemesis in one film would become his trusted partner in another. Then there's the hero's bizarre love life: Santo would typically fall in love with the daughter or niece or pretty assistant of an old professor (who would usually be killed by the end of the first act); and at some point, Santo was likely to entrust the girl with the care of some orphaned waif they'd come across in their adventures. You really have to wonder what ever became of that endless succession of girls, orphans and dead professors; once the movie was over, you never heard of them again.
Even Santo's own character was slightly inconsistent from film to film: for example, in La Venganza de la Momia/Vengeance of the Mummy
(1971), a surprisingly skeptical Santo states that no mummy in the history of the world has ever come back to life. In the context of that particular film, he's right: the vengeful mummy turns out to be a man in a mask. However, Santo's rational world-view is a little unexpected, considering that by that point in his film career he'd already battled several mummies, zombies and other supernatural creatures.
I promised to get back to Santo's method of time travel. In general, time travel's a very difficult subject to bring into a story or a movie, because it's fraught with complications and paradoxes. Certainly we may be forgiven for not expecting much from a Santo film, especially one scripted by Alfredo Salazar... as David Wilt points out in his liner notes to the Santo DVDs, Salazar had two basic script ideas that he used as the basis for the majority of his "horror" pictures. In many respects, El Tesoro de Drácula
is a carbon copy of several other familiar Mexican films, especially The Wrestling Women vs. the Aztec Mummy
. But in coming up with his time travel idea, Salazar actually outdid himself.
The idea is this: rather than send modern people physically into the past or future, Santo's machine sends them back into a previous existence. Once there, the become spectators more than anything else... they experience what their former selves experienced, but they are unable to change anything. The idea is totally unscientific, of course, but from a storytelling perspective it's magnificent. It solves many of the narrative problems that occur when you're messing around with the very nature of cause and effect.
What Santo needs now is a volunteer to test the new machine. Everyone's eyes slide over to Perico, who'd be the least-missed if anything should happen. But Perico is a coward, and wants nothing to do with it. Next Dr. Sepúlveda steps forward for the job, but Santo dissuades him on the grounds that he is too old to withstand the strain. Santo also points out that a young woman would be best suited for the experiment, since she would have greater physical and mental resilience than a man would. At this point Luisa offers herself as the guinea pig. Santo is appalled. She's his sweetheart, after all (what did I tell you about those Professors' daughters?), and furthermore, she's just agreed to be a surrogate mother to poor little Paquita, an obnoxious little child-actor who -- excuse me, an adorable little girl whose parents were both gunned down by criminals (and what did I tell you about those orphans?). But he can't lie to Luisa, so he's forced to admit that she'd be an ideal subject.
In the meantime, unbeknownst to the little group, a sinister figure has crept up to the Sepúlveda residence and is listening intently. Obviously he's some kind of Master Criminal, because he's dressed in dark clothes, and is apparently wearing a mask with a fez underneath!
Luisa dresses in the requisite silver jumpsuit -- the fact that Santo has one all ready for her suggests that he may have intended Luisa to be his subject all along. This in turn suggests what may have happened to all those other Professors' daughters... but what am I saying? This is Santo I'm talking about here! If I can't trust him, who can I trust? Anyway, Luisa suits up and stands in front of the vaguely familiar-looking apparatus. Santo pulls a few switches... lights flash, the fog machine starts, and a spiral pattern on the wall behind her begins to rotate hynotically. Soon she
begins to rotate along with the spiral, and as Santo and his companions watch with their hearts in their throats, Luisa drops in slow motion into her past existence.
There's just one tiny little unforeseen problem. Luisa's past identity was Mina Harker.
All right, not Mina Harker, exactly, but a girl named Luisa Soler who is in a similar predicament. Her father, Professor Soler (another Professor!), has just summoned the famous Professor van Roth from Europe to help cure his daughter's mysterious illness. Luisa is pale and listless, and seems to be curiously anemic. Her condition is particularly worrying to Soler, since Luisa's dear friend Mara had died suddenly not long before, and had shown the same peculiar symptoms.
This brings up the next fascinating aspect of Snato's method of time travel. It seems only natural that the past existences of fictional characters should be the other fictional characters who inspired them; and it also makes sense that time travel for these characters should mean going back to their literary or film antecedents. It would have been even neater for the characters themselves to start to realize that this method works precisely because
they are fictional characters... but perhaps that would be asking a little much from a Mexican wrestling film. Besides, it's difficult to separate fact and fiction in the life of Rodolfo Guzman Huerta. Guzman was born in Mexico in 1917 (or perhaps 1915). When professional wrestling was... wait a minute
. I seem to have run into a little time-warp of my own.
Back to the movie: of course you know what's coming next. Into the Soler residence walks the distinguished Central European count from next door -- in full evening dress, no less. Soler greets his friend, Count Alucárd (oh, brother), and introduces him to van Roth. Soler and Luisa are quite taken with the charming count, but van Roth eyes him with suspicion. Later, when both Luisa and the count are out of earshot, van Roth begins to tell Soler about the legends of the vampire...
Alucárd, in the meantime, has two new vampiresses to convert this evening; and now we're given proof that Santo's invention really is miraculous. Santo and the others have been able to watch all this from a typical-looking television mounted in the "time machine"'s control panel, and this in itself is remarkable. But now we find out that the time machine can not only monitor what's happening in Luisa's house, even when she's not there to see it herelf... it can also jump to scenes which she should never have found out about! It performs jump-cuts, edits and dramatic close-ups, too!
After completing his ritual, the count slinks back to the Soler hacienda, where he sinks his fangs into Luisa once more. Once again, we cut back to Santo, Perico and Sepúlveda;
Pico and Sepúlveda;
Pico and Sepúlveda;
Pico and Sepúlveda;
Pico and -- damn it
, there I go again. Sorry.
Back to "Rene Cardona's Dracula": van Roth has found some interesting vampire lore in an ancient tome, which proves that Luisa is being victimized by a vampire... a bloodsucker... nosferatu
... the Undead (the book remains unnamed in the film, but I'll lay a small wager that it's el tesauro de Drácula
[rim shot]). He decides to try a little experiment of his own. He writes the name ALUCÁRD
on a sheet of paper, then holds it up to a mirror. There he sees something truly supernatural: in complete violation of common sense, the mirror image of his letters spell out DRÁCULA
. Yes, the accent is even pointing in the right direction!
(Needless to say, this revelation comes as a complete surprise to El Santo and his friends, watching on their Time-TV. I think they really need to get out more.)
But vampires have a superb sense of dramatic timing; thus our count comes in just at this moment. Van Roth fails to notice his entrance, since he's looking into the mirror, and the count casts no reflection. The Professor remarks on Alucárd's strange transparency, and pretends to be unfazed when the count throws a heavy object at the mirror (this gesture worked better when the mirror in question was a tiny cigratte box lid. It's a lot harder for the count to pass off his behavior as scorn for the "playthings of man's vanity" when he's just destroyed an enormous piece of décor). But by now, the two adversaries have taken each other's measure, and each has begun looking for an opportunity to attack without revealing to the other how much he knows. Van Roth, in the excuse of showing the count what treatment he's prescribed for Luisa, confronts the vampire with a branch of mistletoe -- a plant which no vampire can stand. Alucárd -- oh, what's the point of calling him that? Drácula
flies into a rage, but can't resist the power of the mistletoe. Rather than being forced to kiss the aging German scientist, Drácula turns into a bat and flies away.
While van Roth and Soler search for Drácula's lair, taking the opportuity to stake his undead minions while they're at it, the count sneaks back into the Soler household by vampirizing the maid. Claiming Luisa once and for all, he takes her off to his super-secret emergency backup lair. But first, he stops to show her something extraordinary: in a coffin, underneath a very familiar looking prop -- I believe it was used as the corpse of the Crying Woman from Maldición de la Llorona
, in addition to providing atmosphere in other Mexican gothics -- Drácula has an incredible stash of gold and jewels. Luisa, as his vampire bride, will share his fantastic wealth as well as eternal life.
But no sooner has the count tucked his undead bride into her coffin and pulled up his own shroud, than van Roth and Soler discover the secret lair (with the assistance of their Transylvanian bat-hound). When they discover to their horror that Luisa, whom they thought was safe at hime, is actually a vampire, they prepare to send her soul to peace. This alarms Santo and his companions: if Luisa should die during her time travel journey, they won't be able to bring her back into her present existence (uhh, guys? I think you're already a little too late). Santo begins flipping switches frantically, while poor Dr. Sepúlveda paces in the background.
Luisa is pulled back out of her past life -- this is indicated by playing her slow-motion arrival backwards, even though she's no longer supposed to be in her bedroom at the Soler house. Luisa comes back up the Time Tunnel, but she's in very grave condition. As Santo works to revive her, Perico catches sight of the hooded man at the window -- remember the hooded man at the window? But there's no time to chase the fleeing spy; the strain of her experience is proving too much for poor Luisa.
The sinister figure -- they come to refer to him as the Black Hood, but I prefer to think of him as... The Hooded Fez!!
-- umm, where was I? Oh: the Hooded Fez!!
goes back to his secret headquarters. There he tells his son, who by sheer coincidence happens to be a wrestler named Atlas, that he's witnessed an unbelievable experiment, one which could be very useful to them. Together they issue orders to their henchmen: watch the Sepúlveda house, but under no circumstances harm El Santo or his friends. Henchman Dandy turns to henchman Rat and asks is he's afraid of El Santo. "Afraid? No," says Rat, who's played by Santo's real-life manager Carlos Suárez; "Terrified!"
Back at Dr. Sepúlveda's house, Luisa is feeling a bit better. Unfortunately, Santo realizes, though they've just completed a dangerous test, they still have no proof that the time machine works. In fact, it may all have been a vivid hallucination. If Luisa could remember the location of Drácula's tomb from her past life, she might be able to lead them to the site of the vampire's treasure. This would be proof that Luisa's experiences were real (it would also fund their experiments pretty thoroughly). Luisa is none too happy about having to relive (re-die?) the things she saw on her journey, and in fact she proves unable to remember exactly where the treasure is hidden. There is a way they could find it, though: the location of the treasure is inscribed on Drácula's medallion, which should still be in the secret crypt on the count's staked body. Santo and the others resolve to goto the crypt and find the medallion, unaware of the fact that the Hooded Fez!!
is listening to their every word.
Off go Santo and his friends to the crypt... Perico is terrified, especially when he catches a glimpse of the Hooded Fez!!
lurking in the shadows. Santo gives him a whistle to blow, in case he should run into trouble. As they descend into the tomb, Santo becomes aware that they're being followed. The friends double back on their pursuers, and soon it's the first of the free-for-all brawls we expect in a Mexican wrestling movie. Our heroes fight gamely, and eventually beat back the Hooded Fez!!
and his thugs. Even Perico gets into the fight: "And I didn't even have to use the whistle!" he says. Santo goes to pat him on the back, just as he puts the whistle to his lips... and naturally, Perico swallows the whistle. "Tweet!" he pipes with each breath, forcing Santo to pick him up and shake him until the whistle comes loose.
Our heroes retrieve the medallion, but quickly discover it's only part of the solution. The rest of the key to the location of the vampire's treasure is written on the vampire's ring! You really have to wonder when and where Drácula stopped to get these instructions engraved. He couldn't have had it done while he was back in his home country, now, could he? He'd have had to find a talented and singularly unimaginative jeweler in Mexico to do the work for him. But why bother? Are vampires inherently forgetful? Why else should he write down the instructions, giving somebody else a clue to the location of his fortune? And then, what happens when he moves? Maybe that's why he needed both the ring and the medallion to record the location: once it's translated, it probably reads something like
"The treasure is hidden in...
the old oak tree next to the grave of the Wolf Man
a cave at the foot of Mount Piszkos
the defiled church by the battlefield at Gran
...continued on next piece of jewelry..."
The Hooded Fez!!
hears of the ring, and hurries on his way to retrieve it before Santo can go back to the tomb. When Santo and the others return, they are ambushed by the criminals and subdued. The Hooded Fez!!
offers them a deal: join him in deciphering the Serbian [sic] characters on Drácula's baubles, or... die! Dr. Sepúlveda offers a sporting alternative. The Hooded Fez!!
has a strapping young son. Why not let Santo and Atlas fight a professional wrestling match? The winner will get both the ring and
It will come as no surprise to anyone who has ever seen an Alfredo Salazar-scripted movie that the Hooded Fez!!
agrees to the match. Everything comes to a screeching halt so the wrestlers can prepare for a match 15 days hence.
You might figure that Santo would use those 15 days to find out who Atlas's father is, or who booked the arena... or anything else that might tell him the Secret Identity of the Hooded Fez!!
You'd be wrong. Instead, Santo trains with his old friends in the world of professionl wrestling. His friend Wrestler Equis ("X") goes over some of the things that Santo is forbidden to do, using poor Perico as his dummy. "You can do this
(THWACK!) and this
(THUMP!), but you must never do this
(CRACK!) or this
(THWAP!)..." Then the two go off to discuss strategy, exiting the ring by stepping right on top of Perico (this is one of the very few times we're ever permitted to see El Santo doing something deliberately unkind; we can excuse him, I suppose, since Perico is the Odious Comic Relief, and we're all anxious to trample him ourselves).
Santo gives Equis a special "El Santo wrist-radio". Rather than asking him for the requisite cereal box-tops, Santo asks Equis to keep the radio with him, in case Santo needs his help urgently.
Naturally, El Santo wins the match against Atlas, and the Hooded Fez!!
(now actually the Hooded Fedora!!
) obligingly hands over the ring. But the clever criminal mastermind has a trick up his sleeve... he took a picture of the ring!! Ha ha!! Who ever would have thought of such a dastardly plan! And the plan gets even dastardlier: the Hooded Headgear!!
plans to get the medallion back by pulling the stake out of Drácula's heart. Then the vampire will go kill the people who stole his medallion, allowing the thugs to... er... well, he hasn't worked that part of the plan out yet. But the first part sure sounds good!
While the criminals are out reviving the vampire, little Paquita -- remember Paquita? -- has developed an unhealthy interest in the pretty medallion. Late at night, while everyone else is asleep, the little girl gets up on the pretext of needing a glass of water. Actually, she sneaks downstairs and takes the medallion out of its hiding-place. Draping it over her own neck, she goes back up to bed next to Luisa.
Drawn by the call of his jewelry, the newly-risen count arrives at the Sepúlveda house. Unfortunately, the Hooded Fez!!
has neglected to inform his goons of the fine points of his master plan. Thus the henchmen, seeing a guy in a tux trying to get into the house, confront the count with their guns. The confrontation goes about as one-sidedly you'd expect, and Rat runs back to his boss to tell him how badly they've screwed up.
"You idiot!" exclaims Hooded!!
. The plan was to let the count in to kill Santo. Then, by means unspecified, Hooded
was going to kill the vampire, and take the ring and medallion "to Transylvania, to get the Serbian characters translated". Oh, that makes perfect sense. Go to Transylvania, where the principal languages are Hungarian (a Finno-Ugrian language) and Romanian (a Romance language) to translate Serbin characters written by a 15th-century Wallachian. One might almost wish he'd succeeded in getting the medallion, for all the good it would have done him.
Drácula has found the medallion around the neck of little Paquita; but before the goings-on can get too unsavory, the count catches sight of Luisa sleeping in the other bed. Recognizing his lost love, he awakens her and puts her under a hypnotic spell. Then he leads her back to his lair, where his revived priestesses await. There he will begin the ritual that will turn her back into the vampire queen.
In the meantime, Santo's been awakened by the commotion. After a quick word on his wrist-radio, he starts out after the vampire with Perico and Sepúlveda -- only to be followed in turn by the Hooded Fez!!
. The high-speed chase soon attracts the attention of the police, who follow both cars. Santo pulls over and cuts of the Fez!!
's car, and the next free-for-all commences. Santo is victorious, subduing the thugs just as the police arrive (shooting their guns in the air irresponsibly). Before they go off to confront Drácula, Santo and his friends pause to unmask the sinister Fez
. The criminal's real identity turns out to be... Doctor Kur!
Oh. Well, it's the scientist from the beginning (remember the beginning?) who wore his sunglasses indoors. I knew there was something fishy about him! We couldn't have identified him by name prior to his unmasking, because is seems to be an unwritten law of Mexican monster movies that the scientist whose name begins with a "K" is usually the Bad Guy. And he would have gotten away with it, too, if it hadn't been for those meddling wrestlers! Oh -- and vampires. And stupid henchmen. And odd ideas about linguistics. Aw, all right, let's face it: he wouldn't have got away with it under any circumstances.
But there's still the matter of the vampire to deal with. Santo and the opthers race back to Drácula's hidden lair; but the count turns out to be much smarter than Dr. Kur had been. He's prepared for the intruders. No sooner have Santo and the others burst into the tomb, when a net falls from the ceiling and traps them, helpless! Just as Drácula is about to complete the ritual that will turn Luisa back into vampire, Santo shouts "Now!" into his wrist-radio. There is an enormous explosion, and the roof of the cave-tomb breaks open. The sunlight of full noon pours into the cave! Evidently the ritual has taken a little longer than the count expected (either that or the plot conveniences are getting more than a little ridiculous). The vampires wither and disintegrate, and Luisa is free.
Into the tomb come Wrestler Equis and his friends, los luchadores ex machina
. Unbeknownst to the rest of us, Santo had given them instructions via his wrist-radio to place the explosives, and detonate them on his command. Equis asks El Santo what all the fuss was about, and Santo gestures to the withered bats and sad little piles of dust on the floor. "That's it?" says Equis. "That's the terrible threat?" The wrestlers make little "loco" gestures to each other, and go out.
But Santo has learned his lesson. He realizes that Man shouldn't tamper in God's domain... er, well, the Devil's domain. Drácula's domain. The unknown
. So even though he now has unfettered access to the medallion and the ring, Santo decides not to use them to look for the treasure (remember the treasure?). After all this, I'm not sure why he'd just give up on the treasure. After all, it could help him with his good works -- taking care of the orphans left behind from his adventures, for example; or paying alimony to all those Professors' daughters he left behind him... (thinking of which, Dr. Sepúlveda is fortunate to still be alive at the end of the movie). But no: the search for the treasure is abandoned along with all his work on the time machine...
...remember the time machine?!
Come to think of it, when was the last time you saw such a messily digressive motion picture?
El Tesoro de Drácula
is not only chaotic, but it's also a good example of the creative chaos that surrounded the Santo films. The movie's Drácula, Italian-born Aldo Monti, stepped behind
the camera to direct Santo in Anónimo Mortal
in 1975. He also played one of the good guys in Venganza de los Mujeres Vampiro/Revenge of the Vampire Women
(1970), which (in spite of its title) is completely unrelated to Santo contra las Mujeres Vampiro/Santo vs. the Vampire Women
(1961), one of Santo's most famous films. Monti later reprised his rôle as Drácula in Santo y Blue Demon contra Drácula y el Hombre Lobo
(1975) -- but even though we're given the same actor playing the same villain against the same hero, in a movie scripted by the same writer, the two Monti/Drácula Santo films have nothing to do with each other.
Furthermore, the movie's director,the infamous Rene Cardona, Sr., had been the director of the first Mexican wrestler movie, El Enmascarado de Plata/The Man in the Silver Mask
(1952) -- but in spite of its title, El Santo wasn't in it. Cardona often appeared as an actor in other people's "Santo" films: in an early film, Santo contra el rey del crimen/Santo vs. the King of Crime
(1961), he had appeared as Santo's father (and by implication the original "El Santo" himself); while in La Venganza de la Llorona/Vengeance of the Crying Woman
(1974) he played... an evil criminal mastermind!
Cardona is well known among bad movie fans, not only for directing films like Wrestling Women vs. the Aztec Mummy
and El Horripilante Bestia Humana/Night of the Bloody Apes
, but also as the father of Rene Cardona, Jr., director of movies like Tintorera
and Beaks: the Movie
. Cardona Sr. is generally regarded as a capable if uninspired director, and El Tesoro de Dr&accute;cula
is unlikely to change this view. Cardona has an unfortunate habit of shooting Santo in the near foreground, from his least favorable side: his back. All we can see are Santo's enormous shoulders (which are so broad they block out the other actors he's conversing with) and the seam of his mask.
He takes a similarly unflattering approach to shooting the ingénue
, Noelia Noel. Ms. Noel is not unattractive; but when the script calls for her to express worry or fright, Cardona's lighting and camera placement make her look as though she's just smelled something foul.
It's possible the color version of the film softened the angles of her face and mitigated the hardness of her expression, but since the only good-quality copuies of the film which have survived have been in black and white, it's difficult to tell.
The fact that we're seeing a monochrome version of a film that was originally shot in color doesn't help the situation any. The technique of filming a black-and-white film is much different from that of shooting a movie in color. There is an enormous difference in the look of a movie shot carefully in black and white and the look of a color film from which the color has merely been removed. In this case, whatever atmosphere there may have been in the color version is largely missing from the version we're stuck with. The scenes in the mist-shrouded cemetery still have a certain effectiveness, but otherwise the movie looks downright prosaic.
The most successful part of the film is probably the movie-within-a-movie retelling of "Dracula". It suffers to some extent from a problem which also mars the 1974 Dan Curtis version of the story: the indoor scenes are never convincing. Rather than look like real locations, the sets always look like modern rooms filled with random period furniture. The other problem raised by the "Dracula" sequence is that although it may be the strongest part of the film, it's the part which involves El Santo the least. The wrestler's adventures should be at the center of his own films... but once we get back to present day Mexico, the silliness and lack of cohesion in the rest of the story come as a serious let-down.
There was a different version of this movie that was released at the same time, called El Vampiro y Sexo
. I think you can work out the translation of that one on your own. This version was essentially the same, except that Drácula's slave girls were naked instead of wearing diaphonous black nighties. I imagine the added, um, visual interest may have made the film a bit more enjoyable. However, this cut of the film now exists only through its publicity stills. Still, there have been worse films -- worse time travel films, worse Dracula films, worse Santo films... in fact, the only really awful aspect of the movie is that Alberto Rojas, who played the terrible Perico, went on to a long and popular film career, eventually making more films than Santo himself. The horror!