Santo the Silver Mask vs The Martian Invasion
Entry updated 31 October 2022. Tagged: Film.
Mexican film (1967). Original title Santo el Enmascarado de Plata vs "La Invasión de los Marcianos"; vt Santo the Silver-Masked Man vs The Martian Invasion. Producciones Cinematográficas. Directed by Alfredo B Crevenna. Written by Rafael García Travesi. Cast includes El Santo, Wolf Ruvinskis and Manuel Zozaya. 92 minutes. Black and white.
Over scenes of astronauts orbiting the Earth, the narrator wonders: "Is our planet the only one inhabited by rational beings like us? If so, will we conquer those other worlds, or, on the contrary, will their inhabitants come to rule us?" (see Colonization of Other Worlds; Invasion; Life on Other Worlds) ... we then cut to a Spaceship heading towards Earth. On board are Martians (see Mars): the males in tight trousers and (save for capes) topless; the females in bikinis and capes; both have long blonde hair. Their destination is Mexico, because it is "dedicated to pacifism"; so their leader (Ruvinskis) insists, "from now on we will speak in Spanish". Hijacking television broadcasts, they announce that because the human race now has nuclear weapons (see Nuclear Energy; Weapons) it poses a threat to the Solar System. The authorities must disarm, remove their borders and form a global government that does not discriminate on matters of race or creed ... or else the Martians will disintegrate humanity. Unfortunately, their "electronic interstellar brain" (see Computers) says the Earthlings believe they were watching a "comedy skit". The Martians decide to demonstrate their seriousness.
At a sport stadium, masked wrester Santo, The Silver Mask (Santo), is training young boys to wrestle (see Games and Sports), explaining it should only be used to counter aggression and defend the weak. A Martian appears and disintegrates thousands, including children, with the "Astral Eye" in his helmet before Santo accosts him, forcing him to teleport away (see Teleportation). Impressed, the Martians decide Santo must be captured. They also begin to kidnap other people – including an sf writer who has had to postpone publication of his novel about a Martian invasion; heroically, he almost succeeds in blowing up the spaceship.
Afraid that people will panic and society will collapse, the government downplays events (see Politics; Satire). Santo visits his friend, the Scientist Professor Ordorica (Zozaya) to discuss the situation. The latter mentions Atlantis, saying that its inhabitants had a similar disintegrating Ray. Because Earth's atmosphere does not contain enough oxygen, the Martians take oxygen pills as supplements: an attempt to kidnap the Professor fails when he starts a fire – burning up the oxygen in the air – forcing them to teleport away. However, the professor is eventually captured, so Santo announces a wrestling bout, knowing the Martians will come for him. They do, and – after much wrestling – he manages to grab a teleportation belt and reach their spaceship. Here he discovers the Martians dying: they have run out of pills, having spent too long trying to capture him. Thus he easily frees the kidnapped humans, then destroys the Martian ship (it has a convenient self-destruct handle) – the professor pleads with him not to do so, because of the scientific knowledge within: Santo explains that is why it must be destroyed, because "Humanity is not prepared for such progress." As the ship explodes the narrator wonders, "Will we learn our lesson, or will we insist on carrying on crazy nuclear experiments until we disappear from the face of the Earth?" (see End of the World).
Early on the film engages with the moral issues arising from the invasion: the Martians' ends may be sympathetic but their means are barbaric. Santo points this out – also questioning what gives them the right to impose themselves on others (see Imperialism)? The narrator had previously observed that the Martians, though technologically advanced, make the same errors as humanity, trying to impose peace and brotherhood by force. There is also a suggestion of Eugenics when the Martians suggest Santo and the Professor "will be the seed of a new humanity, more scientifically and morally advanced" (though later they decide Santo should be dissected). These serious themes are then largely dropped as we see a succession of wrestling bouts between Santo and the male Martians (the females try to seduce him).
The special effects and costumes are poor – the Martians being mistaken for comedians is a nice touch of self-awareness. The plot does not hold water: though Santo's only talent is wrestling, the Martians are incapable of capturing him although their Technology includes Space Flight, Death Rays, Teleportation and Shapeshifting. The latter enables them to adopt a more mundane appearance to blend in with humanity, spoilt a little by their choice of names such as Argos, Hercules and Selene (see Mythology). Meanwhile humanity is not without its own Inventions – the professor builds a device that beeps a warning when it detects Martian brainwaves.
It would be unfair to consider the regular and prolonged wrestling scenes as padding – this is the film's genre, after all (though there is more traditional filler during the movie's middle stretch). Despite the thoughtful moments early on, which are not without interest, overall this is an enjoyably silly film (reflected in Santo wearing his silver mask and costume at all times, even at home). Neither the one-off mention of Atlantis, saying they had the same weapon as the Martians, nor the latter's use of mythological heroes' names, goes anywhere: one wonders whether this was a thread dropped during later drafts of the script, or simply details included to add colour.
El Santo (in English "The Saint"), real name Rodolfo Guzmán Huerta (1917-1984), was an extremely popular professional masked wrestler, who became the hero of Santo, el enmascarado de plata, a series of successful Comic books created by José Guadalupe Cruz that ran until the 1980s, which portrayed him as a Superhero engaged in various sf, Horror and Fantasy conflicts. His first starring role was in Santo Contra los Zombies (1962; vt Santo vs. the Zombies) (see Zombies) – two unreleased earlier films, in which he had played the sidekick to the hero, were subsequently renamed and released as Santo films. He made about 50 films in all, usually low budget, quickly made and varying in quality; most had genre elements: Santo Contra las Mujeres Vampiros (1962; vt Santo vs The Vampire Women; vt Samson vs the Vampire Women) (see Vampires). Santo en el Museo de Cera (1963; vt Santo in the Wax Museum; vt Samson in the Wax Museum) – which has an Auschwitz survivor (see Holocaust), driven mad by his experiences, wanting to destroy beauty with the Monsters he creates: besides the Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933) and/or The House of Wax (1953), the film also shows the influence of The Island of Lost Souls (1932). Santo en el Hacha Diabólica (1965, vt The Diabolical Hatchet) has Time Travel by both magical and scientific means. Profanadores de Tumbas (1966; vt Grave Robbers) has a Mad Scientist trying to resurrect the dead (he finds the corpses he uses do not have strong enough hearts to survive reanimation, but he believes Santo's would). El Barón Brákola (1967) is a Dracula movie in all but name. Atacan las brujas (1968; vt The Witches Attack) includes appearances by Satan (see Gods and Demons). Santo contra Capulina (1969; vt Santo vs Capulina) is aimed at children, but includes Robots. Santo en el Tesoro de Drácula (1969; vt Santo in The Treasure of Dracula) has Santo inventing a Time Machine which has some resemblance to the one in The Time Tunnel (1966-1967); this sends a young woman back to the nineteenth Century, where she is bitten by Dracula (the scenes set here have nods to Bram Stoker's novel). Several Santos films were also made with nude scenes for the overseas market: most have been lost, but in 2011 the overseas edition of this last film was released as El vampiro y el sexo (vt The Vampire and Sex) (see Sex).
Santo contra Blue Demon en la Atlantida (1970; vt Santo vs. Blue Demon in Atlantis) has a Nazi scientist based in Atlantis who wants to take over the world. In Santo y Blue Demon contra los Monstruos (1970; vt Santo and Blue Demon versus the Monsters) our hero battles various Monsters, including zombies, the Frankenstein Monster, a Werewolf, a cyclops and a mummy. El Mundo de los Muertos (1970; vt The World of the Dead) has Santo journeying into Hell to rescue a soul (see Eschatology). La Venganza de las Mujeres Vampiro (1970; vt The Vengeance of the Vampire Women); Las momias de Guanajuato (1971; vt The Mummies of Guanajuato) and Santo vs la hija de Frankestein (1972; vt Santo vs. Frankenstein's Daughter) are fairly self-explanatory, but the latter has Dr Freda Frankenstein believing she can improve her deteriorating Rejuvenation serum by adding Santo's blood to the formula. Asesinos de Otros Mundos (1973; vt Murderers from Other Worlds) features spores from samples of Moon rock that have turned into blob-like monsters in the Earth's atmosphere. Santo y Blue Demon vs. Drácula y el Hombre Lobo (1973; vt Santo and Blue Demon vs. Dracula and the Wolf Man) are also self-explanatory, though the latter also features a new explosive stronger than a nuclear bomb (see Weapons). Santo y Blue Demon contra el Dr. Frankenstein (1974; vt Santo and Blue Demon vs Dr. Frankenstein) has the rejuvenated doctor trying to perfect brain transplants so his wife's brain – currently in a jar (see Brain in a Box) – can be put into a body. Santo vs las Lobas (1976; vt Santo vs the She Wolves) features the Queen of the Werewolves. La Noche de San Juan aka Santo en Oro Negro (1977; vt Night of San Juan – Santo in Black Gold) has robots. Misterio en las Bermudas (1979; vt Mystery in Bermuda) has a Bermuda Triangle subplot crowbarred in to cash in on the then popular "mystery". Santo en la Frontera del Terror (1979; vt Santo in "The Border of Terror"; vt Santo vs the White Shadow) is mainly about the treatment of illegal Mexican immigrants in the USA, but does include a Mad Scientist and Zombies. El Puño de la Muerte (1982; vt The Fist of Death) and its sequel La Furia de los Karatecas (1982; vt The Fury of the Karate Experts) feature a glowing space rock and an alien princess. [SP]
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