Release Year: 1967
Original Title: Santo el enmascardo de plata vs la invasion de los marcianos
Starring: Santo, Wolf Ruvinskis, El Nazi, Beny Galan, Ham Lee, Antonio Montoro, Eduado Bonada, Manuel Zozaya, Maura Monti, Belinda Corel, Eva Norvind, Gilda Miros, Alicia Montoya
Director: Alfredo B. Crevenna
Writer: Rafael García Travesi
Cinematographer: Jorge Stahl Jr.
Editor: Alfredo Rosas Priego
Music: Antonio Diaz Conde
Producer: Alfonso Rosas Priego
I’ve seen a couple of Mexican wrestling films, but never one with the big silver masked guy. Now I have an excuse for this… Australia is a very multicultural society but amongst its diversified populace there aren’t many Mexicans. It’s funny, you can walk down a small shopping strip and find strange little shops that hire out Indian, Chinese, Italian, or Greek movies, or even bootlegs of the latest cinematic offerings, but Mexican films… nada!
Even during the great video boom in the early ‘80s, where hundreds of tiny companies sprung up and flooded the market with crap videos hoping to sate the appetite of eager consumers who wanted to watch everything and anything on this wondrous new device, in the comfort of their home, there were no Mexican films.
It’s a shame that the video boom didn’t start earlier, or the popularity of wresting in Australia didn’t last a little longer, because in that world, Santo may have made it to these shores. Santo would have be a big star here because wrestling was incredibly popular in Australia in the ’60s and ’70s. As a child I remember watching ‘World Championship Wrestling’ each weekend and marvelling at the athleticism of Mario Milano, Killer Karl Kox and (my personal favourite) Bruiser Brody. After each show, my brother and I would go out into the back yard and get on the trampoline and re-enact the moves we had seen. The trampoline was great for ‘knee-stomps’ because you’d bounce back up again.
But on occasions it could be a little dangerous — this was back in the mid ’70s mind you, and trampolines weren’t what they are now. There was no padding or netting to protect you or stop you from falling off. One afternoon, my brother jumped off the trampoline early and I must have been too close to the edge. Without my brother to counterbalance me, my weight tipped the trampoline and I was sent flying. What I have neglected to tell you is that our trampoline was situated next to a barb-wire fence. So I flew through the air, back first, and landed on this fence where I was hung up. Of course my brother ran off and got our father who lifted me up and off the barbs. No real damage done. Oh, the halcyon days of youth… but back on to the topic at hand.
Within the next couple of years World Championship Wrestling’s popularity began to wane. Some believe that the arrival of renegade World Series Cricket signaled the three-count for wrestling. Wrestling’s television deal dried up and by 1978 wrestling was all but dead in this country.
So after all that, put simply, Santo was never going to come to me. I was going to have to go out there and get him. And while I have wanted to track down a few Santo films, I figured it was a pool, that if I dipped my toe in, then I was going all in. With my spy film and Eurocrime film fetishes I wasn’t sure I could squeeze any more in at this time… but I have relented and that brings me to Santo vs the Martian Invasion.
Why Santo vs the Martian Invasion? That’s a good question. Out of all the Santo titles, which would you pick? If you asked me the same question about Hercules, I would answer Hercules Vs the Moon Men. Maybe it’s the kid in me, but I just like the idea of heroes beating up guys from another world — just damn good fun.
So I had to pick a Santo flick to watch. The title was a big drawcard for me, but you can’t just rush into these things, so I thought there is one website, that will tell me all I need to know — and that’s The Lucha Diaries. This quote (from fellow M.O.S.S. Agent, Todd Stadtman) clinched the deal:
‘Still, if you were only going to watch one Santo movie, you could do a lot worse than this one. And you should watch at least one Santo movie, because your life will be changed by it, even if only in a very insignificant, totally imperceptible and stupid way. It will be changed because you will have seen something you never saw before. And that something is the unique brand of straight-faced absurdity that only a top notch Santo film like this can offer.’
Hmmm. Sold. So here’s the film. The movie starts with the Martians flying towards Earth in their saucer-like space craft. These Martians are not little green men. The men are buffed wrestler types. They are Shirtless and their silver pants are impossibly tight — the type you can almost see a pulse through. The busty Martian women wear silver one-piece swim suits. Both men and women wear silver capes; have control belts around their waists, and wear bizarre flat-topped helmets that have an ‘astral eye’ embedded in the centre. This astral eye is a weapon.
The leader of the Martians, Argos insists that from now on they all speak Spanish because the country they are going to invade on the planet Earth is Mexico. Why Mexico? Maybe they like Corona? Before landing, the Martian’s announce their intentions by interrupting television broadcasts around the world. Initially everybody thinks their television is on the fritz but slowly the Martians come into view. The leader announces that they are from Mars (naturally). Then states:
‘Instead of using your scientific advancements to better humanity, you Earthlings use them for your own destruction. When you wage war with conventional weapons you are the only victims of your ambition and selfishness. But with the discovery of nuclear energy and your mad experiments with the atomic bomb, you are on the verge of destroying the entire planetary system.’
The Martians want all the governments on the planet to accept total disarmament; eliminate all borders and adopt a unified language. Next they want a global government established, which does not discriminate based on colour or creed, and finally and most importantly, Earth has to give up war forever. If these terms are not agreed to, the Martian will annihilate everybody on the planet.
Earthlings, being as cynical and self centred as we are, dismiss the transmission as a comedy skit. This doesn’t please the Martians and they decide that a demonstration of their power is in order to convince the populace that they mean what they say. A Martian minion is sent down to the local sports field to kill some innocent civilians. And that’s where we meet Santo.
It just so happens that Santo is also running a training program at the sports field, and under his tutelage are a group of youngsters who want to become wrestlers. The Martian arrives and using his astral eye he begins to vaporise whole sections of the crowd from the grandstands. Santo see this and immediately springs into action, spear tackling the Martian before he can do any more harm. Then they begin to wrestle. Once the Martian realises that Santo is a strong and worthy opponent, by turning a dial on his control belt, he scarpers and is beamed back to the mother ship.
Meanwhile on the ship, Argos has been watching Santo on a monitor. He is impressed with the great masked one’s strength and now wants to capture him and take him back to Mars as a specimen. In fact, here a lot of the story appears to change. The Martians no longer seem intent on destroying the world. They now appear to want to collect a menagerie of human specimens. Now the Martian minions, both male and female, have a new mission. Firstly capture Santo, and secondly kidnap all the scientists and prominent people in Mexico. One of the scientists that the Martians kidnap happens to be Professor Odorica who is a good friend of Santo. The Professor, before his capture had invented a nifty little device that detects Martian brain waves and gave it to Santo. Naturally Santo uses this device to track down some Martians and wrestle with them, and it won’t surprise you that happens a lot in this film. Santo does a lot of wrestling.
One highlight in the middle of the film is a long and brutal wrestling match where Santo takes on an opponent called the Black Eagle. However the real Black Eagle has been replaced to a Martian substitute. As the match wears on, the Martian Black Eagle begins to dominate and as he holds Santo down he begins to loosen the ties at the back of Santo’s mask. Then the impossible happens. The Black Eagle actually unmasks Santo, but we do get to see Santo’s face? No, instead Santo has another mask underneath his outer mask.
I totally enjoyed Santo vs the Martian Invasion, but the story has holes large enough that you could fly a flying saucer through. In fact, if you think about it at all, many of the things that you see happen just don’t make sense. For example, in one scene a Martian kidnaps a scientist and his family just by touching their arm and turning a dial on his control belt. Yet, when they want to capture Santo, they have to wrestle with him. Even while wrestling, why not turn the dial on the belt, and suddenly Santo is captured. It is silly and the rules change from scene to scene, but it doesn’t matter. It’s a movie about a wrestler who takes on the Martians. If you were expecting something high brow, well then you sort of missed the point really. Santo vs the Martian Invasion is exactly how a film called Santo vs the Martian Invasion should be.
So here I am at the end of my first Santo film. Do I feel any different? Not too much. Do I have an urge to go outside and jump on a trampoline? Maybe a little. But I guess I join that small band of Australians who have seen a Santo film. Outside of ex-patriot Americans and South Americans, I would suggest that this group — mostly made up of B-grade movie fans — is rather small and in my way I am honoured to join them. Earlier I said that if I watched one Santo film I was worried that I’d have an urge to watch them all, which brings me to this final question. Which one should I watch next?