Many a wrestler has taken a stab at Hollywood stardom to varying degrees of success. For every Roddy Piper in They Live there’s Roddy Piper in Hell Comes to Frogtown. Then there’s Hulk Hogan. The man responsible for bringing North American wrestling to a level of mainstream success heretofore unseen once seemed a natural for movie stardom.
Unfortunately The Hulkster and his 24-inch pythons could never manage to crack the Hollywood glass ceiling (maybe if he would have leg dropped it first, then…never mind). No Holds Barred did him no favors and Mr. Nanny and Santa with Muscles were out-and-out embarrassments that probably caused the orange one to lose the last remaining strands of hair he had left. Yet there exists another wrestler who stands headlocks and shoulderblocks among the rest. This grappler has starred in over 52 films, all wildly-successful, all south of the border. He’s Mexico’s most iconic Luchadore and ultimate technico (good guy): the one, the only, the incredible El Santo!
Santo’s wrestling career spanned a mind-blowing 48 years. During that time, he feuded with Black Shadow, Blue Demon, and Villanos I, II, and III in the ring and Dracula, the Wolfman, Frankenstein’s Monster and the Mummy on the screen. Forget I.R.S and Bob “Spark Plug” Holly; El Santo was the ultimate moonlighting wrestler. In film, Santo portrayed a suave superhero/James Bond hybrid of sorts who would go up against supernatural creatures, mad scientists and rogue secret agents all while driving snazzy cars, loving the ladies, wearing stylish outfits, and never, ever removing his trademark silver mask.
Santo Vs Frankenstein’s Daughter, his 34th film, begins with an establishing shot of a variety of beakers filled with multi-colored bubbling liquids. Must be mad scientist territory. In this case Freda Frankestein, the daughter of the original modern-day Prometheus (although minus the second “n”) Freda has lived well beyond her years thanks to an anti-aging serum that she also administers to her red-shirted henchman, not one a day under 100.
Unfortunately for Freda, the serum just isn’t working as well as it once did. Sure, she looks decent from the neck up, but her arms resemble chicken gizzards. She determines that the secret to perfecting her serum flows through Santo’s veins, as his blood contains high concentrations of “the TR factor” (hey, whatever keeps the plot moving.) She sends her goons – including One-Eyed, a carbon copy of Charles Bronson who fittingly only has one eye- to kidnap Santo’s girlfriend in hopes that the masked marvel will come running to the rescue.
In addition to her geezer goon-squad, Frankestein has a pair of monsters living in her subterranean lair, both played by Gerardo Cepeda. There’s Truxon, the half man, half ape creature who is a virtual dead ringer for the monster Cepeda played in Night of the Bloody Apes (Gerardo Cepeda: the only actor typecast as hulking brutes with simian faces) and Ursus, a more traditional Frankenstein’s monster analogue, albeit quite the smartly dressed one in his tucked-in polo shirt and Jordaches.
Can Santo save his girlfriend from the diabolical doctor’s clutches in time for his scheduled bout versus the Japanese world middleweight champion? Will he be able to deliver his patented pre- finishing move “the crotch” (yes, that is what the announcers call it)? And why is the graveyard atop Freda’s cavern so darn foggy?
Santo Contra la Hija de Frankestein is goofy, kitschy fun. Santo makes for a great do-gooder hero; he refers to his tormentor as ma’am and literally gives the turtleneck off his back to Ursus to use as a tourniquet. The dialogue is wonderfully campy (“Our love has broken the chains of your hypnotic force!”) and save for some mild gore, the film has the feel of an old-fashioned kiddie Saturday matinee.
Santo Vs. Frankenstein’s Daughter. As the late, great Billy Red Lyons used to say, “Don’tcha dare miss it!”
*** (out of five)