Santo vs The Vampire Women – 1962
The mysterious costumed wrestler Santo arrives just in time when the scholarly Professor Orlof (played by Augusto Benedico) discovers his daughter Diana (played by María Duval) has been marked for capture by a re-awakened cult of vampires led by Zorina, queen of the vampires (played by Lorena Velázquez). Santo doesn't possess any superpowers other than guts and muscles, but he does have a luchador costume and a MG Roadster sports car, and between these four things he proves more than a match (with a little assist from a natural phenomenon) for Zorina, her vampire lady friends, and her thuggish male vampire servants.
Though hampered by low budget, Santo vs the Vampire Women is a surprisingly energetic film that doesn't seem to have any of the standard filler of low budget films of the era. We're used to seeing plenty of run time wasted in the super-low cost spectacle of watching the actors walk here and there or going up and down stairs, talking in repeating dialogue to fill time, but in Santo vs the Vampire Women Santo seems to either run, jump or leap in his car when he needs to get anyplace, and he hardly has much to say to anyone, and in general the plot (script by Antonio Orellana, Fernando Osés, and Rafael García Travesi) keeps everything hurtling toward the final showdown between Santo and the vampires. (A caveat is that once Santo reaches their castle, he does slowly walk and climb stairs, but this is appropriate for personal safety since the castle is dark and he's carrying a lit torch. Also the vampire "muscle" working for Zorina had earlier cold-cocked him when he wasn't looking, so once into their headquarters its obvious he needs to tread carefully).
The lair of the vampire women is used by them for sitting and looking at themselves in mirrors (in which they see themselves not as lovely young women as we view them, but as aged, crusty hags). When any of the vampires get outside, for example to crash a costume party and to try and kidnap Diana, its probably the most fun they've had in centuries.
Santo vs the Vampire Women is not a "great" movie by any means, but it is quite entertaining if you have any appreciation for masked luchador's battling for justice and "good will," which is how Professor Orloff sums up the mysterious Santo at the end, the vampires beaten (and beaten in a more thorough way than any Hammer Dracula film). Santo, as he speeds away in his roadster, looks intent upon finding the next crisis that merits his attention, or perhaps to just battle his "normal" opponents in the wrestling rings of Mexico, but either way we know precious more about him than the very little we had to go on when he first appeared, and that's apparently how Santo wants it.
I have only been able to see Santo vs the Vampire Women in rather soft and poorly contrasted copies via the internet and from some streaming channels (there is a send-up of the film by the MST2000 crew from their Season Six, but their print copy is no better than anyone elses). If there is a decent copy of the film in circulation anywhere, we'd certainly like to know about it.
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Original page November 6, 2022