This Weird Wednesday, we head South of the Border to take on the legendary pro wrestler and crime-fighter, Santo in “El Vampiro Y El Sexo”.
El Santo is a legendary Mexican professional wrestler and popular movie star. Santo is a Luchador, a Mexican wrestler who wrestles in a mask. In the movies, Santo always wears his mask while fighting villains that run the gamut from mobsters, to Nazis, to vampires.
How I came to learn about Santo-starring movies is not, perhaps, the usual way. That is to say, I didn’t learn about these movies from friends, Saturday afternoon Creature Features, or on the convention circuit.
If you are familiar with the Food Network television show Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, you may have seen an episode about a Belmar, New Jersey restaurant, 10th Avenue Burrito. The restaurant is a Tex-Mex establishment at the Jersey Shore, which is famous for its from-scratch food, extensive tequila menu, and décor.
On my first visit, I noticed Mexican movies streaming on their television sets, hung at different points in the restaurant near the ceiling. They are always showing Santo movies, with the volume off and no subtitles.
But I was transfixed by what I saw: Luchadores fighting criminals and supernatural creatures, including some fights happening inside a wrestling ring.
I asked the restaurant manager about the movies, and then the search was on to find Santo movies. I found DVDs from a collector who was selling his stock at a drive-in movie theater.
For this edition of Weird Wednesday, I decided to pull a Santo movie from my collection that I had not yet watched — Santo in the Treasure of Dracula, or as it is known in its uncut and color version, El Vampiro Y El Sexo (The Vampire and the Sex).
In this adventure, Santo is not just a champion professional wrestler and fighter of crime, but he’s also a world-renowned scientist.
Santo has invented a time travel machine that allows a person to revisit their past lives. Unfortunately, men may not handle the stress of the time travel well and could die. To test the machine, Santo chooses Luisa, the daughter of his associate, Dr. Supulveda. Luisa enters the machine and travels back to her past life where she had an interaction with the vampire Dracula.
The past life Dracula story that plays out is, essentially, the classic story we all are familiar with.
The story picks up soon after Dracula has turned Mara (the movie’s version of Lucy) into a vampire, and a Professor Van Roth (Van Helsing) arrives to help his friend Professor Soler (Seward) investigate the strange death of Mara. Dracula has already begun to feed off of Luisa (Mina) at this point and has promised she will be his eternal companion.
The movie hews close to the traditional Dracula story — the feeding off of Luisa, the confrontation with Van Roth that proves Dracula is a vampire, the search for and destruction of Dracula’s sacred coffins, and eventually the staking of Dracula.
But, before Van Roth and Soler can stake the now-turned Luisa, Santo returns her to the present fearing that her past life death will cause Luisa to be trapped and die in the past as well.
Santo and associates are able to watch the events of Luisa’s past life on a television, and Santo comes up with the idea of tracking down Dracula’s coffin and taking his medallion and ring. Dracula has a hidden treasure, which he shows to Luisa. The code to find the treasure is on his ring and medallion and must be translated from Serbian.
Santo would take the ring and medallion to Serbia to decipher the codes and find Dracula’s hidden treasure.
But Santo is no typical treasure hunter, as he wants to use the money from the treasure to help the poor.
Santo, however, is unaware that his experiments in time travel have been spied on by local mobsters who also wish to get their hands on Dracula’s treasures, but for nefarious reasons.
With the mobsters involved, it is inevitable that Dracula will be revived. Luckily for our heroes, Santo is there to put his fighting skills to good use, wrestle a mobster goon for the right to keep Dracula’s jewelry, and use his keen intellect to destroy Dracula once and for all, saving Luisa from eternal damnation as a vampire.
Santo adventures are like your basic superhero narratives.
Think something along the lines of Ultraman or the Adam West Batman series — just with a lot more nudity and issues that are resolved in pro wrestling’s squared circle.
There are no deep themes in the series of Santo movies; they are just fun adventures.
His movies, including Santo in the Treasure of Dracula, are mindless and fast-moving adventures. At worst, they kill some time if you put the movie on in the background.
But if you give Santo a chance to win you over, you’ll find yourself cheering this uncommon hero in his fight against the King of Vampires and Mexican mobsters.