16 May 2000 | kikaidar
The lure of Aztec gold
A "lost" film for some years, this early Santo film recently surfaced on home video. Produced in 1961, it is one of several films in which the primary stars were Fernando Casanova, Ana Bertha Lepe and Beto el Boticario (playing a detective, his reporter girlfriend, and the former's amusing assistant). Santo figures in these films, but more as a plot device who's called in midway through the action, to put a stop to the evil du jour. He simply appears as needed, battles things to a conclusion, and then vanishes with no comment. His appearance in HOTEL OF DEATH is no different.
Tourists visiting the Mexican pyramids, and staying at a nearby hotel, are alarmed at the first of a series of murders. A Columbian tourist's body floats past a couple enjoying the night air. A resultant search turns up no clues....or a corpse, though the woman remains missing.
Fernando and his assistant are assigned to the case by their chief, as the hotel owner is a personal friend. Arriving on the scene, they find that things are clearly not normal. A bearded drifter is blackmailing a visitor, and two other tourists are found dead -- one in a bathtub and another in the hotel's pool. Worse, Fernando's annoying girlfriend is on the scene.
After some snooping around, Fernando is knocked unconscious when he confronts an intruder menacing his fiancee. While he's unconscious, she uses his wristwatch/radio to summon Santo. Santo is on his way to a wrestling match, but he agrees to come to the hotel as soon as he can.
Arriving some time later, Santo begins his investigation, revealing that a bearded no-good is blackmailing one of the other guests. This comes to a head in a nicely filmed sequence in which Santo stalks the gun-wielding thug through the hotel's gardens, in near-darkness.
An attempt to avoid further trouble by placing all the women tourists into one bungalow backfires. The reporter is captured.
We now learn that a small band of men, led by a professor (Wally Barron), are digging beneath the hotel. They hope to locate a legendary Aztec treasure.
A noted expert on the ruins, the scientist has been openly conducting an investigation, while secretly tunneling into the ruins from below the hotel during the night hours. As a diversion, he's captured various tourists and feigned their deaths by use of wax dummies. Now, however, he decides everyone will have to die.
Virtually everyone ends up captured at this point including, apparently, Santo. This turns out to be a trick, however (it's Fernando's assistant), and the real Santo routs the crooks. He pursues the professor through narrow tunnels until the schemer falls into the concealed chamber where the treasure had been hidden centuries before. Confronted with the fortune, the criminal goes mad.
Admittedly sheer melodrama, the film has its interesting points. Santo has an energetic match with real-life wrestler Black Shadow. Quite a bit also happened within the hotel's attractive confines. The black-and-white photography also fits the mood, as does the jazz number performed by the entertainers at the party which precedes the discovery of the first "body."