11 September 2009 | Squonkamatic
Santo As An Exploitation Film?
SANTO VS THE SHE-WOLVES, as the British DVD of this film is titled, is not at all what I expected. Granted I'm not familiar with the Santo films much beyond the deliriously entertaining SANTO VS. THE VAMPIRE WOMEN. But based on that viewing experience what was expected was a bizarre low budget superhero story about a masked professional wrestler turned crimefighter battling supernatural monsters who just happen to use wrestling moves, broken up by eerily staged & deliciously atmospheric Gothic horror scenes where the cult of female werewolves engage in blasphemous ceremonial rites involving fetching young Mexican actresses. In other words something silly but with an edge to it that's quite entertaining for those with a taste for Gothic horror, in spite of the film's somewhat unfortunate reputation as a MST3K joke.
While it does check off all of the above, this film is nasty, vicious, violent, surprisingly bloody, loud, cacophonous, frenetic, and surprisingly exploitational for a national hero's seasonal film outing. The werewolf material is very creepy with only the low budget makeup effects taking away from the effect. There's also some unexpected partial nudity making this a sort of Mexican answer to the horror/exploitation films coming out of Europe at the time.
Santo updated his formula to fit with the B movie circuit needs of the era, and the result is more of an outright horror film than the previous film, with the arena wrestling scenes actually worked into the plot rather than just diversions to satisfy Santo's fans. The overall effect was actually very reminiscent of the Paul Naschy series of Waldemar Daninsky werewolf films, and the two heroes are actually physically similar enough to have perhaps created some confusion as to whether they might be the same guys. Both of them make low budget Spanish language films mixing horror movie thrills with a stocky hero prone to physical action where they had to fight off a horde of vampire babes or werewolf babes or some other supernatural threat involving plunging necklines.
Definitely worth tracking down though the British Region 2 DVD is kind of dark and features a fullscreen transfer that leaves a bit to be desired. Not sure if anyone else has tried a remaster, it's an obscure movie to be sure and fans of his series should certainly make a point to take a look. Straight up horror fans will also be somewhat surprised, it certainly wasn't the film I was expecting and I'd like to see more of these things, which is exactly what a franchise film is supposed to do. Score!