Santo in the Wax Museum (1963)

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Directed by Alfonso Corona Blake and Manuel San Fernando
Starring Santo, Claudio Brook, José Luis Jiménez

Dr Karol runs a wax museum full of statues of historical figures — and, in the basement, statues of hideous monsters. When a photographer reporting on the museum goes missing, Karol calls in wrestler/crimefighter Santo to investigate. But as disappearances mount, Santo begins to suspect that it is Karol himself who is behind them. The finale is a climactic battle in Karol’s mad-science lab; you’ll be surprised to hear that the ladies are rescued, justice is upheld, and Karol is destroyed by his own twisted creations.

What’s wrong with it?

Well, it’s corny, formulaic and cheap as dirt — none of your shoddy-CGI cheapness, I’m talking about stone-walls-painted-on-plywood cheap. It’s based on a premise that hardly makes any sense even within the confines of a popcorn movie about a wrestling superhero. It keeps getting interrupted by wrestling scenes that are totally unrelated to the plot, even if they are pretty fun.

What’s right with it?

It knows exactly what it is — a Saturday-afternoon flick for a theatre full of kids hyped up on high-quality Mexican Coca-Cola made with actual cane sugar. It rattles along pretty briskly and never acts ashamed of its mad scientist lab, megalomaniacal villain or hokey monsters. It’s good clean fun with occasional flashes of inspiration.

How bad is it really?

It’s … it’s a relic of another time and place. It’s bad in the way that any Mexican wrestling movie would be bad, in that it makes no sense and was bashed out in a hurry and on the cheap.

Best bit (if such there is)?

When Doctor Karol finally gives his big villain-reveal speech, it is genuinely psychotic and over-the-top. He just starts talking about how he’s going to subject his victim to the most agony he can possibly imagine so that the combined mental and physical damage will turn them into a horrible, ugly monster, and this is the true face of humanity and blah blah blah … it’s just surprisingly full-throttle for a supervillain in a Santo flick. It’s so intense you feel bad about going “OK, wait, but what does this have to do with running a wax museum…?

What’s up with…? 

  • Doctor Karol runs a wax museum. What is he a doctor of?
  • Professor Galvan has a huge monitor thingy mounted on his wall that he can use to observe Santo wherever he is. Did he just build it himself or can you buy a Santo-Cam anywhere?
  • The Professor goes missing but Santo calls off the search because “I have to wrestle.” That dude has a work ethic.
  • A photographer and a journalist are assigned to spend several days covering the opening of the wax museum. It must be a slow news week in Coyoacan.
  • Santo fights the monsters the Doctor has created by abducting and mutilating innocent people. Once he’s given them a good thumping he throws them all in a big pile and tips the lab’s vat of boiling wax over them, presumably killing them all. I have to confess I did not expect this movie to end with Santo just straight-up murdering four people.

Ratings

Production values: 10. It looks like a Republic serial — cheap props and sets, camera standing on a box, but clean and more or less competent. Looking like a Republic serial isn’t great for 1963, but this isn’t Hollywood.
Dialogue and performances: 13. Say what you like about Santo, he can’t act, or at least not in full-face mask. Still, Dr Karol is good and everybody else is pretty OK.
Plot and execution: 13. The premise makes no sense, but the execution of that premise is pretty reasonable, apart from the occasional wrestling interlude. Lucha interlude. Interlucha.
Randomness: 17. Why a wax museum? Whyyy?
Waste of potential: 8. Like I said: for sugar-addled kids or adults who want to behave like sugar-addled kids for 90 minutes.

Overall 61%

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