Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Lucha Libre Legend, Santo, part 4

Santo wound up appearing in a total of 52 films in all, two of which were just cameo appearances. The style of the movies was essentially the same throughout the series, with Santo as a superhero fighting supernatural creatures, evil scientists, various criminals/ secret agents and so on. The tones were reminiscent of U.S. B-movies and TV shows, perhaps most similar to the old Republic Pictures serials of the 1940s.

His best-known movie outside of Mexico is also considered one of his best, 1962s Santo vs. las Mujeres Vampiro (Santo vs. the Vampire Women), which was also featured in an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000. In this movie, the production values were better, and there was an attempt at creating more a mythos and background for Santo, as the last of a long line of fighters against evil. It was an enormous success at the box office, and was one of the 4 Santo films ever to be dubbed in English.

 Some of these English films were imported to the United States through the efforts of K. Gordon Murray who changed the name of Santo to Samson for some of his releases. Santo's most financially successful film however was "The Mummies of Guanajuato" (1970), which co-starred Blue Demon and Mil Mascaras. Many Mexi-movie fans consider it to be the greatest Mexican wrestling film ever made.

The Santo film series inspired the production of similar series of movies starring other well-known Mexi-wrestlers such as Blue Demon, Mil Mascaras, Superzan and the Wrestling Women, among others. Santo even co-starred with Blue Demon & Mil Mascaras in several of his movies. When Blue Demon invited Santo to co-star with him and Mil Mascaras in the "Champions of Justice" movie trilogy, however, Santo was just too busy making other films to participate.

By 1977, the masked wrestler film craze had practically died off, but Santo continued to appear in more films over the next few years. His last film was "FURY OF THE KARATE EXPERTS", shot in Florida in 1982, the same year he retired from the ring. Santo officially retired from wrestling on Sept. 12, 1982 (a week before his 65th birthday). His last match was at the El Toreo de Cuatro Caminos in Mexico. All told, his professional wrestling career spanned a total of 48 years.

Santo appeared as a guest on Contrapunto, a Mexican television program and, completely without warning, removed his mask just enough to expose his face. It is the only documented case of Santo ever removing his mask in public. Santo died from a heart attack on Feb. 5, 1984, at 9:40 p.m. (about a week after his Contrapunto TV appearance). He was 66 years old. As per his wishes, he was buried wearing his famous silver mask.

Santo is immortalized in the rockabilly band Southern Culture on the Skids' 1996 album Santo Swings!/Viva el Santo. Santo is often resurrected in Southern Culture's live performances when an audience member jumps onstage donning Santo's mask.

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