Howdy folkses! What an unexpected treat it was to have Nate back at the helm earlier this month, if only briefly. Honestly, we had no idea he was even in the States. He'd gone to India in 2018 after having been attacked by feline former intern Kelby McFurryballs and we hadn't seen him since. Incidentally, the corporate funds and swear jar money Kelby stole were never recovered and the fuzzy little shit is still at large, presumably somewhere in Europe and living under an assumed name. Any information regarding his whereabouts should be immediately reported to Interpol.

After the robbery Nate told us he needed a spiritual realignment to find some semblance of peace and happiness post-MMT, so off he shlepped to get his chakras polished and his aura defogged. For two solid years we heard only vague hints and hearsay regarding his whereabouts, with one Indian yogi even trunk-calling us to whisper breathlessly about a strangely furtive American who the local betel-nut harvesters had seen shambling from jungle temple to jungle temple in the mountanous district surrounding his hut. This traveller had seemed pale and haunted, they said, and had a mortal terror of orange tabby cats and a preternatural knowledge of direct-to-video action films from the 1990's.

Photo purporting to show Nate in Himachal Pradesh, India (unconfirmed).

We'd tried everything to reach him during that time, from air-mail, snail-mail and e-mail to homing pigeon, telepathy and astral projection, but we were never able to track him down to within less than a few hundred miles of any particular spot. Then he suddenly showed up at Million Monkey Towers twice this month while no-one was here and left new reviews for us on the ancient PC in his old office.

Now he's disappeared again just as mysteriously as he arrived, like some shadowy cinematic shit-show shaman. We're still trying to figure out how the hell he got in the building.

Before I dive into the review itself I'd just like to address the claims that Pam and I somehow took advantage of Nate's reduced condition and extended absence to wrest control of MMT away from him before he was cognizant enough to realize what we were doing. We categorically deny this absurd allegation. If you happen to be one of those people spreading these vicious, unfounded rumors I would like to direct you to Section 28 U.S. Code 4101 which details the legal definitions of "Defamation" and "Libel."

We'll see you in court, asshats.

Santo y Blue Demon contra los Monstruos is not the movie I'd originally intended to review. In fact I'd already started an article on an obscure 1950's family film from the U.K. but got distracted by this new shiny object flickering across my screen. Honestly, when it comes to cheesy movies I'm like a terrier spotting squirrels or a carp with a spinner. It's particularly vexing because my one and only New Year's resolution was to follow through on the reviews I've started. As you can see I've already fucked that up right out of the gate. Isn't it amazing how quickly you can accomplish things when you really set your mind to it?

It all started as I was scrolling through the Archive one morning looking for an article to feature on social media that day, and it suddenly occurred to me that we haven't reviewed a Luchador movie for over a decade. I don't know exactly how this happened but I was utterly appalled and resolved to rectify the situation immediately.

For the uninitiated, Luchadores are masked wrestlers from Mexico, the south-of-the-border equivalent of WWE personalities here in the States. Like our own Andre the Giant, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and "Rowdy" Roddie Piper many of these athlete-entertainers became cinema celebrities as well, with over 150 films made featuring popular stars of the Mexican ring between 1952 and 1987. The primary difference between American wrestling movie stars and their Mexican counterparts is that instead of playing a variety of characters independent of their own professional personas Luchadores invariably play comic book heroic versions of themselves.

Luchador films or "Lucha Libre," are batshit crazy, low-to-mid budget b-movies with a particular focus on gaudy carnivalesque horror and drive-in thrills, quickly produced at a frantic pace to make a few quick pesos before audiences moved on to the next shiny object flickering across their screens. Although the heyday of their popularity was more than four decades ago, they still have a healthy following and new entries still occasionally appear.

Today's offering is from smack in the middle of the genre's most prolific era. It's spread out a bit too much for its own good, but it's still full to bursting with everything I personally love about the Lucha Libre films: awkward macho bonhomie, bargain basement effects, byzantine plots bereft of logic or sense, and burly grown men who, whether grappling in the ring with some sweaty, bearded behemoth or enjoying a quiet dinner with a sexy senorita at a fancy ristorante, never, ever remove their shiny polyester masks.

Far be it from me to evaluate an entire country's culture by its b-movies alone, but after watching ten of these bad-boys in the past eight days I've determined that the three things Mexicans love most are wrestling, vampires and mad scientists, with cheesy night-club floor shows, mummies and sinister dwarfs coming in a close fourth, fifth and sixth respectively. Today's feature has them all.

Our story begins, as many a Luchador film has before it, with an establishing shot of a sports arena, where we'll be treated to about eight solid minutes of wrestling--and I can assure you that eight minutes is letting us off easy. Many of these things devote a third or more of their run-time to wrestling footage. Oddly the first match we see doesn't involve our top-billed heroes at all but a tag-team quartet of unidentified Luchadora, female masked wrestlers, plying their ruthless trade in a brutal display of grasping, oily vengeance.

We all like a little dirty action from time to time.

Sometimes the matches in Luchador films seem staged, depenending on whether they've bothered to integrate the wrestling into the plot or just tacked it on because that's what audiences expected, but this one is clearly legit. I sure wouldn't have wanted to get between these ladies, but then again I'm a dainty, delicate little wisp of a man with a healthy respect for women who could easily hoist me up on a meat-hook and grind me into people-paste with their luscious thighs. Just ask my ass-kicking, roller derby-playing wife.

We see our hero Santo watching from the back of the arena, smiling and nodding approvingly as the ladies beat the ever-loving snot out of each other. Eventually the match ends and judging from Santo's reactions his preferred team has won the day.

Santo likes his action dirty, too

Next up is another tag-team match featuring our other top-billed star Blue Demon, who frequently appeared with other wrestlers on camera and also had a successful film series of his own. Blue had originally played a "rudo" or "bad guy" character in the ring, but after Santo had defeated and unmasked Blue's mentor Black Shadow in a 1952 bout, he became a "technico," or "good guy."

Despite his deferential sidekick status in the nine films he and Santo made together, Blue Demon had actually beaten Santo in a series of matches in the 1950's, triggering a low-key, off-camera fued that continued throughout their careers. In some films they wrestle against each other, and Santo always wins, but once you know their history you can kind of tell that Blue knows what would happen if they were competing for real.

That's why he always looks so smug.

Blue and his mask-less partner win thier match, and now that the obligatory wrestling scene is over we can pursue the actual plot, such as it is.

We cut to a venerable old cemetery where a somber group of pall bearers carries a casket from a hearse to a weathered old crypt, depositing it on a pair of stone pedestals, which from my extensive experience watching crappy Mexican horror movies is their go-to arrangement for coffin and casket support. Watching from a gravel path outside the crypt are Otto and Gloria Halder, whom we will soon discover to be the brother and niece of the deceased. Oddly, they seem more apprehensive than aggrieved.

I'm pretty sure she just let one rip.

Also watching from afar are a group of burly men with forest green faces and black mock turtlenecks, accompanied by a sinister dwarf. I told you Mexicans love sinister dwarves. The gang seems to be trying to sort of casually blend in with the tombstones and mausoleums but they're not very good at it, and frankly it's a wonder neither the Halders nor the departing pall bearers spot them.

"We're camouflaged."

The pall bearers leave and Otto and Gloria head into the crypt to have a peep at the corpse, just to kinda make sure it's actually in there, and we cut to a newspaper featuring the deceased fella's mug with the headline "Famous Scientist Dead."

We're now in Otto's study where he's reading the article aloud to his niece while helpfully informing the audience that his dead brother Bruno was a creepy mad scientist-type whose experiments included bringing head trauma victims back to life via brain transplants. Sounds legit. The two discuss a secret castle lair someplace where Bruno performed his experiments, but neither of them has any idea where it is. Gloria believes it would have been best to have had Uncle Bruno cremated but Otto tells her his brother specifically requested his body be left intact. Hmmm.

We cut back to the cemetery now where the bowler-hatted Dwarf and his minions are scurrying off with Bruno's corpse.

Over in Santo's office we see our hero finishing up the article about Uncle Bruno. As he sets the paper down and stares thoughtfully into the distance Blue Demon walks in carrying a suitcase. It seems there's a break in their busy wrestling schedules and Blue is stopping by to say goodbye before they both headed off on their respective vacations.

Blue asks Santo what's on his mind and we learn that he's concerned because of a promise Bruno had made before he died that he would take revenge on his brother and niece from beyond the grave. We also learn that Niece Gloria is Santo's girlfriend.

Blue tells Santo to quit worrying about stupid bullshit and heads off on his trip.

"The first time I kicked your ass was in 1952. Have a nice vacation."

So Blue takes off and we cut to The Dwarf and the Green Goons trundling along down a wooded lane in a horse-drawn wagon festooned with four lit torches. I know Mexico was far more rural than most of the United States in 1969, and still is to this day, but I kind of feel like a well-known, presumably wealthy scientist such as Bruno Halder could have sprung for an Econoline van or maybe even a Town and Country station wagon. It would have really helped with hauling all those corpses and loads of equipment to the secret lair.

Judging by his minions Bruno always settles for a second best everything.

As the wagon pulls up out of the woods onto a dirt road towards a distant castle who should come driving by but Blue Demon, whose vacation itinerary just happened to bring him to this exact spot at this exact moment. The nosey blue bastard senses there's something intangibly suspicious about a torch-girded, horse-drawn cart carrying a dwarf, four green guys and a coffin, so he decides he'd better pull over and investigate.

His chest is like granite, his lips like inner tubes.

Inside a secret cave beneath the castle the Green Goons have set the corpse inside a big translucent chamber. The Dwarf has donned a pair of goggles and is hopping from sinister machine to sinister machine twiddling knobs, setting dials and pressing buttons.

I've seen these same props in three other movies this week.

During this scene there's a diminutive monster guy with a big exposed brain poking about in the background. He even gets a couple of close-ups, though he does nothing but stand around shuffling nervously back and forth on his crusty feet and has nothing to do with the plot. Still I'm thrilled to see him because he's Tawal, Prince of Mars from my all-time favorite Mecican b-film La Nave de los Monstruos (1960).

That's my boy!

I have no idea what the hell he's doing here and he certainly looks a little worse for wear, but it sure is nice to see the little fella getting some work, even if it is just a cameo for scale.

So while the Dwarf and his pals are busy trying to revive his boss through the miracle of mad science, Blue Demon decides to park a discreet distance from the castle and walk the rest of the way there. He pokes around the perimeter and finds the wagon parked outside a big wooden gate, which he shoulders open to enter the grounds. He eventually finds his way into the caves beneath the castle, but his having left the gate standing open has drawn the attention of one of the Green Goons.

Note how the makeup ends a quarter-inch below the hairline.

Blue watches as Bruno rises up from the dead and congratulates the Dwarf on his successful reanimation. The Dwarf barks at the assembled Goons to remember how Master Bruno revived each of them, how they were hanged criminals and all of them would still be dead if it weren't for Master Bruno's largesse, so they'd better show their gratitude by obeying the Master in all things. He also reminds his Master of a promise he'd made to allow him to experiment on live beings once he'd brought him back, and Bruno assures him he shall keep that promise. Spoiler alert: no he won't.

Meanwhile the Green Goon guard who was following Blue Demon has caught up with him. He whacks him from behind with a stick, attracting the attention of the group in the lab. Blue puts up a manful fight, but eventually the guy with the club wins. Because he has a club.

The many hand-to-hand fights are well-choreographed, and are both violent and chaotic enough to be believable. This is the case in most, but not all of the Lucha Libre films I've seen. It's mostly wrestling-style open-handed blows rather than closed-fist punches, but these guys were professional fighters and the camera leaves no doubt that punches weren't pulled and these are full contact strikes. They're all really taking a beating for their meager paychecks.

The goon drags Blue before Master Bruno and the mad scientist goes off on one of those "We meet again!" rants wherein he informs us that Santo and Blue Demon somehow ruined his life, and on the day he died he vowed to take his revenge against them. This character has no connection to any of the other Santo/Blue Demon films and this is all of the information we get on what seems like a mighty important part of his backstory. We'll just have to accept our forced ignorance and move on.

Bruno was dead five minutes ago. Imagine him breathing in your face.

Master Bruno has the Goons strap Blue to a gurney and gives him a hypo full of some kind of sedative. The Dwarf is anxious to start his own experiments on him but Bruno has a better idea. He decides he will use him to destroy Santo instead, and orders his men to take him to "the duplicating chamber," another cavern with two goofy-looking consoles in the center connected to a couple of tanning beds. Blue is strapped in to one of the these and Bruno and the Dwarf manipulate some levers and switches until an exact replica of the big beefy wrestler appears in the other.

They'd have browned more evenly if he'd taken off their clothes.

Okay, as I've already mentioned repeatedly I just a watched a ridiculous number of these Lucha Libre films in a ridiculously short time frame, so I've inevitably noticed a few trends developing, and what's happening here will become particularly self-referential in subsequent films. It may even go back to previous films I haven't yet seen.

Bruno's plan is obviously to send the fake Blue Demon out to get to Santo, making it seem that he's switched his alliegance to the dark side. In Las Momias de Guanajuato (1972) a partially mummified undead wrestler puts on Blue Demon's spare mask and a blue t-shirt to make it seem as if the hero is out on a murderous rampage (yes, you read all of that right), in Santo contra Blue Demon en la Atlantida (1974) a mind-controlled Blue Demon causes havoc against secret agent Santo on behalf of a dastardly enemy who happens to be played by the same guy who plays Otto Halder in this entry.

History sure has a way of repeating itself in the world of Santo and Blue Demon, doesn't it?

I don't blame the filmmakers for shamelessly recycling plots, actors, sets, props, villains and scenic locations. I'm actually really impressed by the fact that roughly five of these things were being cranked out every year for three full decades and I fully understand that some degree of self-cannibalization was necessary just to keep the series humming. If you make a game of it it's actually kind of fun to spot familiar elements and try to remember which other films you've seen them in. Just don't make a drinking game of it or you'll be dead in a week.

So Master Bruno (I have to stop calling him makes him sound like a Dom Daddy in a gay bondage club) sends Blue Demon to eliminate Santo, and we cut to the man himself and Girlfriend Gloria in his swanky silver convertible, zipping down the same road where Blue Demon was driving when he noticed the coffin wagon turning off onto the forest lane.

Santo stops the car. He doesn't pull off to the side, mind you, but just puts it in park and turns off the engine right in the middle of the lane so he and Gloria can make out.

Once they've had a good, sloppy face mash they pause to chat a moment about Gloria's apprehensions and her sinister uncle's pre-mortem threats. She says she can't help but feel he might somehow not really be dead, but Santo tells her to relax and forget it, then restarts the car and pulls off onto the same wooded lane the coffin wagon went down earlier. They only get along maybe a thousand feet before Santo stops the car again so he can get a little more sugar.

I'll bet that chafes her nose something awful.

Just as Santo starts the car again Fake Blue Demon comes running out of the woods and flags him down, and I can't help thinking it sure is mighty strange how these people keep driving directly towards Bruno's castle when none of them have any idea where it is.

Santo gets out to greet his "friend" and Fake Blue attacks him. As they grapple, a couple of the Green Goons sneak up and grab Gloria. The other two join in the melee with Santo, and one of them picks up a thick branch and clubs him unconscious. Fake Blue picks him up and heads into the woods as the Goons all head towards a car parked just off the main road. Gloria struggles so fiercely they have to knock her out, too.

Fake Blue, meanwhile, drags Santo out of the woods and tosses him over a cliff like a big silver rag doll.

"It's just like that time in '53 when I picked you up and threw you out of the ring and into the stands."

As Fake Blue runs to the Goon car and they tear off down the highway, we see that Santo has regained consciousness during his tumble and managed to keep himself from dropping all the way down into the ravine. He climbs back up and hops into his convertible--Santo don't need no stinkin' doors--and gives chase, catching up with the Goons almost immediately even though they had at least a ten-minute start and he had no way of knowing in which direction they'd gone.

There's a high-speed chase. After some daredevil jockeying for position Santo manages to pull up directly next to the Goon Car, and gutsy Gloria opens up the back door and leaps across into the passenger seat.

She's a keeper.

Despite the iffy logic leading up to it this is one of the best sequences in the film. It's effectively edited to capture the frenetic sense of danger, the drivers are clearly going for broke, driving at genuinely perilous speeds and the final leap between the cars is executed to perfection. There's no tell-tale floppy wig or hairy man-limbs to indicate a stunt man did the job, so we really do feel like Gloria boldly risked her life to escape. In fact she looks so much like her I'm not even sure the actress didn't do the stunt herself.

Unfortunately the scene ends with an abrupt, takes-you-right-out-of-the-movie switch from bright daylight to dank, murky day-for-night, during which the Goons lose control of the vehicle, crash through a barrier and plummet over a cliff. To make things worse the crash footage is very clearly borrowed from a different film. Perhaps they were hoping if they darkened it up enough we wouldn't notice that the car going over the cliff and exploding isn't the car they were driving in the previous shots.

The finale of the sequence is again in full daylight, and shows Fake Blue escaping the wreckage with his back on fire. Please note that only Fake Blue escapes, not any of the other Goons. I want you to remember this later on, because the director clearly did not.

Now we cut back to the cemetery, where Otto, Santo and Gloria enter the family crypt to open the coffin and find that Bruno is gone. Santo still wants to believe that the corpse was merely stolen, but Otto insists they must face reality: his brother has likely been reanimated by his Goons and is determined to destroy them all.

"How did this happen? Just last year I was working with Sam Peckinpah."

As the trio puzzle over Blue Demon suddenly switching sides and attacking them, we cut to the Fake Blue man himself, with nary a charred elbow and wearing a freshly cleaned and pressed t-shirt, entering a cobwebbed cavern with The Dwarf and the same four Goons we just saw being incinerated in a car fire.

A dusty casket sits at the center of the cave, and a few dingy rats scurry back and forth over it as the group approach. When they open it they discover that it is empty, but we see that a bat has been watching them from above. Suddenly the bat turns into a vampire! He swoops down on them and ravenously snaps at one of the Goons' throats.

Before the Vampire can do any damage Fake Blue raises his hand and shows him a ring with a flashing red gem, and for reasons unknown this makes the creature stop in his tracks and stand harmlessly against the wall with his arms up and his mouth hanging open in a big, toothy grin. Based on his posture I suspect that before he became a vampire he did a bit of regional theater, probably as a chorus member in some classic musicals.


He has big, goofy, half-bent jug handle ears so I'm going to call him Jughead for the remainder of the review.

Back in Otto's study Santo is brushing up on the few notes and records they have of Bruno's work. He asks Otto about his family's history and we learn they weren't originally from Mexico but emigrated from Transylvania, and that his brother made a special study of the legends surrounding monsters and vampires that were prevalent in that part of Europe. He says that Bruno actually came to believe these tales, even as he became a celebrated scientist famous for resuscitating people who had died of brain trauma and other injuries.

Santo posits that Bruno may be creating an undead army to get his revenge on them. It's a wild leap of logic, to be sure but as we've seen he's essentially correct. As I noted above we never get any details on what Bruno's big beef is with Blue and Santo, but we do know he wants to destroy his own family for the classic egomaniacal transgression of them having dared call him "mad."

Next we cut to a dusty old house where dozens of skeletons and mummies are propped upright against the walls, and it's howlingly obvious that many of these are just armless shop window mannequins wrapped in dirty gauze with some Halloween fright masks stuck on their heads. Fake Blue, Dwarf and Goons break in with their flashlights and start poking around the place, seemingly on the lookout for something specific. Fake Blue eventually finds an intact coffin in a corner and opens it to reveal a much better-preserved specimen than the others.

"Have any of you guys got a razor and some Barbisol?"

Fake Blue closes the coffin and motions for the the Goons to pick it up and carry it away.

Now we see Bruno standing in front of a big block of ice back in his lab-cavern. He takes a butane plumber's torch and slowly melts a hole in in big enough to see what's inside.

look! It's Uk!

Here he's simply referred to as "The Cyclops" but in La Nave de los Monstruous he was "Uk, King of the Fire Planet." As with cheeky little Tawal, I'm just tickled to death to see another old friend making an appearance here. I'll bet they carpooled to the studio together in Uk's 1966 VW Bug.

Now Jughead, Mummy and Cyclops are all lined up in little half-pipes with metal bowls on their heads, and we see that Bruno's minions have somehow also acquired Frankenstien's Monster and a Black Wolfman as well.

Unlike Caucasian Wolfman, Black Wolfman is a wolfman full-time, not just at the full moon.

Bruno does some mad scientist eyebrow arching and purposeful lever-pulling, and the previously inert monsters all start shuffling forward. He orders the Dwarf to engage the "brain wave re-transmitter," and steps in front of the Monster squad to give a little pep talk about how he brought them all to life so he is now their master. He insists they must obey his orders and work with his other minions to achieve his evil goals.

I see Tawal is still back there, too, bless his bulbous little heart.

Now Bruno sends the Monsters out to wreak havoc for him, and we get a montage of each of them cresting the same little hill, each with his own peculiar grunt and slowly ambling towards the camera like a bunch of octagenarians in an old folks home heading to the communal dining room on jell-o night.

Our first vignette of alleged abject horror features Black Wolfman attacking a family in their rural home. He first kills the father, then attacks the mother as their little boy runs outside and up the dirt road in front of the house. Black Wolfman follows and chases him around a corner. From the way Black Wolfman leaps at him we are to assume the boy has suffered the same horrible fate as his parents.

This brief interlude is the extent of this kid's involvement in the movie, he has no dialog and does not appear again, yet he somehow gets fifth billing in the opening title sequence. Only Santo, Blue, Otto and Bruno are credited ahead of him.

Por que, amigo?

At first, I thought maybe he'd won a contest or something, perhaps promoted by one of the popular luchador comic books, but a quick perusal of the production credits reveals the sordid truth: it's plain old garden variety nepotism. He's the son of the special effects guy. Any hopes his father might have had that his appearance might lead to a film career came to naught however. According to IMdB this is his son's only credit.

Next we see some fisherman guy setting up his nets in the dark of night on a soundstage somewhere outide Mexico City. The Cyclops lurks nearby, shot outside in the woods and in broad daylight. Suddenly The Cyclops is inside the soundstage with the fisherman and attacks.

We jump cut to the body being covered with a sheet. Santo is there in his snazzy suit, explaining to a police inspector that based on the footprints he has deduced that the creature came from the water, then went back into the water once he'd done the wicked deed, which is interesting because we clearly saw Cyclops walk out from a copse of trees.

It's still nighttime on that soundstage, but now we cut to the real world and see a young couple sitting on the grass and smooching in the midday sun. For some reason the woman is wearing a giant wristwatch around her waist instead of a belt.

"My tummy says it's time for lunch, but my belt says it's time to get frisky."

Frankenstein's Monster appears on the horizon and ambles over to them, kinda casual-like, grunting and waving his arms around, and the two young, healthy, presumably spry and athletic lovers just kind of stand there like fenceposts until he's close enough to grab and beat them both to death. He picks up the woman's limp corpse and carries her off into the woods, leaving whatever comes next to the audience's fertile imaginations.

Next we see a sweet swingin' sixties chick just strutting down the street in her sweet swingin' sixties sundress, twirling a wildflower beneath her nose and casting coquettish side-eyed glances into the middle distance. What's she thinking? No one can say for sure. Sweet swingin' sixties thoughts, no doubt, long since lost to the fickle winds of time. As she's thus engaged, dreaming her dreamy swingin' 60's dreams, Jughead leaps down from above and bites her neck.

Need I mention it's broad daylight again and Jughead is a Vampire?

Now we see the sun rising over the ocean and Santo is about to make good on his promise to find the creature who killed the fisherman. We see him swimming deep underwater for several minutes, freediving without so much as a snorkel. Santo don't need no stinkin' oxygen. We see the Cyclops watching him, crouching down behind some grass and filmed through an aquarium full of goldfish.

That's just priceless.

And now we cut to the Cyclops walking out of the woods again, perfectly dry, to confront a sopping wet Santo as he emerges from the water.

I'll be honest. I'm having a hard time processing this.

They fight. Santo initially treats the one-eyed wonder weirdo like he's just another contender in the wrestling ring, but after getting knocked on his arse seven or eight times he realizes he's outmatched. He finds a thick branch and starts beating the beast over the head with it. After a few more minutes of fruitless struggle he finds a pointed stick on the ground and thrusts it towards the Cyclops' chest.

It's a sloppy fight, both in terms of Santo getting himself repeatedly knocked down into the marshy muck and also in the haphazard way it's spliced together. When Santo deals the final blow we're suddenly torn out of the middle of the action by one of the clumsiest edits I've ever seen. We see the stake just barely make contact, then we see about a tenth of a second of the creature's face writhing in as much agony as the barely-articulable mask can muster, then suddenly we're back in the calm and quiet of the cavern laboratory, with the beast lying on a gurney and Bruno performing an operation to repair the wound.

Did Santo leave the creature lying there thinking it was dead, but it revived and managed to drag itself home? Did he actually kill it and leave it there unattended while Bruno's minions somehow located and absconded with it back to the castle so the master could work his mad magic and try to reanimate it? We are simply not privy to this information, and I'm left scratching my head wondering how the same guy who put together that terrific car chase earlier could possibly have hacked up this other scene so badly.

The Dwarf assists Bruno in the role of operating room nurse while Fake Blue and the others stand around watching intently like a bunch of fantasy med student interns getting some hands-on credits for a mythical creatures anatomy class.

"As you can see Cyclops have two gall bladders, here and here. Next week we'll be performing a liver biopsy on a unicorn."

After the operation Bruno orders the goons to take Cyclops to a decompressor for recovery and for the umpteenth time he vows to destroy Santo and his family. He's getting to be a real Johnny one-note with that shit.

We cut to Otto's study where he's busy reading up on film cutting theory so he can give the editor a few pointers on how not to completely fuck up a fight scene. We see Black Werewolf lurking around outside the window in the dark, and he's slowly joined Fake Blue, Mummy and Frankenstein.

Yeah, I know. Technically he's not "Frankenstein." He's "Frankenstein's Monster," but I'm not gonna write that out every time he's on screen. I've got marginally better things to do with my life. How about we split the difference and call him Frank?

Gloria is meanwhile getting a little shut-eye in her big, lonely, Santo-less bed when Jughead suddenly appears, tilting his head and posing with his arms out like Al Jolson in The Jazz Singer (1927).


He descends on Gloria, who fortuitously awakens just before he pounces. She cries out for help, and her Uncle gets up, gun in hand to assist her, only to find that the rest of the Monsters have just climbed in through an unlocked window. Black Werewolf leaps on him and knocks the gun away before he can fire it.

Back in the boudoir Jughead repeatedly gets his mouth down on Gloria's throat, but she just-as-repeatedly pushes him away so that he can never quite manage to get in a solid bite. Santo, meanwhile has come into the study and joined the battle. You'd think his instinct would have been to follow his girlfriend's frantic cries for help instead of bursting into the study first, but that would indicate some small capacity for logic. Santo don't need no stinkin' logic.

There's a big, wild melee now with Santo and Otto fighting off the assembled villains. Fake Blue and Black Wolfman tag-team Santo and Frank attacks Otto while Mummy just kind of stands in the middle of the room and delayed-reacts to everything happening around him, shuffling like an over-medicated mental patient on a lithium-thorazine drip.

Gloria manages to break away from Jughead long enough to get the window open and bolt across the yard. He follows and tackles her but he suddenly realizes he's in the shadow of a huge stone cross and runs off.

Why exactly there's a twenty-foot stone cross on their front lawn is left unexplained.

Back in the study the fight continues apace. Otto shouts for Santo to pick up the gun and he manages to grab it and fire off a few shots at Frank before Fake Blue slaps it out of his hands and picks it up himself. Santo and Otto see the pistol and flee, but as Blue is about to pursue them he suddenly hears the echoing voice of Master Bruno, beckoning him back to the castle because the sun is about to rise.

Wait, what?

What is this fresh bullshit? The monsters can only attack at night?

I know I've really been harping on the day/night continuity problems in this movie, but isn't that just a common b-movie thing we're meant to ignore? Sure, lots of low-budget films have a hard time keeping their day/night straight, but the key factor here isn't as much that virtually every monster attack scene is shot in unaltered daylight, but that the filmmakers are themselves drawing attention to their own mistakes by explicitly baking this new and absurd detail into the plot. Am I being a bit nitpicky here? Absolutely! It's part of my job to call out filmmakers on their cinematic peccadillos, and I can't really cut them any slack on this one because they double-down on this "only at night" shit later on.

Summoned back to their lair by the voice of their Master, the Monsters shuffle towards home, then suddenly vanish into thin air, so I guess we can add a teleportation device to Bruno's list of innovations...

...or perhaps they've simply evaporated like morning dew.

We cut back to the wrestling arena, where a fat promoter is telling Santo about an anonymous challenger who wants to fight him. The bold and mysterious interloper has even claimed he will tear off Santo's mask in the ring. Our hero cannot let this challenge stand without an answer, so he agrees to fight the mystery wrestler that very night.

So which of the monsters do you think it's gonna be?

Womp womp.

Yep. It's our old pal Jughead again, with his pale skin, fly-catcher gob and male-pattern baldness. Bruno applies a medium skin tone foundation to make him appear less corpse-like as Fake Blue puts a mask over his face, and now he's all set to enter the ring and engage in a little undead wresting action. I was actually wondering earlier why we hadn't seen Santo himself wrestling, so it's nice to see they had a master plan for shoehorning it in halfway through.

The scene uses archive footage of Santo wading through a dense, deafening crowd in a massive, jam-packed arena, but when we get to the fight itself it's in a modest gymnasium with only a handful of people visible in the stands.

Note the completely empty second tier. Maybe they should have kept that out of frame.

The fight is...just fine I suppose. I'm a little jaded at this point from watching so much of this crap, and I'm not into wrestling to begin with.

They do their sweaty alpha thing, and we get a few poorly-matched inserts from the stock crowd footage, until eventually we begin to notice that the guy Santo is fighting is perhaps just a little too focused on trying to bite his opponent's neck. This would have been a more telling detail if we didn't already know the guy behind that mask is Jughead, and it seems like a pretty obvious missed opportunity to have added in a little narrative tension.

Santo gets his two out of three falls and wins the first round. As the second round gets underway the mysterious opponent comes out punching and kicking like a madman, even going so far as to clock the referee right in the face. Bruno, non-chalant and incognito in a pair of Foster-Grants, watches with smug satisfaction as his minion begins to get the upper hand.

Finally the challenger pushes Santo down and goes for his throat in earnest. Watching from the front row is Gloria, who clearly has some suspicions that something isn't 100% above board. She rushes forward to push the Challenger's face away from Santo's neck, and as she does so Jughead sees the gold cross around her neck and panics, transforming into a bat and flying away.

Again, if we didn't know who the challenger was this would have been a great dramatic reveal, perhaps by having Gloria first tear off his mask, then having him cower away and transform. As it stands we just get a chintzy rubber bat poorly superimposed over some dingy stock footage of a panicked crowd.

Hey Special Effects this the stellar work that landed your son a featured cameo?

Now Fake Blue and the other monsters, including the suddenly-all-better Cyclops, storm the ring and all hell breaks loose.

Other wrestlers and attendants jump in and join the fray, and it devolves into an all-out, free-for-all brawl. Even the hapless Mummy lands a few solid blows. We see Bruno turn off the lights in the arena and we cut to a bunch of police vehicles rushing to the scene, then it just suddenly ends without rhyme, reason or resolution. The bat flies off into the night and we cut to the monsters ambling homeward at dawn.

I had no idea luchadors worked third shift.

Now that the movie has lost all forward momentum and screeched to an ignominious halt, we get an awkward jump-start in the form of another broad-daylight Jughead attack of a young lady, which is basically a reshoot of the one with Swingin' 60's Chick but featuring a different victim. It's so brief and so similar to the previous scene it would barely be worth mentioning, except you'd be puzzled as to why there are two vampire ladies with him in the next scene rather than just the one.

I can't help wondering why doofus Jughead gets so much screen time. Couldn't the poor, neglected Mummy have gotten a kill-scene here instead? Each of the other Monsters has had their moment in the sun (literally), plus Mexican audiences love mummies. Why not throw them a bone? There have been multiple Mexican mummy movie franchises over the years and a bunch of the other Lucha Libre films feature mummies, too, including three films based on the famous Guanajuato Mummies, so why does our linen-wrapped home-boy get such dismissive disrespect in this one? Could it be because he's slow, dull, unappealing and completely useless? I guess we'll never know.

Anyway we cut to Santo reading a newspaper with a pic of the woman who just got bitten in the last scene and the headline "Dancer Vanishes." The fact that she's a dancer is irrelevant. We never see her dance and knowing that's her profession adds nothing noteworthy to the Daedalian tapestry of our plot. She could have been a doctor or an architect, or even a clam shucker for all the difference it would have made...and we all know what rhymes with clam shucker, don't we?

Santo puts down the newspaper and shakes his silver head in disgust as we jump to Jughead's little corner of Bruno's cave. There are three coffins here, and Jughead gets up out of his own then goes to each of the others to wake up his new lady friends. He's dressed up Dancer Lady in a skimpy bra and panties ensemble with a sheer, frilly black nightgown, but Swingin' 60's Chick gets only a frumpy, uncomfortable-looking, long velvet frock.

This shot and Gloria in her nightie a few scenes back are as close to bare boobies as we get.

As Jughead slowly walks out of the cavern with Swingin' 60's Chick, Dancer Lady suddenly jumps up and turns herself into a floppy rubber bat on a visible string, then flies out to Santo's convertible and turns back into herself, sitting in the passenger seat, still dressed in her sexy, come-hither, ravish-me-right-here-on-the-glove-compartment gear.

Santo steps out of a building that's way too shabby to be his swanky wrestler house but also doesn't resemble any part of the arena where his office is located. He finds Dancer Lady waiting for him and gallantly asks if he can be of assistance. Dancer Lady says she desperately needs to get home and could he please take her there, wink wink. Santo, clearly used to scantily-clad women jumping uninvited into his car and asking him to go home with them says he would be honored.

He drives off with her and as soon as they reach an area private and deserted enough to be unobserved (which happens to be that same wooded lane where the coffin-cart went and where Fake Blue and the Goons attacked him) he stops the car so they can make out a little, because to hell with Girlfriend Gloria. If she didn't want him to cheat she shouldn't have not been waiting in his convertible in a skimpy negligee.

He doesn't even wait. When you're a celebrity they let you do it.

As soon as they kiss Dancer Lady pulls back to reveal her nasty-ass vampire teeth. Santo sighs like he's very disappointed with a naughty child and calmly states "My lady, you are the victim of a human vampire." Well, no shit Santo Holmes.

As he effortlessly holds her frail lady-self at bay with his manly opposable thumbs the other Monsters appear, including Swingin' 60's Chick, who let's be honest here, would have been perfectly capable of seducing and murdering Santo herself, a fact which makes Dancer Lady's presence in our narrative even more redundant.

Swingin' 60's Chick can seduce and murder me anytime.

There's yet another fight scene, although Fake Blue is conspicuously absent this time. Santo gets roughed up pretty good but gives as good as he gets. Eventually he manages to hop into his car and escape. It's a typically workmanlike brawl, but the hand-to-hand stuff is getting a little tedious by this point because there's just been so damn much of it.

Back in Santo's office he and Otto and Gloria are discussing the ongoing peril of their situation. Clearly Bruno will continue to attack them until either he or they are killed, so there's neither safety nor security to be had for any of them in all of Mexico. Santo makes the selfless decision to send them out of the country until he has found and dealt with...oh, wait. I had a sudden lapse there and thought for a moment I was watching a movie with smart people in it.

Actually Santo decides that since the Monsters are only able to attack at night (sigh) he and the Halders should sleep during the day and spend all night every night out on the town in places where there are lots of people, so off they all go to a fancy nightclub, presumably to party and drink and dance until dawn for their own safety. I had no idea Mexican nightlife was so vibrant and that Santo was so fucking stupid.

So our protagonists sit glumly at their table awaiting their drinks and we get our compulsory cheesy nightclub floor show scene, which was manifestly filmed somewhere else and possibly even air-lifted in from a different movie. It's a multi-tiered, Hollywood-style musical extravaganza about a guy who appears to be a milk truck driver who travels the world so he can dance with a variety of shapely young ladies in various geographical locations.

From Jughead's penchant for dramatic poses and sassy Bob Fosse jazz hands I half expected he'd turn up and do a tap routine, but sadly it was not to be.

We cut to Fake Blue and each of the Monsters cresting that same hill again, one by one, making their little grunting noises and half-obscured by the ministrations of an over-enthusiastic fog machine operator.

Back in the nightclub Santo and the Halders get their meals, and Gloria blurts out "When will this end?" By way of an answer we get another cheesy floor show, this time featuring a mariachi band serenading a couple of young lovers outside of a cafe. We only get about a minute into this one, however before the Monster Squad shows up for another smackdown.

They do try to mix things up by having it spill out onto the roof, but there's still the distinct and increasingly stale stench of superfluous filler to it, and the outdoor setting just highlights once again that every freaking "night" scene has been filmed beneath a sweltering midday sun.

About ten minutes less of these guys smacking each other would have been just about right.

The scene does have some pertinent points that will advance the plot to its conclusion, however, namely that the Green Goons manage to grab Otto and Gloria and skeedaddle back to the castle, and that Santo manages to stick a homing device on Frank's neck so he can follow them. It also ends on a high note stunt, with Santo leaping off the roof and into an awning six storeys below, then swinging onto the sidewalk, leaping into his car and taking off in hot pursuit of the villains.

Unfortunately everything goes south again pretty quick, because when Santo first gets in his car it's bright outside like this:

But once he drives away it's dark again like this:

Yes, I know you've gotten the point. Day and night. I'll stop now.

It didn't seem like the villains got much of a head start, but despite putting the pedal to the floor Santo never gets within sight of them. Last time they had at least a ten-minute lead and Santo caught up with them in about thirty seconds, so go figure.

The Minions reach the castle well ahead of our hero, and Bruno orders that his brother and niece be strapped into a couple of the half-pipe chambers we saw the Monsters in earlier.

Santo, meanwhile pulls up along that same wooded lane again, the one where he takes all his ladies for smoochies and feelies. He seems a little surprised when he steps out of the car and just kind of gently turns his head to see that the very castle he's been searching for is clearly visible through the trees and only about half a mile away.

"And I've been here like twenty times this month, too. I guess I was too busy to notice"

Santo sneaks up to the castle gate and tries to shoulder it open but it won't budge, so he ends up climbing over it.

Blue Demon got it open on the first try. Just sayin'.

Back in the lab Bruno is giving one of those "You called me crazy, you called me mad" speeches fringy b-movie scientists seem so fond of, with the usual and inevitable effect that it delays his dastardly plan--which is to disintegrate Gloria and torture Otto--just long enough for Santo to find the entrance to the cave and start poking around.

Further pushing back the sinister agenda is the Dwarf's discovery of the little silver homing beacon on Frank's neck. He plucks it off like a snowberry and hands it to his boss.

Yes, I believe that belongs to Gloria.

So now Bruno knows that Santo will soon be at there and orders some of the goons to watch the castle gate and sends Fake Blue to check the tunnels leading to the lab.

Santo has meanwhile found the tanning room and discovers the real Blue Demon still unconscious. As he examines him to see if he's still alive Fake Blue sneaks in behind and attacks him.

Back in the lab the Dwarf is making the final preparations to the various instruments so that Bruno can exact his revenge. Since he's already been shown to have some kind of psychic remote-viewing power over his Minions he doubtless knew the Monsters and Goons had captured his family, so you'd think he'd have had this all ready to go. On the other hand we wouldn't have much of a climax to look forward to if all he had to do was flip a switch.

Gloria always has a climax to look forward to, as long as she has that electronic vibrator.

The fight between Fake Blue and Santo is realistically brutal and the two real-life rivals really let their seething aggressions for each other run wild. At one point Fake Blue threatens Santo with a pointed hook, but the Santo manages to knock it away. He finds an old medieval mace, conveniently lying around in an otherwise pristine and meticulously bare cavern, and he beats Fake Blue with it until he flees to the outside. The two end up at the top of another cliff, and this time it's Santo who gets the upper hand and throws Fake Blue over, presumably to his doom. He brandishes the mace and heads back inside the cave.

Meanwhile in the lab Bruno and the Dwarf are still twiddling knobs and pulling levers, arc lamps are still flashing and...what in the holy fuck is the hold up? Bruno keeps shouting to the Dwarf to "Increase the amperage!" but every time he looks over at the half pipes his niece is still just standing there staring, conspicuously not disintegrated and looking increasingly bored and agitated from having to wait. It's a disgrace and an embarrassment.

The Mad Scientists union will hear of this.

Santo returns to the tanning room and wakes up the real Blue Demon to help him in the final confrontation in the lab. As they run down a tunnel the Green Goons appear and we have yet another slappy, swingy hand-fight, during which Santo knocks a Goons' head clean off with the mace. The other Goons are so mesmerized by this that they stop fighting and stand around in a semicircle staring at it on the cave floor.

Everybody likes a little head.

Meanwhile the Dwarf indicates he's finally ready, really for reals this time, to zap Gloria into atoms and torture Otto, and if they hurry they'll still have time for a chimichanga and a cold sangrita before The Masked Singer comes on.

Suddenly Santo and Blue come rushing in with the mace and a lit torch respectively and start laying into the monsters with a righteous vengeance. It's another typically wild, chaotic free-for-all, and a couple of times Blue damn near sets Jughead's hair on fire by swinging the torch too close to his neck. During all this, instead of just flipping the fucking switch on the disintegrator so he can at least have that all-important revenge he's been whining about since they first propped him up and reanimated him at the beginning of the movie, Bruno cowers like a frightened little child watching Mommy and Daddy have a fight, all the while clinging to the trembling Dwarf like he's his lucky teddy bear.

This is a clear violation of the union by-laws. I hope they revoke his membership.

Blue picks up a stick and holds it against the torch to make a cross, causing the three vampires to flee the lab, which improves the odds considerably for he and Santo. He shouts to his friend to destroy the machines while he holds off Black Wolfman, Frank and the Cyclops. The Mummy is long gone, by the way. I totally forgot to mention that Santo threw him off the roof of the nightclub.

Santo goes wild smashing everytjing in sight, and as the machines burst into flames Santo releases Otto and Gloria from the half-pipes. The four protagonists flee, but Bruno, the Dwarf and the remaining Monsters are trapped in the spreading conflagration.

They played with fire. They got burned.

On their way out the heroes make a detour to the Vampire enclave, and one by one they stake each of them through their hearts. After some writhing and bleeding Dancer Lady and Swingin' 60's Chick both to revert to their virginal, pre-vampiric beauty.

Well, maybe not virginal.

Jughead, on the other hand disappears completely, leaving behind nothing but a vaguely theatrical stain and the faint aroma of greasepaint and spirit gum.

This is just how I like to remember him.

Our quartet of heroes exit the caves and run to a safe distance from the castle to watch as it burns, secure in the knowledge that they have rid the world of an unspeakable and wholly unconvincing horror.

A job well done.

The End. Thank you to Trash Palace for the excellent transfer.

Obviously this is no masterpiece, and it's awfully fun to rag on its numerous flaws, but the question to ask with these sorts of movies isn't whether or not they're good, but whether or not they're entertaining...and boy-howdy is Santo y Blue Demon contra Los Monstruous ever entertaining! Sure, it drags a bit during the wrestling matches, and cutting out the needless lady vampires subplot would have tightened it up into a leaner and more satisfying experience, but even so it stands as a perfect representative sample of a wonderfully daft, silly and wildly enjoyable subgenre.

Long live Lucha Libre, I say!

Final Observations:

--Most luchadores prefer to always wear their masks when they appear in public, and Santo, whose real name was Rudolfo Guzman Huerta, was no exception. The one and only time he ever showed his face was after his retirement and shortly before his death. He was appearing on Contrapunto, a popular Mexican talk show in late January, 1984 and surprised everyone by briefly lifting his mask. He died of a heart attack a week later and was buried in the very same mask. He appeared in at least 52 films, served as a horror-movie TV host and is today considered the most successful and popular luchador of all time.

--Santo's son, Jorge Ernesto Guzman Rodriguez, took up both of his father's professions. He appeared as El Hijo Del Santo for many years in the ringe and also in several films. His firsf screen appearance was as a child, alongside his father in Santo in The Vengeance of the Mummy (1971), which was reviewed for MMT by Nathan Decker in 2005. Jorge's own son currently wrestles as Santo, Jr. and wears an all-black mask.

--Alejandro Munoz Morena, Blue Demon, was also known for always wearing his mask, and in fact never once revealed his face to the public. He completed his luchador career undefeated, retiring in 1989 at the remarkable age of 67. He passed away in 2000, and like his rival Santo he insisted on being buried in his mask.

--Morena's adopted son still wrestles as Blue Demon, Jr. and has appeared as the character in several films and an animated series. Like his father before him he never appears maskless in public and even his real name has never been revealed.

--There was no single studio, producer or creative team behind the Lucha Libra movies, so they remained flexible in terms of content and scenarios. Although the characters of individual luchador stars were fairly consistent from film to film, their personal relationships and affiliations shifted to meet the needs of each subsequent narrative. Santo, for example has variously been portrayed as a secret agent, a simple good Samaritan, a police operative and an explorer/adventurer. Supernatural and science fiction elements are typical, but some films focus exclusively on adventure, crime or espionage. I have never met a luchador film I didn't like.

As always, cheers and thanks for reading!

Written by Bradley Lyndon in January, 2021.

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