Santo vs Frankenstein’s Daughter (1972)

aka Santo vs. la hija de Frankestein
Article 2523 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-1-2008
Posting Date: 7-9-2008
Directed by Miguel M. Delgado
Featuring Santo, Gina Romand, Anel
Country: Mexico

The daughter of Frankenstein kidnaps Santo’s girlfriend in the hopes of luring the wrestler to her lair. There she plans to use his blood to improve her serum for eternal youth.

Hey, this movie reveals that Santo actually has a superpower; his blood contains a chemical that causes super healing abilities. That explains why he can take a licking and keep on ticking in the wrestling ring. It also explains why the Daughter of Frankenstein, (who has a serum that can return youth to the old, a legion of minions (all old men kept loyal by the threat of having their serum withheld), and two monsters to help battle wrestlers that show up) wants to capture him; apparently, she’s becoming immune to her own serum and needs his blood to freshen things up a bit. What emerges is the type of plot I call the “Capture-Go-Round”; almost all of the movie is about people being captured, escaping, being recaptured, escaping again, etc. etc. Obviously, this is one Santo movie that doesn’t stint on the fantastic elements. It also has a bit of obsession with gouging out visual organs, for those keeping their eyes open for movies like this. One monster here looks a lot like the one from NIGHT OF THE BLOODY APES, the other is a variation on the basic Frankenstein monster. Lots of wrestling and Santo action, and it’s in color, too. You probably already know whether you’ll like this one or not.



Samson and the Mighty Challenge (1964)

aka Ercole, Sansone, Maciste e Ursus gli invincibili
Article 2519 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-26-2008
Posting Date: 7-5-2008
Directed by Giorgio Capitani
Featuring Sergio Ciani, Howard Ross, Nadir Moretti
Country: Spain, Italy, France

Hercules wishes to marry Omphale, the daughter of the Queen of Lydia. However, the daughter, who is in love with a man from one of the mountain tribes, does not wish to marry Hercules. A plot is hatched to convince Hercules that he can only marry Omphale if he defeats the mightiest man on Earth, Samson.

The opening scene of this movie has Zeus hurling thunderbolts at Hercules to warn him that he has two paths to choose from – virtue and pleasure. To Zeus’s disappointment, Hercules chooses pleasure, as it leads to the land of Lydia, which is reported to be full of beautiful women. Zeus tells him not call on him for help if he should get into trouble, and Hercules assures him that he will not need his father’s help with the women. This singularly unheroic Hercules is your first clue that this is not your ordinary sword-and-sandal flick (the first clue was that the theme over the titles is is decidedly eccentric). Yes, what we have here is that rarity; this movie, like COLOSSUS AND THE AMAZONS and HERCULES VS MACISTE IN THE VALE OF WOE, is a sword-and-sandal comedy. Hercules is a lady-killer who still fails to impress the princess even after saving her life and making sure she knows he’s a demigod. Samson is a henpecked husband, married to a jealous Delilah; when he decides to go off to Lydia without her, you won’t be surprised by her course of action. Ursus is an ill-tempered bully who beats up on everyone and won’t pay for his meals. That leaves Maciste as the only remotely heroic muscleman here, and he’s such a goody-two-shoes he not only saves a beleaguered family from Ursus, but he helps repair all their wrecked furniture as well. Throw in an evil queen that will remind you of Madeline Khan and a mischievous dwarf who pretends to be the voice of Zeus, and you have a fairly amusing spoof of the whole sword-and-sandal genre. It’s sitting with an extremely low rating on IMDB, but I’ll openly admit that I was highly entertained by this one, and, as far as comedies go, it’s certainly a lot better than the VALE OF WOE movie.


Strange Impersonation (1946)

Article 2513 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-20-2008
Posting Date: 6-29-2008
Directed by Anthony Mann
Featuring Brenda Marshall, William Gargan, Hillary Brooke
Country: USA

A woman scientist is disfigured from an explosion caused by a jealous co-worker, who schemes to steal the man she loves from her. When the female scientist is mistakenly believed to be dead, she takes on the identity of the woman who actually died, and gets plastic surgery to fix her face. She then sets out to get the man she loves back.

Sometimes an overfamiliarity with film conventions can hoodwink your enjoyment of a movie. About fifteen minutes into this movie a certain screen convention occurs to indicate a certain thing has happened, and because I recognized the convention for what it was, I knew how the movie was going to end. Yes, I’m begin vague about the convention, but that’s because I don’t want to give it away for someone who might not have seen the movie and wants to give it a chance. In some ways, knowing how it was going to end didn’t ruin things for me; if anything, it did help me to not be bothered by the fact that the story was a bit far-fetched. It was well directed by Anthony Mann, who I know primarily from having directed some very interesting westerns during the fifties. It also has a nice noirish atmosphere at times, and ultimately my biggest problem with the movie is it occasionally hits a false, clunky note in the dialogue. The movie also features H.B. Warner and Lyle Talbot, but, for me, the most interesting credit was for producer William Wilder, who is better know to me as W. Lee Wilder, the director of several low-budget science fiction movies from the fifties. The fantastic content is light here; there may be a slight nudge into science fiction courtesy of the experiments with anaesthetics, and there is a touch of horror to the plot element of the disfigured face.


Samson and the Sea Beast (1963)

aka Sansone contro i pirati
Article 2494 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-1-2008
Posting Date: 6-10-2008
Directed by Tanio Boccia
Featuring Kirk Morris, Margaret Lee, Daniele Vargas
Country: Italy

Samson does battle with a pirate who has been kidnapping women and selling them on the slave market.

Sword-and-Sandal stalwart Samson doing battle with a Sea Beast? Sounds like a lot of fun, doesn’t it. Unfortunately, I’m not sure who the Sea Beast is. It could be Murad, the seventeenth-century pirate mentioned in the plot summary above (thereby rendering the term “sea beast” into metaphorical terms and stripping the movie of its most promising fantastic content other than Samson’s considerable strength). Or it could be that crocodile that Samson does battle with in the last reel. Yes, on the surface, that sounds like an improvement, but just wait till you get a look at this crocodile; I’ve never seen a more blatant example of a truly lifeless inanimate object passing itself off as a real-life beastie in my life – even the stuffed tiger in FORBIDDEN JUNGLE would be embarrassed to go up against this one.

So let’s now move on to the obvious question that you know I’m going to ask (we’ve been here before, you know) – Just what is Biblical hero Samson doing battling seventeenth century pirates? He can’t use the excuse that he’s that time-traveler Maciste in disguise; the Italian title clearly says “Sansone”. I’m guessing that Maciste makes a few bucks on the side renting his time machine to other muscle-bound heroes. I’m also guessing he was smart enough to avoid this one; this spiritless Sword-and-Sandal swashbuckler is one of the duller ones out there, and it manages somehow to regurgitate the usual cliches of the genre. The only differences are that there is more swordfighting and we get fireworks instead of liturgical dance. Even by Sword-and-Sandal standards, this one is weak.


The Skeleton Dance (1929)

Animated Short
Article 2487 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-25-2008
Posting Date: 6-3-2008
Directed by Walt Disney
No cast
Country: USA

Skeletons dance in a graveyard.

How about that – this is the fourth movie in a row in which not a word of English is spoken. All right, this one doesn’t count – it has no dialogue at all. It’s one of Disney’s Silly Symphonies and features animation from Ub Iwerks. As a matter of fact, I’ve heard that it was the very first one of the series. There’s no plot to speak of; it’s just a series of dancing skeleton gags. It’s very amusing, though; I’m especially fond of the strange creature the four skeletons merge into at the end of the movie. This makes a fine addition as an opening short to any night of classic horror viewing.


Santo vs. Baron Brakola (1967)

aka El Baron Brakola
Article 2485 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-23-2008
Posting Date: 6-1-2008
Directed by Jose Diaz Morales
Featuring Santo, Fernando Oses, Mercedes Carreno
Country: Mexico

Santo has to do battle with an evil vampire named Baron Brakola.

Brakola? Brakola? Hmm… the name sounds vaguely like that of one of the most famous horror characters of all time. Once you make the connection, you’ll know in advance that Santo is battling a vampire this time out before the movie even starts, and, considering that my copy is in unsubtitled Spanish, any hint helps. Nevertheless, I would have been able to figure out he was a vampire from square one, as his pointed teeth and penchant for biting women on the neck gives it away. All in all, this one is fairly easy to understand even in its unsubtitled form, and has an amusing backstory in which one of Santo’s ancestors also does battle with Baron Brakola. It’s the basic “Dracula” story with Santo in the Van Helsing role, or, if you prefer, imagine Van Helsing as a Mexican wrestler. Hey, here’s some scenarios to imagine – a bare-chested Edward Van Sloan in tights, mask, and cape wrestling Bela Lugosi. Or, even better, bare-chested Peter Cushing in mask, tights and cape wrestling with Christopher Lee!

Wait a second… I really didn’t want to conjure up those visions. Now I WILL have nightmares tonight.


Crosieres siderales (1942)

aka Sideral Cruises
Article 2464 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-31-2007
Posting Date: 5-11-2008
Directed by Andre Zwoboda
Featuring Madeleine Sologne, Jean Marchat, Julien Carette
Country: France

Two people ascend into the stratosphere in a capsule carried by a balloon. When the balloon bursts, it hurtles them into outer space. When they return to Earth, they find that Einstein’s theory of relativity has left them the same age, but all those they knew have aged. They are greeted as heroes, and further trips to the stratosphere are planned.

The above plot description is an approximation; the film is in unsubtitled French, and I was only able to sort out some of the plot thanks to a rather glib description from the Phil Hardy book on science fiction movies. That gave me a little to go on; without it, I would have been lost. I would have known it involved space travel, and I would probably have figured out the role of relativity. Beyond that, the movie is a question mark. Visually, the most interesting thing is a bizarre spectacle that looks it was staged by Busby Berkeley, involving lots of beautiful girls (some not entirely clothed), trapezes, merry-go-rounds, etc. There’s also someone who looks like Spike Jones’s short brother running around. Until subtitles or dubbing comes along, I’m lost on this one.