Santo Vs. Las Lobas/Santo Vs. The She-Wolves (1976)

Santo Vs. Los Lobas (1976)‘Do not be alarmed; my mask is at the service of justice.’

The ageing Queen of the Lycanthropes transfers her soul into the body of a much younger woman during a bloody midnight ritual, so their reign of terror on a small, rural community can continue. Desperate for help, the locals to recruit silver-masked wrestling legend El Santo to be in their corner…

Seconds out, Round 48! Yes, just five movies away from the end of a 22-year, 53 movie odyssey, everybody’s favourite luchador finds himself up against a tribe of scantily-clad, vampire-toothed were-babes hanging out in the Mexican desert. He’s understandably sceptical when asked for help by the locals. I mean, werewolves? How ridiculous that must have seemed to a man who had fought the Frankenstein Monster, The Mummy, Dracula, a witch’s coven, mad scientists, zombies, and once taken a trip to Atlantis. All fair enough, of course, but werewolves? That’s just silly.

Anyway, our story opens on a night in the desert. The cold wind is blowing through the mesquite and Gila monsters and scorpions crawl in the shadow of the tall saguaro. Beneath the star-filled sky, a coyote howls somewhere in the distance. Only it isn’t a coyote, of course, it’s a werewolf. Yes, it’s party time at lycanthrope central as Queen Luba (Tamara Garina) prepares to transfer her consciousness into the body of pretty blonde Erika Carlsson. Her crew dance around in plastic teeth and cave girl bikinis (with added furry bits) and topless guys carry flaming torches (obviously this club is gender neutral, despite the film’s title).

But enough of all these hairy shenanigans. What are we all here for? Wrestling, of course! So it’s straight off to the square ring to watch El Santo centre stage of a five-minute tag team rumble. He only needs his partner for some special combos (and when their opponents cheat), and, sure enough, he’s soon victorious again. The fight looks like footage for an actual bout, as opposed to one staged for the film. In the dressing room afterwards, he’s collared by private dick Jaime Pons (Ferderico Falcón) who wants to talk werewolves. Santo thinks it’s all nonsense, of course, even after Carlsson turns up a few minutes later and comes on to him, apparently because he’s so ‘mysterious, enigmatic and modest.’ I guess that sort of thing happens all the time to El Santo!

Santo Vs. Los Lobas (1976)

‘I’m not sure that dentist was properly licensed…’

On the way out of the arena, our hero is attacked by some rather large dogs, which provoke a surprising ‘flight’ response in the big man. And this highlights one of the film’s several story inconsistencies (and by ‘several’, I mean quite a lot). Are these supposed to be the werewolves transformed? The canine pack make periodic appearances throughout the film, but the lycanthropes are otherwise in human form (with added face fuzz naturally). Anyway, Santo gets bitten, and anyone bitten will turn on the first night of the red moon.

So says Cesar Harker (Rodolfo DeAnda) who has taken over exposition duties from Falcón who has run off into the sunset after an encounter with Carlsson and is never seen again. De Anda is the last of a generation of werewolf hunters, who are immune to their bite. He informs Santo that he has been targetted because he wears a silver mask and, of course, silver is deadly to lycanthropes. How he’s supposed to use his mask as a weapon isn’t really explained, although I guess that he could invite all the werewolves to a Halloween party and ask them to try it on one at a time. Anyway, he agrees to follow De Anda back home and help sort out the situation. By now, we’re about halfway through the film.

By the time Santo arrives at the scene of the action, De Anda has been killed off-screen, and there’s been some changes on the other team as well. Carlsson has been switched out for Licar, King of the Werewolves and a lot of his male buddies. This was probably because the notion of a gentleman like El Santo hitting a lady (even if she is a werewolf) just wasn’t acceptable. On a more positive front, Santo suddenly gets a love interest in the delightful form of Adriana (Gloria Mayo) and, in the best tradition of movieland, they’re in love about five minutes after they first meet and haven’t even shared a scene together. However, not everyone shares her opinion of our hero and the villagers try to kill him, accidentally shooting a couple of their number in the process. But that’s ok, it’s never mentioned again, and only 20 minutes later, they’re cheerfully doing exactly what the big man says.

Santo Vs. Los Lobas (1976)

‘You don’t look a lot like your profile picture.’

Yes, with main characters suddenly being replaced, and frequently at that, this does resemble a somewhat patchwork effort. Production details aren’t readily available, but it looks like a project filmed at various times when money became available again, but some cast members weren’t. There’s also problems with lighting. This technical deficiency may have been down to the transfer that I saw, of course, but the closing scenes are dreadfully under-lit, which renders much of the footage confusing.

Directors Ruben Galindo and Jaime Jiménez Pons (who also co-wrote) were involved in other entries in the series in various capacities. It’s curious that Jaime Pons is also the name of the private detective character who appears early on. This may have been confusion on the part of whoever did the subtitles, or it may have been a bizarre in-joke. Perhaps it was even the co-director playing the role under an alias? It would certainly explain his terrible over-acting in the scene where Carlsson runs him out of town.

Unusually, there’s some brief nudity and a little tomato ketchup in this one, which doesn’t really fit with the more child-friendly aspects of earlier entries in the series. It may have been that the filmmakers were trying to reinvigorate the character for a more adult audience. The heyday of the franchise was over, and it was limping towards its early 1980s conclusion.

Another bizarre glimpse into the strange world of El Santo. The serious-minded need not apply, but there’s an assortment of the usual delights for fans of low-budget trash.

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