‘Jose Angel tries to break Mitsunori’s physical strength by hitting him on the soft parts.’
A professor enlists the help of a famous masked wrestler to find a fabulous lost treasure and break the curse that has plagued his family for generations…
One Mexican legend goes up against another, as celebrated luchador Santo faces off against the folk fable La Llorona. Director Miguel M Delgado referees as past and present clash in this battle of the titans.
The stakes are high when academic Professor Esteban Lira (Alonso Castaño) attempts to recruit Santo to his latest expedition; 80 million pesos, in fact. That’s what 100,000 gold doubloons will bring in today’s market. Castaño has a map of their location; it just needs decoding with a medallion buried almost 300 years ago with a Spanish noblewoman. Santo baulks at the suggestion; he doesn’t defile tombs and steal from the dead. Castaño isn’t going to keep the money, however, he will hand it over to the Institute for Child Welfare so that they can build hospitals for sick children.
The Professor explains that the buried noble is none other than Doña Eugenia Esparza (Kikis Herrera Calles), the legendary La Llorona. The story goes that she murdered her own sons in retaliation against their father, Don Juan de Gonzaga, who married someone else. She then made a pact with Lucifer to obtain the necessary poison through his Witch (Marcia Montes). At the same time, she stole money from de Gonzaga that belonged to the Spanish Crown and hid it away, hoping that he would be accused of the theft and executed. If de Gonzaga escaped judgement, however, Lucifer would grant her the power to return from the grave and slay every firstborn son of his family until the end of time.
If all that wasn’t enough(!), Castaño is a direct descendant of the de Gonzaga family line, and his eldest son was strangled to death under mysterious circumstances. Now, he fears for his grandson’s life, Carlitos (Jorgito Rodríguez). The good news is that the curse can be broken if the treasure is used to benefit children, hence his intention to donate the cash to charity.
Entries in Santo’s long-running film series aren’t usually noted for a wealth of plot detail. However, screenwriter Francisco Cavazos does his best to make up for it here with a first act of almost solid exposition. It is eased with flashbacks, but there’s still a lot to get through. It is all a little awkward, but then again, the writer is attempting to mash the plot of ‘Santo and Dracula’s Treasure/Santo en El tesoro de Drácula’ (1968) together with the folk tale of La Llorona. Also, he’s retaining the element of generational revenge so beloved by Mexican genre cinema and present in the ghost’s first cinematic incarnation, Ramón Peón’s ‘La Llorona/The Crying Woman’ (1933).
There is more to the story, of course, once the audience gets past all this setup. Unbeknownst to the good Professor, his assistant has sold him out to criminal kingpin Don Severo Segovia (René Cardona) on the promise of a share of the treasure. It’s all bad news for little Rodríguez and the rest of Castaño’s family; daughter Sonia (Sonia Cavazos), granddaughter Marita (Alejandra Murga) and secretary Lilia (Ana Lilia Tovar), who might actually be another daughter as well, but I’m not too clear about that. Neither of the young women is Rodríguez and Murga’s mother; she’s off on holiday somewhere with their father.
Presumably, Blue Demon wasn’t answering his phone this time around, so Santo recruits a new sidekick from the sporting world: real-life undisputed World Welterweight Champion José Mantequilla Nápoles. And the great man also needs to take care of a couple of pretenders in the square ring; first, a grappler named El Dragon and next, El Adonis. All this might be a bit much for the average, everyday hero, but it’s just another day at the office for El Santo!
As was the case in some of the later films, probable budget restrictions prevented staging of actual wrestling bouts in an arena, so here they come courtesy of ‘Studio B’, and everyone tunes in to watch them on TV. This is a tad unfortunate for Castaño as everyone’s glued to the box when he gets a less than friendly visit from the vengeful Calles. Later, she reverts to human form and moves into the house next door (just go with it) so she can lure the younglings away with promises of toys and candy.
There’s a lot here for fans of the series to enjoy, and there are some excellent moments and sequences. La Llorona’s tomb is in a cave just off the highway, and her coffin is just propped up against the wall. The girls trail our heroes to the site in their car without being seen, and no one notices Cardona’s thugs bringing up the rear of the convoy in their vehicle. La Llorona also appears with the helpful assistance of her dry ice roadie.
Nápoles isn’t much of an actor, and this is his only screen credit. The script tries to cast him as a comedy sidekick, but it’s never sufficiently developed. There are a couple of nice moments when his real personality seems to break through, and it would probably have been best to go with that. It is great that these two legends of Mexican sport got the opportunity to share the screen, though. They also prove their credentials as influencers per extraordinaire by sporting some stylish, outstanding examples of eye-catching leisurewear.
It’s also an iconic moment when Santo and Cardona face off in his office, considering the latter could usually be found behind the camera instead of in front. As a director, he delivered several entries in the series, and many other genre movies, including his own take on ‘La Llorona’ (1960). His Don Segovia is outwardly suave and reasonable, but, of course, he’s not to be trusted. It’s a beautiful moment when he finally loses patience with his goons and tells them: ‘If any of you could think, then you wouldn’t be working for me’, which is an enlightening comment on his entire organisation.
The main weakness is that the plot’s two elements don’t mesh satisfactorily in a dramatic sense. The climax sees Santo occupied at the Institute of Child Welfare, handing over the doubloons while La Llorona makes her final assault. In fact, the only time he meets her in the film is when she’s still taking a nap in her coffin. I guess it would have been difficult for him to fight a woman on screen, especially an incorporeal one.
Considering he was in his mid-50s at this point, Santo’s athleticism is truly impressive. Nápoles is obviously quick with his fists, and you can only hope for the health of the stunt crew that they had time to teach him how to pull his punches. Born in Cuba, Nápoles debuted in the ring in 1958, fighting as often as once a month, and was building an impressive record when professional boxing was banned under the Castro regime. Relocating to Mexico, he resumed his career and, despite the occasional defeat, eventually put together a 20-fight unbeaten run on his way to winning the undisputed world title in April 1969. He defended it successfully five times before losing on an early knockout to Billy Backus about 18 months later. Nápoles won the return bout and remained champion for four and a half years until his final defeat and subsequent retirement in December 1975. For 40 years, he shared the record for the most wins in unified championship fights in boxing history with Muhammad Ali.
The story is a little awkward, but it’s still a lot of fun and one of the better entries in Santo’s later film career.