Operacion 67/Operation 67 (1967)

Operacion 67 (1967)‘As the chief of our organisation, I would like to say that our plan for world domination will proceed.’

After duplicating U.S. currency plates whilst in transit, a secret organisation plans to wreck the world economy by flooding the market with millions of new bills. A team of two top secret agents are assigned the task of foiling the scheme and taking down the villainous group once and for all…

So, who is this week’s ‘Bond On A Budget’ running around the glamorous capitals of continental Europe, tangling with guns, girls and gadgets? Why it’s our old friend, the silver-masked Mexican wrestler El Santo! Only his travel itinerary is limited to Hong Kong, the gadgets are just exploding wrist-watches and the babe action is mostly left to Jorge Rivero. Yes, our silver-masked hero has a partner, and it’s clear that he’s no sidekick, the two being equals throughout. This means that Rivero gets as much solo screen time, something which probably didn’t sit too well with fans of the great man.

Our two heroes are the best Interpol has to offer but, as the film opens, they’re just catching some rays on the sun terrace with their respective girlfriends. El Santo keeps his mask on throughout, of course, which I guess saves on sunscreen, but probably wasn’t all that comfortable. An emergency call comes in, the babes exit stage right never to be seen again, and a hip 60’s soundtrack blasts into action (just dig those cool horns, man!)

Operacion 67 (1967)

‘Don’t worry, Annette will never recognise me like this.’

In charge of the organisation’s dastardly plot is Elizabeth Campbell, keeping her minions in line via the medium of the afore-mentioned exploding timepieces. These are somehow ‘welded’ to her agents and can’t be removed (unless its convenient for the plot). In the closing stages, she sets out to seduce Rivero and falls in love with him! This development really looks as if it’s been tacked on at the last minute, maybe so more glamour shots could be included in the film’s trailer.

As per usual in these kinds of shenanigans, the villains target our heroes right from the get-go (even before they’ve been briefed on their mission) and their frequent efforts at assassination provide the clues required to break the case. After all, Santo and Rivero weren’t getting anywhere on their own. Their brilliant investigative strategy revolves around the inevitability that two of the gang will put their funny money into circulation by betting on major sporting events; specifically, the tag-team bout in which they are taking part! I have to acknowledge that this is an original plot development, if just a tad implausible.

Operacion 67 (1967)

‘You and whose army?’

Unusually for a Santo film, there’s full frontal nudity (a dancer doing a ‘geisha girl’ routine in a nightclub) and seemingly a more substantial budget than usual. Father and son directing team Rene Cardona and Rene Cardona Jr even throw in a vague homage to Hitchcock’s ‘North By Northwest’ featuring Rivero in a car, that comes with a handy bazooka.

Rivero’s handsome looks, good physique and an easy screen personality eventually landed him a plumb role opposite John Wayne in Howard Hawks’ ‘Rio Lobo’ (1970). Later, he co-starred with Charlton Heston and James Coburn in ‘The Last Hard Men’ (1976), but his star faded quickly, and, by the start of the next decade, he was top-lining Lucio Fulci’s dreary sword and sorcery adventure ‘Conquest’ (1983). Although American by birth, Campbell acted almost exclusively in Mexican cinema, finding national recognition for her role as the Golden Rubi, one of the ‘Wrestling Women’ in the popular series that also starred Lorena Velásquez. After a series of other leading roles in films of the 1960s, including ‘The Chinese Room’ (1968) for Albert Zugsmith and Mexican ‘Eurospy’ film ‘Peligro…! Mujeres en Acción’ (Danger Girls) (1969), she left the country to pursue her career in New York and dropped off the radar completely.

This is one of El Santo’s more technically accomplished and well-presented features, although it does suffer from a very poor, small-scale climax. But, for all that, it’s more engaging that some of his other efforts at the spying game.

El Santo and Rivero were paired again in direct sequel ‘El Tesoro De Moctezuma’/The Treasure of Montezuma’ (1968).

Santo and Blue Demon Against The Monsters/Santo el enmascarado de plata y Blue Demon contra los monstruos (1970)

Santo and Blue Demon Against The Monsters (1970)‘Master, you promised that I could experiment on live beings!’

An evil scientist who has been experimenting with brain transplants is brought back from the dead to carry on his work. His plans include taking revenge on his brother and his pretty young niece, whose boyfriend just happens to be a certain silver-masked wrestling legend…

Good afternoon, grapple fans! We’re back in the crazy world of Mexican wrestling movies with our favourite luchador El Santo and his bestie Blue Demon. This film opens with short introduction shots of all our main characters, as they enter the frame to take a metaphorical bow. These include a whole rogue’s gallery of monsters: the Mummy, the Cyclops (looking suspiciously like he was stranded on Earth after the climax of hilarious science fiction-comedy-musical-horror ‘Ship of Monsters’ (1965)), Frankenstein’s Monster (inevitably just called ’Frankenstein’), The Wolf Man, The Vampire (Dracula presumably being unavailable for copyright reasons), and the Vampire Woman. We also get a quick showing from hep young cat Hedi Blue who plays our heroine, and actually looks like she might kick some ass but actually spends almost the entire movie being helpless and rescued. So, it’s a pretty full dance card for our masked heroes!

But why worry about all that? Let’s get right to why we’re here in the first place: wrestling. Yes, the first ten minutes of the movie gives up a couple of lengthy bouts in the square ring. First up we get some wrestling women, but sadly not the ones who tackled the Aztec Mummy a few years earlier (although that would have made a bit more sense!) They’re followed by Blue Demon in a tag team contest with a bunch of other fighters who never appear in the movie again. Santo watches it all from the sidelines.

Santo and Blue Demon Against The Monsters (1970)

Brain transplants were a tricky business…

After that, some strange green faced gentlemen and a dwarf called Waldo indulge in resurrection work in an underground lab beneath an ancient castle (ok, it’s a couple of caves filled with electronic junk that blows up at the slightest touch). The revived corpse turns out to be famous scientist Dr Halder (Ivan J. Rado), who has conquered death through the use of brain transplants (citation required). Coincidentally, his family are from Transylvania so the basement of his castle is full of famous monsters just waiting to be revived!

There’s really not a great deal of point in going much further into the plot as there really isn’t any more of it, but I’ll do my best. For reasons not really all that logical, Santo ends up in the ring fighting the Vampire in a wrestling match, the crowd mysteriously shrink and grow depending on if we’re seeing footage of a real contest or the one staged for the movie, the strange big brain creature from ‘Ship of Monsters’ (1965) hangs around in the background but doesn’t actually do anything, the villains have Santo out cold several times but never bother to kill him, there’s an obviously speeded up car chase that suddenly switches from day to night (presumably to match the crash footage), the Vampire swings around on a clearly visible rope and the Mummy looks like a slightly elderly chap with a badly bandaged head wound. Yes, it’s all pretty crucial stuff.

About an hour into the film, Santo decides to take his girlfriend and her dad out for a curry (or nachos perhaps!) and they visit a restaurant where we get a five minute floorshow featuring girls dancing around with baskets of flowers. It looks like they’re performing in a room several times the size of the seating area which is differently lit but let’s not worry about that!  A short conversation follows, before then another musical number begins! Hooray!  But thankfully this one is interrupted when the monsters attack. After we see all their introduction shots again. Special credit must go to the ‘Frankenstein’ makeup here, which is undoubtedly one of the worst ever to grace the silver screen. Still, the big lug does drive a car later on so it’s nice to see he’s picked up some new skills while he’s been dead…or undead…or whatever he was.

Santo and Blue Demon Against The Monsters (1970)

It had a been a few thousand years since the Mummy’s last facial…

In all probability there wasn’t more than a few pages of script and the director spent a lot of time trying to figure out things to film to bring things up to feature length. What’s curious is that the film seems to be a sequel, Rada and Santo having had previous business with each other? However, the masked man’s filmography doesn’t seem to offer up a previous encounter, although Rada did play evil scientists in other films in the series (including ‘Santo and Blue Demon in Atlantis’ (1970) which came next). Only he never seemed to play the same evil scientist twice!

Actors do sometimes get criticised for ‘phoning it in’ when delivering a lacklustre performance, but it’s truly rare when that accusation can be levelled at an entire film! There’s some fun to be had from all the cheesiness on display and there are some good laughs to be had, of course, but this really is a very weak and lazy effort. Even by the standards of this series!


Wrestling Women Vs The Aztec Mummy (1963)

Wrestling_Women_Vs._The_Aztec_Mummy_(1963)‘Watch out, it might be a Limburger cheese that they sent to poison us!’

Good afternoon, grapple fans! Some nosey archaeologists have discovered an Aztec Codex, which provides clues as to the location of a fabulous hidden treasure. Unfortunately, the Black Dragon and his gang are after the scroll and will stop at nothing to get their greedy paws on it.

We open with several dummies being thrown from moving cars. These, we are reliably informed, are various archaeologists meeting their end in a wave of mysterious slayings that are sweeping across the city. One of the remaining boffins decides to involve a local hotshot police detective who also happens to be the lesser half of one of our Wrestling Women; Gloria Venus and the Golden Rubi. The boffin takes refuge in the girl’s dressing room (a reasonable tactic if you ask me) but is shot with a poison arrow as he’s about to reveal some important information (wouldn’t you just know it?) Anyway, hot shot copper knows Dr Tracy, head of the aforementioned expedition, so they all decamp to his flat and he explains what’s going on.

With one part of the Codex already in the hands of the Black Dragon, our heroes decide to split the remaining 3 between them, thus making the gang’s task much harder. In the next breath, they all decide to move in together, thus making the gang’s task much easier. Eventually, after some hypnotism, spying by close circuit TV and a clue hidden in a large sombrero, the two sides decide to resolve the ownership of the Codex by the most logical means available; a public wrestling match between our lovely heroines and the Kung Fu sisters of the Black Dragon. It’s a plot twist so staggeringly brilliant that it should be part of every screenwriting workshop ever held.

The bout itself is fairly endless and mostly executed by stunt players (dig the fright wigs on the two ‘oriental’ girls!) but truth, justice and the Mexican way win out and we move on to part 2 of the film. With the Codex translated, our heroes find their way to the Aztec Mummy’s tomb and make the usual mistake of waking him up by removing the Holy Breastplate. This time around, Tezomoc actually looks quite scary rather than just an ugly vagrant who spent the night before in his own wrestling bout with a bottle of hooch. He can also turn himself into a bat and fly backwards!

'That's the last time you forget our anniversary!'

‘That’s the last time you forget our anniversary!’

Sadly, the girls never fight the monster but there are several versions of this film around (including one from the early 1980s with a rock ‘n’ roll soundtrack!) so maybe the footage is out there somewhere. But the girls do trade kicks and punches with the Black Dragon’s henchmen and kick some serious ass. Not very remarkable now perhaps but this is 1963; Doris Day was still the world’s top female box office attraction and ‘progressive’ women on screen were sex objects like Jayne Mansfield.

We have to thank legendary U.S. distributor K. Gordon Murray for bringing us this classic from south of the border along with many others of a similar stamp. Yes, it may not be great moviemaking by any stretch of the imagination but, what it lacks in almost every technical department, it makes up for in attitude and chutzpah.

You go, girls! Oh, god, that made me sound soooo ‘90’s…

Buy ‘Wrestling Women Vs The Aztec Mummy’ here