Monday, January 01, 2007

Movies: Mexico faces its own illegal alien problem . . . and solves it with a flying elbow smash!

Aliens think we're idiots. I can see why, from a distance, they could think that. We divide into warring tribes and fight over delicate points of mythology. We burn through natural resources like we don't know they're finite. We dress funny. Several million of us listen to Coldplay. We require licenses for operating an automobile put we freely allow anybody to have children and raise them. Viewed from a distance, humanity isn't particularly inspiring.

This is why aliens have repeatedly come to Earth to save us from ourselves. The well-intended invasions are the interstellar-diplomacy equivalent of an intervention. From classics, like The Day the Earth Stood Still, to the profoundly crappy, Plan 9 from Outer Space, advanced and usually slightly gay aliens have repeatedly come to Earth in an effort to make us see the folly of our ways and, if we cannot be reasoned with, force us into pacifism.

The Martians in Santo versus the Martian Invasion fit into this tradition of "we know what's go for you" invaders.

The movie starts with these benevolently dictatorial Martians flying towards Earth in a high-tech spacecraft that looks somewhat like my old Smokey Joe grill. As the approach, they tune into our television broadcasts. After learning how to speak Mexican Spanish from television, they break into our airwaves and let the world know of their mission. They announce that they come from a civilization far more advanced than ours. Aliens always say that. It is important for establishing their credentials. Aliens from a culture less advanced than ours a really crap aliens, aren't they? Who would listen? Not me. Sure, they come from another planet, but if they're no smarter than us, who gives a crap?

After establishing their vast cultural and intellectual superiority, they announce that they want Earth's governments to completely disarm. If the governments of the world fail to do so, then Mars will invade and enforce a Pax Marsus.

Unfortunately, the humans watching their television sets believe that the Martians' speech about invasion is actually a new comedy show. (And a pretty bad comedy show at that. Although the pre-invasion speech was a wonderful ultimatum, it made for a lousy sit com.) The invaders, now safely parked in a wooded area outside Mexico City, need to do something to show they mean business.

To strike fear in the hearts of the natives, the aliens send one of their number to attack a large track and field event. Using a disintegrator beam mounted on his helmet, he begins indiscriminately vaporizing men, women, and children.

What the Martians didn't plan on was the presence of . . .

Santo! The Man in the Silver Mask! The hero of the multitudes!

Santo, wrestling legend and star of countless media tie-ins, is something like the Elvis of lucha. His charismatic persona and restless drive elevated the lucha game from a somewhat disreputable working class diversion into something like a national tradition.

Santo, hero that he is, will not stand idly by as some Martian disintegrates innocent sports fans. He leaps into action and starts putting the big beat down on the alien invader. Only the alien's teleportation belt allows him to escape Santo's righteous fury.

The Martians, on seeing what Santo laid on their compatriot, decide that they must capture Santo. If they can take him back to Mars, Martian scientists can study him and mechanically reproduce his superlative physical prowess. An evil – and by evil I mean wanting world peace - army of Martian Santos! The mind boggles.

Along the way, they also kidnap some minor politicos, a random middle-class family, a scientist, and a priest (which sounds like the start of some joke, but I can't think of one). What they want with these folks is unclear. Maybe Martian scientist can mechanically reproduce ineffective governing, middle-class tastes, smarts, and religious conviction. Who knows? It is never made clear. What is made fully clear is that Santo is going to have to kick some serious Martian ass if these random kidnap victims and the rest of the planet are to be saved.

And kick Martian ass he does. After setting a trap that allows him to secure one of the Martian teleportation devices, Santo finds the Martian ship and opens up a can of whoop-ass on the presumptuous interlopers. That will teach them to demand peace! The inevitable self-destruct device is triggered and the ship goes up in flames. The grateful captives watch as the ship burns itself out and the turn to see Santo, a god among mortals, walk off into the night, utterly triumphant and utterly alone.

As far as Santo flicks go, this is a mid-level entry to the series. It comes from the early black and white period, when Santo's star was on the rise and his flicks were, while hardly prestige pictures, respectfully funded and shot. Despite the noticeable budget, the action drags in several parts and the aliens are too bland to make us feel like Santo is going to have any real trouble with them. Furthermore, the film is plagued with continuity errors and inexplicable plot twist, most of which simply hang unresolved. None of this stops the flick from being enjoyable. We still get plenty of wrasslin', a scene with Santo's white Italian roadster, and a scene of Martian women go-go dancing (yeah, really!). But the film's flaws are distracting.

I recommend this flick mainly for the fan that has already checked out other Santo films and craves more of the Man in the Silver Mask. For those just getting into the wonderful world of Santo flicks, I would recommend starting with the superior Santo versus the Diabolical Axe or Santo in the Attack of the Witches, both available in excellent DVD presentations. Even though this film doesn't rank up there with the best Santo outings, I firmly believe that any Santo is better than no Santo and, using my fan-favorite Communes of the Aosta Valley Film Rating System, I'm giving Santo versus the Martian Invasion a respectable Valsavarenche. More, perhaps, than the film deserves strictly on merit, but the presence of Santo in any film instantly kicks everything up a notch.


Anonymous said...

Oh, baby...
So far I only have Santo fighting:
a Mummy's vengeance, Dracula's treasure, Dracula and the Wolfman, Frankenstein's Daughter, and Dr. Frankenstein.
But I haven't seen the Silver Masked One kick Martian ass!
I'd like to pick up the Vampire woman disc, too. If it's the same one, this was the film that introduced me to the nattily dressed hero.


CRwM said...

You never forget your first . . .

Have you seen the Santo cartoon that Cartoon Network's Spanish branch cranked out. Santo versus a mad scientist who is cloning armies of all the monsters Santo faced in his films. You can find it in two sections on Youtube. Well worth watching even if you don't speak a lick of Spanish.

Anonymous said...

Jeez, I didn't even know there WAS a Spanish branch of CN.
Sounds intriguing, i'll have to check it out.
y !Arriba!