Thursday, August 12, 2010

Santo vs. Baron Brakola – review

Director: José Díaz Morales

First Released: 1967

Contains spoilers

Ahh… Santo… Regular readers will know that, despite not being great cinema, I really rather enjoy Santo movies (indeed luchador films generally). This is one of the Santo films that sees him up against a fiendish Vampire, Baron Brakola (Fernando Osés).

The film begins in a rather spooky looking castle (or the corridors thereof) mummies and cobweb festooned suits of armour line the walls. There is a portrait of a woman that says Rebeca (Susana Robles) 1765.

Brakola awakens
A sarcophagus opens and the corpse… well I would say gets younger, but the changes wrought by makeup kind of made him look less decayed, and then (if anything) somewhat older. This is Baron Brakola. He moves the ‘R’ on the name Rebeca and it opens a secret door. A sarcophagus within contains the dust of Rebeca and a stake. Brakola swears revenge on the descendants of the Knight in the Silver Mask.

Eduardo and Silvia
Cut to the ring and Santo is in tag-team action. This is your typical in film match, several falls and Santo eventually wins. In the audience are Eduardo (Antonio de Hud) and his gal Silvia (Mercedes Carreño). She is strangely drawn to Santo – but Eduardo shouldn’t be jealous. Also in the arena is a caretaker who lurks suspiciously and who, we later find out, is called Don Luis (Manuel Arvide). After the match Eduardo drives Silvia home and mention is made of her estranged father who left her after her mother died for her own protection! Could it be Santo… Frankly I’ll spoil that and say no.

The caretaker is in the empty auditorium when Brakola appears and attacks him. Santo, in the dressing room, hears the kerfuffle and goes to the rescue. Luis tells Santo to stake Brakola. There is a protracted fight, during which (despite his earlier advice) Luis tries to shoot Brakola! Eventually Santo breaks a chair and gains a makeshift stake… Brakola screams like a girl and vanishes.

It turns out that Luis is a descendant of Rebeca’s family and Santo (quite obviously) is a descendant of the Knight in the Silver Mask. Luis is also Silvia’s father but somehow knew that Brakola would return and thus abandoned her. He tells Santo the story of the past events… cue flashback.

portrait of Rebeca
Brakola had pursued Rebeca’s hand in marriage but she had refused him. Seeing it as an insult he swore revenge and started dabbling in devilry. In response, Rebeca’s parents had contacted the Knight in the Silver Mask. Now, to confuse matters it does appear that Brakola was not an undead vampire at this point. He does, however, drink the blood from a tavern wench and he has a room in his castle with a coffin in it, which suggests dates of 1661 to 1765 – making him over 100. He also already has the Rebeca portrait and secret room.

Knight of the Silver Mask
He ambushes, with a couple of thugs, the Knight in the Silver Mask and, for his trouble has a sword driven through him. He swears revenge from beyond the grave and now he is clearly an undead vampire. We get some really crap ‘Crap Bat Syndrome’ and Don Luis informs in voice over that vampires can hypnotise their prey into loving them and when turned they are slaves to the vampire. We also hear that if you kill someone the master vampire has turned then said master will fall into a death like sleep for centuries (convenient that).

Brakola kills Rebeca and, in an interesting moment, her spirit approaches him and he has to retrieve her body from the grave. Now, women and fangs make for (in my humble opinion) a rather sexy combination. However, some folks just look gormless and Rebeca does make for one of the most gormless looking vampires ever. Eventually the Knight is able to penetrate her secret room and stake her. He cannot reach Brakola but the vampire falls into his preternatural coma.

Crap Bat Syndrome
When we cut to the present it is clear that Brakola is after Santo, Luis and Silvia but, up to now, things have been rather ace. We have had crap bats, wrestling, vampires and swash-buckling. Yes, trust me, the swash is well and truly buckled during the flashbacks. Unfortunately things here-on-in get somewhat… slow.

going after Rebeca
I think the main problem was that, although we have Santo searching for the lost knowledge of the whereabouts of Brakola’s lair (not that a blooming great abandoned castle, rumoured to be the haunt of vampires, wouldn’t have stuck out like a sore thumb or anything) and Silvia being preyed upon, all the modern supporting characters are pointless, there as ciphers only with no depth themselves. Luis is a teller of the back story, Silvia is nothing but a victim trope and Eduardo is a walking blood bank.

biting Silvia
You see, Santo is now medically skilled as well. He suggests (after she has been bitten) that Silvia needs a transfusion, gets Eduardo brought round to be the donor and, it appears, performs the transfusion himself! Will Silvia survive? Will Santo find Brakola’s lair? Will good triumph over evil? Come on, it’s a Santo movie!!!

This was destined to score higher until the post-flashback part of the film dragged on, but (certainly for the first half of the film) this does have everything a luchador film fan could want. 4.5 out of 10. The imdb page is here.


Christine said...

Bats! Gothic castles! Vampires! Sounds like reasonably entertaining little film that has some, can I say, innocent craziness?

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Innocent craziness would be a fair comment methinks!