If you travel to Mexico, just like in the United States, you’ll find a lot of superheroes. Superman. Spider-Man. Godzilla. However, for all the heroes Mexicans know and love, there is a homegrown one that is incredibly famous through all of Latin America, Europe, Asia, and has a cult following in North America, and his name is Santo! By day a wrestler in a silver mask. By night, still a wrestler in a silver mask, but kicking evil’s ass and helping those in trouble! If Batman was Batman 24/7 and wrestled as a day job, you’d have Santo. From comic books (four different series running in total throughout 35 years) and into cinema (52 movies total), Santo has duked it out with all sorts of baddies, including the mafia, Dracula, Frankenstein, zombie hordes, blob creatures, evil-luchadores, space aliens, and more! He was more than just a superhero, though. He was real. Born in 1917 as Rodolfo Huerta, he adopted the persona of the silver masked wrestler, and quickly revolutionized wrestling in Mexico with his special wrestling moves and obvious showmanship. This led to a movie deal, comic books, toys, as well as spawning numerous other luchadores into stardom by copying the same model, including other beloved heroes Blue Demon and Mil Mascaras! If you were a kid in Mexico, you couldn’t beat this! Santo would become the first luchadore superhero, and not just spin off other lucahdore heroes in Mexico, but copycats you can find in the comic books and films of Italy, Turkey, Japan, and more. Today we look at his film Atacan las Brujas.
Atacan las Brujas, translated as The Witches Attack, was released in 1964. It was one of the earlier Santo films, so although he was drawing crowds, the studio didn’t want to up his budgets to color film yet, and so kept shooting in black and white to keep costs low (which was common world wide at the time, only your “A” movies got color, where “B” movies were black and white). The film follows young Ofelia, who has been having nightmares of sexy witches trying to kill her, and a silver masked man saving her from her demise at the cost of his own life. Ofelia, consulting with her fiancee, feels it may be the stress she is going through. Recently she found her parents left her a fortune, but under the deal she had to live in their mansion, without power like the 1800s, for a year under the eye of their secretary, Mayra. Her fiancee doesn’t think it is all a dream. For starters, that masked man does exist in real life, and his name is Santo. Also, Mayra, who looks 25, according to records should be not only 50-years-old, but also apparently died 15 years ago! They consult Santo for help, who immediately agrees and finds the seductive witches are planning to sacrifice them to Satan. Numerous times, Santo dukes it out with the witches and their henchmen under their spell, until finally both Ofelia and her fiancee are kidnapped, and it’s up to Santo to make his final assault against these supernatural powers.
Atacan las Brujas has a lot going for it. From the start, we see our super hero Santo doing his own stunts by climbing up the walls to break into an old mansion, all in one shot, no safety nets, which is just cool. The numerous bad guys he fights are all fist fight scenes. Also the one wrestling arena scene (most luchadore films have at least one) is one of the most intense and well shot ring scenes in the early Santo series, so just awesome to see this guy at his physical best, doing all his own stuff. Plot wise it borrows a bit from earlier Santo film Santo versus The Vampire Women, but hey, sexy, seductive witches who worship Satan between plenty of fist fights equals great guys’ flick, right? We also get some shots of a demonic, bizarre looking Satan as he talks to these witches, which is also fun.
Santo movies are some of the best old school superhero stuff committed to film, plus they have a fun international flavor to them. The Santo comic books are not always as easy to find in North America, but the films you can find on Amazon. Just make sure you’re getting a DVD with subtitles if you don’t speak Spanish, since only two Santo films were dubbed into English, and those two DVDs are out of print. Atacan las Brujas is available on DVD with English subtitles, and can easily be found online, check it out!
Also, if you’re interested in the lucahdore superhero thing, we also did shorter coverage of these other lucha-films in our Friendly Ghosts To Gamma Rays column: Wrestling Women vs. The Aztec Mummy, Curse of the Aztec Mummy, Santo y Blue Demon Contra Los Monstruos, Superzan El Invencible, Santo Contra Los Asesinos De Otros Mundos, and Los Campeones Justicieros!