Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Mummies of Guanajuato

The Mummies of Guanajuato
Original title: Las Momias de Guanajuato
Directed by: Federico Curiel
Mexico, 1970
Lucha Libre/Horror

Wrestler monsters from beyond the grave! In the world of cinema anything is possible. Since placing the Luchadors in cinematic narratives to get around the Mexican governments banning of televised Lucha Libre matches in the mid 50’s, the masked wrestlers have taken on an endless surge of enemies and foes. The Mummies of Guanajuato see’s Blue Demon, Mil Máscaras, Santo and a haunting army of mummies under the command of the undead wrestler called Satan. This my friends, is the good stuff!
Instead of the customary opening wrestling match, The Mummies of Guanajuato goes right in to exposition. A bunch of tourists take a tour of Guanajuato’s cemetery, were they see corpses in various state of mummification due to chemicals and minerals in the ground. Guanajuato is infamous for it’s mummies, and is one of the most popular tourist locations in Mexico. Amongst some “fresher ones”, only a hundred years old, stands Wrestler mummy Satan [Manuel Leal], and some semi composed henchmen. The guide, dwarf Penguin [Jorge Pingunio] starts telling the curious crypt dwellers the tale of how Satan and his followers swore to one day to come back and take their revenge after Santo beat him in a celebratory match one hundred years ago… By coincidence the date is todays date, and hey presto, the mummies start to climb down off their exhibit stands.
Curiel has taken his time to establish the plot before bringing in the big guns, as Mil Máscara and Blue Demon step into the ring for the obligatory wrestling match. Unlike say Miguel M. Delgado’s, Alfredo Salazar scripted flicks, there’s no time wasted on showing our heroes win one, loose one, then defeat their foes in the final round as to show some kind of vulnerability within the protagonists. This one goes right for the kill as Blue Demon and Mil Máscaras take their opponents out in two fast matches.
The vulnerability comes in a haunting scene after the bout where Satan, with ease sucker punches Blue Demon, leaving him stone cold in the hallway of the arena. Nobody likes seeing heir favourite hero be slapped around, especially when smacked around by a fiend possessing the power of Lucifer. There’s also a pretty sweet subplot concerning Julio, an orphan kid who Blue Demon has adopted. Mil Mascaras – who as per usual, changes masks for each new scene he’s part of, has his loved one Lina [Elsa Cárdenas]… you only need to have ever seen one Lucha libre movie previously to know that these are the week spots that will be used against the two masked keepers of justice.
The mummy thugs, lead on by Satan, terrorize the people of Guanajuato, as the police laugh off the inhabitants terrified pleads to help them. The cops stand around their office talking about the case, and chit chat about the mysterious deaths taking place all over the village. They are not having any of the stories of mummies, but  they are pretty convinced that the murderer is connected to the wrestling arena as all victims have broken necks.
There’s a favoured moment when Penguin meets his fate, but first he has the time to call up Blue Demon and plead with him “Blue, it’s Penguin, the mummy is here, it’s going to kill me. Help Me!” Hilarious! It shows that the Mummies have an agenda, kill people, try to pin the blame on Blue Demon and Mil Máscaras, hence forcing them to call up their buddy Santo… remember the sworn vengeance from the initial set-up?  Well just wait until you see their sinister plan unfold when they lay their hands on Blue Demon’s mask and wrestling pants!
Naturally Santo does turn up, but not due to the crimes committed or the sinister plot to lure him there, but when he unannounced pays a surprise visit to his old pals as he drives by Guanajuato in his car. In reality, writers Rafael Garcia Travesi and Rogelio Agrasánchez, intended the movie to be a Blue Demon/Mil Máscaras flick only, but in the last possible moment, Agrasánchez  - who also produced the film - wrote Santo into the script, as he feared audiences wouldn’t come for Blue Demon and Mil Máscaras alone. Climax fight approaching, panic reigns as the mummies walk the streets and the fuzz act like cretins and shoot at the terrified villagers. The final cemetery and make shift flamethrower battle is stuff of legends. Despite it being Blue Demon and Mil Máscaras ‘s film, nobody ever saves the day better than the silver angel, the undisputed king of Luchadore movies, Santo, and nobody says it better than Lina when she tells the two guys that they could have saved everybody a whole lot of trouble if they’d only had called Santo right away.
Gustavo César Carrión’s score is unusually funky compared to the stuff he’d be composing and perform to the Luchadore films just a few years later. This was cinematographer Enrique Wallace, who also shot Rene Cardona’s Las Luchadoras contra el medico asesino (Doctor of Doom) 1963, final film and one can only guess to whether he thrived or despaired with the many tall shadow street location shots that make this movie look so damned great.
I love this movie so much that it’s stupid. This is one of my top five Blue Demon movies and it was also the first time that three of the Lucha Libre scenes biggest stars where banded together in one movie. And for this same reason, The Mummies of Guanajuato became a pretty big box office success in Mexico. The starting point of a mesh trend that would culminate with the Destroy All Monsters of Lucha Libre flicks: El triunfo de los campeones justicieros (The Champions of Justice) 1974, which features a whopping total of six luchadoras.
There was animosity between the wrestlers, and a growing disappointment for Blue Demon as he was losing his place as the leading star he desired to be – at the start of his career he stood on his own merits, before being teamed up with Santo, whom he never really was a close friend with. But Blue Demon delivers, and has something of the lead part in this one, even if Santo does arrive as a miracle cure in the last act. The major part of his 25 movie career, saw Blue Demon frequently standing in the shadow of his silver masked friend, which obviously was a deep concern for him. Ironically it’s those nine tag team films that are amongst the most famous ones. Never the less, when Santo was off shooting his own movies, Blue Demon stepped up and became the team leader in three of the Champions of Justice films before the two re-united in the string of successful Miguel M. Delgado films of the mid-late seventies. Blue Demon ended his career with Gilberto Martínez Solares  Misterio en las Bermudas (Mystery in the Bermuda Triangle) 1979, which saw him reunite with Mil Máscaras  and one final time play second fiddle to Santo.

1 comment:

Ninja Dixon said...

This sounds awesome!

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