One of the more glaring gaps in my movie-going career has been that although I’ve seen (and adored) several of the Mexican wrestling women movies, until now I have not seen a single Santo movie. I have now remedied this serious oversight by watching Santo Versus the Martian Invasion (Santo el enmascardo de plata vs la invasión de los marcianos).
This one was made in 1967, and since it’s my first I can’t really say how typical it is of the Mexican masked wrestler superhero genre. What I can say is that it’s enormously entertaining in an outrageously camp way.
The Martians are worried about the proliferation of nuclear weapons on Earth, which may one day threaten the survival of the whole solar system. They decide to give us one last chance to abandon our destructive tendencies. Landing in Mexico, they take over the nation’s television transmissions to make their demands - we are to destroy all nuclear weapons and establish peace and universal brotherhood immediately, or they’ll start vaporising people. We’re going to be taught to learn to live in harmony and friendship even if they have to kill us all in order to teach us.
The Martians have technology far in advance of ours so things look fairly grim, but humanity does have one ace up its sleeve - we have Santo, the world’s greatest wrestler. And he’s working closely with Professor Ordorica, an all-round scientific genius, so the Martians are in for a much tougher battle than they anticipated. It’s Professor Ordorica who realises immediately that the Astral Eye used by the Martians to disintegrate people is similar to that used in ancient Atlantis, although tragically this tantalising coincidence is never followed up.
A few encounters with Santo are enough to convince the Martians that they need to capture both Santo and the professor and take them back to Mars - the scientist’s intelligence and Santo’s strength can be used to strengthen their own race. Given that the Martians are supposedly five centuries head of us scientifically it’s not clear why they need this assistance. Their initial attempts to capture Santo also persuade them that brute force may not be enough to subdue the pesky earthlings (again given their incredibly advanced technology including vaporising weapons and belts that allow them to teleport it’s not clear why they decide to rely on brute force in the first place).
Luckily the Martians just happen to look exactly like humans except for their blonde wigs and funny hats (and their cute silver caped costumes). By making use of their Transformation Room they can change themselves into exact replicas of humans, although for some reason this changes their silver spacesuits into costumes that make them look like extras from an Italian sword-and-sandal epic. And even more fortunately their crew just happens to include four beautiful female Martians. They will use their feminine wiles to capture earth people for transportation back to Mars.
Santo meanwhile has a plan of his own. The Martians seem to be strangely addicted to wrestling, so he arranges a wrestling match knowing that the Martians will not be able to resist the challenge of having one of their number fight Santo. This will allow him to get possession of the Martian’s teleportation belt. The fact that the Martians have to take regular pills to avoid asphyxiation by earth’s atmosphere should help. Santo must also find a way to locate the invaders’ spacecraft before it can return to Mars with its human cargo of prisoners. For this purpose the professor has provided him with a tracking device that can detect Martian brain waves.
This movie has everything you could possibly ask for. It has masked wrestlers, a delightfully silly but cute Martian spaceship, aliens in shiny silver spacesuits, beautiful seductive female aliens, lots of wrestling scenes, incredibly lame special effects, an insane plot and outrageous acting. Its camp quotient is right off the scale. It’s wonderfully silly and it’s non-stop fun.