The poster for this film bears the title El Vampiro y el Sexo, but on IMDb, the film is listed as Santo and Dracula's Treasure. After some research, I found out that two versions of the film were produced, one for domestic (Mexican) distribution and one for European distribution. The European censors didn’t have a problem with giant silicone-stuffed breasts, but Mexico was still firmly under Catholicism’s thumb. It doesn’t really seem fair. Europeans sailed to the New World, where they murdered giant piles of indigenous people and forced the survivors to convert to Catholicism. Now, 400 years later, Europe has outgrown the childish edicts of Christianity, but left poor Mexico mired in puritanical bullshit.
I suppose there is some kind of strange metaphor or resonance in that vampires are blood-sucking Europeans that drain the life out of the countries they invade, and Mexico, having fallen victim to such an invasion, sends an awful film about vampires back to Europe in retaliation.
Most Mexican wrestling movies are family-friendly and steer clear of sex, blood, and foul language. They are cheap affairs that use about 20 minutes of plot and stretch it out using footage of wrestling bouts and car chases. Actually, it’s not really car chases as much as car driving. You need stunt drivers for chases, and they are expensive. Luchador films are goofy but moderately entertaining. I’ve seen half a dozen and was happy to stop there, but when I saw that there was a sexploitation Santo movie, I decided I needed to take a peek.
Director René Cardona has quite an extensive and thoroughly trashy filmography. He’s responsible for some minor classics such as Santa Claus (1959), Wrestling Women vs. the Aztec Mummy (1964), The Batwoman (1968), and Night of the Bloody Apes (1969). To my surprise, I’ve seen them all and actually enjoyed most of them. He directed Santo and Dracula's Treasure in 1969. Apparently, there are several Santo movies with added nudity for the European market, but they are hard to find, due to the Mexican Church’s efforts to suppress them.
Nudity aside, Santo and Dracula's Treasure is better than your average Santo movie. The cinematography is a little more varied and the plot is tighter. The premise is a strange mash-up of genres. Being the renaissance man that he is, Santo manages, between wrestling matches, to make a time machine. The production design on the machine is just wonderful. It comes complete with a tunnel and a spinning red spiral. See the image below. The machine disintegrates the would-be time traveler and inserts them into one of their “past lives". Meaning one of the many reincarnations your soul has traveled into the past.
Santo sends a woman back in time where she is “reincarnated”, or "unincarnated”, or maybe “re-reincarnated?” into one of Dracula’s victims. Not only that, but Santo and his buddies are able to watch the whole thing on TV for some reason.
In order for Cardona to make the nude scenes removable for the censors, the scenes had to be gratuitous. If there was a reason to see every single female character’s breasts, you couldn’t cut those scenes out and still have an intelligible narrative. Every woman is made to bare her breasts for the camera, even supporting characters like the maid. In addition, half of the women have undergone surgery to make them resemble the back end of a 1950s Cadillac.
Eventually, Santo is made to join them and bare his own prodigious man-breasts, as he steps into the wrestling ring. Often, the wrestling in luchador movies is as gratuitous as the nudity. It has no connection to the plot, but in Santo and Dracula's Treasure, they managed to work the fight into the story. I wouldn’t say it was a seamless integration but they made an effort. Here’s how they did it, try to follow along. Santo wants to find Dracula’s hidden treasure to prove that his reincarnation/time machine works, but there’s a bad guy who wants to steal the treasure. Santo has Dracula’s medallion that contains instructions for how to find Dracula’s treasure, but the medallion is worthless without Dracula’s decoder ring, which will decode the message on the medallion. The bad guy has his son, Atlas, fight Santo in a public wrestling match for control of the two objects and the rights to the treasure.
The wrestling match is long and pointless, just as they always are, and Santo wins just as he always does. At least Mexican wrestling is a little more acrobatic than the American version, but even so, it’s still pretty dreary. I suppose it’s not quite as dreary as the protracted scenes of Santo and his buddies searching through a smoke-filled cardboard graveyard at night. There’s plenty of that in this film.
Something needs to be said about Dracula’s makeup. I’m not sure if the makeup artist was having a bad day or lost their glasses, but check out poor Dracula’s eyeliner.
At least in some scenes, it simply disappears.
Costumes and make-up are always an important part of Luchador cinema. I love how the hero and the villain are always masked. Whether in a fancy restaurant or an intimate setting at home, the mask is always tightly affixed to their heads. It’s got to be hot in there, and where the hell are his ears? In the second photo, you can see the villain who calls himself “Black Hooded Man". I suppose you can’t argue with his choice of moniker.
More stuff happens, but it’s barely worth recounting. More boobs, more biting, no blood, but there are the obligatory bats. It wouldn’t be a Mexican horror movie without terribly made toy bats wiggling on a string.
El Vampiro y el Sexo, a title that still doesn’t make sense to me, is one of the more entertaining of the Santo series. That isn’t much of a compliment, but there are worse ways to spend an afternoon. For instance, struggling to become a young actress and having to bare your surgically mutilated breasts to get a small, non-speaking part in a piece of shit film. Sometimes I can handle sexploitation as an inevitable, and even perhaps necessary stage in cinema history, but other times, the reality of it just sucks.
There is an interesting exchange of exploitations going on in this movie: Europe against Mexico, vampires against Europe, European vampires against Mexico, Mexican movies against European movies, and all of them united against women, in general. It’s an awful lot to try and make sense of, but it adds some layers of significance to a movie that was really just intended to sell some popcorn.
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