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SANTO IN THE WAX MUSEUM



The year is 1963.In Great Britain four young men from Liverpool are about to embark on a journey that will change the face of music.In Japan a radioactive mutated dinosaur becomes a star on the silver screen. In the United States,the country suffers from high profile assasination and is about to plunge into a devastating and pointless war.In Mexico, a man wearing a silver mask is the unquestionable hero of the masses.In 1963 Santo was at the peak of his popularity,and the people of Mexico put him on a pedestal.Mexicans didn't care about what was going on up in the States.They were living an innocent time and Santo was representative of the country's mindset.[although it wouldn't last.]


In 1963 Santo appeared in one of his best films of the period[of his career to be honest],it is one of the better films of the genre and one of the few Santo films that was seen in the U.S,although Santo was renamed Samson to make him more palatable to gringo audiences.It has now seen release in DVD in both the U.S. and Mexico. .The film aired frequently on late night tv and is perhaps one of the best liked of the mexican sci-fi films that have made it to this country[by those who deem the Mexican films worth watching,at least].


The film opens as a series of kidnappings are connected to a popular wax museum in Mexico City.One of the latest visitors is Susana,a photographer who was doing a photoshoot on the museum run by european Dr Karol.These scenes feature a great wax figure of Frankenstein.That night Karol is playing cards with his friend Dr. Galvan when a videoscreen lights on revealing Santo,who is reporting on a case he was working on for Dr. Galvan.Galvan explains to Karol about the masked man. Susana is taking pictures when she notices something odd about a wax figure of a neanderthal type creature.Karol appears and starts giving a sermon on the true ugliness of man,which spooks Susana into leaving abruptly. As she walks home later that night she is kidnapped.Her camera is recovered by a pair of elderly ladies who take it to her house.There her sister Gloria and soon to be brother in law and reporter Ricardo become alarmed and head to police headquarters.The police realize that all the disappeared people were last seen at Karol's museum,which leads them to interrogate the doctor at his office.Karol claims he is innocent and is as much a victim since it is an obvious attempt by an unseen enemy to discredit him.


Karol pays Dr. Galvan a visit and explains his dilemma.Galvan promises to have Santo help him,but Santo is at the arena so he tapes a message for him.Santo visits Karol later that night and listens to his problems,just then a knife aimed at Karol misses him by a few inches. Santo chases the assailant into the garden and a battle ensues,but the wouldbe assasin manages to flee.Santo decides to sneak into Gloria's house in search of her camera but is interrupted by Ricardo and Gloria. They claim the police suspect Karol and they agree since they believe the man is an imposter,the real Karol was in a concentration camp during WWII and later in London was scarred due to a lab accident but Santo says it was Karol who asked him to intervene.Santo asks for the camera and pictures and asks they not reveal that he is on the case to anyone as it's easier for him to work that way.


Later on Dr. Karol and Dr. Galvan discuss the attack.When Galvan asks if he has made any enemies in his life Karol admits that when he was in the concentration camp to avoid any more torture he ratted out a group of people conspiring against the nazis.He believes they had tried to kill him in London by sabotaging an experiment.His face was protected but his hands[which are always gloved]and chest were scarred for life.He also gives Santo a letter sent by his enemy threatening to burn the museum.A while later Santo discovers the letter was written on Galvan's machine.He calls him but a taped message claims Galvan is at a lecture with Karol.Santo arrives at the museum[where Karol also resides]and inquires about his friend.Karol claims he hasn't arrived and invites Santo to wait in his home,but Santo has to go wrestle['cuz he doesn't get paid for fighting crime!]in the arena.


Karol enters a secret lab in his museum.There is his "assailant" [Fernando Oses]and another identically dressed goon[Frankenstein]as well as Dr. Galvan,who is tied up.Karol reveals he is the culprit[as it could have been anyone else]and plans to frame Galvan for all the kidnappings.By asking Santo to intervene he avoids any suspicion and the letters were written on Galvan's machine.By getting rid of Galvan it would appear he fled to avoid capture.Oses stabs Galvan and drops him into vat of hot wax.Karol starts to prepare Susana with a special serum administered in small doses which will put her in a catatonic sleep,enabling Karol to make her into a panther woman,his newest living exhibit for the museum.He tells her he hates beauty and uses his exhibits to reveal the true monstruosity of humanity.Karol strolls the exhibit made to look as a dungeon and it's revealed that four of his monster exhibits are also alive and none too happy.


Santo suspects someone is trying to frame Galvan so he calls the police and ask they investigate the museum further.The police comply but fail to turn up anything but they have a court order demanding the doctor close the museum temporarily.Ricardo phones Santo and states he has a photo of Karol which reveals the man hasn't aged since the war. Karol spies on the conversation through Galvan's video monitor.Santo glimpses the signal shutting off,but he has to rush to the arena for a match[his electrodoohickeys aren't cheap,after all].


Karol becomes weary of Santo's involvement and has his two goons "terminate" the association.That night Santo develops Susana's last pictures and discovers one of the wa figures seems to have moved his arm in a different position than in another picture Susana took at an earlier time.Just then the two goons break in and open fire on Santo. The masked man dodges the bullets and a battle ensues where most of Santo's doohickeys bite the dust.The fight leads outside where Baldie manages to fling a knife at Santo's back.Upon hearing the news Karol decides to get rid of the reporter as well.He calss Ricardo,and with the his voice real low,claims to be Santo and ask that Ricardo meet him in Galvan's studio.Ricardo is suspicious so he calls Gloria saying that if she doesn't here from him by midnight to call the cops.With gun in tow he goes to meet with " Santo".


Karol again uses Galvan's monitor to spy in to Santo's house,where two cops and a doctor stand over a table with Santo's body draped over it.The doctor declares Santo dead.Karol switches the monitor off but finds himself confronted by Ricardo,pointing his gun at him.Karol's bald goon knocks him out however.Back in Santo's pad the signal shuts off and Santo climbs off the table realizing his ruse has worked.He leaves for Karol's museum.By now Karol has Ricardo chained to the wall in his lab with not only Susana strapped to a table but Gloria as well [he sent Oses to kidnap her ealier on]so they can witness his great triumph,turning Susana into a panther woman.Karol starts to rant and rave about the ugliness of humanity and how he will reveal them as the monsters they truly are and will create a race of wax monsters to take over the world.He sure is a gogetter,ain't he?Luckily Santo has found a window that leads to the lab and comes crashing in,landing on Baldie.A battle ensues and Santo gets even for what happened to his dohickeys by trashing the doc's lab.Santo tosses Oses into the hot wax and punches Baldie into an electrical panel,so Karol wakes his monster squad to wipe out Santo.As Karol whips his monsters Santo grabs a whip and also whips the monster.Even masked men suffer whip envy.The monsters aren't too happy with this and turn on their master.Santo rushes back to the lab and tries to shut the door but the monsters make it in and Santo fights them there.Santo manages to gather them under the vat and drops the hot wax all over them.By now the cops have arrived,late as usual.Santo tells there is no need for thanks and drives away in his bentley,having saved the day yet again.


SANTO IN THE WAX MUSEUM continued the mythos of Santo fighting evil as an "unofficial" lawman,unhampered by the red tape that ties up the police in cases like these.The Santo character is also treated in a more respectful tone.He is shown actually examining clues,rather than tossing them off to the police or a good scientist to let them do the thinking.Ironically enough although he has sophisticated dohickeys in his studio that flash and beep,he uses an ordinary magnifying glass to do his sleuthing.Great shades of Sherlock Holmes!Mayhaps the director thought if Santo was shown operating such elaborate modern techno gizmos he would lose touch with the commonfolk,the target audience of these films.Santo as an actor has also grown.His voice was dubbed in both versions but as far as screen presence,timing,camera savy,etc.,Santo was rapidly picking up experience. His facial expressions[the ones that show through his mask]are less goofy as in SANTO VS LA INVASION DE LOS ZOMBIES and his body posture seems more relaxed.The fights are better staged[some of the best in his career]and Santo doesn't tumble or trip.This film could be considered the birth of Santo as an actor and his character would begin to flesh out more and was given more depth,until emerging as the MAIN character without having other actors carrying scenes that didn't have to involve fighting monsters.


Director Alfonso Corona Blake was no stranger to Santo films as he directed SANTO VS LA INVASION DE LOS ZOMBIES and SANTO VS LAS MUJERES VAMPIRAS.This time he gets it right.The story is a simple one but he handles it rather well.The fights are very well executed and exciting,as if a comic book had actually come to life.His nighttime shooting is excellent as opposed to the crappy day for night scenes of later films.The movie obtains what I like to call "an accidental film noir feel" thanks to the night shooting.Corona Blake uses the right amount of lighting as to highlight the action without ruining the atmosphere. Claudio Brooke plays the mad scientist Dr Karol in the textbook fashion but actually does a better job than other actors portraying mads in luchahero films.For the most part he plays it serious and straightforward,only at the end when he begins to rant and rave does his acting go a bit over the top,but never so much as too make it hoakey.Brooke was a veteran luchahero mad scientist having portrayed Dr Walker in the Neutron t.v. series two years prior. Ruben Rojo plays Ricardo straightforward and never condescends to the character.He also appeared in the Neutron show but he mainly worked in nongenre films such as coproductions with other countries like ESCLAVAS DE CARTAGO[SLAVES OF CARTAGO]and ESCLAVA DEL PARAISO[SLAVE OF PARADISE] with future Kaliman Jeff Cooper and soon to be horror star Paul Naschy. Here he does an earnest job but his character really isn't the fous of the film.Norma Mora plays Gloria and Roxana Bellini plays Susana,but as the earlier Santo films,they are just there to be rescued.They are just eye candy and really aren't required to flex their acting muscles.Mora is particularly annoying in the english version,especially towards the end when she screams her head off.Fernando Oses and Nathaneal "Frankenstein" Leon play the two henchmen.They aren't even given lines,but they weren't hired for their thespian abilities,but to stage fights with our hero Santo.They did a damned good job..Thankfully the film lacks the lackluster musical numbers that plagued other Santo films and concentrates on the story at hand,except for the three Santo matches which are pretty entertaining and nicely filmed. SANTO IN THE WAX MUSEUM is a fine example of the genre and a great superhero film as well.It's amazing that Mexican filmmakers can make a better BATMAN film than Americans.Four stars.**** The english version was put on dvd in 2001 and reportedly can be found at K-MART [in certain cities] for less than five bucks,if you have the guts to go in.