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El Santo vs. The Diabolical Brain.
El Santo vs. The Vampire Women.
El Santo and The Blue Demon vs. Dr. Frankenstein.
El Santo vs. The Blue Demon IN ATLANTIS.
Who the hell is this guy? Why the frick is this Santo dude picking a fight with every mythological beast, Ancient Conspiracy, and cult icon within arm's reach? Is he recognized as a saint by the Vatican? And is The Blue Demon friend ... OR FOE?!?!?
The term "Larger Than Life" gets thrown around a lot these days, but in the case of Lucha Libre legend El Santo, it is entirely appropriate. At 5'9" he was of only average height, but Santo's reputation puts him on par with pulp legends many times his size, like King Kong or Mothra. In fact, those beasts, and many more, were probably next on the wrestler's hit list before his passing in 1984.
Born Rodolfo Guzman Huerta, he started out normal, or whatever passed for normal in the hard-knock world of Mexican professional wrestling in the 1940s. After starting out as a heel, he gained popularity, became a face (tecnico in Spanish), and by the 50s was basically the biggest name in Lucha Libre. It is at about this point that El Santo evolves from mere Wrestling Legend to a cult figure and folk hero.
Keen to cash in on wrestling's popularity, a comic book was published starring Mr. El Santo. As expected for a comic book, it depicted Santo as a Batman-esque crime fighter, and set him up against a copyright-unfriendly Rogues Gallery of monsters and ne'er-do-wells plucked from around the world. What made Santo different from conventional superheroes is that he was actually real, and literally did many of the exact things shown in the comics, i.e. wrestling, wearing gaudy costumes, and battling "evil" wrestlers on a regular basis.
Stand back and think about this for a second. How insanely awesome would it be if Superman, Batman, and Wolverine freed themselves from the page, and started flying around/brooding around/slicing around your neighborhood? Now imagine you're a six year old kid in Mexico City in 1954, and your favorite thing in the world is El Santo Comics. It doesn't take long to discover that Santo is a real person. But unlike when you find out that your daddy is Santa Claus, it turns out that Santo is actually buff, actually fights people, and has both an actual superhero costume and a semi-secret identity? All that crazy stuff El Santo does in the comics, like choking out the Loch Ness Monster and hiding out in a secret moonbase, suddenly becomes an order of magnitude more believable. Even the brighter kids can't outright dismiss the more mundane stories, like Santo foiling bank robberies or inventing gadgets, perhaps even fighting sharks. For the youngsters of the 50s and 60s, El Santo became a symbol of justice and a hero of the common man, regardless of his technical lack of superpowers.
And then there were the movies. Yes, the dozens of El Santo films, where not even the ultimate enemy of rock-bottom production values could contain the sky-high ambitions of Mexico's most famous crimefighter. Over the course of a film career that lasted over two decades, Santo battled everyone from Martians to an entire extended family of Frankenstein monsters. To modern eyes, these quality of these flicks fall squarely into So Bad It's Good territory, but upon release, the films catapulted Santo to even greater fame and renown. They also made El Santo an international superstar, though more in Latin America and Europe than in North America, where only four of his films were released in English dubs.
The movies also featured Santo's Worthy Opponent Blue Demon, who in true wrestling fashion would switch from ally to enemy and back on a fairly regular basis. Take a gander at The Other Wiki for the full filmography, as well as the Rotten Library's great "Santo" article.
Legends are invincible, but despite rumors to the contrary, Santo was indeed human. After nearly 50 years in the ring, El Santo's age finally caught up to him. Following a farewell tour against a who's who of Lucha Libre, the masked man retired in 1982 at the ripe old age of 64. In January 1984 on a nationally televised talk show, Santo unmasked for the first and only time in public, shocking his legions of adoring fans. It is widely hypothesized that the luchador knew his time on Earth was about to run out, because a little more than a week after the television incident, Heaven got its Saint back. El Santo was buried wearing his iconic silver mask. Nowadays, his son competes in a similar mask, going by the name "El Hijo de Santo"--The Son of (the) Saint, as one of his grandsons, although not as "El Nieto del Santo" due to legal issues (he's not a son of "El Hijo Del Santo", but rather of El Santo's daughter).
Throughout his entire career, Santo was also a hero to the people, giving back to the community through charity and giving public support to many causes in favor of Mexico's poor. This made his wrestling name take on a more literal meaning to many of his fans, and some people in Mexico actually hold the belief that Santo is the saint that the Vatican will never canonize, but a saint just the same.
These days, few people actually believe that El Santo applied a scorpion leg lock to Count Dracula, but the legend of the Wrestling Saint cannot be destroyed. From Guadalajara to Gunma Prefecture, his story lives on.
Selected El Santo Filmography:
- Santo Contra El Cerebro Del Mal (Santo Vs. The Evil Brain, 1958)
- Santo Contra Hombres Infernales (Santo vs. The Infernal Men, 1958)
- Invasion Of The Zombies (English Title) aka Santo contra los zombies (Santo vs. The Zombies, 1961)
- Samson vs. the Vampire Women (English Title) aka Santo contra las mujeres vampiro (Santo vs. The Vampire Women, 1962)
- Samson In The Wax Museum (English Title) aka Santo en el museo de cera (Santo In The Wax Museum, 1963)
- Santo En Atacan Las Brujas (Santo in The Witches Attack, 1964)
- Santo Contra La Invasion De Los Marcianos (Santo vs. The Martian Invasion, 1966)
- Santo En Operacion 67 (Santo in Operation 67, 1966) (Santo's first color film)
- Santo En El Tesoro De Dracula (Santo in Dracula's Treasure, 1968) aka El Vampiro y el Sexo (The Vampire and the Sex, the "adult" version of the film, unreleased until 2011).
- Santo Contra Blue Demon En La Atlántida (Santo vs. Blue Demon in Atlantis, 1969)
- Santo Y Blue Demon Contra Los Monstruos (Santo and Blue Demon vs. the Monsters, 1969)
- Santo En Las Momias De Guanajuato (Santo in The Mummies of Guanajuato, 1970) (co-starring Mil Mascaras and Blue Demon)
- Santo vs. La Hija De Frankestein (Santo vs. Frankenstein's Daughter, 1971)
- Santo Y Blue Demon Contra Dracula Y El Hombre Lobo (Santo and Blue Demon Vs. Dracula and the Wolf Man, 1972)
- Santo Y Blue Demon Contra El Doctor Frankenstein (Santo and Blue Demon Vs Dr. Frankenstein, 1973)
- The Masked Man Strikes Again (English Title) aka Santo contra el doctor Muerte (Santo Vs Dr. Death, 1973)
- 3 Dev Adam (Three Big Men, 1973): Turkish film featuring extremely unauthorized and out-of-character portrayals of El Santo, Captain America, and Spider-Man.
- Santo En La Furia De Los Karatekas (Santo in Fury of the Karate Experts, 1982)