Santo In The Wax Museum/Review
From The Grindhouse Cinema Database
Lucha Libre fans will definitely want a ringside seat for this grand slam event. In the blue corner: Mexico’s most beloved champion of justice, the man in the silver mask, El Santo. In the red corner: a motley assortment of diabolical drooling beast-men hungry for blood. Bring it on.
A newspaper photographer named Susannah Mendoza is abducted and the police suspect Dr. Karol the proprietor of a wax museum where the girl was last seen on an assignment. Dr. Karol’s Museo De Cera is populated by important figures from history such as Gandhi, Joseph Stalin and Gary Cooper (!?) and is also home to a dungeon filled with the famous monsters of film land; Mr Hyde, Quasimodo, Frankenstein’s creation and an assortment of fuck-faced beast-men.
In an effort to clear himself of suspicion Dr. Karol begs the help of his chess partner Professor Galvan who is friends with legendary crime-fighter El Santo. Galvan has a hot-line to the wrestling superstar by way of some hi-tech gadgetry and an enormous TV mounted on the wall of his office and El Santo is soon enlisted to help prove Karol’s innocence only pausing in his investigations to fulfil professional commitments in the ring.
The plot of the film is put on pause while Santo grapples with a wrestler named El Cavernario in a packed arena. Despite some smooth moves, one of which includes biting El Santo’s foot, El Cavernario is no match for the man in the silver mask who is carried around the ring on the shoulders of his fans upon triumphing over his opponent. We witness 3 such matches during the course of the film and, as is the case for many lucha libre movies, these account for almost 1 third of it’s running time.
Dr. Karol is attacked by a knife-throwing wannabe assassin and receives an anonymous letter containing threats that the museum may be burned down. Santo analyses the note in his Bat Cave-esque crime-fighting lab and deduces that it has been written on Professor Galvan’s personalised stationery.
All is not what it seems however. The brother of the missing Miss Mendoza has dug up some dirt on Dr. Karol who it appears was once a famous European surgeon who had been held prisoner in a German concentration camp before immigrating to the USA where he was horribly scarred by acid in a laboratory explosion. Yep, sounds like a perfect comic book super-villain origin story to me.
Having successfully thrown our masked avenger off the scent the devious Doc is free to reveal the true nature of his demented schemes and let rip with a full-throated mad scientist laugh. He wheels out the captive Susannah and presents her with several hilarious drawings he has made of a large cat sporting a woman’s head. It seems that not all of the figures in his museum are made of wax; some are the results of his insane surgical wizardry and Susannah is about to become the latest addition to his maniacal menagerie – the Panther Woman!
Driven insane by the cruelty and torture he endured at the hands of the Nazis Dr. Karol rants and raves about wanting to “create a world of physically deformed beings” as his animal men wake from their drug-induced paralysis just in time for a third round tag match humdinger with our cape wearing man of action.
‘Santo In The Wax Museum’ blends elements of the horror, sci-fi and crime thriller genres with the peculiarly Mexican phenomenon of the masked wrestling super-hero and is a great showcase for the talents of their most popular star El Santo (The Saint).
The plot borrows heavily from the 1933 U.S. horror film ‘Mystery Of The Wax Museum’ (famously re-made in 1953 as ‘House Of Wax’ starring Vincent Price) complimented by a healthy splash of H.G.Well’s Dr. Moreau in the form of it’s bestial man-monsters. None of this detracts however from what is a wonderfully fast-paced pulp action film which successfully maintains an air of mystery in it’s first half courtesy of several well-staged misdirections concerning the identity of the fiend at large before heading into full-throttle mad science mayhem towards the end.
Incidentally Blaxploitation icon Pam Grier would later suffer the fate intended here for Susannah when she essayed the role of Panther Woman in the Fillipino Dr. Moreau rip-off The Twilight People.
The inserted wrestling match footage is either an action-packed treat or an annoying distraction from the story depending on your taste for lucha libre (Mexican cinema audiences would certainly have thought the former) although frankly if you don’t dig the sight of rotund gentlemen in tights cuddling each other and performing pratfalls then you are unlikely to stay awake through many more of El Santo’s 50 film appearances.
Narcan is the GCDb's esteemed UK contributor. As a youth his earliest exploitation film experience was a My Bloody Valentine/The Funhouse midnight double bill. Grindhouse icons that he holds in highest regards are Christina Lindberg and Frank Henelotter. Two of his favorite exploitation genres include Nunsploitation and Lucha Libre.