Santo in the Wax Museum (1963)

Rating:

aka Samson In the Wax Museum (Santo En El Museo De Cera)

Mexico. 1963.

Crew

Director – Alfonso Corona Blake, Screenplay – Fernando Galeana & Julio Porter, Producer – Alberto Lopez, Photography (b&w) – Jose Ortiz Ramos, Music Director – Raul Lavista. Production Company – Filmadora Panamerica

Cast

Santo (Himself/Engl – Samson), Claudio Brook (Dr Karol/Engl – Dr Karl Walter Karol), Roxana Bellini (Susana Mendoza/Engl – Susan Madison), Ruben Rojo (Ricardo Carbajal/Engl – Charles Matthews), Norma Mora (Gloria Mendoza/Engl – Gloria Madison), Jose Luis Jimenez (Professor Armando Galvan), Victor Velazquez (Inspector Fernandez), Jorge Mondragon (Police Chief)


Plot

Journalist Susana Mendoza goes to write an article about the wax museum of Dr Karol. However, after walking back home at night, she fails to return. She is the third girl to go missing in the vicinity of the wax museum. Dr Karol decides that the only solution is to bring in the masked wrestling hero Santo to investigate. As Santo uncovers, the one behind the disappearances is Dr Karol himself. A badly disfigured survivor of the Dachau concentration camp who hides his face behind a mask, Karol is abducting people and then mutilating and covering them in wax to become the exhibits in his display of monsters.


Mexico has a tradition of lucha libre wrestling where the wrestlers appear in the ring with their faces hidden behind masks. The most famous of these was El Santo (The Saint in English) or more commonly just Santo – or to give him his birth name Rodolfo Guzman Huerta (1917-82). After great success in the ring beginning in the 1930s, Santo developed a cinematic career in the late 1950s and quickly became a screen superhero. He appeared in 52 films between 1958 and 1982 (see below for a listing of these), while both his son and grandson went on to make their own films. Throughout his entire career, Santo’s real face was never seen by the public.

In his films, Santo was constantly being pitted up against a variety of menaces – everything from Count Dracula and various vampire women, Frankenstein and his monster, mummies, werewolves, witches, zombies, alien invaders, mad scientists and making visits to Atlantis and the Bermuda Triangle. In most of these cases, the filmmakers simply drew on the monsters of the Universal films of the 1930s and 40s. In the case of Santo in the Wax Museum, they have simply rehashed Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933) and its remake House of Wax (1953) in which respectively Lionel Atwill and Vincent Price played mad waxwork curators who hid disfigured visages beneath wax masks and were killing people and covering their bodies in wax to become exhibits.

Santo in the Wax Museum is simply Mystery of the Wax Museum rehashed with the addition of Santo and various wrestling scenes. The film makes a couple of interesting changes – firstly, the mad waxworks curator doesn’t have his face disfigured in a fire that burned down his museum but is a survivor of the Dachau concentration camp. Also, while his previous counterparts stayed with historical depictions, his line up of wax creations is based on the Famous Monsters, more in keeping with the horror show aspect that the wax museum plays to. The one thing that is noticeably missing from this film is the classic unmasking scene, which was the big climactic shock of the 1933 film. It is implied that Dr Karol keeps his face hidden behind a mask that has not aged in twenty years – it must be a remarkably lifelike mask that in that it still allows him to display a full range of facial expressions – but there is never a scene where he is ever unmasked to reveal his disfigured face beneath as you keep expecting.

The first half of the film is dull and uninteresting. Alfonso Corona Blake’s camera set-ups are crude. Even the story is not terribly interesting – Santo is simply called in to investigate after a girl goes missing. The first half of the film concerns Suzan’s disappearance, Karol’s background, a mystery assassin and thugs lurking about, as well as a couple of extended interludes where Santo must go back and fight wrestling matches. All of these scenes seem to circle around things happening but without any clearly identifiable threat. When this does emerge, one of the most absurd plot contrivations is that Santo’s presence is requested by Dr Karol even though Karol is the one who is responsible for the abduction. One must also point out the employment of what must be the most useless device in any superhero’s arsenal – a television screen that can pinpoint what Santo is doing at any particular moment without his awareness, something that would surely prove embarrassing if say he were asleep, going to the toilet or taking off his mask.

While the first half of the film is dreary, the second picks up and becomes an enjoyable B movie. This begins with the revelation of Dr Karol as the villain. Rather entertainingly, Karol is outfitted with a full mad scientist’s laboratory where he holds Roxana Bellini tied up to a lab table intending to turn her into his Panther Girl exhibit. Santo arrives and takes on the henchmen in combat, punching one into an electrical panel to be electrocuted, dumping another inside a vat of boiling wax. This is followed by Dr Karol cracking a whip to force the other deformities to attack Santo, before they turn on him. Santo finally deals with the deformities by knocking them all out in a pile and then overturning the vat of boiling wax onto them.

The other Santo films (all being genre films unless stated) are:- The Evil Brain/Santo vs the Evil Brain (1958), The Infernal Men (1958), Santo vs the Zombies/Invasion of the Zombies (1961), Santo vs the King of Crime (non-genre, 1961), Santo in the Hotel of Death (1961), Santo vs the Diabolical Brain (1962), Santo vs the Vampire Women/Samson vs. the Vampire Women (1962), Santo vs the Strangler (1963), Santo vs the Ghost of the Strangler (1963), a cameo appearance in Blue Demon vs Satanic Power (1964), Santo in the Attack of the Witches/The Witches Attack (1964), The Diabolical Axe (1964), Santo in Grave Robbers (1965), Baron Brakola (1965), Santo and the Villains of the Ring (non-genre, 1966), Operation 67 (1966), Santo in the Treasure of Moctezuma (1967), Santo vs the Martians (1967), Santo and the Treasure of Dracula (1968), Santo vs Capulia (1968), Santo vs Blue Demon in Atlantis (1969), Santo and Blue Demon vs the Monsters (1969), Santo and Blue Demon in the World of the Dead (1969), Santo vs the Headhunters (1969), Santo Faces Death/Santo vs the Mafia Killers (non-genre, 1969), Santo vs the Terror Riders (1970), Santo and the Vengeance of the Vampire Women (1970), Santo vs the Mafia of Vice (1970), Santo in the Vengeance of the Mummy (1970), The Mummies of Guanjuato (1970), The Royal Eagle (1971), Santo in “Killers from Other Worlds” (1971), Santo in the Mystery of the Black Pearl (1971), Santo vs Frankenstein’s Daughter (1971), Suicide Mission (non-genre, 1971), Santo and Blue Demon vs the Wolfman (1972), Santo vs the Kidnappers (1972), Santo vs Black Magic (1972), The Beasts of Terror (1972), Santo vs the She-Wolves (1972), Anonymous Death Threat (non-genre, 1972), Santo and Blue Demon vs Dr Frankenstein (1973), Santo vs Dr Death/Santo Strikes Again (1973), Santo in the Mystery of the Black Pearl (1974), Santo in the Revenge of the Crying Woman (1974), Santo in Black Gold (1975), The Bermuda Mystery (1977), Santo at the Border of Terror (1979), Santo vs the TV Killer (1981), a cameo appearance in Chanoc and Son of Santo vs the Vampire Killers (1981), The Fist of Death (1982) and Fury of the Karate Killers (1982). Son of Santo has also appeared in five films. (An excellent article detailing each of the films can be found here at (Re)search My Trash).



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