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Masked Mexican wrestlers fight the living dead! Nah! Really? But, as
odd and absurd as it seems, premises like this were quite the norm
during Mexico's heyday of "luchador" (wrestler) films led by the likes
of El Santo and Blue Demon. Whether solo or as a team, these in-cognito
warriors would fight crime, monsters, aliens, and even the supernatural
in their never-ending battle to protect the common men and the helpless
victims of the world. As if by righteous code or obligation, these men
of steel are there to save the day.
El Castillo de las Momias de Guanajuato (The Castle of the Guanajuato Mummies) is somewhat of a lesser known Mexican wrestler horror film. Three wrestlers, Superzan, Blue Angel, and Tinieblas, take a jaunt to Guanajuato to exhibit their talents in the ring. Meanwhile, a Satanic mad scientist and his band of evil dwarfs hatch a scheme to raise a horde of living dead for the purposes of kidnapping all the townspeople. The evil doctor is paralyzed from the waist down and finds that he needs to consume the life forces of many people in order to recuperate and, eventually, even become immortal. When the undead strike the town and begin their raid, the three masked heroes get word and jump into action. However, they soon find that fighting an army of re-animated corpses isn't as easy as it seems. Especially when they find the doctor's plan is already at work and he is increasing in strength and power.
This film works on a lot of levels. First off, the zombies are unique in comparison to others like Romero's or Fulci's. Being that it is Guanajuato, world famous for its soil conditions which are perfect for preserving bodies, the mummy-like quality makes for an extra ghastly look. Another great feature are the scenes of torture. Its scream-o-rama-on all sorts of weird medieval contraptions used to drain people of life. Plus, all the action isn't carried out without at least a smidgen of humor. There are some memorable moments of tongue-in-cheek laughter.
So, if you enjoy Mexican masked wrestler movies, this one is not to be missed. If you want an unconventional take on classic horror formulae, this one is not to be missed. If you just want a great horror film that surely won't disappoint, this one is not to be missed.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A sequel of sorts to the similarly-themed THE MUMMIES OF GUANAJUATO of
the previous year, this is one of three films that exploited the
Mexican locale of Guanajuato, a famous place where the unusual soil
conditions allow corpses to be almost perfectly preserved. Of course,
these mummified corpses have little to do with the shuffling zombies
seen in this particular movie, so it's a rather tenuous connection, but
hey, who cares when a film is this much fun? Director Tito Novaro, who
also stars in the movie, was an old hand at this sort of thing and he
handles the proceedings with aplomb. The only real detraction is the
poverty-row budget, something Ed Wood would probably have dismissed as
being too low, but that doesn't get in the way of the inherent fun of
this particular genre. Campiness and goofiness are the order of the
day, and those who enjoyed the original '60s BATMAN television series
will have a ball.
The good thing about these comic-book style adventures is that the script doesn't really matter. I watched this in Spanish and had no problem following the plot, which was always reused in these films anyway: the wrestlers are the good guys, helping women stranded by the roadside and assisting detectives with criminal cases; there's always a mad scientist who uses his henchman in nefarious ways, this time to raise the living dead who then kidnap and torture a load of innocent people; then the two groups meet and all hell is let loose come the climax.
The first film in the Mummies... series starred Mil Mascaras, Blue Demon and Santo, probably the three most famous Mexican wrestlers out there. None of them return for this sequel, so instead we get three lesser heroes who nevertheless put their all into it: first up is Superzan, the film's main focus, who whups ass throughout; next up is Blue Angel (get it?), who I actually thought was Blue Demon until I heard his name pronounced, and the last is Tinieblas, who seems a bit wimpy and is always getting beaten up.
The camera-work is crazy, spinning all over the place and the paper-thin plot is liberally padded out with 'extra' scenes. One of these is the obligatory nightclub act, in which a bewigged dancer whose bust defies the law of gravity dances for a full minute while our heroes sit back in their smoking jackets and eagerly watch. The other padded scenes are the wrestling bouts, with ten minutes or so of ringside moves plonked into the story here and there. I really got a kick out of these (and so did Blue Angel, who takes a bad beating in one of them), and watching the energetic performers do all manner of acrobatic manoeuvres and painful-looking falls is great fun. More fun is to be had from the evil trio of dwarf henchmen in this film, who kill chickens and toss them around a graveyard in a hilarious highlight. That's not forgetting the zombies, who actually look pretty cool, and I nearly died of laughing when I spotted one of them driving his undead cronies around in a car! (he does nearly crash though, but apparently he knew how to use the breaks). I was a little disappointed when our wrestling heroes chose to tie up the zombies rather than pull their limbs or heads off, but the fight scenes are good fun. The mad scientist spends much of the film lying on the operating table, awaiting a blood transfusion, so he isn't much of a menace.
Anyhow, THE CASTLE OF THE MUMMIES OF GUANAJUATO is a cracking little film, exciting and so-bad-it's-good throughout. I never tired of it and am left eager to see more of these '70s Mexican wrestling flicks. Grab a ringside seat!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The Castle of the Guanajuato Mummies is one of the better looking
masked wrestler movies. Actually on it's own terms it's a pretty good
film with some genuinely creep zombies on the loose.
The plot of the film has Superzan, Blue Angel and Tinieblas on a road trip of wrestling matches. When they come to a town in the sway of a an evil scientist who is draining the life force of the population. He is aided by some little people and an army of creepy mummies.
The film is an odd mix of things. The film has some seriously adult sights with the scenes of horror and torture being rather intense, and at the same time some of the other material is rather for kids. Thankfully the tone of the film stays more toward the adult with the result is one of the better masked wrestling films you're likely to run across.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
My 9-year-old fell in love with Mexican wrestlers a few minutes into
this film. Superzan, Tinieblas, and Blue Angel fit very much into the
superhero mold with their colorful costumes and brawny fisticuffs (both
in and out of the ring). The comic book villain and plot give this
energetic movie a Saturday morning cartoon feel. There are several
moments of genuine humor even if you don't speak Spanish. The zombies
would frighten only very small children and never actually harm anyone.
On the down side, the resurrection of the zombies is a genuinely creepy scene involving the slaughter of chickens. There are also disturbing depictions of torture and a rather sultry night club act. It's almost as if a children's matinée and an adult horror movie had been mashed together. The film is unrated but equivalent to PG. I'd say that parental guidance is warranted but that the film is enjoyable nonetheless. Make sure you set your expectations on "low budget."
I'd hate for anyone to have to say "I waited and waited for them to show Guanajuato and they never did." This was filmed entirely in Guatemala, and seems pretty poverty stricken compared to other titles in the genre. Masked wrestlers usually have pretty good taste in automobiles, but these three tour together in a VW bus, and go after the bad guys in an old clunker with no hubcaps and a taillight out. The shoddy torture lab is clearly the biggest expenditure in the movie, and the graveyard from which the mummies arise is something even I could build. That said, it is not without its highlights, most notably the nightclub chanteuse in her startling red wig and skin-colored bodysuit which hoists her upper deck and swings it out over the audience in a remarkable way. Unfortunately her musical number lasts just about one minute. For bondage fetishists there is quite a bit of it, with bound victims being bloodily tortured by mummies. Not the greatest wrestlers versus mummies movie ever made, but it won't kill you to watch it.
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