Santo contra los cazadores de cabezas [Santo vs. the Head Hunters]

(Prods. Zacarías, 1969) Prod: Miguel Zacarías; Dir/Scr: René Cardona [Sr.]; Story: Adolfo Torres Portillo; Photo: Rosalío Solano; Music: Luis Hernández Bretón; Prod Mgr: José Llamas U.; Prod Chief: Fidel Pizarro; Asst Dir: Felipe Palomino; Film Ed: Eufemio Rivera; Decor: Carlos Arjona; Camera Op: Urbano Vázquez; Lighting: Antonio Solano; Makeup: Carmen Palomino; Sound Supv: James L. Fields; Dialog Rec: José B. Carles; Re-rec: Galdino Samperio; Sound Ed: José Li-Ho; Union: STPC

CAST: Santo (himself), Nadia Milton (Mariana de Grijalva), Freddy Fernández (Carlos), René Cardona Sr. (don Alonso Grijalva), Enrique Lucero (Husca), Enrique Pontón (Prof. Castro), Guillermo Hernández (Tirso), Manuel González, Margarito Luna (villager killed by dart), Antonio Miranda, M. Moreno Orozco, Sergio Llanes, Víctor Almazán, Carlos Suárez (Pancho, guide), René Barrera (Rito, porter), Carolina Barret (native woman), Gloria Chávez, Arturo Silva

Mexico City release: December 1971; 1 week run; Authorization: A

NOTES: While re-viewing many of the Santo films I had seen in past years, I discovered that there were some which were better than I recalled, some which were worse, and some--like Santo vs. los cazadores de cabezas--which pretty much confirmed my original opinions of them. Santo vs. los cazadores de cabezas is not a badly-made film, but it is fairly boring and pointless. There is scene after scene of people walking through the jungle, walking, walking, walking! What little attempts there are to spice up this long trek are brief and uninspired.

There are a couple of interesting notes with regard to Santo himself. First, there are no arena wrestling bouts--staged or actual--in the film, and in fact Santo is not even referred to as a professional wrestler. He's just a strong, barrel-chested guy wearing a mask. He has a couple of fairly brief fights in the course of the film, but nothing really elaborate. Second, in the opening sequence Santo has some dialogue with a police officer, and to me it sounds like Santo is not dubbed in this scene: later on, his dialogue spoken by someone else, but the voice in this first scene is distinctly different.

The film opens on a distorted closeup of Santo, as he fights with four men in an empty apartment. The police arrive and arrest three of the thugs, but the ringleader--whom Santo identifies as the foreign leader of a drug-smuggling gang--manages to escape, leaving behind a bamboo dagger. [This scene apparently takes place in Mexico]

This is the same type of dagger that wealthy explorer Alonso Grijalva is telling a group of friends was used by the Jivaro indians to cut off the heads of their enemies: he shows them a shrunken head to make his point. [don Alonso apparently lives in South America, but this isn't at all clear in the context of the film]

Meanwhile, the man who had fought Santo, Tirso, is back in the Amazon jungles. He tries to convince the chief of a tribe of Jivaros to stop going to war with other tribes and instead unite to fight the whites. The Jivaros are the descendants of the Incas, who had their empire stolen by the Spaniards. In revenge, Tirso suggests that they kidnap Mariana, don Alonso's daughter, and sacrifice her to the gods.

Mariana receives a large golden amulet in the mail and later, a black orchid and some emeralds turn up. Alonso consults with Professor Castro, who agrees that Mariana has been chosen to be the "Bride of the Sun." The natives shower her with riches and then, at the full moon, sacrifice her. Castro contacts Santo by radio, but Santo says he has to travel to London and can't arrive for three days.

By the time Santo lands his light plane in South America and meets Castro, it's too late: Mariana has been kidnaped, through the treachery of Husca, Alonso's long-time butler who turns out to have been a Jivaro "mole." Santo, Alonso, Carlos (Mariana's boyfriend), and Prof. Castro lead an expedition to rescue her.

Now the long walk begins. During the trek Santo and his friends are menaced by alligators (Santo wrestles one), jaguars (Santo wrestles one), vampire bats, electric eels, Jivaro warriors, and traitors from within their own group. Finally, only Santo, Carlos, and Alonso are left alive. They reach the Jivaro village just as the ceremony is beginning: a fight breaks out. Husca is killed by one of his own warriors for threatening to stab the sacred Mariana. Santo defeats the chief but spares his life, earning their free passage to safety; when Tirso tries to intervene, Santo tosses a spear and puts an end to his villainy. Santo, Alonso, Carlos and Mariana return to civilization.

There are precious few moments of entertainment in this film. In one interesting scene, Tirso and Husca, after kidnaping Mariana, discard their "white man's" clothing with disgust; however, this is undercut by the climactic sequence, in which Tirso is wearing a frock coat and derby hat during the sacrificial ceremony. At one point during the trek, Tirso clears the way for his group to cross an alligator-infested river by some hilarious, made-up gibberish that he loudly chants, and which he keeps up for what seems like 5 minutes! In another scene, a Jivaro shoots a monkey out of a tree; it falls into a piranha-infested river (those Amazonian rivers are just full of unpleasant things). The water boils, and then a fully-articulated monkey skeleton is fished out with a stick.

At the beginning of the final battle in the village, Santo is confronted by a warrior wearing a leopard-skin outfit. Santo spends about a minute punching this guy, who pops back up after every punch: punch, he falls down, gets up, punch, falls down, gets up, punch, falls down, gets up, etc., so that it eventually becomes funny. Santo's battles with the hostile fauna are rather odd: he (presumably a double) wrestles an alligator underwater, but the alligator is shot by Castro; Santo (again,possibly a double) wrestles a jaguar, but doesn't kill it--instead he picks it up and throws it, and it slinks away! The vampire bat attack is brief and confusing, the "bats" are just fuzzy black things that are shown for about 2 seconds sitting on somebody's shirt.

The cast of pros is adequate but they don't have much to do. Nadia Milton, who was very popular for a couple of years in the late '60s-early '70s, always looked sort of stuck-up and supercilious. The eternally-youthful Freddy Fernández, usually a comic actor, has a straight role here, but he's like everyone else, basically under-used.

Definitely a lesser effort that puts Santo into a milieu where his particular talents are wasted.

Review posted 19 Feb 98 by, revised 6 Jan 99.

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