Santo contra la magia negra [Santo vs. Black Magic]

(Películas Latinoamericanas-Cinematográfica Flama, 1972) Prod: Lic. Jorge García Besne; Co-Prod: Joseph W. Saliba; Dir: Alfredo B. Crevenna; Adapt: Rafael García Travesí ;Story: Fernando Osés; Photo: Alfredo Uribe J.; Songs: Henry Celestin; Prod Mgr: Roberto Lozoya; Asst Dir: Mario Llorca; Film Ed: Reynaldo P. Portillo; Camera Op: Manuel Tejada; Lighting: Nicolás Cuija; Makeup: Castañeda; Recordist: José Baena; Re-rec: Ramón Moreno

CAST: Santo (himself), Elsa Cárdenas (Lorna Jordán), Sasha Montenegro (Bellamira), Gerty Jones (Michelle), César del Campo (Jorge), Fernando Osés (foreign agent), Guillermo Gálvez (Prof. Jordán), Carlos Suárez (foreign agent), Ismael Ramírez, Alexandre Abraham, Lue Gourge, Joseph Duvivier, Jean Claude Cadet, Lyne Williams Rouzier Ballet with Nancy Saliba and Edmond Bailly, Les Difficiles de Petionville (band)

Mexico City release: October 1973; 1 week run; Authorization: A

Spanish release data: Authorization date: 20 June 1974; Rating: children under 14 must be accompanied by an adult; Total spectators: 166,546.

NOTES: This is a mediocre Santo adventure, not terrible but heavily padded with Haitian dance numbers and other tourist-type footage and with only a couple of unimpressive "action" scenes (both of the arena wrestling sequences are taken from La venganza de las mujeres vampiros). The plot combines horror (magic, zombies) with science fiction (a super explosive) in a reasonably clear manner, but the execution is less than inspired and the production values are skimpy. It was shot in Haiti by a Mexican crew, and the only major character who wasn't a regular in Mexican cinema is Gerty Jones, who is adequate.

After some catchy theme music, the film opens at a voodoo ceremony, presided over by Bellamira (Sasha Montenegro gets to speak a little French here). Another woman, possessed by the spirit of Damballa, sends Bellamira to the "pool of the gods." There, she sees Santo receiving orders from Interpol: he must go to Haiti and protect Professor Jordán, who has developed an explosive "more powerful than the H-bomb."

When Santo arrives, he's met by Interpol agent Jorge, who also happens to be the fiancé of Lorna, Jordán's daughter. Two scientists who were working with Jordán recently died--the only marks of violence were small scars on their hearts. Jorge's car has a blowout on the way into town, and he and Santo are attacked by 4 or 5 zombies. Attack might be too strong a word, since most of the zombies shuffle around slowly and don't fight very well. However, they're impervious to bullets but are scared off by a lug wrench (well, actually it's probably because the lug wrench is in the shape of a cross).

At his hotel, Santo plays a tape of instructions which says he must get Jordán's formula for "our government" (whose? Interpol has a government?) and keep the "eastern republic" (república oriental) from stealing it. Later, an intruder climbs down a rope to Santo's balcony, and puts a snake on the sleeping wrestler's chest. Santo wakes up, grabs the snake, and tosses it off the balcony (look out below!).

Bellamira is in league with two foreign agents (one is Carlos Suárez, who does his best to speak with an accent); she's angry that Santo survived the death trap, but swears to get him with her magic instead.

Meanwhile, Prof. Jordán tells Santo that he doesn't want or need any protection. He spent "hundreds of hours" working on his formula and won't turn it over so easily, even though Santo says millions of people could die. There are secret uranium deposits on Haiti that can be used to make the new explosive. Santo and Jorge go to a nightclub to see a good voodoo priestess named Michelle, but she won't help them.

Bellamira leads another voodoo ceremony (in which a real goat is actually killed on screen, be forewarned). She sticks a pin in a little Professor Jordán doll, and the scientist drops dead. The coroner says Jordán had a small scar on his heart, but it wasn't enough to cause death (little does he know). Bellamira appears at Jordán's funeral, and is introduced as Lorna's best friend. She surreptitiously tosses a little blue ring into the grave; she also asks Santo for his autograph.

Bellamira and the spy duo visit the uranium mines, where slaves are being forced to extract the mineral while being whipped by a cruel overseer. That night, Jordán emerges from his coffin (in some kind of crypt--before, he was buried in the ground, but I may have missed some explanation), a white-faced zombie, and goes to his house. He tears out a page from his notebook but is surprised by Lorna, who is understandably shocked to see her dead father walking around. She faints; he makes as if to strangle her, but is repelled by the cross around her neck.

Jorge, although he has previously fought zombies with Santo, doesn't believe Lorna's story. But Santo and Lorna agree that her father's grave must be opened, just to check. However, a court order must be obtained. The next day is carnival time; Santo runs into Michelle, who again refuses to help but promises Santo a magic amulet. That night, Santo wrestles the Black Hood (footage of Bellamira and the two spies in the audience is intercut fairly skillfully); despite Bellamira's mental commands to the contrary, Santo wins. He heads for the graveyard where Jorge and Lorna are supervising the exhumation, but has to fight his way past the two foreign agents. The coffin is, no surprise, empty.

The former inhabitant of the coffin is (in a decent if brief scene) turning over his formula to Bellamira (he doesn't talk, just nods zombie-like). They test it in a small quantity and it blows up real good. In a cruel gesture, Bellamira then sends zombie Jordán back to his house, where Lorna sees him again! This time, he's really dead and flops over. Lorna, upset, goes to stay with her "friend" Bellamira. However, that night she wakes up and--clad in babydoll pajamas--follows Bellamira into the jungle. She's caught by two henchmen. Meanwhile, Bellamira is poking a Santo voodoo doll with a pin, causing the wrestler (in his hotel room) to writhe in pain. Lorna manages to break the doll and save Santo, and for her efforts is put on the menu as the human sacrifice at the next voodoo ceremony.

Santo beats Rebelde Rojo (more stock wrestling footage). Michelle finally comes through with the magic amulet; she also fingers Bellamira as the black magic woman (it's kind of ironic that Michelle, who is black, is allied with "white" magic, while Bellamira, who is white, is involved with "black" magic). Jorge, Santo and Michelle go to Bellamira's house, where they tussle with the spies. The agents flee, but leave a wounded comrade behind, who gives Jorge the location of the voodoo headquarters. Santo and the others go there, just in time to prevent Bellamira from killing Lorna. Instead, Michelle challenges her rival to the "test of Damballa." Santo takes Michelle's place: he and Bellamira stick their hands into a basket containing snakes, and are both bitten. Moments pass, and finally Bellamira succumbs to the poison and drops dead.

As Santo, Jorge, Michelle and Lorna leave, the spies show up again and there is a brief fight. The police arrive, and everything is wrapped up. The end.

Santo contra la magia negra has a LOT of drumming, dancing and singing, but not much else. The zombies have grayish faces but only appear a couple of times and--as noted above--don't pose much of a threat since they aren't very fast or agile. Bellamira's voodoo dolls are more dangerous, and if she had been smart she'd have stuck Santo's doll much earlier in the film (of course, then the film would have been over). Towards the end of the picture, Santo tells Jorge that he has one more wrestling match, and then his cover story for remaining in Haiti ends; "I'm afraid this time I may have failed," he says. But then Michelle--who has obstinately refused to give them any clues or assistance, for reasons of her own I guess--finally lets loose with the news that Bellamira is the zombie leader, and the climax is underway.

There's one unintentionally funny scene: Jorge, Santo, and Lorna are at the nightclub where Michelle works as a dancer. Michelle as usual is close-mouthed, but she does say Lorna's life is in danger. So, Jorge takes Lorna home, says "I hope you had a nice time," and leaves her at the front door of her empty house! Some protection! Lorna goes in and what does she find but her zombie father's corpse sitting in a chair! Thanks for nothing, Jorge!

If you fast-forward through the dance numbers, this isn't too boring, but it isn't anything special.

Review posted 9 March 98 by Updated 19 January 2000.

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