Misión suicida (Suicide Mission)

Puerto-Mex Films/Jorge Camargo, 1971; Producer: Jorge Camargo; Co-Producers: Roxana Bellini, J. Díaz Santiago; Assoc Prod: Carlos E. Camacho; Director: Federico Curiel; Adapt: Rafael García Travesí; Story: Fernando Osés; Photography: Agustín Jiménez; Music: Guustavo [sic] C. Carrión; Production Chief: Antonio Guajardo; Prod Manager: Luis Quintanilla; Assistant Director: Jaime Contreras; Film Ed: Eufemio Rivera; Camera Op: J. Gpe. García; Lighting: Luis Medina; Makeup: Margarita Ortega; Music/Re-rec: Enrique Rodríguez; Dialog Rec: E. Rodríguez; Recordist: José García E. ; Sound Ed: Raúl Portillo; Union: STPC; Shot in Mexico and the Dominican Republic

 CAST: Santo (Santo), Lorena Velázquez (Ana Silva), Elsa Cárdenas (Miss Thomas), Dagoberto Rodríguez (Sebastián), César del Campo (Topacio), Guillermo Gálvez (Otto), Roxana Bellini (Elke), Patricia Ferrer (Debbie), Juan Gallardo (Dr. Muller), Paco Magaña, Fernando Osés (henchman), Carlos Suárez (henchman), Angela Rodríguez, Susy Bauzer, Carlos León (Interpol agent who poses as waiter), Carlos Hennings (Dr. Richard Thomas), Yolanda Ponce, Pola Sanders (singer), Los Teen Agers (combo), Margarito Luna (caretaker)

Mexico City release: April 1973, rated "A" (all audiences), 2 week engagement

Spanish release: April 1974, rated "No one under 18 admitted," total spectators: 185,425

Spanish release title: Misión imposible

NOTES: This is a moderately entertaining Santo film. Santo appears in only one arena-wrestling scene, but to make up for this he engages in six "outside" fights, and five of these are rather extended action sequences that are fairly well done, with some decent hand-held camera work. The presence of Patricia Ferrer is always gratifying, and the idea of a group of female commandos--although it not enough is done with it--is a good one.

On the negative side, Misión suicida contains more production bloopers than usual, including a visible boom mike, obvious wires on a "bomb" and a (rubber) shark, and one of the most blatant continuity errors ever. Santo and Lorena Velázquez leave his home to go to the arena. Outside, they are jumped by 4 thugs, including Carlos Suárez and Fernando Osés. After a long fight, Santo and Lorena speed off. The very next sequence intercuts (old) footage of Santo wrestling in the ring, as Velázquez sits in the audience (new footage) watching. Sitting immediately behind her are Suárez and Osés, also apparently enjoying the bout! No suggestion is made that these are the same two men who just tried to kill Santo! They don't interact with Velázquez at all, despite being less than a foot away from her. And then, as soon as the bout is over, someone tries to kill Santo in his dressing room. Osés reappears and has a brief gunfight with Velázquez, returning to his "evil" identity. There are several other rough spots in the picture. For example, Santo and Interpol agent Ana go to the Dominican Republic. This is accomplished by (a) a shot of an airport terminal, (b) a shot of an airliner flying, (c) a sequence at the Santo Domingo airport showing a little band playing, (d) some tourist-type views of the city, (e) a highway with a banner reading "Welcome to Santo Domingo." At no time do we see Santo or Ana!!

The music in this film doesn't deserve any prizes either. Pola Sanders, wearing a blonde wig, sings (and I use that term loosely) and dances her way through a number, bouncing up and down like she's on a trampoline. This is a hilariously campy sequence--even the sparse audience in the nightclub looks like they can't believe what they are hearing and seeing. Lorena Velázquez is marginally better with her song, which comes immediately afterwards. As noted above, when Santo arrives in Santo Domingo, he's greeted by a small band, which is shown on screen, playing, for about a minute. However, entirely different music is heard on the soundtrack (not even the instruments match!). And the rest of the score by Gustavo C. Carrión is in full electric-organ mode.

One curious aspect of Misión suicida's Spanish release is its "adults-only" rating, particularly considering that the film was rated "A" (suitable for all audiences) in Mexico! The Mexican version (on video) has one scene in a women's shower room, where Lorena Velázquez and Patricia Ferrer are shown topless (from behind; apparently they are supposed to be nude, but the camera slips and Lorena's panties can be seen). Could Misión suicida have had additional "real" nude scenes for its foreign release? Of course, something in the plot (politics-wise) could conceivably have caused its adults-only rating in Spain; it is also possible that the Spanish database I used (although it is an official government one), was in error.

The cast of Misión suicida is very similar to Santo vs. la mafia del vicio and Las momias de Guanajuato: Santo, Patricia Ferrer, Elsa Cárdenas (pretty much wasted here) and Carlos Suárez appear in all three, while César del Campo, Dagoberto Rodríguez, and Juan Gallardo (who isn't billed on the film itself although he was credited on the posters) are in two each. Roxana Bellini was a Dominican performer who had previously appeared with Santo in Santo en el museo de cera. Guillermo Gálvez was the brother of well-known film villain José Gálvez; although José frequently appeared in movies made in Mexico, Guillermo usually only shows up in pictures made outside the country, suggesting that he either didn't want to relocate (the Gálvez brothers were from Colombia) or (more likely) he couldn't get into the Mexican union. Another trivia point: Santo's voice was dubbed by a different performer than usual.

As the film begins, fugitive Nazi scientist Dr. Muller (Juan Gallardo, with purple-gray hair, moustache, and goatee) arrives in Mexico, having been kidnaped in South America by the henchmen of Sebastián. Muller is afraid that a Jewish organization which tracks down war criminals is behind his capture, but Sebastián says no, "as of now you are in the service of the power that defeated Germany and Hitler with the help of the Western powers" (i.e., the Soviet Union). Sebastián runs a training camp for spies and saboteurs in Santo Domingo; he wants Muller to brainwash these people, using a secret Nazi drug. But first, Muller will have to undergo plastic surgery to change his appearance.

Meanwhile, Santo is contacted by Topacio, an agent of Interpol. They want his help in uncovering a spy ring. One of the spies has been caught. "Did he confess anything," Santo asks. "Nothing. We don't use torture to extract confessions," replies Topacio. "Unfortunately, perhaps," Santo comments. The prisoner had undergone plastic surgery. Soon, the daughter of famous plastic surgeon Dr. Richard Thomas will arrive in Mexico: she will have to be protected. Another Interpol agent is also on the case, code-named "Pisces." However, Santo is too late. Miss Thomas is picked up at the airport by Ana Silva, a travel agency employee. Their car is attacked by several men, and Miss Thomas is kidnaped; Ana shoots one of the thugs, but the others escape with their prisoner. Miss Thomas is taken to Sebastián, who says she will be a hostage to force her father to come to Mexico from New York and perform an operation for them. Ana Silva is to be eliminated when she's found; Miss Thomas (after some literal arm-twisting) says Ana also works as a nightclub performer.

This is the cue for two musical numbers in a club, one by the uniquely-talented Pola Sanders, and the other by Ana. Several of Sebastián's men force their way into Ana's dressing room, but she is gone. She goes to Santo's house and reveals herself as "Pisces." He will help find Miss Thomas, but first he's scheduled to wrestle at the arena. Santo and Ana are attacked by more henchmen outside, but escape; after the wrestling match (a tag team affair), Santo and Ana are assaulted again; another Interpol agent comes to their assistance and is killed. The spies flee.

The next day, Dr. Thomas arrives in Mexico and is picked up by Sebastián's men. Santo, driving a cool black Corvette, follows, but a truck cuts him off. A long fight scene follows, and at first Santo is getting a pretty good whupping, but he eventually prevails, and takes one man prisoner. However, the man won't talk. Later, more bad guys attack Santo and Ana, but are once more forced to withdraw. This time, one of the henchmen drops a bracelet, inscribed "To Elke with Love, Santo Domingo, October 1971" (one month earlier). While Mexican immigration records are being checked for an "Elke," Sebastián's henchman Otto has a bomb planted in Ana's apartment. They think Santo and Ana are killed in the ensuing explosion (but they're wrong). Topacio says an Elke Baumann came to Mexico from South America, a notorious hideout for former Nazis. She currently resides in Santo Domingo, where she runs a gym for women. Meanwhile, Dr. Thomas operates on Muller, but the Nazi scientist will have to keep his bandages on for about two weeks before he can expose his "new" face.

Santo and Ana go to the Dominican Republic. Ana signs up for classes at Elke's training academy, proving her ability by defeating Debbie, one of Elke's karate instructors. However, Elke is suspicious of Ana's proficiency. That night, Santo sneaks into Elke's office; he spots a photo album with a large swastika on the cover, and steals a photo. After knocking out a guard, he makes his escape despite pursuit by armed female commandos. Topacio identifies the man in the photo as Sebastián, a former officer in Hitler's guard; after the defeat of Germany, Sebastián blamed the U.S. and joined forces with the Russians. He is the head of ring that sends spies and saboteurs to the United States. However, Interpol can't do anything until Santo makes sure Dr. Thomas and his daughter are safe, and Sebastián is located. Otto and Elke are afraid to tell Sebastián what has occurred.

Debbie, who is Otto's sister, warns Ana not to ask so many questions about the operation, but it's too late: Elke and Otto take Ana prisoner. Santo arrives but is captured as well. He escapes by diving into the swimming pool, defeating the resident shark, and swimming through a tunnel which eventually winds up in a creek somewhere (by now it's daytime--must have been a long tunnel, which we never see, by the way). Meanwhile, Debbie helps Ana escape. Debbie says her parents were killed in the bombing of Berlin in 1945, which made Otto hate the USA. Debbie, who was very young at the time, doesn't have Nazi sympathies. Driving a gold Corvette, she helps Santo and Ana get back into the spies' compound. Santo defeats two male karatecas, and bursts into the room where Sebastián, Otto, Elke, Dr. Thomas, Miss Thomas, etc., are ready for the unveiling of Muller. A fight breaks out. In a ludicrous scene, Sebastián and one of his henchmen shoot each other (when Santo, who is between them, suddenly drops to the floor)! Interpol agents break in and arrest everyone else. Muller's face is revealed: he looks a little younger, but the real difference is a big swastika carved into his forehead by Dr. Thomas! Thomas said, even at the risk of his own life and that of his daughter, he wanted to mark the Nazi forever.

Ana goes looking for Santo, whom she has a crush on. But she only finds his mask, inscribed "To Ana, with love."

Aside from the carelessness of the production, Misión suicida isn't bad at all. Santo gets to participate in a lot of fights, the cast is competent, the women are attractive.

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Misión Suicida review revised and updated on 23 January 2022 by David Wilt (dwilt@umd.edu).