Santo en el museo de cera [Santo in the Wax Museum]

(Filmadora Panamericana, 1963) Prod: Alberto López; Dir: Alfonso Corona Blake; Scr: Fernando Galiana, Julio Porter; Photo: José Ortiz Ramos; Music Dir: Raúl Lavista; Music: Sergio Guerrero; Asst Dir: Mario Cisneros; Film Ed: José W. Bustos; Art Dir: José Rodríguez Granada; Sound: Luis Fernández; Makeup: Román Juárez

English-language version: Samson in the Wax Museum (Young America Productions/Trans-International Films) Prod: K. Gordon Murray; Dir: Manuel San Fernando

Cast (English-version cast names in quotes): Santo (himself; "Samson"), Claudio Brook (Dr. Karol), Rubén Rojo (Ricardo; "Charles Humphrey"), Norma Mora (Gloria), Roxana Bellini (Susana; "Susan Madison"), José Luis Jiménez (Prof. Armando Galván), Víctor Velázquez (police detective), Fernando Osés (henchman), Jorge Mondragón (police inspector), Nothanael León Moreno "Frankestein" (henchman), Concepción Martínez, Cesareo Cruz, Salvador Castro, Juan Garza, Mario Texas, Benny Galan (third opponent), Victorio Blanco (museum employee), Vicente Lara "Cacama" (wolf man), "Picoro" (ring announcer), Cavernario Galindo (wrestler; "Caveman Joe")

Mexico City release: June 1963; 1 week run; Authorization: A

Spanish release data: Authorization date: 16 December 1964; Total spectators: 184,632.

NOTES: This is one of the better-known Santo films, since it was dubbed into English by K. Gordon Murray and widely shown on television. The dubbing isn't bad: Santo sounds a little too hearty and fake and Norma Mora's voice is an annoying squeak, but whoever dubbed Claudio Brook did a pretty good job.

The plot of Santo en el museo de cera obviously borrows from Mystery of the Wax Museum/House of Wax, but there are also some definite overtones of Island of Lost Souls--Karol's creations include some animal-men (including a boar-man), and in the final sequence he trots out his whip, a la Charles Laughton (and, like Laughton's character, he is eventually killed by the monsters he made).

In a brief pre-credits sequence, a man walking on the street is clubbed and kidnaped. The next day, a couple takes a tour of Dr. Karol's Wax Museum. The owner shows off his figures of Gary Cooper in High Noon, Mahatma Gandhi, Josef Stalin, Pancho Villa, etc. Then he takes the tourists to the basement chamber, where they see wax figures of Mr. Hyde, Frankenstein's monster, a wolf man, the Phantom of the Opera, Quasimodo, etc. [Some of these are real mannequins, while others--like the wolf man--are clearly actors who are doing their best not to move when the camera is pointing at them] One of the visitors is Susana, photographer for a magazine that is planning a story on the museum. She tells Karol she will be back to take some more pictures--the text will be written by Ricardo, her sister Gloria's fiance.

Later, Karol is playing cards with his friend Professor Galván in the latter's laboratory. Galván takes time out to speak with Santo on a large TV screen: Santo has just solved a case of murder. Galván tells Karol that Santo is " a strange man and a good one."

The next evening, Susana explores the darkened museum alone. She is startled by Karol. The museum director says he has done a lot of research for his wax creations: he wants to make a "Panther Woman" figure someday. Karol offers to show Susana his lab, but she gets nervous and leaves. However, as she walks home, Karol's henchman grabs her. Two old ladies find her camera on a path in the park, and take it to Ricardo and Gloria. They are alarmed, and contact the police. Several other people who visited the wax museum have also disappeared in recent days, so the police pay Karol a visit. He denies any knowledge of the kidnapings, and says Susana left some time before.

Karol visits Galván and asks for Santo's help, claiming he is being framed for the crimes. However, at the moment Santo is busy wrestling Cavernario Galindo. Later, Santo stops by the museum to talk with Karol. Suddenly, a man throws a knife, narrowly missing the museum director. Santo chases him (Fernando Osés) outside and they have a fairly long and athletic fight. Karol stands by and observes without any particular emotion. Finally, the assassin flees. Karol tells Santo he didn't recognize him.

Santo goes to collect Susana's camera, hoping the photos inside will provide some clues. Ricardo tells him that he suspects Karol is a fake: the real Karol was a European surgeon who spent time in a Nazi concentration camp during WWII, then went to England and was seriously injured in a lab accident. Santo isn't sure. Later, meeting with Galván and Santo, Karol says he has been pursued ever since the war: even the lab explosion was sabotage. Karol shows them his scarred chest (his hands were also burned), but says his face was spared [this seems to set up a House of Wax-like revelation for the climax, but it never develops]. He also gives Santo a threatening letter he received.

Later, Santo tries to contact Galván, but the old scientist isn't home. Karol says Galván didn't show up to accompany him to a lecture. While Santo goes off to the arena to wrestle a tiger-masked opponent, Karol goes his basement gallery, and enters his lab through a secret doorway. Galván is there: Karol says Santo is getting too close, so Karol is going to frame Galván for the crimes. His assistant stabs the old man and drops his body in a tank of boiling wax. Then, the unconscious body of Susana is brought in. Karol wants to turn her into the Panther Woman. Some of his monsters are actually living people, kept in a state of suspended animation by repeated injections. Later, when Susana revives, he tells her that he hates beauty and likes to create monsters (well, duh!).

Santo is suspicious, and asks the police to search and then shut down the wax museum. Nothing is found, and Karol is clearly irritated by this development. He spies on Santo using Galván's remote TV device, and hears Ricardo tell Santo that- -based on a photo he found--Karol has not aged a bit since 1946. Santo has to take a break to wrestle Benny Galán, but he's soon back on the case. He notices that photos of the wax figures taken by Susana at different times reveal different poses. Karol's two henchmen enter and try to kill Santo. The fight continues outside, and one of the men throws a knife that sticks in Santo's back. The killers flee when the police show up. Santo, realizing Karol is using Galván's TV to spy on him, pretends to be dead.

Gloria and Ricardo are kidnaped and taken to the lab. Karol tells them his story as he prepares to coat Susana with a special wax compound [in the dubbed version at least, Karol is first said to have been in Auschwitz, but now he says it was Dachau ]: he was tortured so much that "one night I thought my veins had totally disintegrated." The molten wax starts to travel through a long series of pipes to reach Susana, but Santo crashes in through a window and shoves the table aside, saving her. He fights Karol's two human henchmen, tossing one (Osés) into the molten wax vat, and the other (Frankestein) against an electrical grid, which lights him up real good. Out in the gallery, the monsters Karol has created are now moving around. Using a whip, Karol encourages them to kill Santo, but the silver-masked man leaps up to a high ledge that they can't reach--so they turn on Karol and kill him. They pursue Santo into the lab, but he turns the whole vat of wax over on top of them (the monsters--there are 4 of them, and do not include any of the "famous" monsters, although one figure is a sort of werewolf--are pretty slow and clumsy).

As the police arrive, Santo departs in his sports car, his job done for the moment.

Santo en el museo de cera is fairly well-produced, with some reasonably elaborate sets and a decent number of "wax" figures (not just one or two). Another positive aspect is the night-for-night shooting, which is much more atmospheric than the phony day-for-night used in later pictures. The ads for the film were a little misleading, since the Frankenstein monster was prominently featured and in the film itself this creature appears only as an immobile wax figure. Until the final sequence, all of the dirty work is done by Fernando Osés, with some help from Nothanael León "Frankestein." There are some holes in the plot, as usual: Karol must be pretty dumb to only kidnap people who have visited his museum, since this merely draws attention to him. He does explain to Galván that he asked for Santo's help as a means of diverting suspicion, but this seems like a rather risky thing to do. The matter of Karol's face is also annoying: there are repeated hints that he is scarred, but this payoff never comes (perhaps Claudio Brook didn't want to wear heavy makeup, but then again he wore heavy scarface makeup in Neutrón el enmascarado negro). The characters of Ricardo and (especially) Gloria are superfluous and (especially Gloria) rather annoying--later Santo films gave him the love interest instead of awkwardly including a "romantic" couple.

Claudio Brook, while a relatively "serious" actor, appeared in his share of genre pictures and he does a pretty good job here, going appropriately over-the-top in the later scenes. However, the director should have had him do something during the fights, or at least they should have kept him out of the frame: he just stands there, awkwardly, waiting for the fighting to finish. The rest of the cast is adequate: Rojo is OK, Norma Mora is harmed by the voice she's given in the dubbed version, but she has very little to do and therefore doesn't do much harm.

Overall, reasonably entertaining.

Back to the Santo Filmography.