Full Moon Features: Santo en el museo de cera (1963)

Previously in this column, I’ve covered El Santo’s adventures Santo y Blue Demon vs Drácula y el Hombre Lobo and Santo vs. las Lobas, both of which hailed from the 1970s. This month, I’m going back one decade to the first time the silver-masked wrestler grappled with a wolf man (or men, as is the case). Released in 1963 as the eighth in the series, Santo en el museo de cera was brought to the US a couple years later by K. Gordon Murray as Samson in the Wax Museum. Why Murray decided to call him Samson instead of Santo is a mystery, though. Sure, he’s strong, but since he never takes off his wrestling mask, there’s no way of knowing if he even has hair for Delilah’s non-union Mexican equivalent to cut off.

At any rate, the action takes place in and around the wax museum of the not-at-all-sinister Dr. Karol (Claudio Brook, who co-starred in several Luis Buñuel films and logged time in three about black-masked wrestler Neutron). Like many a wax museum proprietor before him, Dr. Karol has found his patrons are more drawn to the macabre monsters in his lower gallery than the likes of Gary Cooper, Mahatma Gandhi, Joseph Stalin, and Pancho Villa. To that end, he has made figures of Mr. Hyde, Frankenstein’s Monster, Quasimodo, the Phantom of the Opera, and a quartet of fur-faced fiends, none of whom are specifically described as wolf men, but that’s what they look like. The one Dr. Karol singles out during his tour is identified as the seventh son of a seventh son who had lycanthropy passed down to him by a relative caught and bitten by the Abominable Snowman in the mountains of Tibet, which would be convoluted even by Paul Naschy’s standards. There’s something of a giveaway, though, because close-ups of a few of the figures reveal them to be actors in make-up trying their best to stand still, a guarantee the script will eventually call on them to mobilize themselves.

How Santo gets involved is due to a series of kidnappings that have occurred near Dr. Karol’s museum. One opens the film and is not followed up on, but the second one seen (and third overall) is of photographer Susana (Norma Mora), who is taking photos for an article by her sister’s fiancé when she catches Dr. Karol’s eye. Despite declining his invitation to see his laboratory, she takes up residence there anyway, and her disappearance is reported by her sister Gloria (Roxana Bellini) and her fiancé Ricardo (Rubén Rojo). They’re not the ones who contact Santo, though. That falls to kindly Professor Galvan (José Luis Jiménez), who has an “electronic localizer” which can find Santo anywhere and a wall-mounted monitor that can observe him in action. This is how the first of three wrestling matches gets integrated into the film, since Galvan has to wait for Santo to defeat his challenger before passing along Dr. Karol’s request for assistance in clearing his name.

At the film’s midpoint — and after Santo’s second match, against another masked man known only as “El Tigre del Ring” — Dr. Karol is anticlimactically revealed to be the villain when he eliminates Galvan and announces his intention to turn Susana into a panther girl. “I hate beauty in others, and for that I’ll punish you,” he says, although his motivation for acting the way he does could be said to be somewhat in bad taste. Later he boasts, “Not all of the figures in my museum are made of wax. I can create ugliness in humans, too.” This explains the beast men — the first step in his plan to turn the Earth into a “planet of monsters” — but Santo shows up in the nick of time to thwart him and heroically dump a vat of molten wax on Dr. Karol’s creations. “I only do what I can to wipe out injustice and crime,” the silver-masked one says. That apparently doesn’t extend to cleaning up after himself, though.