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#2,961. Santo Vs. The Riders of Terror (1970) - Santo Film Festival

Posted on the 22 June 2024 by Dvdinfatuation
#2,961. Santo vs. The Riders of Terror (1970) - Santo Film Festival

Born Rudolfo Guzman Huerto, the famous luchador known to his fans as El Santo (“The Saint”), was more than a superstar in sport of wrestling. In his native Mexico, he was a cultural icon. Featured as the hero in a number of comic books, Santo’s fame spread far beyond the wrestling ring, and even today, almost 40 years after his death, he remains as well-known as ever.
Starting in 1952 and lasting all the way into the later ‘70s, Santo appeared in 54 films, always sporting the silver mask that was his trademark. Before today, I had never seen a single one of these movies. I was familiar with the Santo series, but never caught up with it, and was anxious to finally check it out. And the film I chose as my initiation into this most unusual of subgenres was 1970’s Santo vs. The Riders of Terror.
Set in the old west, Santo vs. The Riders of Terror opens with a group of lepers escaping from a remote hospital. Making their way to a small town, they take the locals by surprise, and send a few of them running and screaming from their homes.
The next morning, the angry townsfolk gather and demand that the Sheriff (Armando Silvestre) round up the lepers and drag them back to the hospital. Things go from bad to worse when, later that night, the Sheriff’s fiancé, Carmen (Mary Montiel), is surprised in her house by a supposed leper, who then proceeds to shoot Carmen’s dad in the back!
What nobody knows is that this murder was carried out not by the lepers, but by the thief Camerino (Julio Almada), who wants to scare the townsfolk while, at the same time, striking a deal with the lepers, promising them food and a cut of the profits if they help he and his men rob a few unsuspecting businesses.
Not to worry, though, because the sheriff has convinced the famous luchador Santo (playing himself) to ride into town and save the day. Can Santo and the sheriff track down the lepers and return them safely to the hospital, or will the enraged locals end up taking matters into their own hands?
Though more a western than a horror film, Santo vs. The Riders of Terror does have a few tense moments, and the make-up for the lepers is appropriately gross (in one scene, a leper puts a stolen ring on his finger, and watching him try to get it over his decaying skin had me cringing). It didn’t matter, though, because it is a good western! I was into the story and anxious to see how it played out, even before Santo shows up (surprisingly, he isn’t even mentioned until the 20-minute mark in what is a 77-minute film).
In Santo’s first appearance in the film, he’s climbing into an outdoor wrestling ring to fight a local champ for money (all to raise cash for a trio of nuns, who devote their life to helping the poor). It seemed a little kooky to me to have a wrestling match in the middle of a western film, but then this is no ordinary western, and for fans of the legendary luchador, not having one probably would have been even stranger!
From there out, Santo is front and center, devising plans to catch both the lepers and the criminals. At one point he even gets into a fight with Camerino, and as it is with most wrestling matches, the bad guy gets the upper hand once or twice before Santo rises to the occasion and flattens him.
I loved the style of this film, from the obviously-fake-yet-still-effective set pieces to the quick, brightly-colored swipes that the filmmakers used to transition from one scene to the next. I even had a blast with the often-terrible dialog. Early on, when the townsfolk are clamoring that something needs to be done, one of them suggests they apprehend the lepers themselves, and asks a guy next to him if he’s ready to join the fight. “Sure”, the man replies, “I was born in a minute. I’ll die in less” (umm… I think I know what he’s trying to say, but… huh?!?). Now, to be fair, I couldn’t tell if this and other laughable lines were the fault of the writers (the script was co-written by Jesus Mercielago Velazquez and the movie’s director, Rene Cardona) or those who dubbed the movie into English, but if I’m guessing, I’d say it’s a little of both.
Never mind, though, because it didn’t detract from the fun I had watching Santo vs. The Riders of Terror. I feel as if a whole new world has opened up for me, and I can’t wait to explore it further! Discoveries like Santo vs. The Riders of Terror are what make being a cinephile so rewarding.
Rating: 8.5 out of 10

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