Enter Santo: The First Adventures of the Silver-Masked Man

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Immediately recognisable by his distinctive silver mask, the heroic wrestler known as El Santo (‘The Saint’) was Mexico’s most popular luchador, becoming a folk hero and the star of a hugely popular series of action films. Enter Santo: The First Adventures of the Silver-Masked Man presents the two earliest cinematic excursions of this icon of Mexican popular culture.

In Santo vs. Evil Brain (Santo contra cerebro del mal), the dastardly Doctor Campos is kidnapping and brainwashing scientists. When undercover detective Santo falls prey to Campos’ scheme, Lieutenant Zambrano (Enrique Zambrano) and El Incognito (Fernando Osés) must come to his assistance to foil Campos’ plans. Meanwhile, in the same year’s Santo vs. Infernal Men (Santo contra hombres infernales), the trio of Santo, El Incognito, and Zambrano team up once again to fight a band of drug smugglers.

Shot in Cuba in the final days before Fidel Castro entered Havana, these two films represent the celluloid birth of a true screen legend, and spawned a further fifty Santo films. Beautifully restored in 4K from the original negatives, these thrilling films finally receive their world Blu-ray premieres in this individually numbered Limited Edition two-disc set, complete with new and archival extra features, including a feature-length documentary, a poster, and an 80-page book.

Picture 8/10

Indicator presents two early Santo films through their new 2-disc set Enter Santo: The First Adventures of the Silver-Masked Man, featuring Santo vs. Evil Brain and Santo vs. Infernal Men. Both films are presented in the aspect ratio of 1.66:1 on individual dual-layer discs with 1080p/24hz high-definition encodes. Both films were restored in 4K by Permanencia Voluntaria and Preservation Cinema Alliance.

I have to say these both come out looking amazing for what they are and what they’ve been through. The two films were shot simultaneously on a meager budget in Havana as the revolution was playing out, and it’s stated in the features that they finished the movie on New Year’s Eve 1958, which was, of course, bad timing to say the least. Following the rebels entering the capital, it sounds as though the film had to be smuggled out of Cuba only for it to then sit on a shelf until finally being released to exploit the rise in popularity of the Luchador films, the Santo name mostly (even though Santo is technically more of a side character in these two films).

A helluva lot is going against the two films, yet somehow everything has turned out fine. Though some heavy damage is present, primarily during the early portions of Evil Brain and around what appear to be reel changes, the materials look to be in excellent condition. The remaining damage consists mainly of stains like mold, stippling, more significant scratches, and minor marks scattered about, which can get a little heavy sometimes. Some transitions between scenes can take on a dupier look than the rest of the presentations, but this is to be expected. Still, despite all that, there isn’t all that much on the whole when one comes down to it, much of each film being surprisingly clean. I did expect far worse. The scan has also picked up a remarkable level of detail, while blacks and whites look great with a surprising range level in the grays. It’s a surprisingly sharp-looking image.

Despite some off moments, the encode is primarily up to Indicator's usual standards. The early sections of Evil Brain and then a handful of moments through both films deliver a buzzier look to the grain. These moments are outliers, though, and the grain is rendered cleanly. As to why these sections differ, I can't say, though I suspect it's baked into the master that has been supplied.

Based on its history, it’s probably a minor miracle the films still exist in any fashion, yet here they are, and they look remarkable.

Santo vs. the Evil Brain (1961): 7/10 Santo vs. Infernal Men (1961): 8/10

Audio 6/10

Both films are in Spanish and come with lossless PCM single-channel monaural soundtracks. Though they can still sound rough, it’s clear a lot of effort has gone into restoring these. There can be a slight edge to music and dialogue in places, with a bit of distortion (and the dialogue has clearly been dubbed), but there’s no heavy damage, and I don’t recall any pops or drops. I think both the shooting conditions and the passage of time play into things a bit, but again these sound far better than I expected.

Extras 9/10

Indicator has put together a fantastic set, throwing in a lot of great material across both discs, material that may also help one appreciate the two films a little more if they come out not being particularly fond of them. The first disc (featuring Evil Brain) starts with a great little program by Viviana García Besné, the granddaughter of producer Jorge Garcia Besné. Entitled Looking for El Santo, she visits Havana and the locations used for the film, which (both surprising and not) haven’t changed all that much; the most significant change may have been a café, which modernized its interior. It’s impressive what she could track down, even hallways and staircases that appear in the films. It’s a fun piece, with her even going over the reasons why the primarily Mexican production ended up being filmed in Cuba and sharing interesting bits of trivia, like the fact the film has never screened in Cuba, a fact that made it more difficult in getting help from the locals. It runs for 30 minutes.

Indicator has also recorded a couple of new interviews for this edition, also found on the first disc. Actor Joaquín Cordero (the Evil Brain himself) first pops up for 11 minutes to talk briefly about the production and producer Jorge Garcia Besné, while The Killer Film, the masked film critic (el crítico enmascarado), offers up a 33-minute crash course on Lucha libre (Mexican wrestling) and the Luchador genre. The Cordero interview is a breezy first-hand recollection of the production, with the actor even recalling his first time meeting Santo. However, The Killer Film’s contribution is invaluable, especially to those vaguely familiar or entirely unfamiliar with the genre. He gets into the origins of Mexican wrestling and how it would eventually make its way into other forms of media, including comic books, which laid the groundwork for television and film. Santo and his series of films receive a particular focus in the latter portion, our masked host looking at how the films crossed genres effortlessly. It's a wonderfully constructed segment and an excellent introduction for the uninitiated.

The second disc (hosting Infernal Men) only includes one feature (outside of a few galleries), but it’s easily the release’s best one: Viviana García Besné’s 2011 documentary Perdida, running 95 minutes. Besné—again the granddaughter of the producer of these two Santo films—narrates as she explores her family’s past and their involvement in the Mexican film industry. She starts by stating she was always ashamed of this history because their family name became associated with softcore features. Still, through documents and interviews with family members, she discovers her family had had a far more significant impact on the Mexican film industry than she had known, from setting up successful theater chains to signing distribution deals with major Hollywood studios, including Disney/RKO. She also learns some wild things, like how her grandmother almost married Ricardo Montalbán (who even shows up for an interview). Though a beautiful, even joyful family portrait, the documentary also works as an insightful deep dive into the industry in Mexico, at least during her grandfather’s time—just a terrific inclusion to the set.

The included galleries then feature several photos and items related to the documentary.

Indicator also includes one of their fantastic booklets with the limited edition (future pressings will not have it), running around 76 pages. Following an excellent look into Santo, the films, and the genre in general (written by critic Luciano Castillo), the booklet then provides a few articles further exploring Mexican wrestling and its off-shoots, supplied through a reprint of 1953 Waco Tribune-Herald article written by Virginia Snow (looking at its rising popularity south of the border) followed by an in-depth essay by Christian Cymet on the masks used in the sport. The booklet then features a reprint of a 1995 article by Carlos Monsiváis about Santo (aka Rodolfo Guzmán Huerta, aka Rudy Guzmán) and his pop culture impact. Of course, things wouldn’t be complete without an extensive profile of the man himself, and that’s provided through the reprint of a 2009 one written by Jimmy Pantera. And the booklet doesn’t end there. The original Santo comics come up in the on-disc features, though sadly don’t receive the attention they probably deserve there. The booklet fixes that by including excerpts from an interview with Griselda Cruz, daughter of writer and artist José G. Cruz, creator of the comics. She talks about their partnership, the development of the comic persona, and then their eventual falling out. After that, the booklet focuses on Perdida, including a write-up of the film by Michael Donnelly following a 2011 screening at Telluride Film Festival and then interviews with the filmmakers. It’s an incredibly detailed booklet and adds incredible value to this release, so I’d say it’s worth picking up the Limited run while you can make sure you get your hands on it.


A fantastic and lovingly assembled special edition by the folks at Indicator.

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Directed by: Joselito Rodriguez
Year: 1961 | 1961
Time: 70 | 74 min.
Series: Indicator
Edition #: 276/277
Release Date: February 14 2023
MSRP: $39.99
2 Discs | BD-50
1.37:1 ratio
Spanish 1.0 PCM Mono
Subtitles: English
Regions A/B/C
 Looking for El Santo (2023, 31 mins): Viviana García Besné’s search for filming locations in Havana, Cuba and the true story behind the making of the first two Santo films   A League of Gentlemen (2023, 12 mins): previously unseen interview, filmed in 2009, in which co-star Joaquín Cordero reminisces about his experience acting alongside El Santo and his friendship with producer Jorge García Besné   Mascára vs. mascara (2023, 33 mins): The Killer Film, el critico enmascarado (the Masked Critic) discusses the early years of Mexican lucha libre, the birth of the luchador film genre and El Santo’s transition from wrestler to film star, cultural icon, and national treasure   Perdida (2011, 96 mins) feature-length documentary by Viviana García Besné, granddaughter of Jorge García Besné and Mate Calderón, exploring her family’s major contribution to Mexican cinema, including initiating the Santo series   Perdida image gallery: stills collection from the Calderón family   Limited edition exclusive 80-page book with a new essay by Luciano Castillo, an archival newspaper article on Mexican wrestling, Christian Cymet on the history of the mask in Mexican wrestling, extracts from Carlos MonsiváisThe Rituals of Chaos and Jimmy Pantera’s Los tigres del ring, an archival interview with Griselda Cruz, daughter of comic-book writer José G Cruz, Michael Donnelly on Perdida, an archival interview with Viviana García Besné and Alistair Tremps, and film credits