Film Review: El Santo and Blue Demon Vs. Dracula and the Wolf Man (1973)

Also known as: Santo y Blue Demon vs Drácula y el Hombre Lobo (original Mexican title), Santo and Blue (US subtitled version)
Release Date: July 26th, 1973 (Mexico)
Directed by: Miguel M. Delgado
Written by: Alfredo Salazar
Music by: Gustavo Cesar Carrion
Cast: El Santo, Blue Demon, Aldo Monti, Agustin Martinez Solares, Nubia Marti

Cinematográfica Calderón S.A., 90 Minutes

Review:

I have the same sort of love for Mexican lucha libre movies that I do for Japanese tokusatsu. In fact, they’re very similar in a lot of ways, other than lucha pictures don’t tend to feature giant monsters and they always star a big professional wrestling superstar.

In the case of Santo y Blue Demon vs Drácula y el Hombre Lobo, we’ve got a film with two big lucha libre superstars: El Santo and Blue Demon.

But the real treat here is that we’ve also got a pair of classic monsters with Dracula and the Wolf Man. Granted, they aren’t played by Bela Lugosi and Lon Chaney Jr. or Christopher Lee and Oliver Reed but they’re still classic horror monsters squaring off against lucha libre stars in a showdown for the ages!

Sadly, the showdown is pretty weak and the film doesn’t seem to follow the rules of these two classic monsters, as the Wolf Man is killed alongside Dracula by being impaled by wooden stakes.

Most people in the States will probably find this movie to be unpalatable. Lucha libre is certainly an acquired taste as an athletic competition, as well as in the movies. For those that love it and the legendary lucha stars of yesteryear, this goofy movie will be a lot of fun in its action heavy sequences.

Most of the non-action stuff is pretty boring and its hard for an American such as myself to follow, as all the details are in Spanish and that isn’t my native tongue. I know enough to get by and I get the gist of the plot but tracking down subtitled or dubbed versions of these films is very difficult.

The special effects are bad, the make up is laughable and the sets look like they’re from a community theater production but it all works for what this is.

I actually liked how they filmed the wrestling matches. Instead of doing them in an arena with thousands of screaming fans, they’re done against a solid, colored backdrop with canned cheers added in. While this is a really cheap way to create these wrestling scenes, it fits the strange tone of the film and its clunky, cheap sets. But it also feels otherworldly, which just works here.

Santo y Blue Demon vs Drácula y el Hombre Lobo is not a film that most people will enjoy but out of the long history of lucha libre motion pictures, this is one of the better productions that I’ve seen. Plus, two superstars are better than one.

Rating: 5.25/10
Pairs well with: other movies starring El Santo and/or Blue Demon.

Documentary Review: The Death of “Superman Lives”: What Happened? (2015)

Release Date: April 30th, 2015 (limited)
Directed by: Jon Schnepp
Written by: Jon Schnepp
Music by: Frederick William Scott
Cast: Nicolas Cage (archive footage), Tim Burton, Kevin Smith

Super Skull Ship, 104 Minutes

Review:

Superman Lives was a film that never happened but I have always been intrigued by what it could have been.

Years ago, there was a picture of a long haired Nicolas Cage in a Superman costume with his eyes half shut; it looked really bizarre. Most fans of superhero films have probably seen this famous picture at some point or another. But that really set the stage for what this bizarre interpretation of Superman was.

Hearing that Tim Burton was working on the movie and that Kevin Smith had written a script for it, made this project even more bizarre. Burton had a falling out with the studio after issues arose during the production of what would have been his third Batman movie and Smith was a comic book fanboy that was mostly known for his stoner comedies that featured Jay and Silent Bob.

No one seemed to know much else about this strange project though. So once I heard about this documentary, I had a very strong desire to check it out, especially since we got to hear the details from the mouths of Burton and Smith.

On one hand, this was a truly strange motion picture but on the other hand, it wasn’t as insane as one might think if they saw that photo of Nic Cage.

This documentary was pretty solid and it covered a lot of ground from a lot of different angles. Everyone has their own version of the events and the truth is probably somewhere in the middle but this was an interesting story, nonetheless.

I’m actually glad that the film didn’t get made and that we got Superman Returns instead of this, even if it’s far from a perfect film. Superman Lives wasn’t really in tune with what Superman is. It could have been an insane and awesome motion picture in its own way and maybe the creators should revisit this concept as a movie for a new character that isn’t one that already comes with 80 years of his own lore built in.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other documentaries about superhero filmmaking or films that never materialized: Doomed! The Untold Story of Roger Corman’s The Fantastic Four or Jodorowsky’s Dune for instance.

Comic Review: Before Watchmen: Comedian

Published: June 20th, 2012 – April 24th, 2013
Written by: Brian Azzarello, Len Wein, John Higgins
Art by: John Higgins, JG Jones, Alex Sinclair
Based on: Watchmen by Alan Moore

DC Comics, 148 Pages

Review:

When this was first announced, I wasn’t too keen on anyone other than Alan Moore working on anything Watchmen related. My stance on that changed before I read this but I still never thought that anything else featuring these characters would live up to the greatness of Moore’s masterpiece.

Before Watchmen: Comedian isn’t a masterpiece but it is still damn good and I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it. It gives me hope that the other Before Watchmen installments will also be superb.

This was a comic book that I never wanted but I’m glad that I got it. I love the Comedian character and in fact, he’s my favorite from the Watchmen universe. Also, due to my love of Jeffrey Dean Morgan, it’s hard for me not to see him as this character, even in comic book form. And to be honest, I would be so game for an adaptation of this story with Morgan returning to the Comedian role.

I think that this was as good as it was because Brian Azzarello respected what came before. He made something very damn close to the tone and style of Alan Moore’s work. Len Wein also contributed to some of the writing, as well, and both of these men seem to have a real admiration for the source material.

I also thought that the art was really good. It captures the vibe of the old school Dave Gibbons atmosphere with a bit of a modernized twist to it.

This book, as well as the others in this series, serve to give thorough backstories to the key characters of Watchmen lore. Purists of the original material don’t have to read this or even consider it canon but I do, at this point. DC has been doing a lot with these characters lately and I’m kind of digging it, as long as their use works well with the original work they appeared in.

Comic books and comic characters evolve. It’s always been this way. Batman was created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger back in 1939 but dozens upon dozens of people have taken their turn writing the character. Some of them don’t hit the mark but many of them do. Comic books are a medium where this is the norm, especially with characters owned by DC or Marvel. So I’m not against prequels, sequels and other stories featuring Watchmen characters. I just hope that they can maintain a certain quality.

Before Watchmen: Comedian is quality. And if anything, it’s made me pretty excited to delve into the other Before Watchmen installments.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: other Before Watchmen stories, as well as Watchmen and Doomsday Clock.

Film Review: Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell (1974)

Release Date: April, 1974 (Paris Festival of Fantasy Film)
Directed by: Terence Fisher
Written by: John Elder
Based on: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Music by: James Bernard
Cast: Peter Cushing, Shane Briant, David Prowse, Madeline Smith, John Stratton, Patrick Troughton, Bernard Lee

Hammer Film Productions, AVCO Embassy Pictures, Paramount Pictures, 99 Minutes

Review:

“[after operating eyeballs onto the creature] Now, in approximately one hour, when the narcosis wears off… we shall see.” – Baron Victor Frankenstein

This is the final picture in Hammer Film’s Frankenstein series. I have now revisited and reviewed all of the films that star Peter Cushing. I need to go back and revisit the other one that stars Ralph Bates but that one is a semi-parody and not as serious as the Cushing installments.

As a kid, I always loved this one and I still like it a lot but having now seen it so soon after watching the others, I’d have to say that this one is the slowest. In fact, it drags out in parts and is a little bit boring.

It still has its fair share of excitement and I love that Frankenstein’s monster in this chapter is a “neolithic man”, which just equates to the monster being a massive, hulking brute, covered in lots of fur with an ape-like face. It’s also worth noting that the monster was portrayed by David Prowse, who would go on to be Darth Vader and thus, this was a film with both Vader and Grand Moff Tarkin, three years before their more famous pairing in Star Wars – Episode IV: A New Hope.

Prowse was also in a lot of Hammer pictures. Certainly not as many as Cushing but this wasn’t a new type of role for him.

The film also stars Shane Briant and Madeline Smith, who many probably remember as Miss Caruso from the James Bond film, Live and Let Die. Patrick Troughton, the Second Doctor of Doctor Who fame also has a small role, as does Bernard Lee, the actor who played M in the James Bond movies of the ’60s and ’70s.

I like the setting of this film, which is an asylum. Frankenstein has taken on another identity and works in secret within the asylum, where there isn’t a shortage of bodies to experiment on and brains to steal.

Frankenstein is obviously still evil but he is nowhere near as dastardly as he was in the previous film, Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed. But that’s the thing with the Hammer Frankenstein pictures, there just isn’t any real consistency and every film is sort of self-contained. It’s a stark contrast to how they managed their Dracula franchise where most of the films led right into the next chapter.

Being that this is a later Hammer movie, it does have a bit more of a gore factor than their earlier pictures. It isn’t overly gory but there are some scenes that still come off as pretty intense. For instance, there is a scene where the patients within the asylum literally tear someone apart with their bare hands. It happens off screen but we see meat and fluids flying, as well as what’s left of the poor soul after the savage attack.

This is one of the weakest installments of the film series but I still enjoy it quite a bit. The thing is, Hammer was running out of gas by 1974 and there was more competition in the UK from studios like Amicus, who also produced movies in a very similar style to Hammer.

I wouldn’t call this a worthy finale to the film series but The Satanic Rites of Dracula wasn’t a good finale either.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: other Hammer Frankenstein films, as well as the Hammer Dracula and Mummy series.

Axe Is Bullshit

*The Bullshit Series started on an older blog but I wanted to bring these articles back here, as I have new installments for the series that I want to release over time. The series focuses on things that I think are bullshit… like filet mignon, Zubaz pants, the Pro Bowl and diets.

*Written in 2014.

There is an epidemic going on in America. Come to think of it, as far as I know, it could be crossing over our borders and seeping into the rest of the world. An epidemic of monolithic proportions that is rewriting human history and destroying our future.

While people worry about climate change, rising seas, nuclear meltdowns, oil spills, radioactive tsunamis, alien invasion, kaiju attacks, zombies and haunted VHS tapes, there is a much bigger and more sinister threat that must be dealt with. Something that is comprised of pure evil, which needs immediate attention because in all actuality, it is probably already too late to stop it. The threat I am talking about is Axe body spray.

Interestingly, Axe isn’t even made in America. It comes from the British-Dutch company Unilever, who make food, beverages, cleaning agents and other personal care products. In the UK, Axe exists under the brand name of Lynx. In America it is called Axe because it is actually an acronym that means “America X-terminated Exactingly”. The acronym is of course not publicly disclosed and just adds to the mystique of this evil anti-American conspiracy. The thing is, we are America, we are the best and the rest of the world is mad because they want to win their fair share of blue ribbons. Sorry world, America wins. It is also believed that it is a half-British company who manufactures this because they still harbor a lot of animosity and anger after losing the Revolutionary War over two-hundred years ago.

Men, teens and young boys need to stop buying this stuff – especially men. Their ads sell you on the idea that if you drench yourself in this toxic waste, supermodel bitches will chase you down in an attempt to take your seed. Somehow this magic spray has some mystical element that turns women into lust-driven hyenas that will stop at nothing to tie you down and smother you to death with primal sex moves. Nothing could be further from the truth.

I have yet to meet a woman that has turned into a slut zombie by whiffing this stuff. The results I’ve seen have actually been the opposite. I can’t tell you how many sad saps I’ve seen walk into a bar saturated in Axe body spray in an attempt to stir up a maniacal orgy only to have the women flee to the other end of the bar: huddled up and giggling at the poor idiot.

The truth behind this stuff is eerie, as they are convincing dudes to buy it like it’s sexual crack rock when in fact it is a lie created to implement population control. If guys think it works, they put it on. When women flee, men can’t have sex with them and thus population is controlled, as babies can’t be made. It’s a pretty fucked up situation but with America out of the way, the British Empire can move back in and start taxing the crap out of our tea. I’m not completely sure why they’re selling it to their own people though, other than it is usually bought by people on the lower end of the social and economic scales and thus, the Royal Family can flush out all the poor people and have more money to buy jewels and scepters.

Regardless of whether or not you believe in crazy conspiracy theories doesn’t really matter. The proof is in the pudding and the proof is that Axe will do the exact opposite of getting you laid. Also, it is probably made with Smile-X and may turn you into some Jack Nicholson-looking Joker person. Plus the packaging looks like an energy drink; do you want to dump energy drink all over your body?

Man up and buy some goddamned cologne. Even cheap real cologne from CVS is better than this aerosol gamma radiation.

Comic Review: Man Without Fear

Published: January 2nd, 2019 – January 30th, 2019
Written by: Jed MacKay
Art by: various, Kyle Hotz (covers)

Marvel Comics, 123 Pages

Review:

I was a bit depressed when Charles Soule’s run on Daredevil came to an end but there was a silver lining as Chip Zdarsky would be taking over. Zdarsky has been on his A-game lately and I think that he’ll be a good fit on the title.

However, between the two runs, there was this miniseries, which is a bridge between them.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this five issue series but even though it started out a bit slow, each issue built off of the one before it and I was pleasantly surprised by the end result.

This starts with Matt Murdock a.k.a. Daredevil in a coma. Each issue sees a character or a group of characters from his past come into his hospital room to visit but to also add some good emotional context to what Matt is going through. By the end of it, he is ready to put the mask back on and get to work.

The story was a slow build but man, it worked really well and it did it’s primary job very effectively. That job was to bridge the gap and generate real interest in the next chapter of Daredevil‘s long legacy.

Several artists worked on the book but the art was all done pretty consistently. The covers by Kyle Hotz really made these books look superb and I picked them all up because sometimes I buy comics just for the art on the cover. But I’m glad that this wasn’t just a collection of nice covers and that the contents within entertained me.

There isn’t a whole lot of action here due to Daredevil’s physical status but the story does have real energy and we do get to see Matt subconsciously fight his demons in a physical sense.

Man Without Fear is definitely a Daredevil story worth reading for fans of the character and for those looking forward to what’s on the horizon.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: the Charles Soule Daredevil run before this and the new Chip Zdarsky run after.

Comic Review: Predator Vs. Judge Dredd Vs. Aliens: Splice and Dice

Published: February 6th, 2018
Written by: John Layman
Art by: Chris Mooneyham
Based on: Predator by Jim Thomas and John Thomas, Alien by Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett, Judge Dredd by John Wagner, Carlos Ezquerra and Pat Mills

Dark Horse Books, 101 Pages

Review:

Well, this was underwhelming. But most Alien Vs. Predator crossovers that include other franchises don’t ever seem to deliver.

The thought of Judge Dredd fighting Predators and Aliens got me excited. It looks damn good on paper but the execution here was pretty shoddy.

The biggest problem with the story is that there was too much strange shit going on. The main villain was a mad scientist that made animal/human hybrids and called them Ani-Men, which I’m pretty sure is the name of a supervillain team that Marvel has used as far back as the 1960s.

My gripe about this part of the plot is that it takes up most of it. This story arc is made up of just four single issues, there isn’t room to dillydally. We didn’t need this and while it was used to introduce the alien xenomorphs to the story, the plot didn’t need to get fixated on this other, unimportant stuff.

All you need to do to kick off this story is have a Predator ship crash in Mega-City One. The crash releases alien xenomorphs and Predators that were fighting on board. Judge Dredd shows up to investigate the crash site and BOOM! you now have Predator Vs. Judge Dredd Vs. Aliens. It writes itself.

The comic dumps all this side story crap in your lap early on and it takes too long to get to the good stuff in a comic without a lot of room the breathe. Once the cool stuff starts, it feels incredibly rushed. There’s no real build of suspense or terror. Plus, Dredd and the Predators team up rather quickly and don’t have much of their own conflict.

This wasn’t a total dud but it just doesn’t live up to what one should expect from from these three badass franchises coming together.

I think that crossovers like this are typically rushed and looked at as a good way to make a quick buck but if the editors actually put a bit more care into these events, we could have better stories, slicker art and something that balances out multiple franchises in a way that makes more sense and respects their spirit.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: any Alien Vs. Predator comic series or Judge Dredd crossover.