1/4/07

624 Samson vs. the Vampire Women

(1962, Horror/Sports, b&w)

Miss Tennessee has wandered away from the home.

Rating: ***1/2

In a nutshell:

A Mexican wrestler battles vampire thugs.

Summary:

Only another Mexican could stand next to this man while keeping a straight face.In the middle of the forest, on a craggy hilltop, in the heavily cobwebbed dungeon of an ancient castle sleep the vampire women. Vampire Queen Thorina was due to join her husband, the Prince of Darkness, in hell about two hundred years ago, but couldn’t make it after the unfortunate young woman selected to become her successor was rescued at the last minute. So they made a dark prophecy or two and set their sights on her descendent, Diana, a lovely if somewhat helpless young woman with a bat-shaped birthmark on her shoulder.

At midnight, two hundred years later, the vampire women awake. They’ve been asleep a while, and thus do not look their best. There seem to be at least a dozen or so hags with matted hair and crumbling skin, led by Tandra: dark priestess and second vampire banana. She becomes beautiful in moonlight and leads her thuggish vampire henchmen to spy on their innocent prey. Diana interrupts her piano recital to stumble towards them in a trance, but is saved from going outside by her Professor father and her ineffectual fiancé.

Her father, Professor Orlof, is an expert on vampirology, and has been working on an ancient Egyptian text detailing the vampire women’s intentions. Without revealing the nature of the threat, he browbeats the police chief into guarding his masquerade ball the next night. Later, he requests help from his dear friend El Santo (dubbed in this film as Sampson, a.k.a. The Silver Masked-Man). El Santo goes everywhere in a silver executioner’s mask, sequined cape, and spandex bicycle shorts with no shirt. The ancient Egyptians must have described him thusly, because according to prophecy, he is Diana’s only hope of avoiding a marriage into vampire royalty. El Santo promises to check it out after his next match.

The next night vampire thugs crash the masquerade, kill several of the guests, and make off with Diana. (Though female vampires have the power to put their victims into a trance, their male counterparts are forced to sneak up and blackjack their victims from behind before feeding). The police are helpless to stop them until El Santo arrives. He beats up the thugs and rescues the girl. Frustrated in her designs, Tandra sends a thug to kill El Santo’s next wrestling opponent, the Black Mask, and take his place in the ring. They fight at length, and El Santo finally rips off the mask to reveal the hairy-faced lycanthrope. It turns into a bat and flies away.

Meanwhile, the police chief tries to set a trap for the vampire women by taking Diana and her fiancé to a vampire nightclub. Tandra and Thorina show up and hang out while their goons beat up the cops and kidnap Diana. El Santo arrives too late to stop them, and chases one of the vampire thugs up to a church. It bursts into flames near a cross.

Just then, Orlof deciphers a previously undiscovered part of the ancient prophecy, detailing the vampire hideout’s precise location. El Santo heads a few miles down the road into the dark, forbidding forest and up the craggy hill, arriving at an ancient castle no one seems to have noticed until now. Following Diana’s screams into the dungeon, he is quickly captured as well. Fortunately, capturing him takes up the last few precious minutes of the night. Tandra and her two remaining henchmen burst into flames when sunlight streams through the windows. Thorina and the rest flee to their coffins while El Santo breaks his bonds and sets them all on fire. He carries Diana back to her father and fiancé and drives off into the sunrise.

Introduction:

A being of light, whimsy, and goat-like mannerisms.Mike and the ‘Bots observe a moment of silence. Tom observes how silent it is, going on and on about how transcendent he feels. Quoth he, “My soul is as smooth as a baby’s bottom.”

Host Segment One:

A wise and ethereal being enters Deep 13 to deliver Chinese food. Frank has a number of boxes, each containing chicken with [insert a variety of common foodstuffs here]. His fortune cookie details the wonderful place beyond this world to which he will soon be summoned. Dr. Forrester’s says, “You will die alone and afraid…” He sends some food up to the Satellite via the Umbilicus. Crow ordered the Death of a Salesman special and is thus eating Willy Lo Mein. Mike wrestles with his giant clam soup. Tom has eschewed Chinese food in favor of a good old American hot dog, which barks at him. Down in Deep 13, Frank has eaten all the remaining food before Dr. Forrester could serve himself.

Host Segment Two:

Mike and the ‘Bots play Stratego. While Mike makes his winning move, Crow sees a wise and ethereal being outside, communicating a message in hand signals. Quoth Crow, “Something is going to happen, Mike. Something wonderful.”

Host Segment Three:

A wise and ethereal being clumsily paws Frank awake. Frank recognizes him as Torgo. Torgo says he is now Torgo the White, sent back to bring Frank to a wonderful place known as Second Banana Heaven, where all dimwitted foils go to live in freedom from their tyrannical bosses forever after. They fade into the afterlife together.

Host Segment Four:

Dr. Forrester has noticed that Frank is missing. Mike and the ‘Bots try explain in a roundabout way, citing the circle of life and Gabby Hayes, and eventually Dr. Forrester gets the point. He sings a lament called, “Who shall I kill?” “It seemed he could die without blinking an eye… Who, who shall I kill?”

Host Segment Five:

Mike and the ‘Bots read farewell letters to Frank. Tom’s consists only of the addressee and his own name. Crow’s simply says, “You’re a pig.” Gypsy delivers a long, poetic tribute in which she expresses her wish to cut Frank into tiny stars and spread him across the sky. Down in Deep 13, Dr. Forrester sits morose on his couch. Frank’s disembodied head appears to say, “Close your robe.” They talk about old times, and Dr. Forrester regrets that he’ll never be able to kill Frank again. Quoth Frank, “Somewhere deep inside you, you’ll always be killing me in your heart.” Frank pushes the button one last time.

Stinger:

“Chief, I saw two corpses in the garden.”

Thoughts:

This shot exceeds most daily crotch-and-armpit allowances.Samson vs. the Vampire Women depends on a lot of confusing mythology. First of all, why is there an ancient European castle in the middle of Mexico? Do these aged lady vampires have any Aztec (or any other kind of –Tec) influence or ancestry? And if they’re ancient European and/or Aztec vampires in Mexico, why did they make their dark prophecy in Egyptian? Also, since all these vampires are extremely vulnerable to fire and holy symbols, why doesn’t El Santo (or any of the cops, for that matter) carry either of these things to fight them? Any of the basic vampire-hunting accoutrements would have cleared up their undead infestation in no time.

Despite these problems, it’s a fun film. We’ve seen two Mexican fantasy films already, one of which was execrable (Robot vs. the Aztec Mummy) and one of which I enjoyed (Santa Claus). This one made me laugh long and loud, especially the first time our silver-masked protagonist makes his entrance. Since he’s apparently something of a Mexican national hero, I will refrain from mocking him—even if he does look like a pint-sized sadomasochistic executioner Liberace.

The host segments center on Frank’s departure, featuring Mike Nelson as Torgo the White. The idea of taking him to Second Banana Heaven is a good one, and it’s done well. Torgo’s gradual entrance, Frank’s assumption, and Dr. Forrester’s grief are poignant and funny. Kudos to the Best Brains writers for making a Gandalf the White reference before it was fashionable. We won’t see Frank again until Soultaker and even then, only in cameo.

The film segments are ridiculous, melodramatic, and only a little slow, making them perfect for the Satellite crew’s treatment. When the crumbling vampires first awaken, Mike notes, “This is an ugly sorority.” When Diana goes into a trance during her piano recital, Crow says, “I dedicate this song to Thorazine.” When Tandra wanders vacantly through the night, Crow says, “Miss Tennessee has wandered away from the home.” During the ridiculously acrobatic (and obviously choreographed) wrestling match, Crow says, “[El Santo] trained by watching Roadrunner cartoons.” As episodes go, it’s not the best of the best, but it’s close enough. I’d watch it again.