Monday, June 25, 2012

Cerebro del mal (1961) [filmed in 1958]

... aka: Brain of Evil
... aka: Evil Brain, The
... aka: Santo contra cerebro del mal
... aka: Santo vs. the Evil Brain

Directed by:
Joselito Rodríguez

In 1958, several years before he became a matinee idol in Mexico, silver-masked wrestler Santo appeared in two low-budget crime adventures that were filmed in Havana, Cuba immediately before Fidel Castro seized power there. I'm not sure these things played anywhere outside of their home country immediately after they were made, but they weren't screened in Mexico until some time in the early 60s after Santo became a box office draw with several subsequent hit films. As demand for Santo increased both of these earlier films were dusted off and reissued with brand new titles. This one, originally called "Cerebro Del Mal" (or "Brain of Evil"), was reissued as "Santo contra cerebro del mal" ("Santo vs. the Evil Brain"). The other, "Hombres Infernales" ("Infernal Men") became "Santo contra hombres infernales" ("Santo vs. Infernal Men"). Though later promoted as the star, Santo actually wasn't the star of either one of these. I'm sure his fans may have found it odd to see the courageous hero sitting off in the background much of the time looking dazed and having to play second fiddle to a mad doctor (who just shoos him away at one point) character and others. Rumor has it that Santo was initially reluctant to even do movies, but was talked into doing them by this film's director and co-star, fellow grappler Fernando Osés. And the rest is history.

After a car chase, three thugs armed with their own unique weapon (switchblade, brass knuckles and a chain) corner crime fighter Santo (playing El Enmascarado, or "The Masked One") in an alleyway. A badly-choreographed fight ensues, ending with our masked hero getting choked out. He's put in the back of a car and driven out to the country, where Frankenstein-like Dr. Campos (Joaquín Cordero) injects him with a mind-control serum and places him under some kind of radiation lamp thingy which kick starts the formula. Now under the control of the bad guys, El Santo becomes a handy ally in committing various crimes, especially considering he's trusted by all the city folk. Er, at least he WAS trusted by all of the city folk until word gets around that he's been running with this new crowd. A few of the thugs and The Masked One beat up two guys and then kidnap a famous scientist, who gets the same mind-control treatment. Seeing how their little technique is working out so well, they next do a bank president and have him clean out the bank's safe and bring them the loot.

Dr. Campos, who has been living a double life of kind professor by day and mad scientist and master criminal by night, has the hots for a woman named Elisa (Norma Suárez), who is inconveniently dating his friend Gerardo (Alberto Inzúa). Guess how Campos plans to win her love? You got it, by mind control. He has his thugs beat up Gerardo and then kidnap Elisa and even goes so far as to accompany Gerardo to the police station to report the crime to cover his ass. Meanwhile, El Incognito (Osés), a second masked man in an outfit similar to Santo's except it's all black, is also lurking around and has used a radiation meter to locate Campos' lab. While Dr. Campos is off at the Casino de Capri watching a nightclub dance act, Incognito sneaks in through the skylight, steals some papers and tries to mix up an antidote to the mind-control serum. Santo sneaks in for a little wrestling action until Incognito breaks a bottle over his head. He then injects his wrestling buddy with the antidote. Back to his normal self, Santo can now secretly spy on the crime ring from the inside.

There's a police chase, an attempted poisoning, tons of shots of cars driving around, lots of newspaper headlines, a bunch of guys sitting around playing cards for what feels like an eternity and a few more poorly-done fight scenes. It was nice to finally pop my Santo cherry, but if I were a female I might be pissed off that I shaved my legs for this. It's a very bland, dull and completely unoriginal serial-like film that probably seemed poorly dated even in the early 60s and didn't exactly get this viewer very excited about the prospect of watching the rest of the Santo titles. It's not even good for camp value; just boring and predictable. Hopefully it's all up from here. As an aside, there's some very familiar-souding music here that I'm pretty sure was used in several of Ed Wood's 1950s productions.

Executive producer, co-writer and co-director Enrique Zambrano gave himself a third-billed heroic role here as Lt. Zambrano. It was never released to American theaters and the only release in the U.S. was on VHS through Something Weird (who only offered a Spanish language version with no subs). However, a fan-subbed version is floating around the net if you're interested.

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