Sunday, November 13, 2016

Dr. Satan (1966)

... aka: Doctor Satán
... aka: Dr. Satán

Directed by:
Miguel Morayta

In a wonderfully spooky opening sequence complete with music that would be more at home in a Coffin Joe film, a beggar is swiped by a few pale-faced, karate-chopping zombies and taken to the lab of Dr. Plutarco Arozamena (Joaquín Cordero). There, the mad scientist injects his patented XX-34 serum into the beggar's neck, killing him. He then uses his XR-6 formula (an antidote) to bring the beggar back to life. A ha, instant zombie! This particular combination of formulas can turn any living being into the living dead as long as the antidote is given within 48 hours of the first injection. Dr. Arozamena instructs his henchmen to take the beggar back to where they kidnapped him and leave him there (he won't remember anything), plus stuffs some bills in their pockets to “pay the fee.” What fee, you ask? Well, Dr. Arozamena is involved in other nefarious activities that don't involve kidnapping unwilling human guinea pigs and turning them into zombies. He also happens to be embroiled in an international crime / mafia network that stretches all the way to Europe.

Agent Tomás Mateos (José Gálvez) receives a telegram from Paris Interpol about a counterfeit money scam operating between France and Mexico. Tomás either needs to get to the bottom of things pronto or else he'll lose his job. Thankfully, he's got a good assistant in Nora (Alma Delia Fuentes), who proves to be an even better sleuth than her superior. Meanwhile, Luisa Moncelli (Gina Romand) flies in from Europe. A representative of the counterfeiters who's come to make sure the Mexican contingent doesn't screw things up, Luisa meets up with Dr. Arozamena, whose experiments are being funded by the organization. The doctor is instantly smitten with the blonde beauty and, since she has a thing for evil, mysterious guys, the feeling's mutual. The two decide they need to eliminate a few people in order for their operation to run more smoothly. On the immediate hit list are Tomás, Nora and Javier Rodríguez (Quintín Bulnes), who's been doing an inept job distributing the counterfeit cash and attracting unwanted police attention in the process.

All of the principals end up at a nightclub where the doctor shoots a capsule of XX-34 into Javier's neck with a blowgun disguised as a cigarette. Javier goes back home and dies while the police apprehend Daniel (Antonio Raxel), one of the zombie henchmen. Daniel can only repeat “No se nada” and Arozamena's name in a monotone voice to any question asked. But the doctor cleverly manages to avoid being implicated by telling them Daniel is one of his patients. He then gives him a salt tablet which releases his soul and makes him disappear into thin air. Arozamena sends his boys out to dig up Javier's corpse so he can be resurrected as a zombie (complete with staples in head) who's renamed Cain and then stages assassination attempts on both Tomás and Nora using Cain and his other two henchman, Baltazar (Carlos Agostí) and Tino (Gerardo Zepeda).

The police have a major break in the case when the doctor's personal secretary Elsa (Judith Ruiz Azcarraga) steps forward. Elsa's father was a former colleague of Arozamena's until he disappeared and she's been secretly gathering evidence against him ever since. Now in possession of incriminating recordings of his conversations plus duplicate keys to his lab, which is accessed through a hidden panel which leads down a stairwell into some caves, she finally decides to blow the whistle on him. However, our heroes really have no idea what they're up against. In addition to creating zombies and helping to spread fake money around the city, Dr. Arozamena is also a dedicated Satanist who prays to “Rey Diablo” (King Devil) for help and guidance, captures souls inside little boxes and even conjures up a winged demon.

I can't speak for everybody out there, but when I watch a movie called Dr. Satan that was made in Mexico in the 60s, this is pretty much exactly what I'm wanting to see. Sure, there aren't any pro wrestlers to be found, but this doesn't need them. It's also made with enough skill to never really lapse into dated camp territory. There's an entertaining (and busy) plot, a thoroughly evil villain dedicated solely to the art of spreading evil, mindless zombies, secret passageways, cool gadgets, a bit of early gore (like the doctor sewing up a wound on one of his henchmen), good sets, an excellent music score from Luis Hernández Bretón and some very atmospheric sequences, best of which is the first appearance of the demon in a foggy cemetery.

With his deep voice, widow's peak, V-shaped eyebrows and completely serious approach to the role, Cordero is perfect as the evil doctor and channels some serious Lugosi here with his intense stares (simple lighting effects used to accentuate his face help, as well). The rest of the actors are also very good. The open ending is a set up for the 1968 sequel, Dr. Satán y la magia negra / DR. SATAN VS. BLACK MAGIC, which was shot in color and also features Cordero.

This was released at least two different times on VHS here in the U.S.. Unfortunately, neither release was in English. The first video (pictured above) came from The Puente Group in 1990 and the second was from Something Weird Video a few years later. There's a bootleg version currently available taken from one of the VHS releases. While it doesn't score very high on print quality it at least has fan made English subs. IMDb currently has this listed as Doctor Satán, though the title screen and all posters and lobby cards title it Dr. Satan.

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