Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Dr. Satán y la magia negra (1968)

... aka: Dr. Satan and the Black Magic
... aka: Dr. Satan Versus Black Magic
... aka: Dr. Satan vs. Black Magic

Directed by:
Rogelio A. González

The ending of DR. SATAN (1966) was left open, leaving room for this follow-up. Unlike the black-and-white mix of Gothic horror and crime film of the original, this one's in full color with more of an accent put on the crime elements. In hell (which looks like a dark, foggy cave lit up with violet light), Plutarco Satan (Joaquín Cordero) is awakened from his peaceful rest by Satan himself, whose presence in the film is limited to a booming echo voice and one later shot in silhouette. The tired Plutarco only wants to rest in peace, but Satan forbids it as he's planning to send him back to Earth to carry out an "important mission" for him. Up above, an evil wizard named Yei Lin (Noé Murayama) is plotting against the Dark Lord and trying to get his hands on something called "The Sorensen Formula" that he'll be able to use to destroy Satan for good. Plutarco is instructed to return to Earth, retrieve the secret formula and then kill Yei Lin. If not? Well, Satan will never grant him the eternal peace he so desires.

After their latest attempt to replicate the Sorensen formula fails, Yei Lin sends his henchmen after the professor who created it. They sneak into his hotel room that night, throw a switchblade into his chest and then steal his briefcase with all of his important papers inside. Meanwhile, Plutarco is back on Earth and just opened up a bogus new "clinic" using the alias "Dr. Ramos." He and his zombie-like assistant Medusa (Sonia Furió) place a newspaper ad looking for a new secretary and "hire" Angelica Robles (Luz María Aguilar) after she mentions she's all alone in the world and doesn't have a family. Plutarco mesmerizes her with his eyes and then takes her to his secret lab, where she's injected with a serum to turn her into an obedient zombie just like Medusa. She's then renamed Erato. The women are kept in a separate chamber also accessed by a hidden door where they sleep in coffins with their arms crossed until Plutarco needs to send them out to spy or gather evidence. Their first mission is to find the whereabouts of Yei Lin.

The contents of the dead scientist's briefcase reveal his studies in alchemy and give the exact formula for creating gold out of inferior metals like bromine, zinc, lead and nickel. According to this film's mythology, gold was initially created to control the consciousness and souls of men and thus the ability to make as much as possible whenever he wanted would make Yei Lin more powerful than Satan himself. Assisting Yei Lin are his loyal right hand "lotus flower" Dea (Aurora Clavel) and a couple of big henchmen; the bald Marco ("N. Leon Frankenstein" / Nathanael León) and switchblade-armed Sergio (Guillermo Hernández aka wrestler 'Lobo Negro'), whom he puts in charge of gathering the needed minerals and finding a location where they can open up a large-scale lab to mass produce the gold.

Once the zombie women locate his foe's home, Plutarco attempts to assassinate Yei Lin with a poison dart only to discover he's not going to die so easily. Yei Lin is not only a powerful sorcerer with great knowledge of black magic but he's also a vampire who has the ability to transform into a rubber-bat-on-a-string at will. In other words, ordinary killing methods aren't going to work. Yei Lin and company not only have Plutarco and his ladies after him, but also Interpol, led by Inspector Bianchi (Carlos Agostí), and the local police, led by Captain Mendia (Carlos "López Figueroa" / Cardán). Because of this, they abandon their mansion and rent office space in a skyscraper under the guise of being importers of "Oriental" artifacts.

While certainly watchable, this definitely had the potential to be better than what it is with its evil vs. evil premise. I mean, do you root for a demonic emissary out to protect the "King Devil" or do you root for a power-mad vampire who aspires to be more powerful than Satan so he can potentially do even more nefarious things? As Dr. Satan puts it, "The world is too small for both of us." I kind of wish they'd left it like that but instead Dr. Satan is turned into some Bond-style super-spy escaping one near-death experience after another while Yei Lin is less vampire and more criminal mastermind Fu Manchu knock-off. Naturally, this can't compete with the higher-budgeted studio Bond, Eurospy and Fu Manchu films that were being produced in huge numbers at around the same time.

Color turns out to be a double-edged sword, as well. While it helps to brighten up otherwise bland sets it also highlights just how the cheap those sets are, something black-and-white and generous use of shadow and fog always helped to camouflage. There's little black magic and little horror here. Instead, we get a bunch of typical spy film double-crosses, secret formulas and gadgets. The most prominent toy on display is a big radioactive laser gun used to do an "atomic bombardment" of the mineral concoction to turn it into gold bars. The gun can also make humans disintegrate as we find out when a nosy security guard needs dealt with.

Lead Cordero is as good as he can be here given the material but he really shines during the scant horror scenes he's given. Between his work in these films, THE BOOK OF STONE (1969) and PANICO (1970) I'm becoming quite the Cordero fanboy. Good news is he did quite a few horror films so there's a lot left for me to discover. The half-Japanese Murayama is also pretty good as the vampire and I wouldn't mind seeing more of him either.

This was released theatrically in the U.S. by Azteca Films but only in Spanish. That was followed by a U.S. VHS release from Something Weird, which was also available only in Spanish with no subs. But now we have some fancy fan subs to go with this title so all is good.

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