Color, 1973, 97 mins. 14 secs.
Directed by Rafael Romero Marchant
Starring Santo, Carlos Romero Marchant, Helga Liné, Jorge Rigaud, Antonio Pica, Mirta Miller
Vinegar Syndrome (Blu-ray) (US R0 HD) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9)
By the time the world's favorite silver-masked wrestling movie star turned up in this Spanish-Mexican co-production, he'd been facing off against human and supernatural foes in dozens of films since the late '50s. A mainstay of late night TV airings and various double and triple bills, the anonymous wrestler was a Mexican icon and also appeared in another adventure the same year, Santo and Blue Demon vs. Dr. Frankenstein. In this case you don't get any monsters, but there's plenty of globe-hopping action and heist intrigue in store along with a fun case of Euro-horror cult icons.
When a valuable Velazquez painting shipped from Madrid to Mexico turns out to be a damaged upon its unboxing, wrestler and crime fighter is ordered to hop on a plane to Europe to find out what's behind the scam tied to a counterfeit art ring. Upon arrival he's set up by Interpol to work with Spanish agent Paul, Agent 9004 (Cut-throats Nine's Marchant), to follow the trail to the shifty Dr. Mann (Horror Express' Rigaud), his assistant Sarah (Nightmare Castle's Liné), and nephew Peter (Blue Eyes of the Broken Doll's Pica). Improbably enough, it all involves the abduction of beautiful models who are kept chained in the basement where they're used a guinea pigs for medical experiments (yes, tied to the art forgeries) including the impolite use of scorpions. Along the way our heroes dodge hired killers, leap off cliffs, and hang from helicopters in an action-packed race to crack the case.
As much a Euro-spy film as a Santo adventure, this is a solid introduction for newcomers thanks to its relatively glossy production values and entertaining balance of wrestling, sleuthing, and mad scientist pulp. Fans of Spanish horror will have an especially good time for obvious reasons, while die-hard devotees of Santo cinema should find it a change of pace with its combination of caper plotting and cheap thrills. Add to that a fun Henry Mancini-inspired score, and it's a good time for all.
Though many Santo films weren't blessed with English dubs at the time, this one was and made the rounds a little more widely. While Santo DVD and especially Blu-ray releases before this were a very mixed batch, the 2022 Vinegar Syndrome Blu-ray features the best of all possible worlds with an impressive 2K restoration from the camera negative and both the original Spanish and English-dubbed tracks with English SHD or English-translated subtitles. Both language options are enjoyable with the English dub adding to that Euro-cult vibe throughout. Also included are the alternate English main titles as Masked Man Strikes Again (Santo vs. the Dr Death) (sic), a gallery of posters and lobby cards (32s), and the Spanish and English trailers. The most robust extra is a video essay by Orlando Jimenez (14m11s), "the masked critic," about writer-director Rafael Romero Marchant's contributions to fantastic cinema, the prevalence of Spanish actors versus the scant Mexican personnel, the influence of the classic The Saint character, and some of the signature locations.
Reviewed on January 2, 2023.