El enmascarado de plata

Rating: 4 out of 10.

Masked vigilante El Medico Asesino beats up bad guys with his wonderboy sidekick. The first wrestler superhero movie of Mexico, this 1954 release was intended as a serial. Despite its qualities, it’s too long and incoherent as a movie. 4/10

El enmascarado de plata. 1954, Mexico. Directed by René Cardona. Written by René Cardona, José G. Cruz, Ramón Obón. Starring: El Medico Asesino, Victor Junco, Crox Alvarado, Luis Aldás, Aurora Segura, René Cardona, Jr., Guillermo Hernández. Produced by Antonio de Castillo & Gregorio Walerstein. IMDb: 5.5/10. Rotten Tomatoes: N/A. Metacritic: N/A.

Masked master villain El Tigre (Luis Aldás) holds Mexico in the grip of terror, as he uses his death ray to control the weather, hurling storms and lightning at a petrified population. At least, he does so in the beginning and end of this 1954 movie, which seems to forget all about El Tigre’s lightning-wielding power for most of its 2-hour running time. In between, the mastermind is more of a traditional crime lord, presiding over a gang of gun-toting, fedora-wearing gangsters who do gangstery things. The leader of the street mobsters is Lobo Negro (Guillermo Hernández), who in turn takes his orders from a video screen, where yet another masked villain gives him commands — this is the titular El enmascarado de plata, or “The [Man] with the Silver Mask”, henceforth we’ll call him Silver Mask. Silver Mask, in turn takes his orders from El Tigre.

However, another man in a silver mask, wearing the white garments of a physician, starts foiling the gansters’ plans. This is the hero of our film, El médico asesino, or “The Killer Doctor”. Built like a brick wall, the Doctor rolls in on his motorcycle and clocks gangsters left and right, aided by the beautiful damsel in distress Elena (Aurora Segura) and the Robin to his Batman, newspaper boy Pecos, or “Freckles” (René Cardona, Jr.). The Doctor listens in to radio and telephone chatter from his high-tech laboratory, and communicates with Pecos through a gadget belt. Chasing both the villains and the hero are a gang of intrepid reporters, led by Victor Junco and Crox Alvarado, and the audience can keep busy guessing which of the two is actually the Doctor out of disguise.

Crox Alvarado and Victor Junco as reporters.

This is all the plot you need! Most of the film consists of El Medico walking into various death traps, only to escape at the last minute or being rescued by Pecos, or Elena or Pecos being kidnapped in order to lure out El Medico. Little of it has any bearing on the frame story, and seems more like a number of serial episodes strung together into a full-length movie. And according to the information I’ve been able to dig up online, that’s exactly what El enmascarado de plata is. As it stands, however, this cult film is something of an overlooked pioneer, as it was the very first film to feature a Mexican show wrestler, or luchador, as a superhero.

Yes, this is the first luchador film we are reviewing on this blog. For those not familiar with the subject, a small recap is probably in order. Lucha libre (“free fighting”) is the Mexican variety of so-called “professional wrestling” or show wrestling. Like the US brand of show wrestling, lucha libre has its roots in 19th century carnival acts. While show wrestling did take place here and there in Mexico in the early 20th century, the sport really got its beginning the first years of the 1930s, when Salvador Lutteroth imported it as a theatrical arena sport from the US. Lucha libre gradually developed a style distinctly different from its North American counterpart. When US wrestling emphasised the bulk and strength of its heavyweight stars, the most popular Mexican luchadores fought in the cruiserweight division, allowing for a faster and more technical, athletic style of wrestling, emphasising aerial maneuvers. And of course, the masks. While not all Mexican wrestlers wear masks, they have been a part of the sport since the thirties, carrying on the significance of masks in Mexican culture dating back to the Aztecs. However, it wasn’t ancient traditions that introduced the mask in lucha libre, nor did the Mexicans didn’t invent the practice. Back in 1865, French wrestler Thiebaud Bauer appeared as “The Masked Wrestler” at the Paris World’s Fair, and in the US, masked wrestlers appeared from 1915, when Mort Henderson fought as The Masked Marvel. In fact, it was a US wrestler, Cyclone Mackey, or La Maravilla Enmascarada, who first introduced the mask to lucha libre in 1934. The gimmick became a fad, and soon masks were all the rage in the business. Few remembered how they first appeared, and they quickly acquired epic significance. The masks allowed the athletes to create almost mythological characters, and some have gone through their careers fiercely guarding their true identities. Over the years, lucha libre has become something of a national sport of Mexico, and its biggest stars are hailed as national heroes. Undoubtedly the use of masks, allowing for the creation of almost otherwordly heroes and villains, have played a part in forging lucha libre into the true sport of the people, making Mexico one of the few countries in Latin America in the greatest sports heroes aren’t football players.

A lucha libre match in the sixties.

By the fifties, lucha libre was immensely popular in Mexico, partly thanks to its biggest star, El Santo (Rodolfo Guzmán Huerta), who was the first luchador to get his own comic book series in 1952. At the same time, Mexican cinema, now far past its Golden Age in the thirties, was struggling to compete with Hollywood imports. Looking for new ways to draw in the audience, film studios turned to the luchadores. Luchadores had featured in movies prior to the fifties, but the first movie to explicitly cater to the lucha libre fans was Huracán Ramírez, released in 1952. However, the film has little in common with what we now associate with luchador movies. Rather than portray the fighter of the title as a crime-fighting superhero, the film was a melodrama set in the lucha libre world. Nonetheless, it was a success. The fighter of the film was fictional, and the character was played by different actors in and out of mask. It did, however, live on in the fighting ring. Of course, after his own comic book, the logical step for Santo would have been to star in his own film. Due to his silver mask, Santo had earned the nickname “El enmascarado de plata”, or The Man in the Silver Mask. And, unsurprisingly, after the success of Huracán Ramírez, he was approached to star in a 12-part film serial bearing that very name. It was based the comic book by José G. Cruz, who co-wrote the story treatment for the screen along with director René Cardona. However, Santo declined the offer, reportedly because he feared the serial would be a dud. The producers then went hunting for another luchador to play the hero. The call was answered by Mexico’s second most popular luchador at the time, the man who almost singlehandedly revived interest in Mexican heavyweight wrestling, Medico Asesino.

El Medico Asesino strapped to the electric chair by the Man in the Silver Mask.

At 6’3″ or 190 cm, Cesáreo González was a giant among Mexican wrestlers, and his character Medico Asesino got his start as a TV stunt. González, born in 1920, had worked his way up the ladder in various jobs in the wrestling circles, such as time keeper, bus driver and referee, and debuted as a fighter some time in the late thirties or early forties, and had a fair run as La Bestia. After being unmasked in 1945, he retired, but after a few years decided he wasn’t yet done, and despite having a steady day job, again donned the mask in 1950 as El Asesino. But El Medico Asesino was born in 1952, when the TV station Televicentro aired its first ever lucha libre match. His manager handed him a black doctor’s briefcase and a medic’s vest, telling him he was now El Medico Asesino. The character was an instant hit.

For reasons unknown, the 12-part serial was never released as such even though everything in El enmascarado de plata suggests that it was filmed and originally edited as a serial. At two hours in length, it is far longer than similar types of films tended to be, and the story structure is not that of a feature film. The fact that characters appear and disappear without explanation points to the fact that a lot of footage has been edited out in cutting the serial down to feature film length. The film even opens with the original titles for the first episode of the serial, rather than a movie title, which would suggest that the entire serial was canned and ready be screened when the decision was made to turn it into a feature film instead. The title, of course, would have been somewhat confusing for movie-goers, as “El enmascarado de plata” was the nickname of Santo, who was a heroic character in the ring and in the comic books. However, the hero of the film is not Santo, but still wears a silver mask. The titular character is not even the main villain, but his number two.

El Medico Asesino and René Cardona, Jr.

Nonetheless, despite its confusing plot, El enmascarado de plata is worthy of recognition for being the first movie to depict the luchador as a masked vigilante with almost superhero-like tendencies, although of the Batman rather than Superman variety, and not as a wrestler per se. The laboratories, gadgets and super-weapons place the movie smack in the world of comic books — or within the realm of the Hollywood serials of the twenties and thirties. The style of the film also pays homage to both the action serials of Hollywood and the film noir crime thrillers of the day. Raúl Martínez Solares’ chiaroscuro cinematography is actually quite good, and one of the main reasons the film is worth a look-see. However, the film plays more like a straight crime thriller than the colourful and often whimsical luchador movies that gained prominence in the sixties, when the genre really took off — and when Santo finally agreed to become the country’s most hailed hero of the screen.

The special effects are few and far between. The most prominent effect is the full body-size video screen on which the villain — and occasionally the hero — appears. Even this is done through practical, rather than visual effects. When the villain is about to appear, the gangsters turn off the lights in their lair, and the screen lights up with the image of the man in the silver mask — and later El Tigre. This is not a superimposition or rear projection, but a very simple trick of light. The villain stands in a recess in the wall behind a glass screen. When the “screen” is turned off, the recess is dark and the rest of the room bright, effectively turning the glass into a mirror. When the villain appears, the lights in the room are turned down and the lights in the recess switched on, revealing the actor behind the glass. It is an obvious effect, but quite effective in its simplicity.

The Man in the Silver Mask appears. Apparently from a closet.

Anyone looking for Rey Mysterio-type acrobatics in this luchador film will be disappointed. Medico Asesino was not a cruiserweight aerial acrobat, but a heavyweight slugger, a brawler. For a film in which the fighting is the central gimmick, the fight scenes in El enmascarado de plata are mediocre at best, even if the extras are great at falling with flair. Most of it consists of Medico Asesino swinging his famous right hook, knocking down henchmen one at a time or sometimes three or four with a single punch. The single proper lucha libre-style fight scene comes in the middle of the film, between the Silver Mask and El Medico, and is fairly well staged, but poorly filmed. The fights usually serve little dramatic purpose, as most end with both the villains and the heroes escaping, returning the story to much the same status as it was before the fight, other than El Medico once again having escaped death.

The design of both El Tigre’s and El Medico’s labs is absolutely nutty – they’re crammed with more beakers and arc generators and gadgets and blinking lights than any Hollywood film up to that date. Otherwise, the design of the film is unremarkable, resembling a run-of-the-mill crime drama of the period. The direction and photography as such is not at all bad for a serial, nor for a low-budget movie. The camera is surprisingly mobile, and the film lacks the static one-shot feel of many US low-budget movies, and most scenes seem to have been covered from at least two angles, with a fair amount of cutaways to mid-shots and closeups. Cardona works well with zooms for dramatic effect, without making them seem gimmicky. Most of the sets are well designed, if indeed they are sets and not actual locations, and places like upper-class villas and cafés feel authentic.

The Man in the Silver Mask in his lab.

I haven’t been able to dig up any contemporary reviews of the movie, and even modern ones are hard to find. On IMDb El enmascarado de plata has a 5.5/10 rating, based on just 35 votes, which barely makes it count as a rating. At the time of writing, the site doesn’t list a single external review, nor even a user review. Nor have I been able to find a mention of it in any of my usual go-to sources. Of course, there is not a single genre film that has not been at least name-dropped at the marvellous Classic Horror Film Board, where one user comments: “I was amazed at how it comes off like a Republic serial. Even the locations at times look just like a Republic. It is very easy to follow without subs.” Another commenter calls the film “actually quite good despite what some people think”.

The only proper review I’ve been able to track down is a user review by Marty McKee on Letterbox DVD, who insist on calling the movie “The Silver Masked”, which is, if you are being quite literal, the actual translation of the of the title. McKee writes: “This goofy Mexican action movie seems absurdly long at 122 minutes, but the running time makes sense if you believe the reports that The Silver Masked was cut down from a 12-chapter serial. […] Because The Silver Masked is a cut-down version of a serial — and features the favorite tropes of the genre — the story makes little sense, and characters appear and disappear at random. Your mileage may vary on the importance of coherence in your Mexican wrestling movies, and if you just want to groove on “The Doctor,” as El Medico Asesino is called in The Silver Masked, punching out the lights of thugs wearing hats and escaping cheap death traps, here you go. A rare socialist action hero, The Doctor rescues leading lady Aurora Segura and her wealthy uncle from robbers and then lays into the old man, threatening him to stop hoarding his fortune and use it to build hospitals and schools.” McKee gives the film 3/5 stars.

El Medico Asesino putting his big guns to good use.

Blogger Marcel at Películas B writes: “You may already have an idea of ​​the plot if you have seen other films of this genre, such as Santo vs. Blue Demon, where a masked man acts as a vigilante, dedicating himself 24 hours a day to combat evil. The difference in El enmascarado de plata, possibly due to it being one of the first of its kind, is that the ring fighting element only appears once during a gym opening; At the same time, the elements of crime predominate through the gang commanded by El Tigre and some science fiction with laboratories in the purest style of the films of that decade.”

It is tempting to review El enmascarado de plata as a film serial, as it was originally intended as such. And as such, it is, as the horror board commenter points out, actually quite good. As 12 separate 20-minute adventures, it would probably have been quite riveting and action-packed, with great cliffhangers. The production values are certainly on par with, if not better than the best Hollywood serials of the thirties and forties, the Golden Age for masked vigilantes and villains on the screen. The acting is solid, with the standout performance coming from Guillermo Hernández as the gang leader Lobo, sporting a manic laughter, whether threatening El Medico with a machine gun or blowtorch, or stringing him up to a booby-trapped electric chair. René Cardona, Jr. is also quite good as far as juvenile sidekicks go, and he has a couple of rather impressive action sequences, including an aerial attack which would have made Rey Mysterio proud. Mustachioed reporters Victor Junco, Crox Alvarado and Luis Aldás all put in solid efforts without standing out, and Aurora Segura as the female foil is at least OK. However, since it was released as a film, it is as such that it must be reviewed, and unfortunately the script doesn’t hold up — at least at the two-hour length that it is cut down to. This could have made a powerful, action-packed little diamond in the rough if cut down to a B-movie length of one hour, but as it stands, there is at least an hour’s worth of superfluous material. The episodic nature of the script creates a jumpy and jumbled viewing experience, and as El Medico is caught in a death trap for the third time and you realise you’ve only yet seen half of the picture, it becomes quite tiresome, especially as the characters are all cardboard cutouts without any discernible dramatic arcs. The story quickly loses its focus as the episodes focus on their respective mini-mysteries with little bearing on the main drama.

Guillermo Hernández is delicious as a henchman.

El enmascarado de plata gave rise to an explosion of luchador movies. Between 1956 and 1961 over a dozen films were made featuring heroes and/or villains in luchador masks. Perhaps the most popular was the so-called Aztec Mummy trilogy directed by Rafael Portillo. These didn’t feature a luchador hero, but rather a masked villain, played by an actor rather than a wrestler. But almost just as popular were the four films featuring La Sombra Vengadora, or “The Avenging Shadow”. The character was made up for the movies, but was taken up by a real wrestler in the ring in 1958. A third series about the fictional Los Tigres brothers were made in the late fifties and early sixties. Many of these movies starred El enmascarado de plata star Crox Alvarado, who had been a wrestler himself before taking up acting. Then, finally, in 1961, Santo himself was convinced enough by the success of the luchador films to enter the ring, in Santo vs. the Evil Brain. Over the years he starred in an astounding 52 movies, sometimes accompanied by Mexico’s second most revered wrestler, Blue Demon, who became another revered movie hero. Blue Demon and Santo would go on fighting robots, mummies, vampires, werewolves, zombies, giant spiders, aliens, mad doctors and supervillains for decades to come. In the sixties they were also joined by other wrestlers, such as Angel, Neutron and most importantly Mil Mascaras, who went on to become one of the most revered luchadores in history. In 1963 the first movie was made that featured the country’s female wrestlers, and so-called luchadora movies became a popular subgenre. The popularity of the luchador movies waned in the mid-seventies, and they all but disappeared from the screens after 1976.

This is not the first time I encounter director René Cardona on this blog. Last time our paths crossed was in 1936, when he starred as the hero in the medical horror film The Macabre Trunk (El baul macabro, review). Cardona was not only a star of over 120 films during his nigh 50 years long career, like so many of the stars of early Mexican cinema, he also worked as a writer, producer and particularly as a director. To friends of genre cinema he is primarily known as a director of a whole slew of luchador films. But he was also one of Mexico’s most prolific science fiction directors and creator of many cult films in the sixties and seventies.

René Cardona.

His first SF movie as a director was El enmascarado de plata. In 1959 he directed one of his most famous films, Santa Claus, about said title character whose workshop is in this instance located in outer space, and who has to battle the devil who wants to kill him and ruin Christmas for all children. The movie was made famous in the US through the MST3K treatment. Extremely proflific, Cardona sometimes made over a dozen films a year. He dabbled in all possible genres, but mainly B-movie fare. He was just as home in musical comedies as in westerns, melodramas, horror films and science fiction. However, today he is primarily remembered for his luchador movies of the sixties and seventies. Or perhaps I should say: luchadora movies. In fact, Cardona directed all the six major luchadora films of the sixties, which have now become his most lasting legacy — although I suspect they are not the ones he was most happy with. All of these had SF elements, including the first one, Las luchadoras contra el médico asesino (1963). Despite the title it does not feature the wrestler Medico Asesino, but rather a mad doctor and an ape-man who kidnap women to do sadistic brain transplants on them. It was released in the US as Doctor of Doom. Cardona’s last luchadora movie is his best known, and it is actually a cheap remake of his first, only with a few less luchadoras, this one called La horripilante bestia humana, in English Night of the Bloody Apes (1969). His second luchadora was perhaps the most popular, Las luchadoras contra la momia (1964). The others are: Las lobas del ring (1965), Las mujeres panteras (1967) and Las luchadoras vs el robot asesino (1969).

El Medico Asesino and The Silver Masked Man going at it.

René Cardona also directed a slew of other luchador films, including a dozen or so of Santo’s pictures. These included two of the better-regarded Santo flicks, Santo en El tesoro de Drácula (1969), or Santo in The Treasure of Dracula, which features a time machine, and Santo en la venganza de la momia (1971), or Santo in The Vengeance of the Mummy. He also made a number of films with Blue Demon and a wrestler called Zovek, at least two of which had SF elements. These are El increíble profesor Zovek (1962) and Blue Demon y Zovek en La invasión de los muertos (1973) or The Invasion of the Dead. A third SF-tinged luchador film was El asesino invisible (1965) or Neutron Traps the Invisible Killers, featuring the wrestler Neutron. One of hos best known films is not exactly a luchadora, but does include a masked woman who kicks ass, La mujer murcielago or The Batwoman. And the plot synopsis on IMDb is, I kid you not: “Batwoman is called to investigate a whacked out scientist that is capturing wrestlers and using their spinal fluid to create a Gill Man”. This wacky film features the beautiful Maura Monti decked out in a Batwoman bikini throwing thugs around left and right. Cardona’s last SF movie was the 1981 film Visita al pasado, for which I can’t find even a plot synopsis.

Outside of his lucha films, Cardona is best known for two movies. The first is his only English-language film, co-directed with Albert Lewin, The Living Idol (1957), a sort of Aztek spin on The Mummy. The second is Survive! (1976) or Supervivientes de los Andes (1976), a cheap retelling of the story of the Uruguayan rugby team who resorted to eating each other after crashing in the Andes in 1972.

El Medico Asesino. To the right with Santo fastening up his mask.

As mentioned above, El Medico Asesino, or simply Medico Asesino, later only El Medico, was born Cesáreo Anselmo Manríquez González in 1920. His rise to fame as the main star or the Televicentro lucha libre broadcasts was not uncontroversial, as the TV station preferred to use their own stable of wrestlers, rather than to collaborate with the main lucha libre association EMLL. Some viewed Medico Asesino simply as a Santo ripoff and a propped-up tool for the TV producers. However, this changed as the authorities soon shut down Televicentro’s lucha libre broadcasts as unsuitable for television, and González jumped ship back to EMLL, where he continued to shine in main events, not seldom as a tag team partner with Santo himself. He grew so popular, that the EMLL resurrected the virtually dead heavyweight division, and in 1956 he won the heavyweight championship, a title he defended until his death in 1960. Medico Asesino became a celebrity among US wrestling fans as well, as he did a guest tour in Texas in 1956. Meant as a short stay, the sejour lasted over two years, thanks to Medico’s huge popularity. He won the NWA Texas heavyweight championship a total of five times, and his bouts against Johnny Valentine were crowd magnets. Such was his popularity, that he went up against NWA heavyweight world champion Lou Thesz a total of four times (all of which he lost). The most popular of these bouts drew packed the stadium full with 11,000 spectators, and an additional 5,000 had to be turned away at the doors. Unfortunately González career was cut short when he was diagnosed with cancer in 1959, and passed away in 1960. His death made headline news. Extremely well-liked within the wrestling community, his death caused huge outpourings of grief as well as support for his widow and five children. González had wisely taken out a life insurance with his winnings from Texas, and with strong support from fundraising shows, the community enabled his children to study and his widow to support the family.

El Medico wrestling The Man in the Silver Mask.

None of his children followed in his footsteps, despite the fact that there have been several wrestlers fighting under pseudonyms like Medico Asesino, Jr. and El hijo del Medico Asesino (The Son of Medico Asesino). El enmascarado de plata was González‘ only major movie role. While IMDb is famously inaccurate regarding more obscure movies, it does list him as having made three appearances as an extra/as a wrestler in three movies prior to El enmascarado de plata. But IMDb also lists him as having appeared in the all-star film Los campeones justicieros in 1971, alongside Blue Demon and Mil Mascaras. This, of course, is impossible, as González had been dead for 11 years, and the role of El Medico Asesino was obviously played by someone else.

As one of the journalists, we see a legend of Mexican B-movies, Crox Alvarado. Born Cruz Pío Socorro Alvarado Bolado, he was actually a show wrestler before becoming an actor. Most websites lists his place of birth as San José, Costa Rica, but at La Revista genealogist Emilio Obando writes that he was in fact born in Guadalupe, Mexico, in 1910. His father was a native of San José, and the family moved from Guadalupe to El Salvador on account of his father’s work. After studying accounting and working at a tobacco factory, Alvarado longed for something better, and moved to Mexico in 1930. Here he found work as a caricaturist at a leading film magazine, and also entered the rapidly growing lucha libre scene. At the newly refurnished Arena Modelo, Crox Alvarado became one of the pioneers of the sport, when the “father of lucha libre”, Salvador Lutteroth, brought show wrestling from Texas to the arena in Mexico City. The first Mexican-made sound picture opened in 1933, ushering in the Golden Age of Mexican cinema. Alvarado’s friend, famous singer and stage and radio performer Jorge Negrete made his film debut in 1937 and encouraged Alvarado to do the same. His first roles were mostly bit part, but he impressed directors not only with his athletic physique, but also with his talent and versatility as an actor. He didn’t only play brawlers and henchmen, but a number of different roles in all conceivable genres. His breakthrough came with a leading role in the melodrama Naná (1944), oppositie Mexican Hollywood star Lupe Velez. By now Alvarado had left wrestling behind and focused on his work as a caricaturist and actor. The role won him a regard as a serious character actor and romantic lead.

Crox Alvarado.

Crox Alvarado’s next important step was accepting the role of male lead in the 1952 movie The Magnificent Beast (La bestia magnifica), in which he played opposite fellow wrestler Wolf Ruvinskis and “the Marilyn Monroe of Mexico”, Czech star Miroslava. In the film, he played a wrestler struggling up from poverty. Alongwith Huracán Ramírez, The Magnificent Beast ushered in the age of the lucha movie, with Alvarado as one of its biggest stars. In fact, there was a long-running rumour going around that Crox Alvarado and Santo were in fact the same person. Of similar build and physique, Alvarado’s wrestling career ended around the time that Santo emerged as lucha libre’s superstar — and it certainly must have been an appealing fantasy to Santo fans that the dashing movie star spent his spare time mauling his opponents in the ring. The theory gained strength by the fact that despite both making popular lucha films, they never appeared on screen together. That is, until the theory was shattered in 1968, when te played opposite each other in Atacan las brujas, and again in Santo contra Capulina (1969). His golden era as a B-movie hero came when he starred in the hugely popular Aztec Mummy trilogy in 1957 and 1958; The Aztec Mummy, The Curse of the Aztec Mummy and The Robot vs. the Aztec Mummy. Between 1952 and his death in 1984 he appeared in over a dozen lucha films, a couple of boxing movies, some horror pictures, countless westerns and stints in romantic dramas, musicals, comedies, historical pictures, etc, and also established himself as a stage actor. To an English-language audience he is best known for appearing in bit-parts in Jerry Warren’s The Face of the Screaming Werewolf (1964), starring Lon Chaney, Jr., and the TV movie Attack of the Mayan Mummy (1964). You may also have seen him as a police inspector in the afore-mentioned Batwoman.

Santo in high form. It’s not too bizarre that some fans thought it was Crox Alvarado behind the legendary mask.

Most actors in El enmascarado de plata would deserve a mini-bio here, but we’ll get back to many of them in future posts, so for the sake of brevity I’ll keep it short. Víctor Junco, playing Alvarado’s colleague, was a bona fide Mexican movie star, who received an Ariel for his work in the thriller Misterio in 1980. He co-starred with Santo in a handful of lucha movies, and often played second lead in well-regarded historical dramas. Junco can also be seen in Hollywood movies like Seven Cities of Gold (1955), Bandido! (1956), starring Robert Mitchum, the thriller The Big Cube (1969) with Lana Turner and the John Wayne-Rock Hudson teamup The Undefeated (1969). As for SF, he appeared in Rocambole contra las mujeres arpías (1967), Blue Demon contra cerebros infernales (1968), Enigma de muerte (1969), Jaime Salvador’s La señora Muerte (1969), starring John Carradine and the Santo-Blue Demon teamup Las bestias del terror (1973).

Luis Aldás was a character actor, whom we’ve encountered previously on Scifist in the medical SF/horror film A Macabre Legacy (1940, review). René Cardona Jr., playing Medico Asesino’s sidekick, later became a distinguished director of schlock himself, as well as a screenwriter and producer. Many of René Cardona, Sr.’s later films were made in collaboration with his son, René Cardona Jr. and his grandson René Cardona III, creating a dynasty of Z movies. More on both of them in later posts.

El Medico riding off into the sunset.

Producer Gregorio Walerstein made close to 200 films in his career. In 1994 he was awarded with a special lifetime achievement Ariel, and in 1997 with the Salvador Toscano Medal, “in appreciation of a filmography which includes high quality works and practically every genre”. Editor Rafael Ceballos was a three-time Ariel winner, plus a lifetime achievement award. Production designer Jorge Fernández was nominated for an Ariel five times and won once. Fernández actually goes back all the way to Mexico’s first science fiction movie Los muertos hablan, and went on to design El baul macabro (1936), El enmascarado de plata (1954), Los platillos voladores (1956), La casa del terror (1960), and Kalimán en el siniestro mundo de Humanón (1976).

Janne Wass

El enmascarado de plata. 1954, Mexico. Directed by René Cardona. Written by René Cardona, José G. Cruz, Ramón Obón. Starring: El Medico Asesino, Victor Junco, Crox Alvarado, Luis Aldás, Aurora Segura, René Cardona, Jr., Guillermo Hernández. Music: Rafael Carrión. Cinematography: Raúl Martínez Solares. Editing: Rafael Ceballos. Art direction: Jorge Fernández. Makeup: Concepción Zamora. Produced by Antonio de Castillo & Gregorio Walerstein for Filmex.

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