I have a soft spot for the El Santo movies. They are corny and campy, but universally sincere. No one in the films has any doubt that El Santo has the Doc Savage skill set he demonstrates over the series. There is no question that a professional wrestler can be a detective, an occultist, and a science hero. That said, the films are not without their flaws, and sadly Santo & the Treasure of Dracula is no exception.
The premise of the film is that Santo has developed a form of “time machine” that basically allows past life regression (think the Animus from the Assassin’s Creed games). After discovering that a female friend of his is a reincarnation of a woman who was attacked by Dracula – with her assistance he has her regress to a past life in order to find where the Count’s lair in Mexico is, so he can kill Dracula and use his treasure to help the people. However, in addition to fighting the vampire, Santo must also face a different malign group who seeks to claim the treasure for their own greed.
Some really solid, fun pulp there. The effects are cheesy, but the campy setup – and indeed the presence of El Santo himself makes it work. So where does it stumble? The short answer is the presentation of the story. The film puts in an extended sequence that takes up most of the first half of the film with Santo watching the past life regression like a movie within a movie – a sequence which in turn plays the Dracula Greatest Hits: using blood transfusions to try to stave off vampirism. One of the characters wearing a garland of a herb that repels vampires, only for a charmed unwitting ally of the vampire to remove it. Creeping into the vampire’s lair just before sunset to stake the vampire, and so on.
On its own, in its own film, it would be fine. Here it drags the film to a very screeching halt very early on in the film. It’s able to start picking up the pace afterwards, but there’s a very real sense that there’s a loss of momentum there.In all, Santo & The Treasure of Dracula isn’t my favorite Santo movie, but it’s a good evening watch, and I’m glad it’s been included in the new season of MST3K – and it is also available on its own with a Blu-Ray remaster.
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