In the mid-'50s, on the trailing edge of the Mexican cinema's storied “Golden Age,” stark realities began to transform Mexico’s motion picture industry. Economic downturns rapidly led to nationalization, the introduction of production and distribution quotas, slashed budgets, censorship and highly bureaucratic production practices. One of the most intriguing products to emerge from this restrictive atmosphere, “Mexploitation,” combined elements of several popular genres to efficiently churn out mass entertainment with pre-sold appeal. Monsters, mad scientists, space ships, robots and shapely space-women now shared the screen with the charros and campesinos of Mexico’s romantic past; the mummies and Spanish nobles of its colonial and pre-colonial legacies; and the modern, masked, “lucha libre” wrestlers who had fast become the leading heroes of working class entertainment. These sci-fi and fantasy culture jams proved enormously popular and remained a staple of Mexico’s commercial cinema until the mid-1970s. Hilarious and endearing for their rock-bottom production values, stilted acting and gimmicky devices, the films are also a treasure-trove of information about Mexico’s ambivalence toward tradition, modernity, religion, ethnicity, sex roles and economic development—tensions which persist to this day.
Santo vs. la invasion de los marcianos
(Santo the Silver Mask Vs. The Martian Invasion)
PROD: Alfonso Rosas Priego. DIR: Alfredo B. Crevenna. SCR: Rafael García Travesi. CINE: Jorge Stahl Jr. EDIT: Abraham Cruz. CAST: Santo, Wolf Ruvinskis, El Nazi, Beni Galan, Eva Norvind.
Extraterrestrials invade Earth seeking human specimens. Announcing themselves in apocalyptic television broadcasts, then tele-transporting themselves to private homes and public sporting events, the platinum-bewigged, mylar-clad, macho Martians, backed by scantly dressed female beauties as counterparts, kidnap select humans, obliterating others with vaporizing rays. But heroic masked wrestler “Santo” neutralizes the invaders with his incredible wrestling prowess, after respectfully consulting a famous scientist and the local priest—thus mediating between Mexico’s high-tech future and its traditional past to restore peace and order to the nation. ¡Bien hecho, luchador! (35mm, b/w, subtitles, 85 min.)
Funded by the UCLA Arts Initiative and co-presented with the UCLA Film & Televison Archive.
Public programs are made possible, in part, by a major gift from Ann and Jerry Moss.
Additional support is provided by Bronya and Andrew Galef, Good Works Foundation and Laura Donnelley, an anonymous donor, and the Hammer Programs Committee.