Thursday, May 28, 2009

Latino Images in Film

TCM is concluding its month-long festival documenting Hollywood's portrayal of Latinos tonight. The festival was designed to focus on how Hollywood portrayed people from Latin America, and not the films from those countries. Indeed, TCM already spent a month several years ago looking at the Mexican film industry. This being TCM, the took a serious look at the industry, and excluded one of the odder parts of Mexico's cinematic history: the lucha libre movie.

If you've ever tuned in to any of the Spanish-lanugage TV channels, you might have seen that professional wrestling is just as popular as it is here in the US. One difference, though, is that there seem to be quite a few more masked wrestlers in Mexico. In the 1960s, a couple of them became so popular that they were given acting roles in a series of movies that allowed them to showcase their wrestling skills. To be honest, acting is putting it quite generously, as these movie were designed to be litle more than a series of action sequences which one doesn't even to know Spanish to be able to follow.

One of the most famous of these wrestlers is El Blue Demon, who starred in about two dozen movies in the 1960s and 1970s. One that's available on DVD is Los Campeones Justicieros (The Champions of Justice), which has a plot about a superfiend trying to kidnap the contestants in the Miss Mexico beauty pagent. (Obviously, the producers were looking for sex appeal to spice up their movie.) El Blue Demon teams up with several other masked wrestlers, with fighting including midget wrestlers, and a scientist who's invented an invisibility potion! I didn't say the movies are any good, but then, look at some of Chuck Norris' movies.

If you think that's bizarre, however, try to find a bootleg copy of El Hijo de Alma Grande. This one is set amongst the Mayan ruins of Belize, with a "plot", such as it is, involving aliens who turn unsuspecting humans into zombies because the alien queen needs the humans' eyes in order to get back to her home planet. One of the humans manages an escape and notifies El Blue Demon and his sidekick, who come to save the day. It's got some nice location shooting in Belize, a place that doesn't see very much screen time -- not just the Mayan ruins, but also the then capital city, Belize City. However, as far as I'm aware, it hasn't been officially released to DVD, not even in Mexico.

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