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73 min. Spanish.

Rodolfo Guzmán Huerta alias El Santo was one of the most famous luchadores in Mexico, contributing greatly to the hype around the sport. In his forty-year career as a wrestling superstar and actor, he never once took off his iconic silver mask and was even buried in it. Even today, Santo is a legend, thanks in part to a series of superhero comics. Outside the ring, he also fought zombies, vampire women, mad scientists and monsters across both formats. In his first film, Cerebro del Mal, he was still referred to as ‘El Enmascarado’. Rendered compliant by a scientist and his gangsters via a serum and mysterious rays, he is forced for the opening act to be a henchman for the evil forces who want to take over the world. The film has great historic value, due also to its impressive exterior shots of pre-revolutionary Cuba.
The Permanencia Voluntaria Film Archive, where many copies of the popular luchador films were held, was heavily damaged in the massive earthquake that struck Mexico in 2017. A restored version of Cerebro del Mal has now been prepared in collaboration with the Academy Film Archive, allowing an important piece of Mexican pop culture to return to cinemas. (Marie Kloos)

Joselito Rodríguez was born in Mexico City in 1907. After training as electrotechnician, he moved to Hollywood with his brother Roberto in 1925. He completed an engineering degree at the Polytechnical School in Pasadena, California. In the following years, he developed what was at the time the lightest portable sound equipment, weighing just twelve pounds. The first recordings using his equipment took place in Mexico in 1929, and Joselito Rodríguez began marketing his technology as the Rodriguez Bros. Sound Recording System. He worked as a sound engineer on the first Mexican sound film, Santa (1931, Director: Antonio Moreno). In 1939, he and his brothers Ismael and Roberto Rodríguez founded the production company Peliculas Rodriguez. He directed his first film, El secreto del sacerdote, in 1940. He subsequently worked on numerous films as director and screenwriter. And in Huracán Ramírez (1952), he even appeared as an actor, as well. Joselito Rodríguez died in Mexico City in 1985.

Smuggled out inside a coffin

SANTO CONTRA EL CEREBRO DEL MAL (SANTO VS EVIL BRAIN, 1961) is the second of two Mexico-Cuba co-productions released – but the first to be completed – after Castro came to power in Cuba, and the filmmakers were forced to flee the country prematurely (with the unprocessed 35mm negative being smuggled out inside a coffin). As with its companion film, SANTO CONTRA HOMBRES INFERNALES (SANTO VS. THE INFERNAL MEN, 1961), it wasn’t released to theatres until two years after initial production, and the aborted shooting schedule meant that sequences had to be ‘lifted’ from each film to fill holes in the other, by necessity. This is particularly evident in HOMBRES INFERNALES, where a subplot pops up involving some suspicious characters, a chase scene and a fight, seemingly out of nowhere… because it is. It’s a shot-for-shot repeat from SANTO CONTRA EL CEREBRO DEL MAL. (This duplication also afforded a chance for the film’s producer, Jorgé Garcia Besné, to make a cameo appearance as a gangster, twice.)
Both of these two films, which represent the very first time that the famous El Santo character appeared on the big screen, have not been available in any acceptable quality prints since initial release. In 2017, the Permanencia Voluntaria archive’s Viviana Garcia Besné in Tepoztlan, Mexico, working in collaboration with Nicolas Winding Refn and the Academy Film Archive, Los Angeles, set out to completely restore the films from their rapidly-deteriorating original camera negatives. Indeed, the ravages of time and poor storage had taken a toll on the 35mm materials, requiring a great deal of careful repair and cleaning before scanning (at Illuminate Studios and Post-Production in Studio City, California). Ross Lipman, former Senior Preservationist at UCLA Film and Television Archive, supervised the many hours of colour correction and digital repairs, with the whole project overseen by Cinema Preservation Alliance’s Peter Conheim. The result is stunning new 4K digital restorations of both SANTO CONTRA EL CEREBRO DEL MAL, presented here at the Berlinale in its world restoration premiere, and SANTO CONTRA HOMBRES INFERNALES (which premiered at the Morelia Film Festival in Mexico in October 2017). (Peter Conheim)

Production Enrique J. Zambrano, Jorge García Besné, Jesús Alvariño, Carlos Garduño G.. Director Joselito Rodríguez. Screenplay Fernando Osés, Enrique J. Zambrano. Director of photography Carlos Nájera. Editing Jesús Echeverria. Music Salvador Espinosa. Sound Modesto Corvison. With El Enmascarado (Santo), Joaquín Cordero (Dr. Campos), Norma Suárez (Elisa), Enrique J. Zambrano (Lt. Zambrano), Alberto Inzúa (Gerardo), Fernando Osés (El Incognito / Police officer), Enrique Almirante, René Socarrás, Mario Texas.

World sales Viviana García Besne


1940: El secreto del sacerdote. 1941: ¡Ay, Jalisco, no te rajes!. 1948: Angelitos negros. 1949: Café de chinos. 1952: Huracán Ramírez. 1961: Santo contra Cerebro del Mal / Santo vs Evil Brain.

Photo: © Jorge García Besné Calderón colection Permanencia Voluntaria Film Archive

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