Seeing two enormous, masked men in the dark usually signals trouble. This was far from the case when attendees at last Saturday’s screening of “Santo vs. the Martian Invasion” at I.V. Theater found themselves in the presence of Mexican wrestlers Enigma de Oro and Kayam of the Los Chivos wrestling team.
Despite being thoroughly villainous in the ring, Los Chivos articulately presented themselves during the event in a well-mannered interview about the Lucha Libre – Mexican wrestling – lifestyle and its growing cultural significance outside of Mexico. Unlike American professional wrestling, Lucha Libre has more emphasis on speed and aerial maneuvers than power moves. Make no mistake, Los Chivos is quite capable of using either style. Another key difference is that Lucha Libre is a bigger cultural phenomenon in Mexico than its professional wrestling counterpart in the United States.
The younger Kayam did most of the talking and gave several entertaining anecdotes from his career. Kayam said one of the reasons he wears the mask – a trademark of the Lucha Libre lifestyle – is to separate his public identity as an elementary school teacher from his identity in the ring. He also reminisced about how one of his bookings happened to take place near the school he teaches. Several students attended the show and came to tell him about the match the next day, completely oblivious that their own teacher was the same menacing luchador they saw the night before.
After a quick break for photos with audience members, the lights dimmed down for a screening of the 1967 film, “Santo vs. the Martian Invasion.” This movie is not to be confused with “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians,” a cheesy film featured on an episode of “Mystery Science Theater 3000” – although both films contain loads of camp. In retrospect, I was glad that Los Chivos preceded the film. They put the phenomenon that is Santo, who is possibly the most revered luchador in history, in context. Without prior knowledge, many could easily dismiss the screening as just another sci-fi flick from the Cold War era.
In the film, the late Santo stands as Mexico’s last defense against the technologically superior Martians. He plays himself in the movie, and his strength and wrestling ability are more than a match for even five Martians. The fight scenes at times seem overly long, but at least they increase in complexity and energy with each successive sequence. While there is an emphasis on Santo’s physical prowess, he ultimately uses ingenuity to defeat the Martians in a manner similar to “War of the Worlds.”
Among the copious amount of back body drops and huracanranas – a wrestling move – the film inserts some not-so-subtle commentary on the Cold War era. In the end, Santo takes it upon himself to destroy the Martian spaceship rather than let the government analyze it. Santo feels the government holds just as little regard for human life as the Martians do.
Overall, the night with Lucha Libre was far from troublesome. In fact, as far as I am concerned, an Santo movie back to back with a live appearance by luchadors makes for a great tag team in promoting the Lucha Libre experience.