Cult Movies

Cult Movie Essentials: Santo vs. the Spectre/Ghost of the Strangler (1966)

Santo vs. the Ghost of the Strangler aka Santo vs. the Spectre of the Strangler aka El espectro del estrangulador was the last film Santo technically made with Alberto López. It is basically a mash up of all the leftover footage from Santo vs. the Strangler with eight musical numbers and three full length wrestling matches thrown in! Even some of the billed stars do not appear in the film!

The film opens with an ambulance speeding through the night. It arrives at a theatre, where the dead body of “The Strangler” is carried out. The next day, the Strangler’s assistant Tor reads the newspaper: “Strangler Killed by Police.” However, Tor knows better. He goes to the morgue and steals the body of his boss, killing the morgue attendant. But the Strangler isn’t dead, and soon he’s back in his hideout, playing his pipe organ and laughing hysterically (he does this a lot, laughing hysterically, that is). Tor creates lifelike masks (made from human skin taken from the Strangler’s victims) to cover the Strangler’s horribly scarred face (the Strangler also has one “dead eye” but when he’s wearing a mask both eyes are OK). The mask he likes to wear most of the time resembles Roberto Cañedo.

Meanwhile, police Inspector Villegas reports the disappearance of the Strangler’s body (and all of his disguises and costumes) to Santo. The inspector says that Laura is going to re-open her theatre (from the first movie) and this will hopefully lure the Strangler out into the open. Santo is a little disturbed that his adopted son Milton (who is a singer) might be at risk, but Villegas downplays the danger. Santo does give Milton a radio-wristwatch so he can call for help.

The Strangler calls Santo at his crime lab and says he will begin a new reign of terror unless Santo meets him that night. After Santo leaves, Milton plays a tape of the call and alerts the police. When Santo arrives at the Strangler’s hideout (this must be his alternate hideout), he’s chloroformed and put inside a giant drill-press. The huge device threatens to squash Santo, but he rather easily escapes, and then the police arrive. But Tor and the Strangler escape. (This sequence does not generate any suspense, and it’s a shame because the giant drill-press is really impressive)

After a long musical interlude, the Strangler kills one of the showgirls as she leaves the theatre, escaping via the sewers. After a match with El Espanto (his classic mask vs mask match – a real life wrestling match – dropped in to make the film longer) Santo goes to the cemetary in case the Strangler and Tor decide to steal the body of their latest victim. What do you know, they are there! Santo is knocked out and put in the now-empty coffin, and buried alive. He eventually gets out. Santo’s next match is with the Enmascarado Negro, who tries to strangle Santo with a cord. He’s eventually exposed as Tor, who killed the real Enmascarado Negro. The Strangler turns off the lights in the arena and they escape.

The Strangler kills Julián, the show’s director, and impersonates him at the theatre. A chandelier, cut by the Strangler, falls on the stage but doesn’t hurt anybody. Next, Milton is kidnaped by the Strangler, but the young boy manages to contact Santo via his wristwatch-radio. Santo arrives at the villain’s hideout (Tor was killed by the police in a car chase), escapes from a couple of traps (including a pit and poison gas). He has a fairly good fight with the Strangler then a fire breaks out and the Strangler burns up whilst maintain a really long scream of death!


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