FANTASIA OBSCURA: If Batman Were a Mexican Wrestler… And Also a Woman

There are some fantasy, science fiction, and horror films that not every fan has caught. Not every film ever made has been seen by the audience that lives for such fare. Some of these deserve another look, because sometimes not every film should remain obscure.

Sometimes, it takes a special woman to deal with un lote superstcioso y cobarde

La Mujer Murcielago (The Batwoman) (1968)

Distributed by: Cinematográfica Calderón S.A.
Directed by: Rene Cardona

These days, when we look for Batman, we find him putting together the Justice League:

This is a far cry from his time when William Dozier oversaw Batman at ABC when times were lighter, easier… dare we say, campier then?

And they certainly had enough room for a bit of Bat-mania via Baja way:

If this clip feels disorienting, we’d like to provide some context; un momento por favor

When it comes to heroes in masks, the United States has nothing on Mexico. The grand tradition of lucha libre, Mexican freestyle wrestling, goes back to the days before the Mexican Revolution, which ironically is about the time the roots of Mexican cinema take form.

What differentiates Mexican wrestling from its American cousin is favoring aerial maneuvers over raw limb flailing and the use of masks. The participants, the luchadors, uphold the tradition of the sport in bringing reverence to their masks; often the loser would have to show their face at the end of a match, making a luchador with a long winning streak not only successful but muy misterioso, adding to his mystique and fame.

Luchador and movie star El Santo

The popularity of lucha libre would soon draw the attention of Mexican cinema, and with the first luchador film, 1952’s Huricán Ramírez, a new subgenre was born. As the personalities in the ring were larger than life, it was inevitable that the films would soon become infused with genre elements, with the most popular luchador in cinema, El Santo, starring in 52 films where the wrestler took on aliens, mad scientists, vampires, fellow luchador Demonio Azul, and just about all comers sent him.

And in the midst of this creative environment, there emerged a luchadora (a female wrestler) who was more Gotham City that Guadalajara.

Our film is set in sunny Acapulco, shot on location in fact, where the bodies of wrestlers are turning up dead in the surf. Confounded by the crimes, whose victims share qualities similar to other corpses found on the other side of the Pacific, chief inspector Robles (Hector Godoy) brings in our titular heroine (Maura Monti), who is described as an excellent shot with pistols and an accomplished SCUBA diver, as well as a great wrestler.

She drops in on the case, literally; she parachutes onto the beach wearing only her Bat-cowl, Bat-mini-cape, and Bat-bikini. Picked up by the Inspector, she heads to the morgue, where the coroner, Tony (Armando Silvestre), shares the results of his autopsies: The victims have had their pineal glands removed before they were disposed of, and from the look of it, by someone with the skills of a surgeon.

That “someone” is Doctor Eric Williams (Roberto Canedo), who has a diabolical plan he is executing. Aboard the vessel Reptilicus (no relation to that one, but we will cover that film at a later date), he’s the one responsible for the kidnappings and murders, sending his gang out to the gyms to lure unsuspecting luchadors for his work.

He needs the pineal glands of wrestlers, who are the best specimens of man known (of course), to fuse with fishes to create… gill men! Yes, with the extracts, and the right amount of radiation and sonic inducement, he can turn giant goldfish into gnarly gruesomes.

And why is he creating crimson copies of the Creature from the Black Lagoon? Hey, who knows, but sure, why not? Besides, we need to have an excuse for our heroine to storm the boat and cause mayhem when she’s caught sneaking about.

And an excuse to put her in danger, which she then proceeds to get out of thanks to her fighting skills:

In fact, the Bat Woman is quite a capable crime fighter… except when she’s inexplicably just not, which the script randomly throws in her way every now and then to move the plot along. These momentary bouts of incompetence could be considered lazy storytelling, except that there’s not that much story to tell.

And Cardona didn’t seem all that bothered by the lack of script. By this point in his career, he was doing five films a year, so he may not have even realized there was so little on the page to work from. Trying to get a sense of the goofiness of Batman may have been his only real goal, and for that he just let his cast run around Acapulco (and swim in the waters offshore, with some decent underwater photography to look at) and called it a day.

With a carefree and easy direction, punctuated by a snazzy jazz score from Leo Acosta that would be at home playing in both snazzy lounges and kitschy tequilerias, the movie feels very light, a pleasant way to spend some time when you just want to decompress.

It’s also a decent entry point for those who have never been exposed to luchador films; if the description of the film consists of “Mexican wrestlers facing x” is something you’re not sure you’d like because you can’t envision it, this movie offers a decent sample of what to expect.

And, hey, if the new Justice League needs a little help if they find themselves in, say, Cozumel, there’s someone nearby who could give them a hand; just saying…

NEXT TIME: Everyone loved Star Wars from the first time they saw it… well, everyone but the studio’s exec team.

About James Ryan 134 Articles
James Ryan is still out there on the loose. He’s responsible for the novels Raging Gail and Red Jenny and the Pirates of Buffalo, as well as the popular history The Pirates of New York. He has also been spotted associating with the publications Pyramid Online, Dragon, The Urbanite, The Dream Zone, Rational Magic, and Rooftop Sessions. He has been spotted too often in the vicinity of Kinja. Should you meet him, proceed with caution. He is to be considered disarming and slightly dangerous…