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THE BATWOMAN: Locarno Film Festival. Spectacle every Day

Rafael Aviña

Translator, Emilio Cervantes

A few days ago, the Locarno Film Festival had in its program a notable retrospective of Mexican popular cinema called: Espectáculo a diario – Las distintas temporadas del cine popular mexicano (Spectacle every Day – The different periods of Mexican popular cinema). The retrospective was curated by programmer Olaf Möller with the collaboration of film critic Roberto Turigliatto, and included, also, the edition of a book of collective essays called Spectacle every Day. Essays on Classical Mexican Cinema, 1940-69 edited by critics and colleagues: Alonso Díaz de la Vega y Jorge Negrete.

The retrospective consisted of widely known films such as Días de otoño, Los tres García, El gendarme desconocido, El rey del barrio, Pueblerina, El esqueleto de la señora Morales, as well as other lesser known ones like  Los hermanos del Hierro, La corte del faraón, El gran campeón, As negro, Música de siempre, and La mente y el crimen, by filmmakers such as Roberto Gavaldón, Julio Bracho, Emilio Fernández, Alejandro Galindo, Tito Davison, Chano Urueta, Ismael Rodríguez, and many others. La mujer murciélago [The Batwoman] (1968) directed by René Cardona with a screenplay from Alfredo Salazar was also part of the retrospective.

La mujer murciélago (1968, dir. René Cardona)

At the beaches of Acapulco, several  female wrestlers are found dead. Chief officer Mario Robles (Héctor Godoy) gives the case to the Batwoman, international agent and fighter behind a mask, portrayed by the gorgeous and attractive Italian actress Maura Monti, who created an important career in our country. Responsible for the deaths is the lunatic doctor Eric Williams (Roberto Cañedo), who extracts secretions from the pineal gland of his victims to create a fish man he calls Pisces, which is why he uses the lifeless body of Sueco (Manuel Capetillo), a strong wrestler. Batwoman escapes from Williams and throws acid in his face, but is captured by the fake blind lottery salesman José, played by David Silva, with his voice dubbed! Saved by Robles, she is captured again, but Williams' attempts to turn her into Pisces' partner fail and Dr. Williams' laboratory yacht explodes at sea.

Williams' ship is called Reptilicus, like the 1963 American horror film by Sydney Pink. This really entertaining horror and wrestling thriller includes exciting and suspense chase scenes filmed at Playa Langosta, Playa Condesa and, above all, at La Quebrada. Also appearing in the film is a badly shaved Jorge Mondragón, great supporting actor, in the role of the deformed assistant Igor, as well as the actors and protagonists of some other wrestling films: Crox Alvarado as the Inspector and Armando Silvestre as Tony Roca.

La mujer murciélago (1968, dir. René Cardona)
La mujer murciélago (1968, dir. René Cardona)

Despite the formula elements and the clear references from Frankenstein to Creature from the Black Lagoon, and El Pantano de las Ánimas, La mujer murciélago is a really fun film with a beautiful Maura Monti in provocative and tiny costumes, close to the ones worn by Batgirl from the successful television show Batman with Adam West, aired in those years, as well as a sensual baby doll very common in the films of the period. Monti plays a police special agent, an expert in rifle shooting, karate, wrestling, diving, horse riding, among other things. One of the funny and curious things is that in the ring the Batwoman looks thick and beefy, that is because that was a professional female wrestler who served as her body double. 

Maestro Agustín Jiménez served as the cinematographer, and the great Leo Acosta adds a jazzy tone to the story. Since the plot takes place on the beaches of Acapulco, it includes many underwater scenes directed by Genaro Hurtado with the technical assistance of diver Alfonso Arnold: one of the celebrities of Acapulco at the time. The film is available in Mubi México among some of the other titles in the Espectáculo a diario retrospective.