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La Sombra of Armando Silvestre (1926-2024)

I confess that one of the films that left a deep impression on my childhood was the adventures La Sombra Vengadora (1954) composed of four feature films directed in 1954 by Rafael Baledón and which I saw on our Admiral television set in black and white around 1967. La mano negra and his henchmen kidnap a scientist, who has discovered a formula to produce heroic synthetic drugs, and murder one of his colleagues with the help of Zombie, a puma. The scientist's daughter and his students face the criminals with the help of a luchador wearing a black cape, dark tights with a white line zigzagging over his left leg, and a black mask crossed by a white lightning bolt called La Sombra.

Armando Silvestre

The main character of that saga was Armando Silvestre Carrascosa, who passed away this week. Despite his imposing and athletic body, the wrestler under the mask was played by Fernando Osés and the character of the gallant disciple of the scientist was the actor born in San Diego California 98 years ago. Silvestre, before turning to acting under the guidance of Seki Sano, was a bullfighter, a car driver and was successful in horseback riding, diving, golf, and boat racing. A sort of “man of action”, he was called upon to take on this type of roles, especially in crime and wrestling films. His filmography includes over 150 titles, including dozens of video homes in the 1980s and 1990s.

In Tarzan and the Mermaids (1947), filmed in Acapulco and starring Linda Christian —Ariadna Welter's sister— he plays one of the natives. In Lola Casanova (1948), by the debutant Matilde Landeta, he gets his big break as the Seri Indian “Coyote Iguana” with whom the protagonist Meche Barba falls in love, a young Creole girl who faces the marginalization and mistreatment of the Indians in Sonora at the beginning of the last century. In 1949 he films Rincón Brujo with Gloria Marín. It is said he had romantic relationships with all three actresses, and due to his insistence with Christian, the “girlfriend” of the then president Miguel Alemán, he had to flee to the United States for a while where he appeared in films such as: Mystery in Mexico, Apache Drums, Courier of Death or Mark of the Renegadeand more.

In Mujeres de teatro (1951), he portrays a womanizing detective alongside Emilia Guiú, Rosita Fornés, and María Victoria. In Siguiendo pistas (1959) and En busca de la muerte (1960), he takes on the role of the seductive reporter-detective Fernando Morán alongside Lilia del Valle. He also played Inspector Ponce in the 1972 films La mafia amarilla and Noche de muerte, where he starred alongside Blue Demon, Tin Tan, and Tere Velázquez. His sensual appeal and muscular physique were highlighted by Emilio Fernández in La red (1953), featuring the stunning Italian actress Rossana Podestà. In this film, she is depicted as an object of desire and the lover of friends Silvestre and Crox Alvarado, symbolizing paradise and sexual freedom through imagery like the sea, the deserted beach, and the sea foam. Additionally, the film portrayed a protagonist in revealing attire made translucent by water, as well as homoerotic undertones with scenes of men displaying their naked torsos, such as Podestà rubbing Silvestre's clothes while holding a bucket between her legs, or the actor himself, grinding grains with rhythmic strokes in front the actress' the eager gaze.

La isla de los dinosaurios (1966) is peculiar. In the film, a scientist and his assistants, among them Alma Delia Fuentes, travel to an island in Bermuda, where he tries to prove that Atlantis existed. There, they discover a tribe of men who live as they did millions of years ago without knowing the human language, like Molo (Silvestre) who falls in love with Alma. It is a story of prehistoric adventures, written by the announcer of Club Quintito!, Genaro Moreno. Another rarity is the plot of psychological terror, fear, and guilt in Luis Alcoriza's La puerta (1968). In this film, Silvestre and his wife Ana Luisa Peluffo throw a party in their recently acquired mansion. The guests discover a door that leads to a corridor from which emerges the figure of a muscular, naked man trying to get out.

Besides his small cameo in Two Mules for Sister Sara with Clint Eastwood and good roles in Fe, esperanza y caridad, La Choca, El fuego de mi ahijada or El secuestro de un policía, undoubtedly, several of his striking works are found in wrestling films such as in the Neutron saga where he embodied Dr. Charon, just like in: Doctor Doom, Santo vs. the Zombies, Los endemoniados del ring, Santo vs. the Riders of Terror or The Bat Woman.

However, his best participation in the genre is in La Sombra vengadora, wrapped in a delirious mystery atmosphere that recycled with great effectiveness the old matinee serials; a sort of action thriller and suspense with a masked fighter who never gets into a ring... “La Sombra is a hero. But a real hero... One of those who fights for the good of science, which is the good of humanity. Thousands and thousands of young scientists defend us day and night, tucked away in their laboratories, ignored by the whole world, discovering new formulas for a better life. In silence, as good should be imparted. From the shadows...". Farewell to Armando Silvestre...