World Premiere of the New Restoration of Santo contra Cerebro del Mal at the 68th BerlinaleBy: Chloë Roddick
A restored version of Mexican director Joselito Rodriguez’ 1959 film Santo contra Cerebro del Mal had its World Premiere at the 68th Berlin International Film Festival on February 20, as part of the Forum section. The film—which has been restored thanks to the work of Viviana Garcia Besne and the Permanencia Voluntaria Film Archive, in collaboration with the Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn and the Academy Film Archive in Los Angeles—was shot during the Cuban Revolution and smuggled out of the country in a coffin just days before Fidel Castro took power. It was filmed simultaneously with Santo contra hombres infernales, a new restoration which premiered in an open air screening at the 15th edition of Morelia International Film Festival (FICM), last year.
Before the screening in Berlin, Viviana Garcia Besne shared with the FICM a little bit about the story behind Santo contra Cerebro del Mal. “My grandfather (producer Jorge García Bense) was in competition at the Berlinale 60 years ago, in 1958, with a movie called Una cita de amor (dir. Emilio Fernández) with Silvia Pinal and photographed by Gabriel Figueroa. I realized that just 60 years later I am here with a totally different movie. Una cita de amor is from 1958, when my grandfather was at the climax of his career, after having gone to Berlin. This year, my great-grandfather (José Calderon) cut off his chances of continuing to produce in Mexico, knowing about his infidelities with my grandma. So it was that my grandfather went to make another cinema totally different to Cuba. The same year he was in Berlin, he made this film”, said García Besne.
Chloë Roddick: What does it mean for you to show this movie in Berlin?
Viviana Garcia Besne: Right now I am very excited, I feel it is a gift from my grandfather, a gift from beyond. It is a great responsibility to present the film as it should be, to put it in context so that people can understand it. There are films that do not need any presentation, that speak for themselves, however this film clearly needs to be put in context, we need to explain to this audience who is El Santo, we need to explain why the film was made in Cuba, how was it not finished. Sometimes the legacy weighs. Being responsible for a legacy is sometimes hard.
I struggled a lot for the films to be restored, and finally they left Mexico a week before the earthquake on September 19. If they hadn’t left a week before the restoration would have been more expensive or it might never have been done; the movies were in the part of the archive that was more damaged and that got wet after the earthquake. Being here is a miracle
CR: Tell us a little about this restoration
VGB: I managed to contact Nicolas Winding Refn, and he loves classic cinema, cult cinema, but also strange things, things that are going to be revalued in some way. I told him that I had this project, these restorations and got him on board, which I thought was incredible because it happened very shortly before the centenary of El Santo. Two weeks after he said “we do it”, The Academy of Los Angeles wrote me to ask how I was doing with the restoration project, and they told me that they thought it was possible to collaborate. Then, Winding Refn and the Academy got together.
It was an incredible collaboration in which top-level people worked and made an impeccable restoration. The films had their difficulty because they already had a degree of vinegar syndrome, some rolls had already shrunk and the sound was mistreated. They are films that were not finished so they had to share scenes. Santo contra hombres infernales y Santo contra Cerebro del Mal have exactly the same ending in the two films.
CR: In this movie, what happens to El Santo?
VGB: El Santo is a total zombie! First, they do not even call him Santo, they call him the “Enmascarado de Plata” and there is also a wrestler called “Incógnito”, who actually wrote the script. A wrestler wrote the script for this movie! “Incógnito” is a bit like the hero of the film, because it’s him who rescues El Santo who acts like a zombie, because the evil doctor has stolen his identity and has put him to work at his service.
It’s the begining of science fiction for wrestlers movies. The previous film has nothing of science fiction, is totally attached to reality. In this case we are already in this field that developed in an incredible way because this is the seed of Santo against Frankenstein, against The Martians, against The Invading Women, against Dracula, against all.