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Santo Vs The Riders Of Terror

Interview: Cardona Bonanza with Armando Hernandez

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Armando HernandezArmando Hernandez, the brain behind Trash-Mex, is bringing Trash-Mex excellence to the Indicator Blu-ray set of the Mexican cult films Santo vs. the Riders of Terror and Los Leprosos y El Sexo through his special feature, Cardona Bonanza.

Hernandez shares with us how he became a part of this set, the significance of filmmaker René Cardona, and what he hopes viewers will take away from these films.

Bonilla: What was your first impression of Santo vs. the Riders of Terror?

Hernandez: I saw the film like nine years ago when I randomly came across it on TV, and I felt this movie was just very different and unique.

You’re used to seeing El Santo fighting monsters or like criminal elements in the present time, but in this one however, it’s lepers — very, very sick people. But then it’s also set in the Old West and not the present time. This film is just so different from the other El Santo films, and that’s also in part why I really like it. It is totally different. It really gave me a different vibe and I really like it.

And Los Leprosos y El Sexo?

The uniqueness of El Santo vs. the Riders of Terror is still there and then some. I really like it. The history behind it makes it even more likable for me.

Before this Blu-ray release, nobody really knew this version of the film existed per se, in circulation around online and such. There’s an old Texas Drive-in advertisement promoting Leprosos y El Sexo, and people didn’t know what that title was and just assumed it was a retitling for another film playing alongside Santo vs. the Riders of Terror.

It wasn’t until Viviana Garcia Besne, founder of Permanencia Voluntaria, that light [was shed] on what Leprosos y El Sexo really was

Viviana found scenes from this long-forgotten El Santo film — sex scenes in particular and the opening credits using the Leprosos y El Sexo retitling. The sex scenes aren’t very raunchy per se, but it’s for sure not family appropriate. Since copies of the actual completed film are nowhere to be found and Viviana [had] these scenes in her possession — she got the idea of putting the sex scenes together with Santo vs. the Riders of Terror. This version of the film that Viviana has put together is basically how it was originally, and we are truly blessed for this being put together and to be able to see it.

This version of Leprosos y El Sexo premiered last year at a film festival in Rotterdam. Our lord and savior of Mexican film expertise, Dr. David Wilt, also just happens to be involved in getting this film released as well.

How did you become involved with the boxset?

I got an email from Nora Mehenni (producer of the UK-based label Indicator), saying she read my El Santo reviews from By NWR, and she really liked what I wrote about the two films and went ahead asking if I would be interested in working in the upcoming release of Santo vs. the Riders of Terror/Leprosos y El Sexo Blu-ray. I, of course, accepted and felt honored to be part of a very unique El Santo Blu-ray release.

What did she want to cover for your special features segment, “Cardona Bonanza”?

Nora told me that she wanted me to talk about director René Cardona and his whole input in Mexican genre cinema. I had to dwell very deep into that and also how his legacy with his own son and & grandson had a lot to do with Mexican genre cinema growing.

I was given the opportunity of having to talk about René Cardona and his legacy on camera, and with that, I went very deep into his life and career. My research was based on some books that I have and with reliable information that I found online. I also watched a lot of his films as well to understand how his work was changing throughout the years.

In the beginning, René Cardona was working on just a bunch of melodramas, comedies and rancheras. And then you go into the 1950s and 1960s, that’s where [Cardona] was getting into the genre stuff. He’s pushing into Lucha Libre and fantasy. Then that’s pretty much what he dedicated his career on. It was just genre cinema. 

Santo Vs The Riders Of Terror 2Who was René Cardona?

René Cardona was a Cuban-born Mexican filmmaker. He began his career in his 20s in New York City with acting. [Cardona] later on ended up actually making the first Spanish-language film for a Hollywood production, which is called Sombras Habaneras. Ironically, he filmed it in his native Cuba, too.

[Cardona] then moved to Mexico in the 1930s, and there he met Miguel Zacarías. Miguel Zacarías was a Mexican filmmaker, and together both men started the Golden Age of Mexican cinema. Both men were making all kinds of films during those days. And the most intriguing part of all is that [Cardona] ended up marrying Miguel’s sister, Julieta. Julieta had his son, René Cardona Jr., who became a filmmaker himself. Then René Jr.’s son, René III, went into filmmaking himself. The Cardona legacy went on for years to come and [continues] to this very day with the heirs.

Why should people become aware of Cardona’s work? 

[Cardona] pretty much was the one that started the whole Lucha Libre/fantasy sub-genre, because he made a film called El enmascarado de plata , and that was primarily one of the first films to really [delve] into a masked wrestler having to fight criminal elements and an evil scientist. Unfortunately, at the time, the film didn’t do well as hoped. But despite that, we can truly say [Cardona] was the first one to try to push a new type of film that later ended up becoming very trendy.

After that, [Cardona] pretty much kept going along with Mexican cinema and its changes over the years. When Mexican horror was starting to take off, [Cardona] begins making horror films beginning with La Llorona (1960). And then after, he jumps back with Lucha Libre films and films with killer apes, vampires, and all kinds of fantasy stuff. He was for sure one of the pioneers of Mexican horror and fantasy in those early days.

What do you hope fans will take away from this set?

Just to see something different because I feel a lot of people still aren’t familiar with Mexican genre films. So, when they [delve] into this one, they’re gonna see El Santo — a character that they know of — but they’re gonna see him in a very different kind of setting and fighting different kinds of antagonists.

And then with Los Leprosos y El Sexo, that’s gonna be something even more different for them to see.

This might even be like an introduction to El Santo himself. I feel like even though there’s familiarity with who El Santo is, there’s still plenty of people that haven’t seen any of his films yet because of the language barrier and all. But with English subtitles and wider releases like this, I’m sure people can now start to get into these films [more] and more.

The set is now available and can be purchased here:

https://www.powerhousefilms.co.uk/collections/frontpage/products/santo-vs-the-riders-of-terror-le-us

https://www.amazon.com/SANTO-RIDERS-TERROR-LIMITED-Blu-ray/dp/B0CSQGJMBV

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