SAMSON IN THE WAX MUSEUM is a most exciting and unique artifact of 60’s pop culture, and certainly one of the strongest of the “Santo” films. Indeed, warts and all, we here at www.kgordonmurray.com like it better than SAMSON VS THE VAMPIRE WOMEN, while acknowledging that film’s considerable seductive charms.
While S/VAMPIRE is terrific, with much to recommend it, it is essentially a straight-forward gothic horror tale (albeit with some incredulous science-age touches).
In contrast, S/WAX is a dark, even bleak cautionary fable, absurd and melodramatic in spades, and in the end a most fetching, if primitive, attempt at a psychological horror film. It obsesses on the dark side of humanity, and is equal parts nasty and insightful. Thanks to super-villain Dr. Karol, it drips with a most grim, snarling, and well-articulated philosophy of hate and evil.
From the first scene, in which a gang of tourists visit Dr. Karol’s creepy wax museum, we are treated to an illustration of society-as-monstermaker. Karol introduces us to a parade of life-like dummies, with an odd emphasis on history’s infamous (real and imagined) villains: Stalin, Guillotine, Mr. Hyde, Pancho Villa, Landru/Bluebeard, Frankenstein’s monster, the Werewolf and Quasimodo. But then we see Ghandi and… Gary Cooper as Will Kane from HIGH NOON (!). Huh? Only two good men, and one of them fictitious? Is there a message here?
Dr. Karol is a classic Grand Guignol archetype (at least as dubbed by velvet-throated Paul Nagel), the quintessential “gentleman-madman”. His frequent, memorable tirades against society are as endearing as they are loony.
Karol’s pal/victim, Professor Halpin (played well by Jose Luis Jimenez, also fine in SPIRITISM), has this great sci-fi TV set, with which he calls his colleague, the super strongman Samson. It has a wonderful tin-foil revolving antenna, a primitive 60’s sci-fi staple. Halpin’s TV set gets these great close-ups of Samson driving in his little white sports car. How? Who cares!
Titular hero Samson, in his glitter cape and shiny, bulging chest, can’t help but make one think, “If Liberace had married Charles Atlas…” In fact, Santo/Samson is one of pop culture’s crowning gay icons (along with the aforementioned stalwarts).
And in this film, Samson is dubbed like a bonafide cartoon macho man; his voice is much more subdued in S/VAMPIRE.
When Dr. Karol at one point exposes his acid-scarred chest, we realize its the closest thing to “gore” we’ve ever encountered in a Murray movie.
Dr. Karol’s icky-cool plaster cave-dungeon, and his menagerie of Dr. Moureau-ish test-tube man-imals, are lovingly cheesy, reminiscent of everything from FLASH GORDON to ISLAND OF LOST SOULS to SHE-DEMONS.
The plot stands still for some obligatory wrestling matches, but they are surely entertaining in their own way; it’s like getting sports and thriller in one giant wacko package! And we get to hear the (undubbed) Mexico City crowd clearly shouting for “Santo! Santo!”
Dr. Karol’s secret lab is ultra-cool, with some groovy, surrealistic electronic devices, as well as, oddly, a built-up model of the Renwal “Visible Man” plastic model kit, a 60’s hobby-boy staple, standing on a nearby lab table. Perhaps the mad doc forgets his elementary human anatomy from time to time… ?
Directly preceding all hell breaking loose, we hear two very strong, bitter and misanthropic speeches from Karol, both containing creepy references to men torturing men, references which seem perhaps a bit strong for naive, unwary 60’s TV-tots.
We finish with an exciting, if predictable, cliffhanger finale (fistfights, labs blowing up, damsels in distress, and the all-important unleashing of the dungeon-monsters, who attack their creator).
In a superb coda, super Samson hops in his little white sports car and waves at us, before driving off into the cryptic Mexican night. His gesture seems an assurance of safety, a comforting emblem of brotherhood.
In these dark times of hatred and terror, a movie like SAMSON IN THE WAX MUSEUM, with its clearly defined right and wrong, can be a source of nostalgic consolation, a journey to a simpler ethical time, where the heroes are mighty but human, and the villains are never “pure, unvarnished evil”…
-Rob Craig, kgordonmurray.com
DVD-R comes packaged as shown in color DVD case, wrapped in plastic!