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Santo,New Hebrides: see Espíritu SantoEspíritu Santo
volcanic island, 1,485 sq mi (3,846 sq km), South Pacific, largest and westernmost island of Vanuatu (formerly New Hebrides). Generally mountainous and fertile, the island produces copra, coffee, and cocoa.
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As in America, in Mexico there is a tradition of masked heroes, though of a much different nature. For more than two decades (1958–1982) the most popular masked fighter of evil, Santo, strolled across the motion picture screen attacking monsters and vampires. Santo was created and played by Rodolfo Gizmán Huerta (1915–1984). Huerta, in the persona of Santo, originally attained hero status as a wrestler and became well known throughout the country following World War II. In the ring, Huerta never appeared without his silver mask, the essential element in his costume.
As a movie star, Santo was sometimes confused with another masked character, El Médico Asesino. Santo’s first movie was Cerebro del Mal, filmed in Cuba just before the revolution. This initial movie included El Incógnito (played by Fernando Osés), also a masked hero character. A second movie, Cargamento Blanco, was shot at the same time and, in finished form, even included some footage from the first movie. The movies were not released, however. In September 1960 the comic book-like Santo, el Enmascarado de Plata began weekly publication. It furthered Santo’s popularity and prompted the release of the two Cuban motion pictures early in 1961. That same year Santo made four additional movies beginning with Santo Contra los Zombies. In order to keep the costs down, some of Santo’s movies were shot as three twenty-minute segments at Estúdios América, which charged cheaper rates than the large movie studios but which was limited by government regulations to short features. Each segment was given a different name and originally shown on different days.
Later they would be put together as a single feature.
In 1962 Santo appeared in the first of his several vampire features, Santo Contra las Mujeres Vampiro, directed by Alfonso Corona Blake and released in the United States as Samson vs. the Vampire Women. While Santo would fight a variety of monsters, he was frequently bedeviled by vampires, their next appearance being in Santo Contra el Baron Brakola (1965). Baron Brakola was modeled on Bela Lugosi, and stills of Lugosi were used in advertisements of the film.
In 1967 Santo met Dracula in Santo un el Tesoro de Dracula, the first of his technicolor vampire films, which also was released in an adult version as El Vampiro y el Sexo. By this time the character had taken on a new quality, having transformed from a simple untutored wrestler/part-time fighter of evil into a superscientist who, for example, in Santo en el Tesoro de Dracula invented a time machine. He also acquired the adoration of females, especially in the adult versions of his movies. Over the years Santo fought vampires in Santo y Blue Demon Contra los Monstruos (1969), Santo en la Venganza de las Mujeres Vampiros (1969), Santo y Blue Demon Contra Dracula y el Hombre Lobo (1971), and Chanoc y el Hijo del Santo Contra Los Vampiros Asesinos (1981). In the last movie, the aging Santo made only a brief appearance—viewed as an attempt to pass his career to his son.
In spite of the low production values and hastily written scripts (with action often improvised as it was shot), Santo became a national star in Mexico and his films were released to an adoring audience across Latin America and other Spanish-speaking countries. They were among the few Mexican movies able to break through the control American and British film companies held over the international film distribution market.