Santo VS. Evil Brain
Directed by Joselito Rodriguez, Mexico/Cuba, 1961

The first feature film starring the one and only SANTO! Santo is hypnotized and used for evil by Dr. Campos.

  • Cast:

  • Joaquin Cordero
  • Norma Suarez
  • Enrique J. Zambrano
  • Santo
  • Director: Joselito Rodriguez
  • Cinematography: Carlos Najera
  • Editing: Jesus Echeverria
  • Screenplay: Enrique J. Zambrano & Fernando Oses


By Peter Conheim / Cinema Preservation Alliance

The story for how Mexico’s iconic wrestling hero, El Santo (Rodolfo Guzmán Huerta) found himself in Havana, Cuba to star in his debut motion picture(s) is, itself, an outrageous odyssey, the outline of which may be seen in the featurette, Looking For El Santo (2022), which may be streamed here on byNWR. But for the purposes of this article, I’ll stick to how they were rescued and restored 60 years after their breech birth.

Filmed literally at the moment Castro’s 1959 revolution was in full swing as the rebels entered Havana, both Santo Contra Hombres Infernales and Santo Contra Cerebro Del Mal were made simultaneously, in a frantic burst of seat-of-the-pants production…after which the filmmaking team from Mexico was forced to flee the country before even completing all principal photography. Having had to smuggle their unexposed 35mm negative out of Cuba inside a coffin, disguised as a “dead crew member”, director Joselito Rodriguez and co-producers Jorge Garcia-Besné and Enrique J. Zambrano realized they had two distinct films to edit but only enough footage for perhaps 1.5 films. These industrious masters of the Mexican “genre” pictures would then liberally poach footage from Cerebro to dupe and splice into the negative of Hombres, sometimes for the sake of establishing shots, and, in one case, an entire action sequence. Somehow, crazily, both films almost make some kind of narrative sense, even as star Joaquin Cordero had been wrapping his head around playing the good guy in one picture and the bad guy in another, in a two-fer film shoot.

When The Restorationists team undertook the back-to-back digital restorations of each film, we debated whether to “improve” the image quality of the “stolen” sequences in Hombres Infernales by using tools not available to the filmmakers in 1961 upon the films’ original release: cloning the footage from the first generation negative and replacing the 3rd generation “dupe” footage of the same material in the second film, to maintain the best possible quality. But we quickly realized that doing so would actually rewrite the bizarre history of these productions, and hide a defect which is integral to the tale. So, what you see is what audiences saw in 1961: very obviously lower quality inserts of the same bits of business from Cerebro Del Mal.

It is somewhat of a miracle that the original camera negatives of these films survive at all. They were not stored with the majority of the originals by the Calderon-Besné filmmaking family, but by the son of the original producer and given to his daughter, Viviana Garcia-Besné, whose Permanencia Voluntaria film archive spurred on these restorations, with Nicolas Winding Refn and Academy Film Archive in partnership. While they have begun to deteriorate from the dreaded “vinegar syndrome” shrinkage that affects all acetate film, and were filthy from poor handling, they were relatively free of severe damage, though there are occasional missing frames.

We decided to leave a moderate amount of inherent visual roughness in the final restoration, but we did correct some egregious laboratory damage, in the form of bands of white scratches in the optical effects and particularly brutal clouds of dirt, since these issues were determined to have been caused in the later production and printing process, as opposed to in the camera. The sound was restored and remastered at Red Channels Studio, using the original optical soundtrack negative.

Peter Conheim is a freelance film and media restorationist and musician living in the San Francisco Bay Area. He’s overseen the rescue of such notable films as SPRING NIGHT SUMMER NIGHT (1968), NIGHT TIDE (1963), LUMINOUS PROCURESS (1971) and legendary psychologist Stanley Milgram’s filmed record of his experiments, OBEDIENCE (1965).

He is the lead archivist behind the streaming “culture ‘zine” byNWR.com, for which he has restored some 30-plus feature films from original 35mm and 16mm source materials through his film preservation non-profit, Cinema Preservation Alliance. As musician and performer, he is A co-founder of Mono Pause and Wet Gate, a former member of culture jammers Negativland, and performs alongside Malcolm Mooney of CAN.