Like SANTO IN THE TREASURE OF DRACULA which had a lost alternative version entitled "El Vampiro y el Sexo," SANTO VS. THE RIDERS OF TERROR is the second Santo film directed by René Cardona to have a sexier version shot for "export" purposes. The alternative title translates to "The Lepers And Sex," and with a group of diseased vagrants and busty bordello gals roaming around, you can only imagine the fun and frolic we're missing out on. Well, at least this version of the film has surfaced to view by the English-speaking public.
The movie opens up with a small group of lepers escaping from a sanatorium and entering a western town. They rob some of the houses for food, and later hide out in a cave. The villagers are furious since most of their contaminated homes have to be burnt down, and a gang of crooks plan to exploit the lepers by making them a double-crossing offer in which they are framed for murder and robbery.
After more than 20 minutes into the film, El Santo shows up to challenge a brute in the ring (set up as an outdoor traveling sideshow attraction). Of course he wins the bout, and donates his winnings (10,000 pesos) to some thankful nuns who run an orphanage. Santo (who wears the same shirt and pants throughout the whole show) is called to the troubled town by the sheriff. Santo is sympathetic to the fugitive lepers and gives them the benefit of the doubt, as he tries to get to the bottom of things in typical heroic fashion.
SANTO VS. THE RIDERS OF TERROR is a straightforward western with some touches of horror added to it, and very little ring action. The lepers are quite horrifying (the makeup jobs are actually effective), but soon made out to be rather misjudged outcasts and not monsters (one is even given a romantic side-story). Santo here acts something like a South of the Border Lone Ranger, and there are a few bloody shootings, making one think what a Santo film would look like had it been directed by Sam Peckinpah (well, maybe not). Cardona's uninspired direction is at least tolerable in this less than 80-minute package.
Rise Above Entertainment presents SANTO VS. THE RIDERS OF TERROR on DVD for the first time to a U.S. audience, and it contains optional English subtitles over the original Spanish language dialog. The full frame image is serviceable with some print damage apparent and the color palette is satisfactory. The Spanish mono audio is rendered fine with no noticeable defects.
Extras include (again) "The Best of Santo" which is about two minutes of clips from various Santo adventures, a trailer for the new Santo film (SANTO: INFRATERRESTRE), newly-created trailers for several other Santo epics, and a brief black & white still gallery. Excellent liner notes by David Wilt are included in an insert booklet, and he gives some interesting information about the various cast members. (George R. Reis)
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