PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.


The Mexican Masked Wrestler and Monster Filmography by Robert Michael "Bobb" Cotter

Marco Lanzagorta

One of just three books published about Mexican wrestling films, Cotter's excels in providing the most information and the best laid out history of the genre so far.

The Mexican Masked Wrestler and Monster Filmography

Publisher: McFarland & Company
Length: 210
Price: $45.00
Author: Robert Michael "Bobb" Cotter
US publication date: 2005-04
Amazon affiliate

Incredible as it may sound, the masked wrestler is one of the most important icons in Mexican culture, inside and outside the ring. This is particularly true in the case of Santo, Blue Demon, and Mil Mascaras, three of the most important masked wrestlers in Mexican history. All of them combined their worldly wrestling celebrity with a mythological aura, and ascended to another plane altogether. They became living legends and symbols of national pride. As someone who was born and raised in Mexico City, I can attest to that.

But, while these real life masked wrestlers often competed and gained increasing fame and championship titles, they went on to celebrity outside the ring, first as comic book characters, and then, starting in 1958, in movies. Over the past five decades there have been more than 200 movies in which these intrepid characters fight the mafia, drug dealers, space invaders, werewolves, vampires, zombies, mummies, ghosts, and even the devil himself. Though these films feature largely incoherent plots and particularly low production values, they continue to be audience favorites in Mexico.

For such an important topic in popular Mexican culture, not much has been written about it. In spite of their immense esteem, their genre bending structures and audaciously outlandish plots, even in their native Mexico these films lack the critical and academic attention that they deserve. In correcting this oversight, Robert Michael "Bobb" Cotter offers an exhaustive filmography, as well as an unpretentious history of the genre, in his book The Mexican Masked Wrestler and Monster Filmography.

One of just three books published about Mexican wrestling films, Cotter's excels in providing the most information and the best laid out history of the genre so far. It is certainly more detailed than Nelson Carro's El Cine de Luchadores, the undersized book published by the University of Mexico's Cinematheque in the 1980s, and while not as lavishly illustrated as Rogelio Agrasanchez's Mexican Horror Cinema -- Posters From Mexican Fantasy Films, Cotter's book offers a deeper analysis and criticism of the genre. Also, even though each film discussed by Cotter can easily be found in the indispensable The Mexican Filmography, 1916 through 2001 (David E. Wilt, McFarland, 2004), his list of cast and credits is more complete, and his plot synopsis are much more elaborated.

Nevertheless, at times one gets the impression that Cotter has not seen all the films discussed in his book, as quite often he quotes, word by word, the entire synopses included in the original press books. Not to blame the author, several of these films are thought to be lost since the fire that consumed the Mexican Cinematheque in the early 1980s, and most of them have never been available on any home video format. In this regard, one only wishes that Cotter had also included a list of those titles available on DVD, as well as mentioning those obscure online stores where it is possible to acquire bad quality VHS tapes of the most popular movies.

In any event, the obscurity of these movies should not detract potential readers. True highlights of Cotter's book are the several movie stills and posters that illustrate it, even thought, quite unfortunately, they are printed in black and white. While these images succeed in giving an idea of the bizarre aesthetics of the genre, interested readers should seriously consider acquiring a copy of Agrasanchez's book as a companion piece. This is greatly encouraged, specially since Cotter often describes posters not included in his book but available on Agrasanchez's.

But Cotter's book is more than a list of films and persons. Not really structured as a filmography, where each film is listed in chronological or alphabetical order, this book is divided into 10 different chapters that attempt to narrate the entire history of the genre according to its themes and performers. So, Santo, Blue Demon, and Mil Mascaras each gets their own chapter, while other chapters verse on wrestling women, less known assorted masked wrestlers, and even non-wrestling Mexican horror films. This arrangement provides a rewarding reading experience not usually associated to a filmography, as one is able to appreciate the structure and evolution of the genre.

For instance, reading Cotter's book one comes to realize how a major reason for these wrestlers' popularity was their chosen mask. They wore it in all their films, wrestling matches, and TV interviews. (In some of their films, they even appear sleeping in the mask.) For entire decades, they zealously kept their true name a secret, creating a mystery that still fascinates their Mexican fans. In particular, such was the association of Santo with his costume that he was buried in his silver mask, and his masked portrait is the image that adorns the plaque on his crypt. In a sense, for his many followers, Santo existed only as a legend and a cultural icon symbolized by the silver mask, completely detached of the person behind the costume.

Because these Mexican wrestlers never removed the mask, they always played themselves in the movies, and Cotter rightfully argues that this is the main difference between American and Mexican superheroes. Unlike most U.S. comic book superheroes, such as Batman and Spiderman, Santo, Blue Demon and Mil Mascaras had no secret identity per se. In their films, they never question their actions as crime fighters and never worry about being discovered. The fact that nobody knows details about their private life somehow undermines the distinction among the sports celebrities, the actors, and the fictional superheroes. In Mexican culture it does not make sense to make such distinctions.

Perhaps more surprising, after almost 50 years of masked wrestlers films, the legend of these real-life Mexican superheroes is not over, and continues to grow. Indeed, even though Santo and Blue Demon passed away in the 1980s, their respective sons became the bearers of the fathers' masks. To date, they continue wrestling at the Mexican arenas and starring in films, advertisements and comics. Mil Mascaras, who recently celebrated his 63rd birthday, is still wrestling around the world and has recently completed Mil Mascaras vs. The Aztec Mummy, the first US production in this genre. Because of the continuing popularity of these films and its performers, as well as their impact on Mexican popular culture, Cotter's book becomes required reading to those seriously interested in fantastic cinema.

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.





'People of the City' Is an Unrelenting Critique of Colonial Ideology and Praxis

Cyprian Ekwensi's People of the City is a vivid tale of class struggle and identity reclamation in the shadows of colonialism's reign.


1979's 'This Heat' Remains a Lodestone for Avant-Rock Adventure

On their self-titled debut, available for the first time on digital formats, This Heat delivered an all-time classic stitched together from several years of experiments.


'The Edge of Democracy' and Parallels of Political Crises

Academy Award-nominated documentary The Edge of Democracy, now streaming on Netflix, lays bare the political parallels of the rise of Bolsonaro's Brazil with Trump's America.


The Pogues' 'The BBC Sessions 1984-1986' Honors Working-Class Heroes

The Pogues' BBC Sessions 1984-1986 is a welcome chapter in the musical story of these working-class heroes, who reminded listeners of the beauty and dignity of the strong, sooty backs upon which our industrialized world was built.


Mary Halvorson Creates Cacophony to Aestheticize on 'Artlessly Falling'

Mary Halvorson's Artlessly Falling is a challenging album with tracks comprised of improvisational fragments more than based on compositional theory. Halvorson uses the various elements to aestheticize the confusing world around her.


15 Overlooked and Underrated Albums of the 1990s

With every "Best of the '90s" retrospective comes a predictable list of entries. Here are 15 albums that are often overlooked as worthy of placing in these lists, and are too often underrated as some of the best records from the decade.


'A Peculiar Indifference' Takes on Violence in Black America

Pulitzer Prize finalist Elliott Currie's scrupulous investigation of the impacts of violence on Black Americans, A Peculiar Indifference, shows the damaging effect of widespread suffering and identifies an achievable solution.


20 Songs From the 1990s That Time Forgot

Rather than listening to Spotify's latest playlist, give the tunes from this reminiscence of lost '90s singles a spin.


Delightful 'Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day' Is Good Escapism

Now streaming on Amazon Prime, Bharat Nalluri's 2008 romantic comedy, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, provides pleasant respite in these times of doom and gloom.


The 10 Best Horror Movie Remakes

The horror genre has produced some remake junk. In the case of these ten treats, the update delivers something definitive.


Flirting with Demons at Home, or, When TV Movies Were Evil

Just in time for Halloween, a new Blu-ray from Kino Lorber presents sparkling 2K digital restorations of TV movies that have been missing for decades: Fear No Evil (1969) and its sequel, Ritual of Evil (1970).


Magick Mountain Are Having a Party But Is the Audience Invited?

Garage rockers Magick Mountain debut with Weird Feelings, an album big on fuzz but light on hooks.


Aalok Bala Revels in Nature and Contradiction on EP 'Sacred Mirror'

Electronic musician Aalok Bala knows the night is not a simple mirror, "silver and exact"; it phases and echoes back, alive, sacred.


Clipping Take a Stab at Horrorcore with the Fiery 'Visions of Bodies Being Burned'

Clipping's latest album, Visions of Bodies Being Burned, is a terrifying, razor-sharp sequel to their previous ode to the horror film genre.


Call Super's New LP Is a Digital Biosphere of Insectoid and Otherworldly Sounds

Call Super's Every Mouth Teeth Missing is like its own digital biosphere, rife with the sounds of the forest and the sounds of the studio alike.


Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.


15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.


Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.