Samson vs. the Vampire Women on MST3K – review
SAMSON VS. THE VAMPIRE WOMEN (the 1963 American dub of the 1962 Mexican film SANTO VS. LAS MUJERAS VAMPIRO) is perfect fodder for MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000. It’s goofy, but it’s fun to watch. The absurdity of a masked wrestler (with no superpowers) facing off with the undead is inherently funny – all the more so because the film takes the collision of masked wrestler and vampire genres for granted, portraying its male vampires exactly like wrestler-stuntmen. Except for two lengthy wrestling scenes (the first of which is deleted from the MST3K version), the film moves along quickly if not logically, and there is a decent amount of atmosphere to keep the eye entertained while the ear enjoys the sarcastic comments the crew of the Satellite of Love. The result is one of the best episodes from the Mike Nelson era of MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000.
As in the show’s best episodes, the jokes attack not only poor production values but also dubious attitudes. SAMSON VS. THE VAMPIRE WOMEN features a kindly old professor, who lies to his daughter Diana about the danger to her life, in order to “comfort” her, presumably because women just can’t handle the truth. Later, the police use Diana as bait in a poorly thought-out plan that seems to consist entirely of going to a nightclub where previous victims have been attacked, and then waiting around to see what happens. Our hero Samson (Santo in the original Spanish) is not around to help, because he has a wrestling match scheduled that night.
With a film like this, the jokes almost write themselves. The comments fly fast and furious, too many to enumerate, but here are some of the best:
- “I visited Manderlay last night.” A reference to Alfred Hitchcock’s REBECCA, which also began with a miniature of an old mansion. The joke becomes even funnier a few seconds later, when you see a portrait inside the manor, titled “Rebeca” (one “c” only).
- “I dedicate thsi song to Thorazine.” During a somnabulistic performance by leading lady Diana, of Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata.”
- “Some butlers stay inside.” Said as the butler closes the door for a departing guest by following him outside (presumably because the director wanted to get him out of the scene).
- “So the Devil’s Minions are cheap thugs!” and “It’s a vampire wilding!” Said in reference to the Vampire Women’s male henchmen, who punch their victims instead of biting them.
- “This is what Southern Baptists think Catholic Mass is like.” During the vampires’ blood-draining ritual.
- “It’s a Robert Mapplethorpe photo sessions.” As a topless male vampire strangles a masked but topless male wrestler.
- “The Ultimate Battle Between Good and Evil is goofy!” In reference to Santo wrestling with his male vampire opponent.
- “I’ll just mark it in my book as a kill.” Attributed to Santo after one of the vampires conveniently dies in the shadow of the cross, without Santo actually doing anything.
- “What good is being the Ruler of the Underworld when you have to live in a dump like this?” In reference to the dusty basement-dungeon, where the Vampire Women reside.
Most of the interstitial bits are not particularly memorable (e.g., Tom talks continuously through a “moment of silence”), but the episode is historically important for MIST-ies because it features the departure of beloved bumbler TV’s Frank (Frank Coniff), one half the diabolical duo that has been forcing Mike and robot friends Crow T. Robot and Tom Servo to watch bad movies aboard their orbiting space ship. Having received a fortune cookie hinting at his impending death, TV’s Frank is visited by Torgo the White (Mike Nelson, doing double duty), an angelic form of henchman from the abysmal MANOS: HANDS OF FATE, transformed a la Gandalf in THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE TWO TOWERS. Torgo takes Frank away to Second Banana Heaven, a magical land for for henchmen and sidekicks, leaving a distraught Dr. Forrester (Trace Beaulieu) without an assistant to kick around.
Frank’s farewell is amusingly handled. The ‘bots read some inappropriate goodbye letters, except for Gypsy, who is the only one with something nice to say. An ethereal version of Frank appears to taunt Forrester beyond the grave. Forrester responds to the loss by singing “Who Will I Kill?” Unfortunately, the intended show-stopper falls flat: Beaulieu is not as adept with a song as Nelson and Kevin Murphy, and the lyrics miss the mark (Forrester never wanted to kill Frank, only to slap him around when he screwed up).
SAMSON AND THE VAMPIRE WOMEN was chosen as a farewell gift to Frank Coniff, who is a fan of Mexican wrestler movies.
The show aired on March 25, 1995. It can be found on YouTube, and is commercially available as a stand-alone title on instant view and as part of the four-disc set MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000 – XXIV, which also includes THE SWORD AND THE DRAGON, FUGITIVE ALIEN, and STAR FORCE: FUGITIVE ALIEN II.