El Matador Jaime Bravo - The official Website of the late Matador Jaime Bravo. (born 1932  died 1970)

The following article is from PulpMovies.com

GASTON SANTOS

While he may not be well-known to the English speaking world, Gaston Santos is recognized throughout Latin America and Europe, in regard to a number of different professions. Primarily he was known and is still recognized as a rejoneador, a bullfighter who fights the animals not on foot, but entirely on horseback. From the late 1950s until the late 1970s, he was recognized as the best in his trade, appearing in Mexico, Spain, and Portugal on a regular basis. Even those who were not fond of bullfighting went to these events, especially along the Mexican-American bordertowns such as Juarez, Tijuana and Nogales, to see him in action. His horses were frankly, bigger stars than he was, and it was the chance to see these wonderfully-trained animals in action that pulled the people in.

Santos made a fortune from bullfighting, not that he needed to, being the son of a wealthy politician in the Mexican province of San Luis Potosi. It was love for the trade that drove him into the bullring, rather than need, in "the poor boy finds riches in front of the bulls," so often used in older films like Blood & Sand.

Which brings us to his film career.

During the 1960s, a host of professional wrestlers such as Blue Demon, El Santo and Mil Mascaras, were expanding their careers. Capitalizing on their fame as grapplers, they entered the acting realm and made several films, sometimes individually, sometimes together. Wearing their masks, they faced all types of villains, ranging from monsters to spies. More often than not, the wrestlers were portrayed as superheroes, Batman-types who wrestled by night and fought crime by day. While the people loved these projects, most were tacky, silly and shot on a budget which would have made Ed Wood Jr. look like a millionaire.

As one of Mexico's major bullfighting stars, Santos figured he would jump on the band wagon and while the original intention was to use him in western movies, thus enabling him to show off his horses, utilize his skills as a rider and benefit from acting in movies which complimented his pre-existing skills, such was not to be the case. More often than not, he found himself in horror films, much like his wrestling counterparts. These movies did little to enhance his career, but the parts just kept coming.

Nowadays, it is extremely hard to find some of these films, especially English versions, though some do exist. They are, for the most part, the tacky things you'd see on Elvira shows or something along that line. As an actor, well.Gaston santos was a very good bullfighter.

"The Living Coffin" (1965), originally shot as "The Scream Of Death" (1958) was one of his "best" (i.e. most recognized) adventures, in which he played the starring role. The film, however, left a little to be desired, centering around a Poe-like theme, dealing with phobias, premature burials and madness. The less said otherwise, the better.

Other Gaston Santos films which were at one time translated into English and may still be found someplace, for those taking the time to look, include The Black Pits Of Dr. M, The Scream Of Death (1958) (aka El Grito de la Muerte), The Swamp Of Lost Souls (1957) (aka El Pantano de las Animas) and a few more which slip this writer's mind at the moment. In short, they might well fit into the interests of visitors to this page, interested in "pulp films" or those you will never see nominated for an oscar!

As a person, Gaston Santos is still fascinating. He lives back in San Luis Potosi, where he and his sons operate a horse ranch, breeding high quality animals for films, riding and the bullring. He also operates a bull ranch called Palma Cerrada (the name is an inside joke, meaning "tight-fisted" or "economical".Santos had a reputation for being frugal, in spite of his vast fortune, which evidently still holds true). This ranch has been around for a long while and was established well before Santos retired from both the bullring and film. Often he would offer promoters a package deal to perform, bringing himself, his horses and his own bulls to face in certain bullrings.

When I met him firsthand in Nogales, I was amazed by the fact he spoke 8 languages. Not only did he know English, French, Portuguese and the like, but also spoke certain African dialects, picked up from trips to Africa when very young and big game hunting was still allowed.

While a legendary bullfighter in his day, he was not a magnificent actor (Like Santo, Blue Demon, Mil Mascaras or others who tried to make the jump from sports to the big screen were.or for that matter..are!) Still, few people ever criticized his films because he was so popular in other realms, so much loved by the public, that the movies were embraced in spite of their flaws. Now, no longer being as much in the limelight, I am sure the younger generation laughs at these flicks when they crop up, but the audience at the time of their release always flocked to see them. Amazingly, some theatres saw long lines for these in the 1960s.

Again, Gaston Santos was in many ways, a Mexican institution.and still is. He wasn't much of an actor though, but an all-around good guy, with a load of charisma.

 



Written by Dale Pierce 1-04-2003.

Edited (only very slightly) by Aleco Bravo 9-15-2005.

 

 

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