Cine Fantástico, El Paso’s free celebration of popular Mexican film, returns to the Plaza Theatre during the upcoming Chalk the Block festival.
The 2019 edition of Cine Fantástico – set for Saturday, October 12 – is a project of the Paso del Norte Community Foundation and part of the annual Downtown arts festival Chalk the Block.
Cine Fantástico will also feature two more classics of popular Mexican cinema, Santo Contra Hombres Infernales (1961) and Mexico’s first horror film, La Llorona (1933).
In Cine Fantástico’s inaugural year, the masked Mexican hero El Santó’s restored 1961 film Santo Contra Cerebro del Mal returned to the big screen. This year, a masked female hero returns in a restored version of 1968’s The Batwoman (La Mujer Murciélago), in Spanish with English subtitles.
García Besné will participate in Q&A’s, led by El Paso film host and Cine Fantástico co-founder Charles Horak, before each film.
The screenings spotlight García Besné and the Permanencia Voluntaria Film Archive’s work to preserve and restore popular Mexican films produced by her family and others. The event also shines a light on El Paso’s rich film history and ties to the Mexican film industry.
The event will begin with a screening of La Llorona at 1 p.m. La Llorona was directed by Ramón Peón and produced by José Calderón. Public fascination in Mexico with the story of “the wailing woman” made it the right choice as the subject for the first Mexican horror film.
For Spanish-speaking movie audiences it was the perfect answer to Hollywood’s vampires, werewolves and mummies. As the ghostly Llorona hovers while uttering her spine-chilling howl “¡Ay, mis hijos…!”…the legend is brought to chilling life for the first time on film.
At 4 p.m., El Santo returns in Santo Contra Hombres Infernales. Made simultaneously with Santo Contra Cerebro del Mal by director Joselito Rodriguez and producer by Jorge García Besné, this second film starring the legendary masked wrestler is a rare and historically important film.
Made in Cuba on the eve of the revolution, Santo Contra Hombres Infernales helped launch the movie career of El Santo, the real life Mexican wrestler who became an international star with more than 50 sequels that followed.
“The future slayer of Aztecs, mummies, vampires, aliens and evil-doers of every variety had to start somewhere…and this is that film!” Cine Fantástico officials add.
The feature attraction The Batwoman (La Mujer Murciélago), begins at 7 p.m. Directed by René Cardona and produced by Guillermo Calderón, the mysterious Batwoman (the masked and very sexy alter-ego of a wealthy socialite) is brought in to help crack the case of a string of murders befalling wrestlers around the world and forcing the Mexican authorities to partner with the American FBI.
Discovering that each luchador victim has been drained of cerebral fluid, Batwoman discovers a mad scientist using the fluid to create a powerful man-fish hybrid that has more than a passing resemblance to The Creature From The Black Lagoon.
A favorite film of Mexican director Guillermo del Toro, The Batwoman has been newly restored in all its colorful glory by the Permanencia Voluntaria Film Archive.
Generous local donors and funds raised during last year’s Cine Fantastico screening of Santo Contra Cerebro del Mal at the Plaza Theatre made the restoration of The Batwoman possible.
The Permanencia Voluntaria Film Archive is also partnered with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to help preserve and restore the rich archive of Mexican popular films, much of which was nearly lost during the Mexico City earthquake in 2017.
All movies are free and shown in Spanish with English subtitles.
Cine Fantástico is presented by the Permanencia Voluntaria Film Fund, a nonprofit created in partnership with the Paso del Norte Community Foundation to build awareness for the ongoing preservation work of Mexico’s Permanencia Voluntaria Film Archive, founded by special guest Viviana García Besné. García Besné’s family were entrepreneurs from Chihuahua who owned and managed several theaters in El Paso and Mexico, including the Cine Plaza in Juárez; and the beloved Colón, Alcázar, Estrella, and Rex Theaters on South El Paso Street.
The Calderón brothers and their descendants produced over 150 films, including those starring El Santo, and established Azteca Films, one of the most significant Latin American film distribution companies in the world.