Director/writer/actor Rene Cardona seems to have had an interesting (and prolific) career, yet to be honest, I’d never heard of him prior to MST3K.
According to his IMDB page, he had a career stretching from 1925 to 1988, with 146 credits as director (including, of course, Santa Claus and the upcoming Season 13’s The Batwoman and Santo in the Treasure of Dracula) and 123 credits as actor.
He would seem to have been a non-stop movie making machine. In 1959, the year Santa Claus came out, he also had six other movies released. He directed 8 films in both 1965 (including the intriguingly titled She-Wolves of the Ring – not a Tolkien movie, I assume) and 1969 (including the intriguingly titled Night of the Bloody Apes).
And he worked in a surprisingly wide variety of genres: lots of Santo/wresting hero movies, but also horror movies, kids movies, western movies, comedies, dramas.
I have seen a couple other of his movies in Rifftrax form: Zindy the Swamp Boy and The Brainiac. He was also the father of writer/director Rene Cardona, Jr., who made The Bermuda Triangle, also riffed by Rifftrax.
Rene Cardona seems to have been a pretty significant figure in Mexican cinema, yet I know little more about him than what Wikipedia tells me. So what can the bright, informed folks here tell me about him? Was he considered a good filmmaker in his time or more like a workaholic hack? Are there any of his films you would strongly recommend? Were many of his movies released in English back in the day or were they solely intended for the Latin American market?
I’d love to see a Ballyhoo documentary on the man, similar to what they did for William “Wild Rebels” Grefé. I love hearing about the unsung Ed Woods of schlock cinema (W. Lee Wilder is another one that doesn’t get nearly enough credit for cranking out cheesy low budget movies, mainly as a way of annoying his more talented Academy Award-winning brother)
There might be some more information on the Daniel Griffith commentary for the un-riffed Santa Claus blu-ray.
For a bit of context, Mexico’s film industry was heavily regulated by the government in those days so more ‘escapist entertainment’ type of films were encouraged and less likely to be censored or banned.
Thanks for the link to that video. It’s good that they told a little bit about Mr. Cardona’s career and his role in making Santa Claus. Perhaps now that he will become a director with at least 3 movies riffed by the MST3k crew, joining the ranks of legends like Coleman Francis, Ed Wood and Roger Corman, they might make a video exclusively about him.
By looking through his filmography, it looks like there are several other intriguingly titled ( i.e. “nightmare-fueled”) movies that might well be worth riffing by the gang in the future.
I’m just kind of surprised that given the success of Santa Claus, that he didn’t combine that with his affinity for wrestling hero movies and come out with the sequel – Santo Claus, the masked wrestler bearer of gifts and friend to all children!
After seeing the new Santo movie, I really have a growing appreciation for Mr. Cardona’s work. That was an insane movie weaving together elements of sci-fi, gothic horror and pro wrestling – a little something for everybody.
I wonder how much of a budget he had to work with here. Santo was a big star in Mexico, so I’m sure this movie was not made on an Ed Wood budget. Most of the movie looked good – good lighting, cinematography, costumes, set designs, etc. The gothic horror stuff, to me, looked almost as good as the stuff AIP had been cranking out in the 1960’s. The wrestling scenes too looked good, showing they had the budget to provide a reasonable size crowd of extras. But the device they came up with to move the woman back and forth in time also shows their budget was not extensive.
I’m even more intrigued now by the man behind these movies. It is with great anticipation that I look forward to watching The Batwoman. It should be a hoot!