Batwoman is a 1968 Mexican movie that I had no clue existed until last night. Today, I watched the entire movie and I’m still blown away by what I saw. How can I describe it? Hrm… imagine if you took the 1960’s Batman series and set it in Mexico. And then added kooky subtitles. And then replaced Adam West with a hot-ass Mexican babe whose uniform primarily consists of a bikini.
That hot-ass Mexican babe is Maura Monti. And she’s incredible.
Okay, so why is Monti so amazing in this role? Well, she pulls off a character that is so unfathomably multi-faceted that even the movie itself struggles to brand her. Consider the description given by Robles, a police officer who knows her as well anyone:
“She is very difficult to describe with words, She is a wonderful and very rich lady who lives in the capital city. She uses her vast fortune to fight against the forces of evil..,Thanks to her special abilities, she is distinguished in all sports..,And, behind the mask, she’s become a great wrestler.”
Your eyes don’t deceive you — Batwoman is a great wrestler.
See, the conflict of Batwoman begins when a number of professional wrestlers are mysteriously murdered. The Babe Crusader is called in to investigate and while she would’ve obliged anyway, her personal investment in the sport makes her even more determined. As the viewers, we can sympathize with Batwoman’s and her newest cause.
So who is the culprit? Why, it’s the evil Dr. Williams! This godless heathen is murdering the nation’s prize athletes in the name of his amoral science. With the help of his assistant Igor (I kid you not), Williams attempts to genetically engineer a sort of super-specimen — a fish-man. The mad scientist is not dissuaded by his initial failures but encouraged, sure that persistence will help him create his creature.
Dr. Williams: No reaction…Igor, we have to do a new experiment to create our fish-man.
Dr. Williams: Now! As soon as possible. We need another wrestler so we can obtain more gland liquid for the transplant.
Igor: But now is very dangerous, the police…
Dr. Williams: Shut up! Success is near. We can’t stop.., we can’t fail now.
Igor: Why wrestlers? There are other people.
Dr. Williams: Yes, but without the qualities we need. We need athletes, very strong people so our specimen will be perfect as I dreamt.
On the surface, Batwoman is a solid 1960’s B-movie; it’s got a jazzy soundtrack, low-budget costumes, a dance scene at the beach, and a scantily-clad heroine. By these virtues alone, I’m sold. I’ve hit a point in my life in which I’m not going to deny that I can be won over by the simpler things in life. Monsters. Mammaries. Mexicanos. It’s all good.
But my caffeine-addled, too-active-for-its-own-good mind is also satiated by the film’s political implications. Underneath the images of sunny Acapulco and jazz soundtrack rests a parable. A tale about a small nation trying to retain its identity. A story of thwarting imperialism.
As I mentioned previously, wrestlers are the victims of Batwoman. These titans of the squared circle are murdered without remorse, harvested for their elevated levels of gland liquid. One must remember that in Mexico, lucha libre is revered as an esteemed performance art. The luchadors, in turn, as heralded as heroes of the countrymen. In other words, the wrestlers represent national resources.
And who is exploiting the national resources? Dr. Williams and his assistant Igor. Neither Williams nor Igor are Spanish names, suggesting that the duo is not from Mexico. This notion is further supported by the fact Dr. Williams has conducted similar experiments in Hong Kong and Maccao. So first China was raped of its resources and then Mexico.
It isn’t hard to see that Batwoman is a Mexican refutation of the idea that it will let any imperialist bend it over and give it the time. Dr. Williams is the embodiment of the cold-hearted, unfeeling capitalism. Batwoman, as a hot-mama-luchador, is the faith and resolve necessary to defend its cultural honor. At the end of the day, even Pisces the fish-man (the aberration created by profit margins) cannot sully the resolve of the Mexican spirit.
But then again, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe Batwoman isn’t a political manifesto. After all, the last scene pretty much stomps on any female empowerment developed throughout the course of the film. After having saved the day by defeating evil Dr. Williams, Batwoman screams in horror and begs for the assistance of her male companions. The source of this revulsion? A mouse.
Batwoman may not be a self-aware, politically-motivated manifesto. But it is a damn enjoyable movie. Make a plate of nachos, grab a Corona, and give it a view.