MST3K: Samson vs. The Vampire Women (1995)
Starring: Mike Nelson, Trace Beaulieu, Kevin Murphy, Jim Mallon, and Frank Conniff

The Plot: In the not-too-distant future, Mike Nelson is a regular worker at the Gizmonic Institute until being abducted by his boss and shot into outer space. His boss, Dr. Forrester, then sends the very worst movies that he can find in order to document Mike’s reactions. Mike teams up with the two robots on board, Crow and Tom Servo, and they do their best to improve this bad situation by having a good time riffing on the movies. In this episode, Mike and the bots watch the El Santo-starring vehicle Samsons vs. The Vampire Women. In this title, Santo must do battle with a harem of evil vampire women who torture an aristocratic family. This harem wants to take the beautiful daughter of this family and make her one of them, but not if El Santo has anything to say about that!

The Review
From a complete outsider’s perspective, El Santo seems to be both an actor, a character, and a film genre. As a professional wrestler living a kayfabe lifestyle, he was both a real human being as much as a living character within the public eye. This character translated from being a star on television who slapped men around for the sake of machismo, to being a superhero in the realm of movies. These films have transcended time and genre, and they have become legendary on their own merit. A mix of genre-film aesthetics and simple “balls to the wall” movie insanity, the titles from El Santo’s filmography have delighted b-movie fans for decades. Knowing all of this, it was only a matter of time before one of these movies showed up on Mystery Science Theater 3000. It seemed to me, that as the world’s greatest celebration of b-movie cinema, MST3K would probably accentuate all of the humorous aspects of an El Santo movie, and it turns out that I was right with this initial impression. For all I know, Samson vs. The Vampire Women may not be El Santo’s best movie, but as an episode of MST3K it is an incredible amount of fun.

Samson vs. The Vampire Women should be notable for being rather serious about its horror roots, despite the fact that you have a masked man running around in a leotard. For a movie like this one there is a surprising amount of style and atmosphere. Despite the inclusion of the famed masked wrestler, one can easily see an attempt by the filmmakers to try and craft a relatively scary story. In fact, Santo (or Samson, as he is referred here) is relegated to a relatively small part in this movie. The costumes worn by Santo and the muscular male vampires (who look like professional wrestlers themselves) may actually be the only hints at camp within the majority of this movie. Otherwise, this is a relatively by-the-numbers vampire affair, but with light hints of style and flare. I would certainly say that there is an air of gothic moodiness that pops up during many of the scenes that take place within the mansion that our main characters live in. There are a few shots within this mansion where characters wait outside of windows and stare in at the main cast, and although this seems rather elementary, it does come across as relatively creepy.

Overall, the plot in Samson seems perfectly tailored for an episode of Mystery Science Theater. While the movie is visually well made, the plot is a mix of wrestling action with the most generic vampire tale that audiences could possibly expect. Indeed, it is almost a retelling of Bram Stoker’s Dracula in many regards. The relationship between Dracula and Mina, a fixture of Stoker’s classic tale, is essentially revisited here in Samson. We have a woman that our lead vampire wants, and we follow along as this vampire has an army of female vamps desperately try to get close and capture her as his dark queen. You can probably guess where all of this is going as the movie plods along, but combined with the MST3K treatment we get a first rate episode and a potentially-solid little movie by itself.

Also provided from Shout! Factory is one of the very best special features found on all of the Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume XXIV boxset. Lucha Gringo: El Santo vs. K. Gordon Murray is an eleven minute documentary that details the history of both Lucha Libre wrestling and the Santo film series. There’s actually some history delved into with this little documentary, despite its short length, and a lot of the historical context within these films are lightly explored. There’s some talk about the importance of the mask within lucha libre, where Vampire Women fits into the Santo filmography, as well as general discussions of K. Gordon Murray who first released these films inside the United States. The film is treated with some respect during this documentary, and even though they admit that these movies can be a bit silly, this documentary gets across the point that these are also respected films that many people earnestly love. The sincerity can easily be felt, and it compliments this episode of the show tremendously.

The Conclusion
While not everyone will agree, I consider Samson vs. The Vampire Women to be the best episode featured on this boxset. A really fun episode that actually features a relatively well-made movie, this is truly a win-win situation. A valuable purchase for any fan of the series, I give this episode a rating of four out of five. This is quality entertainment!