La mujer murcielago [The Batwoman] (1968)

One of the greatest joys of searching out rare and foreign (and particularly Mexican) SF films is finding those films so totally ludicrous and bizarre that no Hollywood film executive in his right mind would ever have dreamed of giving it the greenlight.

This is an exceptionally fine example.

You see, there is this incredibly wealthy young woman who has dedicated her life to fighting crime, and has developed an impressive set of skills, like shooting, wrestling, horseback riding and whatever else the plot demands.  And, of course, when she’s needed the authorities — or at least the secret agent who knows who she is — she is always willing to take on the latest menace.

While her identity is a deep dark secret, she also performs as a professional wrestler, while wearing a very familiar Grey and Blue suit.  Very familiar.

However, while fighting crime, she prefers a blue bikini with a cape that comes complete with a cowled mask with pointy ears.

Of course, no masked wrestler superhero is complete without an over the top villain to fight, not even in Mexico.  So, when she is brought in to investigate a mysterious string of deaths which has taken place over several years and in a number of other countries, it comes as no surprise that they were all murdered by a sinister mad doctor with a full medical lab and operating theater aboard  his own private yacht

He’s been kidnapping star athletes at the peak of their physical prime and surgically removing the secretions from their pineal glands.  Now, those of you who have seen The Leech Woman know that the pineal gland can be used to restore a woman’s youth, but here it does something ever more remarkable:  it can turn a goldfish into a walking, amphibious man creature.

Well, we know it is a goldfish.  I’m not sure whether the script does.  But there is the lovely and utterly insane moment when the floating mad scientist starts the process of making his creature by putting some sort of doll, a tiny figure of an adult male — maybe an action figure, I don’t know — in the tank with the fish, then tossing in some of his secret pineal gland formula.

I have no idea why he puts the doll in. Maybe it’s just there to inspire the creature.  Maybe it’s supposed to say to itself, if I try very hard I can look like that. But then I’m not a mad scientist, and this is the sort of thing you’re just not going to learn in your High School Science Class.

But what the heck, it works, before long he has a tiny fishman, which then becomes a big one and which he then attempts to control.

After all, what good is a fishman if you can’t use it to take over the world?

Fortunately, the Batwoman is on the case, massive copyright infringement or not.

Now I have to note that Maura Monti who plays The Batwoman is one of these absolutely incredible (physically, that is) actresses who populate these sorts of Mexican films: tall, packed with curves and stunningly beautiful.  You have no trouble believing that she can toss all these hordes of henchmen around (although I do think there may be someone else under the mask when she’s wrestling). As I write this, I have been besieged by ads for what is purportedly a new version of the old series, Charlie’s Angels.  Assuming that this isn’t some cruel, overgrown practical joke on IMDB’s part (this is where you’re supposed to leap out and yell “surprise!” guys…), then we’ve got two skinny little things and an androgynous wisp of a child whom we will asked to believe can each easily take on two or three men twice her size at once.

Right.

No matter how absurd your Mexican horror films gets, it’s never going to ask you to believe anything that silly.

As you can imagine in a film like this, The Batwoman plows through dozens of these henchmen, in several different fights, and even has to fight the big fish man a few times as well.  I think the model here may have been the Adam West TV show, although they play her a lot more seriously — and the fights seem far more real.  Nor do the villains go in for the sort of matching costumes that King Tut, Joker and The Riddler expected their guys to wear.  However, they make up for this with one of those all time classic boffo endings, complete with flames, explosions and the beast turning on its maker.

And I quite like the fact that The Batwoman is allowed to have a feminine weakness at the end of the film, stereotype or not.

Hardcore Mexican movie fans will note that The Batwoman was directed by René Cardona, who had long and interesting career in the Mexican film industry.  You can even see him in one of his leading roles in El baúl macabro way back in 1936.

This is a goofy, silly and decidedly wacky sort of film.  It never tries to sell us any big serious themes, or offer anything other than Ninety minutes of pure cinematic joy.  For those who love movies like that, this is a treasure.  A weird sort of treasure, but definitely a treasure.

Fortunately it’s up on Youtube for free, although there are no subtitles and you have to auto-translate the auto-subs.

But you really don’t need good subs to understand someone getting a fist in the face.

So grab your pointy-eared cowl,  make yourself some Bat (woman) popcorn and give this one a whirl.

(My thanks to the one and only Janne Waas at Scifist for introducing me to this remarkable film!)

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