News  ·  03 | 08 | 2023

La mujer murciélago

Wrestlers are found dead at the coast of scenic Acapulco. Gloria, to all evil-doers of the world known only as Batwoman, starts to investigate... Creature from the Black Lagoon meets the world of lucha libre!

© Permanencia

The bodies of several luchadores, the Mexican professional wrestlers, are found off the coast of Acapulco. The police grope in the dark and turn to the wealthy Gloria (Maura Monti), who uses her wealth to fight crime. An expert in martial arts, she carries out part of her activities by moving in the very milieu of the luchadores, wearing a costume that has earned her the nickname 'bat-woman'. La mujer murciélago, from 1968, presented in Locarno in the restored version by the Cinema Preservation Alliance, and recently returned to the limelight in the United States thanks to an episode of the Mystery Science Theater 3000 series, where aliens force a human to watch B-movies to analyze his reactions. A gloriously cheap yet ambitious film, it exploits the 'Batmania' of that decade by fusing it with a premise not so far removed from the worlds of The Monster of the Black Lagoon (with the addition of a mad scientist whose assistant, from necessity, is called Igor). It is the year that the TV Batman starring Adam West closed after three seasons, the last of which starred Yvonne Craig as Barbara Gordon aka Batgirl. Clear inspiration for Gloria's costume, whose characterization is, however, based on the character of Kathy Kane/Batwoman, introduced in the DC Comics in 1956 and able to take on any opponent. A cultural context that years later would inspire the iconography of Bane, the notorious villain who broke Batman's back in the 1990s (and in 2012 at the cinema). 

This cultural milieu, very much in vogue in popular Mexican cinema at the time, justifies the protagonist's costume, while the B-movie tone does the same for that of the creature: a blatant example of the wonderful tradition of the man in a rubber suit to embody the monster of the day, all under the watchful and passionate eye of director René Cardona, who handles the mixture of elements with criterion. Constantly and deliberately balancing between the serious and the facetious, with a tone that on the one hand approaches the premise with the utmost honesty and on the other has fun from time to time playing with the audience's expectations - thus the figure of the bat-woman herself, heroine and at the same time damsel in distress when it comes time to recreate a certain famous image associated with the man-fish. The film then exploits Acapulco's touristy quality to deliver beautiful vistas in which to place the confrontations between Gloria and her unlikely, but no less charismatic, adversaries. Whether it be the beach or the seabed, the locations offer a vital contribution to the whimsical charm of a tale that is at times cheerfully ridiculous, devoted to pure fun in a context that plunders the collective American imagination to make it specifically, magnificently Mexican. With an authentic 'comic book' spirit that in the subsequent official adaptation of Batwoman, made for the small screen a few years ago, is somewhat lacking. 


Max Borg