Widrich works on a large number of films and multimedia projects, sometimes as part of a creative team. He is known especially for his numerous short films.
FAST FILM (2003) by Virgil Widrich is one of those films that reminds me why I love animation in the first place: it’s a medium in which you can literally do anything you want. This film blew me away when I saw it at Annecy in ‘04 so I was excited to find that my friends at the Animation Show have discovered it on YouTube. Usually the things that make an animated film great are the story, characters and animation, but FAST FILM is one of the rare instances where a film is great primarily because of its technique. The visuals were achieved by printing out thousands of film frames (over 65,000 to be exact) and folding them into three-dimensional shapes. The paper-objects were then photographed and composited in After Effects. I can’t even imagine the effort it took to mash-up hundreds of live-action films, often times with three to four films in each scene, and make it all work in a narrative context. It’s an incredible creative achievement.
The film is unlikely to ever find release in the US due to the fact that it uses unlicensed imagery from over 300 live-action features. But don’t let that stop you from enjoying it online. There’s a lengthy interview with the director, Virgil Widrich, and details on how to purchase the dvd, at the film’s official website.
Rodolfo Guzmán Huerta (September 23, 1917 – February 5, 1984), more widely known as El Santo (the Saint), was a MexicanLuchadorenmascarado (Spanish for masked professional wrestler), film actor, and folk icon. El Santo, along with Blue Demon and Mil Máscaras, is one of the most famous and iconic of all Mexican luchadores, and has been referred to as one of "the greatest legends in Mexican sports" His wrestling career spanned nearly five decades, during which he became a folk hero and a symbol of justice for the common man through his appearances in comic books and movies. He is said to have popularized professional wrestling in Mexico just as Rikidozan did in Japan. Guzmán's son followed him into wrestling as El Hijo del Santo, or 'Son of Santo'.
Cover of Sensacional de Luchas comic issue no. 425 featuring El Santo.
In 1952, the artist and editor José G. Cruz started a Santo comic book, turning Santo into the first and foremost character in Mexican popular literature, his popularity only rivalled by the legendary Kalimán character. The Santo comic book series (four different volumes) ran continuously for 35 years, ending in 1987.
Also in 1952, a superhero motion picture serial was made entitled "The Man in the Silver Mask", which was supposed to star Santo, but he declined to appear in it, because he thought it would fail commercially. The film was made instead with well-known luchador El Médico Asesino in the lead role, wearing a white mask similar to Santo's silver one. A villain named "The Silver-Masked Man" was introduced into the plot at the last minute, thus the title of the film strangely became a reference to the villain, not the hero.
In 1958, Fernando Osés, a wrestler and actor, invited Santo to work in movies, and although Santo was unwilling to give up his wrestling career, he accepted, planning to do both at the same time. Oses was planning on playing the hero in these films, with Santo appearing as his costumed sidekick. Fernando Osés and Enrique Zambrano wrote the scripts for the first two movies, el Cerebro del Mal (The Evil Brain) and Hombres Infernales (The Infernal Men), both released in 1958, and directed by Joselito Rodríguez. Filming was done in Cuba, and ended just the day before Fidel Castro entered Havana and declared the victory of the revolution. Santo played a masked superhero-type sidekick to the main hero (who was called El Incognito) in these two films, and was not the main character (nor was he depicted as a wrestler in these 2 films). The films did poorly at the box office when they were released. Years later however, when Santo's film career took off, the distributors of these two films quietly added Santo's name into the titles. Most people feel Santo's film career really took off in 1961, with his third movie "Santo Vs The Zombies." Santo was given the starring role with this film, and was shown for the first time as a professional wrestler moonlighting as a superhero.
Santo wound up appearing in a total of 52 lucha libre films in all, two of which were just cameo appearances. The style of the movies was essentially the same throughout the series, with Santo as a superhero fighting supernatural creatures, evil scientists, various criminals/ secret agents and so on. The tones were reminiscent of U.S. B-movies and TV shows, perhaps most similar to the old Republic Pictures serials of the 1940s.
Santo in Mujeres Vampiro
His best-known movie outside of Mexico is also considered one of his best, 1962s Santo vs. las Mujeres Vampiro (Santo vs. the Vampire Women), which was also featured in an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000. In this movie, the production values were better, and there was an attempt at creating more a mythos and background for Santo, as the last of a long line of fighters against evil. It was an enormous success at the box office, and was one of the 4 Santo films ever to be dubbed in English. Some of these English films were imported to the United States through the efforts of K. Gordon Murray who changed the name of Santo to Samson for some of his releases. Santo's most financially successful film however was "The Mummies of Guanajuato" (1970), which co-starred Blue Demon and Mil Mascaras. Many Mexi-movie fans consider it to be the greatest luchador film ever made.
The Santo film series inspired the production of similar series of movies starring other well-known luchadores such as Blue Demon, Mil Mascaras, Superzan and the Wrestling Women, among others. Santo even co-starred with Blue Demon and Mil Mascaras in several of his movies. When Blue Demon invited Santo to co-star with him and Mil Mascaras in the "Champions of Justice" movie trilogy, however, Santo was too busy making other films to participate.
By 1977, the masked wrestler film craze had practically died off, but Santo continued to appear in more films over the next few years. His last film was "FURY OF THE KARATE EXPERTS", shot in Florida in 1982, the same year he retired from the ring. Santo officially retired from wrestling on Sept. 12, 1982 (a week before his 65th birthday). His last match was at the El Toreo de Cuatro Caminos in Mexico. All told, his professional wrestling career spanned a total of 48 years.
Santo appeared as a guest on Contrapunto, a Mexican television program and, completely without warning, removed his mask just enough to expose his face. It is the only documented case of Santo ever removing his mask in public. Santo died from a heart attack on Feb. 5, 1984, at 9:40 p.m. (about a week after his Contrapunto TV appearance). He was 66 years old. As per his wishes, he was buried wearing his famous silver mask.
Often considered the most entertaining of the Santo films (while arguably not the best), this is the story of Martians who come to Earth and interrupt a TV broadcast to warn everybody to start making peace among themselves or suffer the consequences. Nobody takes them seriously (perhaps the their skimpy costumes were to blame). To show that they aren't kidding around, the Martians invade an arena where Santo is performing and these aliens use their "Astral Eye" to start killing hundreds of people. Santo takes this as a personal affront and retaliates.