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The Batwoman (1968)

She wears a bat suit in the wrestling ring but switches to a bikini when she’s fighting crime. Ads hailed her as “an untamable woman with a heart of steel and a sculptural body.” She’s Gloria (Maura Monti), one of the world’s richest women, who fights crime as the Batwoman when she’s not reigning as queen of the ring. This delirious, often surprisingly beautiful film is one of the strangest entries in Mexico’s Luchador genre, films about wrestlers who fight crime, monsters, and anything else threatening their world. In this case, the Batwoman is called in when wrestlers start turning up dead with their pineal glands missing. The culprit is a mad scientist (Would a sane scientist do anything like this?) out to breed an army of super fish-men with which to conquer the oceans.

Cuban-born director René Cardona was one of the most prolific Mexican filmmakers. Although he’s best known in the U.S. for the children’s film Santa Claus (1959), distributed by K. Gordon Murray, and the horror film Night of the Bloody Apes (1969), his more than 100 films include acclaimed dramas, romances, and comedies. In popular film, he was the first director to add horror elements to the Luchador films.

With its over-the-top action and dreamlike underwater scenes shot by Agustín Jiménez, The Batwoman is a favorite of director Guillermo del Toro. It was recently given a digital restoration as part of filmmaker and archivist Viviana García Besné’s drive to save the best of Mexico’s genre films.

d. René Cardona, 80 minutes, DCP

4k restoration by Permanencia Voluntaria, Paso del Norte Community Foundation, Cinema Preservation Alliance, and the Academy Film Archive. Special thanks to Charles Horak