Written and directed by Quebec filmmaker Alain Vézina, mockumentary Opération Luchador is of a piece with recent films like The Lake Michigan Monster and new classics such as The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra, in that it looks at classic genre films from the ’40s and ’50s and imbues them with a modern tongue-in-cheek elan. These films – and especially Opération Luchador – take the less-than-believable action and special effects of the low budget movies of that era and turns them into an asset, rather than a deficit.
“The Second World War still holds so many mysteries. You think you know everything about WWII? Well, this world war still holds many surprises for you. Did you know that Mexico, in the 1940s, was the home of the Eagle of the Reich, a famous fascist masked wrestler and follower of Nazi teachings? That the American intelligence service had recruited a Mexican masked wrestler, The Golden Angel, to infiltrate the ranks of the Führer to curb his Machiavellian plans. Thanks to Opération Luchador, you will learn all about Hitler’s horrible machinations, including the bombing of the Gatún Dam to block the Suez Canal, the infamous cosmic mirror known as the Sun Cannon, intended to literally fry the United States of America, the creation of a squadron of trained dogs converted into kamikaze pilots; and the existence of a National Socialist hideout protected by a certain Nazi Yeti in Patagonia. You will discover what may have happened in the Führer’s bunker on 30 April 1945, and more importantly, what may have happened to Hitler’s brain after his supposed suicide.”
That’s a massive plot summary, but it nicely compiles the mad action which takes place over the course of Vézina’s film. Mixing talking-head footage — wherein academics and those who knew The Golden Angel discuss the adventures of this heretofore-unknown spy and secret agent — along with a knowing narrator, the tone of Opération Luchador feels like any number of documentaries the viewer might have caught during a late-night binge on The History Channel.
There are, of course, many moments where the “mock” in “mockumentary” is brought to the forefront in Opération Luchador. The many academics are, of course, actors, as are The Golden Angel’s former friends and compatriots, so everything is played up for the sake of comedy. The wrestlers in the film of The Golden Angel’s old matches are actual wrestlers putting on a solid show, a touch that fans of the squared circle will greatly appreciate while also lending more realism to the project.
The vintage film clips from the actual World War II era help make the film feel real at times, but even those are occasionally modified to advance the humorous narrative. A gag featuring astronaut Alan Shephard on-board Freedom 7 is giggle-worthy, but as it turns into a running joke, it becomes one of the film’s best bits.
If there’s a downside to mixing vintage footage with modern footage which purports to be from the same time period, it’s that the footage is always too crisp and clean, despite how much faux film grain is layered on top of black-and-white imagery. Also, while some of the “unseen until now!” footage works really well — such as the luchador thwarting the the Gatún Dam’s bombing and beating up a man in an antique diving rig — others have far too many angles and zooms to work as purported found footage. While it’s more dynamic cinematically, it does have the unfortunate side effect of reminding the viewer that this is a narrative film, not an actual doc.
That said, it’s a really fun watch. One would think that the 85-minute runtime would lead to the film dragging in places, but every time things start to sag with one talking head too many or dwelling too long on a piece of fake history, we’re on to the next idea. Each historical event builds on the one previous and ups the ante, going from mad bombers to a space mirror to a Nazi yeti to saving Hitler’s brain to an ending which is gloriously absurd, yet fully in line with ’50s sci-fi.
While not perfect, Opération Luchador had me in stitches throughout and its giddy sense of silliness is readily apparent from the beginning all the way to the end.