Judge Daryl Loomis lost a mask vs. hair match but, when he was unmasked, they begged him to put it back on.
Viva la Lucha Libre!
The history of professional wrestling in Mexico is as long and illustrious as its American equivalent and, in many ways, the level of stardom the these "Luchadores" can attain far surpasses their American cousins. They may not be household names here, but El Santo, Mil Mascaras, and the Blue Demon were huge celebrities, starring in countless (terrible) films and never seen outside of the mask. In the case of Santo, he was buried upon his death, enmasked, with thousands of mourning fans looking on. Think of Rudolph Valentino's funeral for Stone Cold Steve Austin: total absurdity. That level of stardom is attractive to a lot of up-and-coming wrestlers but, because there are very few spots for superstars of this caliber, most of their careers result in broken backs and broken dreams before they come close to their goals.
There are countless stories of wrestlers trying to hand onto whatever legacies they can, and Lucha Libre: Life Behind the Mask tells but one, that of the aging Dinamic. He may love all the kids that come out to the gym to see him fight, but his ability and heart just aren't there anymore. This is a stripped down, low budget documentary in spirit with its subject, that accurately and lovingly represents the world of bottom-tier pro wrestling. Director Rich Walton shares in the day-to-day lives of Dinamic and a few other luchadores who wrestle for the promotion as they prepare for a giant free-for-all. We see the athlete's daily activities and preparation for the fight. You wouldn't want to see any of these performers on Monday night, but its fun to see than ply their trade anyway. Those we meet genuinely love their work and the attention they get; they relish their lucha roles. We follow them to their day jobs leading their relatively normal lives—though with their faces blurred—before they don the mask and step into the ring once again. While we briefly visit with these wrestlers, the real drama of the film lies in Dinamic. Dinamic has staked his hair on the match and, second to losing the mask (which is long gone already), losing one's hair is the biggest humiliation a luchador can suffer. A loss however, more than his hair, could mean his career…and he still has a family to feed!
Lucha Libre: Life Behind the Mask is lovingly produced, but is funny in the way that it treats wrestling as a real sport. While it's amusing for a while to go back to the day when people believed wrestling was real competition, listening to Dinamico discuss the indignity of losing his hair is strange when he has already been established as the promoter of the event and has clearly scripted the match. Factual, it's not, but its charm comes from showing the wrestlers at work in the ring, watching the kids cheer and scream while Dad chuckles and claps. My experience with small time independent wrestling is much like this; you can easily see the second-rate work and clichéd characters, but being there is a uniquely excellent experience.
This is a very low budget production and it shows in the DVD release from Eagle Rock Entertainment. The full frame picture look like an old television broadcast, with a grainy image and muted colors. The Spanish stereo sound is as basic as you can get. Subtitles are burned onto the image and there are no extras.
Lucha Libre: Life Behind the Mask is an enjoyable labor of love, but
is ultimately guarded behind a veil of undue secrecy about the business. Case
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