Scene from “Blood Circus”

By Peter L. Walsh, Link: A Critical Journal on the Arts in Baltimore and the World, Summer, 1996

SETTING: With fog rolling across the screen, a group of bare-chested, bare-footed wrestlers (Morads) in “Mexican-style” facemasks and trunks stand in front of a spaceship.

MORAD IN RED MASK: I know a planet named Earth. They have prehistoric fights there. Look at them down there. Such fools!… and they’re making a prehistoric movie today … Let’s make their movie …  more interesting … and one I they’ll never forget!

VOICE-OVER: (Santo Rigatuso/Bob Harris/Santo Gold): We done did it now! We changed the course of history. Those six bully-cannibals are on their way to Santo-ville, Earth…. and probably to eat people! What can we do now?

Santo Rlgatuso, Blood CIrcus, 1987. Still from vldeo of 35mm film. Photo by Peter L. Walsh

The astonishing anachronisms and contradictions of the 1987 “supersonic spacewrastlin’ movie,” Blood Circus — a two million dollar wrestling/comedy extravaganza filmed in Baltimore by Pigtown native and jewelry commercial mogul Santo Rigatuso, a.k.a. Bob Harris, a.k.a. Santo Gold — and the events surrounding its production, defy any easy description. Mixing populist enthusiasm, lowbrow but never mean-spirited humor, surrealist non sequiturs, and Warholian facileness in equal parts, the film was a financial disaster. Throw in Rigatuso’s upstart rags-to-riches (-to-rags?) story, his later mail-order fraud conviction (mail order fraud!-what a great way to finance a film!), and his struggles with Tourette’s Syndrome (he was tormented by other children as a child because of the nervous tics and inappropriate sound-making the Syndrome can cause) and you have an image of a man inexplicably and genuinely committed to the act of creation.

Never released to the general market, the movie was shown for only a few weeks when Harris rented several Baltimore theaters, promising free diamond rings and “Scream Bags” to those courageous enough to show up. According to a 1990 City Paper article, “Despite the film’s financial failure —Rigatuso claimed the film’s price tag was millions –those who have known Rigatuso say the movie was tragic for other reasons. ‘What you have in Blood Circus‘, says attorney David Irwin, ‘is a man totally out of control.’”

SETTING: The Baltimore Civic Center. A gum-chewing Santo Gold (Rigatuso/Harris), in mirrored sunglasses, looking suspiciously like Neil Diamond) is escorted on stage by security guards. The back-up singers/dancers cheer, the crowd roars, the pre-packaged disco TV infomercial theme song thumps in the background as Santo Gold steps up to the mike.

SANTO: I’ve got chains, I’ve got charms!

SINGERS: Santo Gold! Santo Gold!

SANTO: I’ve got bracelets for your arms!

SINGERS: Santo Gold! Santo Gold!

SANTO: Money Back Guarantee!

SINGERS: We know you’re gonna like it!

SANTO: For you and me!

SINGERS: We know you’re gonna like it!

EVERYONE: 24Karat Santo Gold!

Special FX fade to three angels, complete with halos, gauze-covered faces and ethereal dry-ice clouds.

ANGEL #1 (Rigatuso/Harris/Santo Gold) : Oh, Clarence and Jonah! He sings so nice!’

ANGEL #2: Sorta like a washing machine.

ANGEL #1: Yes, a white and gold model…Oh, by the way, do you know why the pregnant lady went into the pizza parlor?

ANGEL #2: Was she hungry?

ANGEL #1: No … they had free delivery.

Certain artworks are impossible to contain within any reasonably defined boundaries of aesthetic description. They don’t fit the rules or frameworks or operate in the proper systems of thought as other works of their particular time. Producing these kinds of works is one of the boons of provincial cultures. When you can’t (or don’t, or won’t) participate in the conversations of the cultural capitals, other conversations take place. Locality generates raw artistic expression mediated by equally idiosyncratic systems of interpretation. This is the very  flesh that feeds culture.

This entry was posted in 1980s, Baltimore Films, Baltimorons, Santo Gold, Sports, Wrestling and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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