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  Goldface the Fantastic Superman Wrestle-Mania Saves the World
Year: 1967
Director: Bitto Albertini
Stars: Espartaco Santoni, Evi Marandi, Attilio Severini, Micaela Pignatelli, Manuel Monroy, Romano Giomini, Hugo Pimentel, Leontin May, Mario 'Brito' Lotario
Genre: Comedy, Action, Science Fiction, Weirdo, FantasyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 1 vote)
Review: At a posh party in an unnamed South American country, chic ladies and sharp-dressed gents are getting their groove on, on the dance floor when a voice on the radio announces the government are making a move against the mysterious terrorist known only as the Cobra. Evidently things do not go according to plan. For while the party guests marvel at fireworks, downtown the Cobra's men blow up a bunch of buildings. The next morning wealthy industrialist Matthews (Hugo Pimentel) and his lovely fiancé, Olga (Evi Marandi) lament the loss of their latest venture. To sweep their cares away the pair join the huge crowd at the latest wrestling match where Goldface, the most popular masked wrestler in the world, wipes the floor with outlandish opponents like the Panther, Jack the Ripper and the Bouncing Ball! The spectators go wild, women swoon and one overheated German lady journalist ("I wonder if he is that rough when he makes love?") nearly kills herself trying to land an interview.

No-one suspects Goldface is really dashing Dr. Vilar (Espartaco Santoni, under the alias Robert Anthony), a scientist who maintains a mild-mannered facade ("I can't stand violence. As a boy I won a prize for sweetness, in the boy scouts" - huh?) He also staffs his lab with sexy science babes whom he constantly canoodles for the sake of 'experiments.' When pretty Pamela (Micaela Pignatelli), an industrialist's daughter and number one Goldface fan, is targeted by Cobra, the gold-masked, spandex clad superhero and his hulking African manservant-cum-wrestling coach Kotar (Mario 'Brito' Lotario) as costumed crime-fighters.

Alongside the Eurospy craze of the Sixties ran a parallel trend for campy Italian superhero films. Some like Kriminal (1966) and Danger: Diabolik (1968) were adapted from popular comic books known as 'fumetti.' Others were original creations like Three Fantastic Supermen (1967). Strangely some were spoofs of films that were comedies to begin with. For example Incredible Paris Incident (1967) lampoons Superargo versus Diabolikus (1966) while How to Kill 400 Duponts (1967) riffs on Diabolik. Which brings us to Goldface, the Fantastic Superman, an interesting if far from accomplished fusion of the Italian superhero spoof and the Mexican masked wrestler genre. The film, somewhat charmingly, posits a world in which the titular wrestling hero is as famous as the Beatles, holds as much international clout as the American President and foils evil plots like James Bond. Given gags like the German lady attempting to interview Goldface while he is pinned down in the ring or the photo of the masked hero Pamela keeps next to her bed, not to mention that the hero cuts quite a ridiculous figure in his turquoise body-stocking, shiny gold mask, high-collared red cape and black gloves, it is a sure bet Bitto Albertini did not take any of this seriously.

And yet the film weirdly juxtaposes lighthearted superhero nonsense with a surprisingly sober backdrop of political unrest. The late Sixties marked a period of civil unrest across Europe and Goldface, the Fantastic Superman incongruously presents scenes of guerrilla warfare, bombings and insurgents mown down with machinegun fire, all set to an infectiously jaunty easy listening score from Franco Pisano and Piero Umiliani. Furthermore the Cobra is a villain whose motives are absurdly complex, even contradictory. He takes advantage of corrupt men in his rise to power yet claims to despise corruption and maintains he aims to rid the world of such evil and promote peace. Considering these are the same contradictory slogans espoused by terrorists around the world one might suspect Albertini along with co-writers Jaime Jesus Balcazar, Italo Fasan and Ambrogio Molteni was trying to make a point. On the other hand given the Cobra's ridiculous habit of constantly referring to himself in the third person, he might just be schizophrenic.

The plot is nonsensical. Even a spoof needs some internal logic but Goldface, the Fantastic Superman jumps from scene to scene like some demented fever dream and fails to establish its characters, explain their motives or provide any sense of how they fit into the broader picture. If there is one. In addition the cod-African dialect-spouting Kotar (a name presumably riffing on Lotar, sidekick to Lee Falk's The Phantom (1996) whose comic strip was especially popular in Italy. Federico Fellini was a fan) is an embarrassingly racist caricature. He represents the earliest among several 'humourous' portrayals of African 'savages' in Albertini's filmography. Albertini's leaden direction renders scenes that ought to be frothy and fun decidedly dreary.

Amidst meandering scenes and bizarrely repetitive dialogue, he brings little style to the action sequences although the stunt-work, including numerous chase scenes involving dirt bikes, speedboats and a spectacular helicopter sequence, are impressive. For his sins Albertini later took over the Three Fantastic Supermen franchise delivering Three Supermen in Tokyo (1968), the superior Three Supermen in the Jungle (1970) and Supermen Against the Orient (1974) before the series fell into other hands. He remains best known for his softcore porn films. He made sex stars out of Laura Gemser with Black Emmanuelle (1975) and Chai Lee with Yellow Emmanuelle (1977). Albertini also had a knack for delivering sequels nobody wanted. Witness his inferior follow-ups Return of Shanghai Joe (1974), which transformed the groundbreaking, sober kung fu western into a slapstick farce, and Starcrash 2 a.k.a. Escape from Galaxy 3 (1981).

At least the climax is fun, unleashing mass mayhem as Goldface leads an assault on the Cobra's island base. Remarkably Olga happens along on a speedboat to shoot some bad guys. Even the police are shocked to see her there! Strangely it is the military, not the superhero that take down the super-villain. However, the coda wherein Goldface's love interest subdues him in the wrestling ring and thus wins his heart, is rather charming.

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

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