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  Pumaman, The Nothing To Do With Shoes
Year: 1980
Director: Alberto De Martino
Stars: Walter George Alton, Donald Pleasence, Miguel Ángel Fuentes, Sydne Rome, Silvano Tranquilli, Benito Stefanelli, Guido Lollobrigida, Peter Cellier, Geoffrey Copleston
Genre: Fantasy, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 2 votes)
Review: Some time ago, a race of Aztec gods returned to Earth at Stonehenge to offer the world a magical mask which would gift its owner great power, and also to present The Pumaman, a lineage of a man with incredible abilities. But now the mask has fallen into the wrong hands: those of Kobras (Donald Pleasence), a criminal mastermind who now he has uncovered the object with the help of archaeologist Jane Dobson (Sydne Rome) is going to use it to take over the world. He creates replica heads of those he wishes to control, including Jane, and sets to work - who can possibly stop him?

Apparently Donald Pleasence really did wish someone had stopped him, before he signed the contract on this movie which he regarded as the worst he ever made, which in light of some of the poor quality efforts he found himself in is really saying something. Part of the problem was one not solved convincingly by movies of the time, in that special effects had not quite developed enough to offer a solution to creating a superhero onscreen. If you had a load of cash you could conjure up Superman, as had happened a couple of years before this, but most filmmakers didn't, so in 1980 ambition outweighed means and you got movies like The Pumaman, an Italian embarrassment.

At least you could observe director Alberto De Martino had not slavishly copied some existing hero, although in this case it might have been better if he had - there's a good reason this chap isn't mentioned in the same breath as Batman and Spider-Man, beige slacks and all. After that opening, we meet the man who would be puma, and begin to notice that the name "Pumaman" is going to be repeated about fifteen billion times throughout the movie, in any case you were uncertain as to what you were watching. Also, while the American voices pronounce it "poo-ma man", Pleasence says it the British way, "pyoo-ma man", which only becomes more noticeable as the story goes on, depending on the way you say it yourself.

Anyway, this man of puma turns out to be a hapless university professor Tony Farms (Walter George Alton), but he doesn't know it himself yet, although he has some strange tingling sensations whenever he's in danger, and can beat up a whole room of attackers if need be. There have been a spate of apparent suicides recently, all of them flinging themselves from a high window - or were they flung? - and their life stories match that of Tony, somewhat improbably (his parents died in a plane crash for one thing, as did the deceased men's parents). Suddenly this great big Aztec bloke, Vadinho (Miguel Ángel Fuentes) appears and tries to defenestrate Tony - oh dear, is this film over it's begun?

No such luck as Vadinho has a change of heart and becomes Tony's mentor (how this excuses his murder spree is not made clear), but it takes a lot of persuasion for him to put on the special belt which will enhance his powers, although no wonder when the big Indian was trying to bump him off for a while there. Once the belt is on, De Martino graces us with a special effects bonanza, or rather some of the worst flying scenes you'll ever see where you can understand what they were trying to do, but seeing Alton clumsily suspended before a back projected screen not looking as if he has any control whatsoever does not fill one with admiration, and will more likely be making you laugh at the ineptitude on display. Puma Man can see in the dark and break through walls, but Kobras has other ideas and presses a hypnotised Jane into service to bring him down, yet you do start to wonder if Vadinho wasn't a better choice for being the hero given Tony isn't exactly inspiring. But then, not much about this is. Cheery music Renato Serio.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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