19 June 2008 | Bunuel1976
FANTASTIC ARGOMAN (Sergio Grieco, 1967) **1/2
I was vaguely aware of this superhero, flick but which I almost missed out on when it was shown earlier this week on late-night Italian TV given the misleading original title – which translates to HOW TO STEAL THE CROWN OF ENGLAND (a plot device which, while occurring twice during the course of the movie, is only a means to an end and not the villainess’ ultimate goal)! Anyway, this was one of a boom of Italian superhero/master criminal films (most of them emanating from the latter half of the 1960s) – apart from which, I was already familiar with the enjoyable KRIMINAL (1966; whose sequel, THE MARK OF KRIMINAL , I watched on the strength of this), the obviously superior DANGER: DIABOLIK (1968), the surprisingly agreeable spoof ARRIVA DORELLIK (1967) and, much later, the truly lamentable THE PUMA MAN (1980).
Argoman’s alter-ego is Sir Reginald Hoover (Roger Browne) – a laid-back, womanizing criminologist living in a luxurious gadget-filled mansion and waited upon by his faithful Hindu servant (played by Spaniard Eduardo Fajardo); to put it another way, if Batman is the James Bond of superheroes, then Argoman would be their Matt Helm! Having said that, the outrageous costume notwithstanding (which features a cape and a slit in his mask similar to the armor worn by Gort, the robot from THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL !), his superhero characteristics make him actually closer to Superman than Batman: as a matter of fact, he has sonar, telekinetic and magnetic powers!; however, these are depleted for six hours straight after every sexual encounter – which exasperates time-keeper Fajardo no end! The villainess, then, is a man-eating redhead (Dominique Boschero) typically obsessed with world domination – which she plans to accomplish via a precious diamond that, through the sun’s energy, is able to dissolve steel (consequently, having relocated from London to Paris, the French currency is soon in peril of being devalued!).
Unfortunately for Argoman, he always seems to happen on the scene at the wrong time – so that the Police (especially an incompetent Scotland Yard Inspector) mistakes him for the perpetrator of Boschero’s nefarious deeds! While generally entertaining, the plot gets a bit confusing in the second half – especially when dealing with a subplot in which Boschero hypnotizes a clutch of high-ranking officials to aid her cause, and also the kidnapping of Hoover/Argoman on a crowded bus. The film (re-edited in 1979 and re-issued simply as ARGOMAN) is nevertheless boosted by Piero Umiliani’s breezy score and the attractive locations. A regrettable occurrence in connection with the version I watched is that, for about a 10-minute stretch towards the end, the beat-up print turned completely to black-and-white!