22 April 2004 | El-Stumpo
Yet ANOTHER Italian masked wrestling superhero!
Taking his cues from the Mexican Santo adventures AND masked jungle adventurer The Phantom, director and co-writer Bitto (aka Adalberto) Albertini shrinks the Three Fantastic Supermen concept down to just one super hero, the ubiquitous yet fairly ordinary Goldface; the next year he would decide three stockinged heads are better than one and continue the increasingly successful franchise of Three Supermen In Tokyo, Three Supermen In The Jungle (1970) and Three Fantastic Supermen In The Orient (1974). An Italian/Spanish co-production filmed partly in Venezuela, Goldface bears all the hallmarks of an Albertini film - cheap, goofy, sub-Terence Hill and Bud Spencer knockabout humour, and wildly idiosyncratic to boot. Even his kitsch erotica Black Emanuelle (1975), Yellow Emanuelle and Black Emanuelle 2 (both 1976) now seem a little childish and just slightly retarded. And therein almost lies his films' charms.
Unlike his model Santo, whose identity goes to the grave with him, Goldface is a much more straight-forward comic book superhero. By day he's mild-mannered scientist Dr Villar (played by `Robert Anthony'/Espartaco Santoni), but lurking just under the lab coat is Goldface, famous masked wrestler and crime fighter with no superpowers to speak of other than a few sneaky high-kicking wrasslin' moves. True to the conventions of a Santo film, the costumed Goldface makes his first appearance at an extended wrestling sequence not ten minutes into the film, and what a costume it is: blue stocking suit (the obvious nod to Superman), gold mask (naturally), red cape, and what appears to be a flaming vagina on his chest. The entire female audience ends up panting over him; one German journalist notes, `I wonder if he's so rough when he makes love!' Four wrestlers are thrown against him - the Panther, Jack The Ripper, one called The Bouncing Ball - and are dispatched in rapid succession. The triumphant Goldface heads to his corner to be massaged by his negro manservant Kotar (Big Matthews), a half-naked, thick lipped racist cartoon who refers to Goldface as `b'wana'. Between spitting peanuts and lapsing into `ooga booga' speak, Kotar is an early example of Bitto's colonial fascination with `darkies' (see his Three Supermen In The Jungle and 1972's Zambo: King Of The Jungle for more reasons why Italy is no longer welcome in the Congo).
After his victory, the Council calls Villar as a leading scientific authority to an emergency meeting. It appears the world is being held hostage by an arch fiend called the Cobra and his army of masked commandos. He has demanded $2 million - a unambitious sum even for 1967 - or all plant life will be destroyed. `Let's pay him in cash,'offers Villar, `and save on the interest.' The Council sends Villar with the suitcase but expresses concerns over his safety since, as Villar points out, `I'm no Superman!' Villar delivers the money to a masked blonde (with daisies on her mask!), then returns in costume to take it back. The Cobra is a bizarre creation: he pontificates at length on his own importance, declaring a leader of men such as himself appears once every thousand years, and precedes every sentence with bombastic phrases like `I, the Cobra...' He outwardly despises weakness and corruption, although he thrives on it, and punishes his underlings by shooting them MANY times (`You are guilty of being and acting incredibly stupid!'). Goldface embarks on a seemingly endless quest to discover the identity of the Cobra, punctuated with boat chases, half-speed motorbike chases, and the final showdown on the Cobra's private beach and jungle retreat.
Bitto's idea of action scenes is simple: get a bunch of grown men to slap each other silly, then throw the camera around until the audience is exhausted. The talking head scenes are just as exasperating, awkward dubbing trying to match the endlessly moving mouths with soooooooo much dialogue, it goes to almost surreal lengths to fill in the blanks. Still, the film fails to match the delirium of Three Fantastic Supermen In The Orient, except perhaps in this exchange between Kotar and a young admirer... Boy: You talk funny. Kotar: Yes, I know - Barumbahhhh!!!